Transition period

As we wave goodbye to summer and the cooler days of autumn draw in, many birds appear to disappear and the skies fall silent. The reason for the sudden absence is that many of our birds are now keeping a low profile, hiding away whilst they go through their annual moult and grow new feathers to see them through the winter.

The mallard flock down on the harbour are also going through their own moult, but do so in full view out on the water which provides a great opportunity to witness the change in real time. During this few weeks the mallards shed all their flight feathers, grounding them temporarily and leaving them vulnerable to predators.

To compensate the males camouflage themselves with a coat of dull dappled brown feathers much like the females’ plumage, although their bright yellow beaks remain throughout!

Once the flight feathers are replaced, these brown feathers are then shed and the males’ dazzling iridescent green heads and breeding plumage will return ready for the next breeding season.

All was relatively quiet down on the water on this particular visit, until a rather viscous fight ensued between two of the male mallards.

The pair grappled for several minutes, each pecking at the other with their beaks and attempting to grab their rival by the neck and pin him to the ground.

After the losing drake received a dunking in the mud, the pair finally separated. Remarkably both were unscathed after their ordeal with nothing but a few ruffled feathers and calm soon descended once more…

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020

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