Disappearing Ducks (1)

On Sunday night Jane and I had a Valentines stay at Pine Lake Resort, which for those who don’t know it is a former timeshare complex just off the M6 north of Carnforth with lodges bordering a former gravel working that has flooded. There are several other pits in the same area now in various ownerships for fishing, other accommodation and so on.

All the time I have been a Lancashire based birder these lakes have been the best places in the county to see diving ducks. Anywhere that attracts diving ducks will also invariably attract scarcer species, and the timing of our visit was good for these. A drake Scaup mentioned in a previous blog was still on Pine Lake and we saw it both days, whilst a female Ring-necked Duck from America was on a nearby fishing lake and we were able to see it from a public footpath on Monday morning. Unfortunately my camera was dead so I didn’t get any shots of it, nor the elegant Great White Egret in the field the path went through.

Arguably as remarkable as these scarcities was the number of Pochard present, perhaps 60 or so among the Tufted Duck and Coot. My picture taken on the phone in the rain doesn’t do them justice, but they are a handsome duck. The drake has a chestnut head, black chest grey back and flanks and a black stern. The females are similarly patterned in a more muted palette. They were fairly common when I was younger, now they are very scarce. There are almost as many in the photograph above as I have seen anywhere in the Fylde this year.

Numbers of Pochard nesting in Britain have declined steadily, but it’s the fall in wintering numbers that’s really obvious. It is thought that with global warming they are ‘short stopping’ and remaining on the Continent rather than crossing the North Sea so often in search of milder climes. In the same way that I always momentarily thrill at seeing egrets locally I feel a little bit sad watching Pochard in diminishing numbers. It has been an enjoyable throwback to see so many this winter, but unfortunately I suspect it’s a one off.

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