Thursday, 1 March 2012

Displaying Goldeneye

1100, Sun and cloud, North Westerly rippling lake surface in gusts. Two drake and two female visible, already displaying on arrival. Female at North of lake postures low to surface with neck stretched, nostrils just above water, spinning gently. Male neck extends and head throws, simultaneous growling call reverberates across the lake to reach me seconds later, but male at South end has already reacted, flying in to confront the rival threat. Females are seemingly forgotten, drifting away, still posturing as males circle and size each other up through mimicry; synchronised head throws, tail kicks and neck extensions. Then they dive, surfacing in a grappling clinch, they squabble on the surface until one is seen off. However both seem to be paired up, the victor with his duck staying North, the vanquished heading to Southern end to join another female. Why then the display and aggression? territory, insecurity...?
Afternoon. Three female (possibly one is a juvenile) and two drake present. goldeneyes have remained separate, drakes feeding at opposite ends of the lake, two females South and one North. Constantly diving to feed, with only seconds at surface, I can only grab brief sketches and observations, learning when a subject is about to depart by the way it flattens its feathers and sinks down, deflating before kinking neck laterally before flipping its back end and slipping under, leaving a gentle footprint frothing on the surface.

1700-1800.After being given the run around by flighty goldeneye, manage to hide myself at the South end of lake where shore is closer, without causing disturbance. Air is almost still and in the shelter the lake is a sheer smooth mirror reflecting the warm golden palette of reeds and upland mosses lining the far bank. The goldeneyes slice and puncture this illusion with gliding dives and cork like rises, vapour trails and residue momentarily etching the surface, a memo of the birds movements and behaviour. Deep blue lines reflecting the sky on a golden ground. All five birds together now, drakes displaying a full repertoire of head and tail throws, the females snaking low to the water, then swimming in tandem at speed with their mates/potential mates. I muster one last attempt at capturing the scene in these rare perfect conditions, leaving only once the light has completely gone. Reluctantly I make my way home because the clicks, growls and snorts of displaying drakes are still vividly heard behind the dark silhouettes obscuring the lake,

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