Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Aliens in our midst

On Monday morning, Tim glanced through the door to see a pair of ducks floating nonchalantly downstream. Small, dumpy ducks. Not the usual Mallards.... he reached for his camera....

Wood ducks! (aix sponsa, canard carolin)

Wood drake... or Wood Duck drake?

These are in Category E in L'Inventaire des oiseaux de France, which means that they are an escaped or released non-native species that is not capable of establishing a long-lived breeding population in the wild without human assistance. In other words, somebody somewhere has lost a couple of pet ducks. Wood ducks, or Carolina wood ducks as I know them, are a North American species, very popular in wildfowl collections. Ken, your ducks are here!

Their close cousins, mandarin ducks (aix galericulata, canard mandarin), are by contrast accepted on the French "list" in Category C. That means they are a non-native species which is either reproducing naturally in metropolitan France without interference from man, or a visitor from a natural population in a neighbouring country - there are reputedly more mandarin ducks in the wild in Britain than in their native South-East Asia, and this population is thought to be the origin of wild mandarins seen in northern France. Category A birds are generally accepted French native species - they breed or migrate here. They differ from category B species only in that they have been seen since 1950, whereas Category B birds have not.

That leaves Category D - non native species that may possibly be wild individuals that have got to France under their own steam, literally in the case of birds roosting on a ship. An example is the Cape Petrel, one specimen of which was seen in the Var in 1844! (Thinking about it, that was probably under sail, not steam). These, in twitcher terminology, are a bit streaky.

All those categories clear? Good. There will be a test later...

Incomers of a different sort are with us now - whitethroats, cuckoos and swallows, and yesterday our first nightingale (luscinia megarhynchos, rossignol philomèle) started tuning up in the trees by the riverbank. Rare in the UK, the rossignol is quite a common bird here. I am listening to one as I write this. In the Loire, if you want to find a nightingale, look for a bush. Is it singing, VERY LOUDLY? No? find another bush. By contrast to its name, the nightingale sings both night and day. I've only ever seen one nightingale - unfortunately it was road kill, in Crete.

Evening light on the Cherry blossom

The cherry tree is in full blossom, covered in bees of many species, sizes and colours. It flowers and fruits late, although not as late as the morello in the orchard. The demand on our bird feeding station in the cherry tree is reducing - the siskins have gone, as have most of the tits and goldfinches, although there are lots of greenfinches and our loyal ground feeders - robin, dunnock, chaffinch, house sparrow - are still with us.

More cherry pictures:

Walnut and Cherry

The Japanese look.

Sunset stamens.


Jean said...

Does this mean that the wood ducks are likely to perish, unless taken back into human care?

Lovely photos of the cherry blossom - wish we were there to see it - oops, we will be soon - yipeeee !!

Tim said...

Jean, probably not perish other than be 'chassed' or of old age... just that they are unable to breed successfully enough to establish a hold. [Unlike the Ring-necked Parakeets here and in the UK!]
Drop in when you are over... I've been mowing the meadow, so you'll be able to let Lulu loose!

Jean said...

Thanks Tim, we will call and see you - Lulu has fond memories of your toy-throwing skills !!