I See Sawbills

Ducks with teeth?  Well not quite.  There is however a group of quackers that collectively go by the name Sawbills.  This is due to the edges of the beak being serrated which comes in handy when your diet consists mostly of slippery fish and you have no hands to hold them!  There are six species worldwide.  Of these four are seen in the UK.  The Hooded Merganser is a very rare vagrant from North America, the gorgeous Smew a winter visitor in small numbers from Scandinavia, the Red-breasted Merganser and the Goosander both breeders in the north and west.

Two drake and a duck Goosander on Llandrindod Wells Lake

On new years day, after a bit of a late night, we went for a walk to get some fresh air.  Not too far from our hotel in the Welsh town of Llandrindod Wells was a park with a beautiful man-made lake.  Apart from the usual Mallards, Canada Geese and Mute Swans all trying to scrounge a crust or three I noticed a small group of four ducks out in the middle that were not familiar.

Waiting for the lady to get herself ready

They turned out to be Goosanders (Mergus merganser).  In my part of the country they are a scarce winter visitor, I am more used to seeing the Red-breasted Merganser.  Here in Wales they breed in holes in trees next to fast flowing rivers but in winter will visit still waters where the feeding is a touch easier.  The drakes are very dapper with their mostly white plumage and dark heads with a deep green sheen.  The ducks are grey with a ginger hair-do.  They were quite nervous.  Although attracted to the commotion when children fed bread to the usual suspects when I pointed a lens in their direction they sidled back out to the centre.  In all there were about eight.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions to this shot!

This area of Mid-Wales is very well known to bird watchers.  It was in the remote valleys of Powys and Ceredigion like the Elan where, in the 50’s, the last handful of Red Kites survived in the UK.  In Medieval times Kites were common across the land and protected by law as their scavenging helped clear up man’s waste.  This changed in the 16th century when they were declared vermin and hunted to near extinction.  Now thanks to a re-introduction scheme they are once again flourishing and can be seen almost anywhere.  I saw many on my break but the light was poor and photography difficult.  So here’s a shot from Norfolk in 2017 when I had a close encounter!

Red kite over Foulden Common

21 thoughts on “I See Sawbills

  1. We get to enjoy a few mergansers during winter migration. A fair number of Hooded Mergansers spend the entire winter on local lakes and ponds and a few Red-breasted Mergansers show up occasionally in the wetlands. More can be seen along the coasts.

    Fantastic Red Kite photograph! Happy they have made a comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Would love to see a genuine Hoodie Wally, we get a lot of ‘fence hoppers’ from wildfowl collections which is annoying. Most of our R B Mergs are on the coast as well.
      Yes it’s great to see the magnificent Kites in the sky, unfortunately some idiots still persecute them.


  2. We have ducks too. Canny wee buggers, the opening day of open season (on ducks) finds oodles of ’em on ponds and such where they know they’re safe. Them ducks ain’t quackers~!

    Love your shots, especially that guy with the outspread feather-tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Birds!! Immediately recognized the first shots as part of the Merganser family. Had to do a quick search and make sure your Goosanders equated to our Common Mergansers although I much prefer the European name. I was lucky enough to get the Hooded variety a year or two back to complete the trifecta, but could really use a better picture of the Red-Breasted variety (they are bit more rare for us than the other two). Beautiful Kite picture (always depressing when I hear about majestic birds being persecuted) – oh, and damn, your fish are big ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks B, the Kite image was the best of a set when a pair flew low over us when we were out butterflying, it seemed to be looking straight at us. Sadly even today there are those that will destroy raptors, Kites included, despite being fully protected by law.
      Those fish are just tiddlers you should see big ones! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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