Love is in the air on Whiteknights lake this week! Spring has officially arrived, the sun is shining and the university campus is buzzing with life. Whilst walking around campus this afternoon it was impossible not to be drawn to the activity on the lake, male waterfowl were showing off their colours and fighting to win the hearts of the (less abundant) female ducks. The variety of birds on the lake was outstanding, with canada geese (Branta canadensis), mandarins (Aix galericulata), mallards (Anas palyrhynchos), coots (Fulica atra) and moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) plentiful, as well as the stunning American wood ducks (Aix sponsa), great crested grebes (Podiceps crisatus) and a ”manky mallard”.
Competition could be seen wherever you looked, drakes were chasing after female mallards, causing some very vicious fighting. A particularly viscious fight occurred when two males were trying to mount a female, pecking and flapping at each other in the pond in the Harris Garden. Creating a mass of birds flapping around the pond, the males were pushing the poor female under the water for quite some time, until a handsome mandarin came to the rescue and frightened the males away. Watching from the side of the pond, it seemed very human, as though the mandarin came to the female’s rescue with no intention of gaining her affection.
At the main lake, a ”manky mallard’ was spotted in pursuit of a female mallard. The mallard had a green head, white bib and a brown body, it didn’t appear to match any species in the bird books. Following some more research I realised that it was most likely to be a cross between a feral and a domestic mallard, these birds have been named Declair ducks and are one of many interesting variations of mallard hybrids. The term ”manky” seems very unsuitable for this really quite beautiful bird!
The coots and moorhens seemed positively uninterested in mating, and were mostly seen hunting for food on their own. In the heart of the breeding season there were of course a number of ducks that seemed very settled, with lots of beautiful mandarin and mallard couples swimming around side by side. Hopefully we’ll see lots of chicks at the lake in months to come!