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.
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.
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.
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!