Had a trial day today with taking a group of home school children on a nature field class (I've called the project NatureKidz (a name Dylan came up with). Things descended to chaos very quickly with everyone ending up in the river becoming nature themselves. Today's lesson was supposed to be on waterbirds of Beddington Park. I discovered I couldn't identify a Mallard!
Here's today's NatureKidz lesson (for me)
Eclipse Male Mallards . Male Mallards (and other male ducks) moult into an eclipse plumage during mid-summer. The eclipse plumage is a female/juvenile-type plumage presumably providing camouflage/cryptic protection during the season when they moult their flight feathers and can't fly very well.
Hello Sir - male Mallard
An adult female- note the contrasting face pattern and the dark on the upper mandible with straw colour bleeding up from the cutting edge. Females don't need to moult into eclipse as they are already cryptically plumaged. When male and female plumages are significantly different (called sexual dimorphism), with the male being conspicuous and the female less so - its implies there are also significant role/behavioural differences i.e. in Mallards the female discretely incubate the eggs and raise the young while the males ponse about and occasionally form gangs and gang rape the females (I left that bit out of the lesson).
Juvenile female with darker face pattern and largely dark bill with straw colour confined to the cutting edge of the bill . This is the one I struggled with ageing/ sexing and had to look it up. Still not certain as theoretically it could be a young male where the bill hasn't turned yellow yet but in comparison to the other young birds this one stood out so presumably a female
Juvenile male- the yellow bill with the dark juvenile type head pattern are strong features. As the adult males go into deeper eclipse plumage I do believe they can start resembling this- will keep an eye on them. Basically there are at least six potential plumages of park Mallards at the moment: adult male, adult female, eclipse male, juvenile male, juvenile female, pullus (the precocial young) and also there's the aberrant plumages .
An oak gall that we still need to identify (I say we, by the time I found this they had found a dead Mallard and were obsessing on it -which was reported back as the highlight of the day).
Sunny in nature gear- the youngest group member. One of my nephews.
And meanwhile back at the Obs recently
From left to right: Smoky Wainscot, Common Wainscot and Shoulder-striped Wainscot
A worn Common Wave ?
A worn Flounced Rustic ?