27th July 2014

I thought an early trip to the local park might be peaceful, but found the Great Yorkshire Run was passing right alongside the pond I’d chosen to nature-watch! So, today we have very common, but nevertheless interesting species! The name ‘Mallard’ comes from Old French, ‘malart’ meaning wild duck and it is the genetic origin of almost all domestic ducks. It is still being hunted for food in many parts of the world. Males and Females both have the blue ‘speculum’ patch on their wings. In full breeding plumage the males iridescent green head and pale grey back is  well known but even when in transition plumage, like now, you can tell males from females. The males have yellow bills, once they are a few months old, while the females bill is orange-brown. Males also have a curled middle tail-feather, like a quiff, while that feather is straight in females. The males breast is reddish-brown while the females is brown. In one photo you can see the ducks nictitaing membrane, its third eyelid, which is a horizontally opening and closing membrane to protect the eye from water, grit or sand. Reptiles and sharks are among other animals that still have nictitaing

Male Mallards in transition plumage

Male Mallards in transition plumage

Mallard preening, showing its nictitating membrane, or third eyelid.

Mallard preening, showing its nictitating membrane, or third eyelid.

A Black=headed Gull, also in transition plumage, losing it's chocolate brown/black head colouring.

A Black-headed Gull, also in transition plumage, losing it’s chocolate brown/black head colouring.

membranes. Talking of birds in transition, or ‘eclipse’ plumage, here is the other common bird on the pond today, a Black Headed Gull with the black head of summer breeding in process of moulting. Over winter this gulls head will just have a black patch behind the eye. Conditions: A fresher day, with cloud and sun. No sign of the rain we were expected to have last night. Temperature: Max 20- Min 15 C

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