Thursday, January 19, 2017

Eider duck courtship

I watched this little group of courting eider ducks at North Shields Fish Quay last week.

At this time of year the drakes are dressed in their finest courting plumage. Their feathers are so smooth that the birds look almost as if they are made of ceramic. 

Their main ploy for attracting the admiration of the females is to throw their head back, inflate that pink chest and emit the most delightful, comical cooing call, which sounds as though they are perpetually surprised. You can hear by clicking here.

Occasionally they flick water into the air with their beaks.

The females aren't always impressed and if the drakes get too familiar their respond by giving them a little nip with their beaks.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


When our kids were little they used to call goldcrests 'squeaky wheels' because their thin, repetitious, high pitched notes sounded like the squeaky wheel of the push-chair.

It will be about three months before goldcrests start singing and at this time of year, because they are quiet most of the time, and because they are so small, these little birds are easily overlooked.

They spend most of their time in conifers but this one was flitting around in a gorse bush, probably on the lookout for spiders - which must be hard to find in January. Sometimes these can be very approachable - this individual came within a few feet of me.

It's remarkable how closely the hue of the goldcrest's yellow crest matches the colour of gorse flowers.