Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
Wild Muscovies are black and white, but with breeding there are different colour varieties, from iridescent green, brown, blues and lavender plumage. They have large, strong clawed feet which they use for roosting in trees, and they are webbed for swimming. Their faces are bare and bright red, or red and black, and the drakes have pronounced carnacules at the base of their bills and a low erectile crest of feathers.
They feed on small invertebrates and plant material. Nests are usually made in the hollow of a tree where they lay between 8 to 21 eggs in a clutch. They breed three times a year. They can live for up to 8 years.
Muscovies do not swim as much as other ducks due to the fact that their oil glands are not as well-developed as other species.
Seen all year round, they are found in ponds, rivers and streams. Native to Mexico, Central and South America, and was introduced to Europe and the UK some centuries ago as domesticated farm produce, from which they are commonly called ‘Barbary Ducks’. Although they are a tropical species they do fairly well in colder climes.
Photographs taken August 2008, park, Staffordshire, and April 2015, Buxton, Derbyshire.
We are all familiar with this common duck. Most of the photographs here have been taken along my local canal. The male (called a drake) has quite colourful markings with a bright yellow bill, green head and blueish speculum, but these colours vary depending on the time of year. The female also has the blue speculum, but the bill is brown, grey, or olive. They have streaked brown plumage. The sex of the Mallard cannot be determined until at least 3 -4 months afer hatching, as they look the same, with brownish plumage. Similar to Gadwell, Shoveler (Anas clypeata), and Pintail.
It feeds on small aquatic invertebrates, seeds, roots, and shoots. It builds a down-lined nest on the ground or raised sites. Lays 9-13 eggs in 1 brood, January to August. They can live for up to 15 years.
Seen all year round. It lives in all kinds of water habitats, including lakes and ponds. The non-breeding population has declined over the last 25 years, hence it has an RSPB Amber status, but it is still the commonest and most widespread duck in the British Isles.
Magnolia × soulangeana
Also called ‘Chinese Magnolia’ or ‘Tulip Tree’, this tree or shrub produces large, showy and often fragrant flowers in springtime. It is one of the most commonly planted magnolias planted in the British Isles. It is a hybrid between Magnolia denudata and Magnolia liliiflora. It can be a large shrub or a small tree, and it produces large upright flowers 10-20cm across. They are coloured various shades of white, pink and purple, and are produced in mid-spring. The leaves are dark green, ovate and pointed at the tip.
Widely cultivated and planted as a street tree, or planted in parks and gardens as a specimen tree.
This magnolia was bred in 1820 in France by Étienne Soulange-Bodin, and was soon introduced to England where it has been widely planted, as it has been since throughout the rest of Britain.
Photographs taken March 2014, seen from rear garden, Staffordshire.