Friday, 17 April 2015

Sutton at Easter

Duclair duck
Black Muscovy duck
Heading over to Sutton reservoir again in beautiful sunny weather in Easter week, I was initially greeted (as is usual here) by the resident selection of feral ducks. Mostly these are clearly varieties of domestic Mallard, being quite different in plumage, but also considerably larger than regular wild Mallards. One that had joined the mix which I haven’t noticed before was a different type of duck altogether – a black Muscovy duck. Not being at all familiar with domestic duck breeds it’s an interesting challenge to try and work out what they are (do let me know if I’m incorrect on their IDs!), but I photographed what I think are a group of three Campbells, one Duclair (of two present), and then the black Muscovy, possibly female as she seemed quite small for this kind of duck. 

An interesting website I came across a while ago while trying to work out whether ducks I'd seen were domestic varieties of Mallard, hybrids, or some other unusual colour variation such as leucism (or something else entirely!) can be found here. The unfortunate term previously coined of 'manky mallard' isn't meant unkindly here, and the site has lots of great examples of the weird and wonderful variations of Mallard that may be spotted when out and about nature watching (though judging by some of the comments, perhaps some of the IDs suggested on the website may be up for debate!!!).  

A trio of trouble - boisterous Campbell ducks!

A different kind of challenge was that of trying to photograph some of the bumblebees. The reservoir is surrounded by Willow trees, and the catkins were proving as popular a draw as ever for various bees, butterflies and other insects. Getting in amongst them, I attempted to photograph some of the bees in flight, queen White-tailed and Tree bumblebees being the ones I spotted here on this occasion. 

Tree bumblebee
White-tailed bumblebee

Barren strawberry flowers
Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies also fluttered among the branches laden with catkins, and also visited the flowers of Lesser Celandine, now carpeting the sunny banks as well as covering the ground in some of the more shaded pockets of woodland. 

Pink Purslane flowers
Other wildflowers in bloom included those of Barren Strawberry, so called because despite looking very similar to wild strawberry plants, they don't bear strawberries (sadly!), Wood Anemone, and Pink Purslane. This latter flower is native to western North America and also Siberia but having been introduced to the UK in the 1700s is now widespread here. 

Wonderful to see were clumps of pale yellow Wild Primrose (I've yet to see the pink variety that can also occur in the wild), one of our earliest spring flowers, it's name deriving from the Latin prima rosa meaning 'first rose', although it isn't a member of the rose family.

Wild Primrose flowers

Something I haven’t seen for many years which I spotted next to the path was a type of puffball fungus, about 6cms across. I resisted the temptation to give it a good squeeze to release the spores in a cloud of brown smokiness, something I remember doing as a kid whenever I found one! Perhaps next time I shall do, just for old times’ sake!

Unknown ID - a kind of puffball fungus


  1. The 'manky' mallards are interesting reading! There are lots of them about and I've often wondered about their heritage :) Great bumblebee shots as well.

    1. Thanks Claire - all the Mallard variants can certainly be an ID challenge, sometimes I think it's just best guess as to their ancestry! :) Lovely to see all the bees appearing now, great fun to [attempt to] photograph! :)

  2. Wonderful stuff as always Jan.
    These duck parties must be something else :-)

    1. Thanks very much Dougie - yes there seems to be a lot of carelessness where ducks are concerned! Lots of weird and wonderful varieties out there mixing in with the natives! :)

  3. Ahh, I remember kicking the puffballs around too as a youngster. :-) Great content and wonderful photos here. The Wild Primrose is gorgeous, and lovely bumblebee captures. The Pink Purslane is very similar in color and shape to our Spring Beauties, which is of the Purslane family as well, I believe. I think the Pink Purslane would be native to the western parts of North America.

    1. Thanks very much Greg - I looked up Pink Purslane again and yes, they're native to western North America (thanks for highlighting - I'll update that!) and they also do look very similar to your Spring Beauties. Trying to photograph the bumblebees was fun - I've been trying to get a few photos of various insects in flight this season - next challenge butterflies(!!!!!). :)