I'm still trying to sort, file and catch up with all the images that I've taken over the last couple of months, or in other words, I'm consigning the majority of my recent photographic endeavours to the trash can!!
I did however find these that I thought I might share with you.
Exactly a month ago I went to Ashridge Estate in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which had recently been seen there. Unfortunately I didn't find the Woodpeckers , but what I did find, on a small muddy pond about 300 yards from the very noisy visitor centre, were a pair of beautiful and very confiding Mandarin Ducks.
The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill with a white tip, a large white crescent above the eye, a reddish face and long reddish neck feathers that resemble a beard or whiskers. The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back.
The adult female is mainly a drab grey -brown in colour with a white belly and large white spots on her neck, breast and flanks she also has a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye,(like a pair of spectacles!) and a pale tip to the end of the bill.
The true range of the Mandarin Duck (aix galericulata) is Eastern Asia where it was once widespread, but large-scale exports and the destruction of its forest habitat have reduced populations in eastern Russia and in China to below 1,000 pairs in each country; Japan however, is thought to still hold some 5,000 pairs. The small UK breeding population has derived from escapee birds from private collections, and for this reason most 'grown up' birders class them as 'plastic'!
I guess this pair might also have been escapees as they didn't seem to be too worried by my presence and only took flight when a group of (about 30!) red uniformed, very noisy, young (infants class) school kids arrived to do some pond dipping!!