• Barbara Copperthwaite

What's this?


Today I decided to visit Swanhurst Park for a change. Scamp loves a change of venue as much as I, and bounded along eagerly by my side. It was good to see some Coots there, as Moorhens seem to be far more common in this area – certainly I never see Coots in Highbury Park. I was walking with a friend and commented on this, and he immediately asked what the difference was. There is a size difference, but the easiest way to tell one from the other is that Coots have a white shield above their beaks, while Moorhens have a red one. “I always tell myself that Moorhens have MORE colour, that way it is easy to remember,” I explained.

There were any number of Canada Geese on the lake, too, as well as Tufted Ducks, and a solitary Great Crested Grebe (a real shame, as I have not seen the fabled mating ‘dance’ of the Grebes, and now is the time of year it occurs). And floating elegantly amongst them were two Mute Swans. As I watched, one of the Swans broke away and glided over to the island on the lake. There, after several minutes, it started to pull at twigs, taking them out of sight behind a tree, where it must be building a nest.

But then I saw something that took my attention away. A strange goose-like bird I didn’t recognise. It was white, with a pale grey back, yellow feet and beak, and a large bright pink section around its face and eyes. Watching more closely, I reaised it must be a female, and its mate was a deep bottled brown with a rather attractive iridescent dark green flash on its wing. What on earth was it? Whatever it was, the pair mated as I looked on.

When I got home I searched through my bird books trying to find out what type of strange goose I had seen. I could find nothing. That puzzled me, as something told me I had not stumbled across an exotic creature that would get twitchers flooding in from miles around. My next port of call was the internet, of course, which provided an answer immediately. I had seen a pair of Muscovy Ducks. They are domesticated birds, kept for their eggs and meat, but which often seem to escape. Apparently, they do no do well in the wild, and often end up as a Foxes meal, but I shall be keeping an eye on this pair to see how they fare.

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