Anatidae Bird Mysteries
Friday March 4 2011
The complex between man and bird is each depends on the other ! Getting close to a wild goose, part of the fascination is photographing it, studying it, because the wild goose is excessively wary and difficult to get near. As Sir Peter Scott stated: “My delight and admiration for wild geese was based as much upon their supreme capacity to remain watchful and to look after themselves as it was upon their beauty and grace. The pursuit of ducks and geese with immediate enthusiasm is an essential ingredient in my painting and in my special study of the Anatidae.” Anatidae birds include ducks, geese and swans. Within the species and sub-species of Anatidae there are 147 species and 247 forms, including both sexes, where they differ noticeably, as well as major colour phases of the polymorphic forms [different forms, stages, types, of individual organisms].
In the birding community two of the longest names ae (a) Grisectyrannus aurantiant rocristatus – Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, and, (b) Tawny-Crowned Pygmy Tyrant. People have been named after Anatidae birds, such as: (1) Havelle, a Norwegian girls name that is based on the musical call of the Long-Tailed Duck; (2) Kazarka – a Russian name for the Red-Breasted Goose; and, (3) Dafila, the old scientific name for Pintail Ducks. There is remarkable intrageneric plumage diversity (Anas, Mergus) to be encountered in the family Anatidae.. One mystery is about small night migrating birds – Blackcap and Garden Warbler. They can orientate themselves in relation to star pattern in the night sky; and this they can do without any kind of training or learning. Young birds reared in captivity without their parents, took up a direction under the dome of a planetarium which could be altered by swinging round the pattern of the stars. Conversely, Wild Geese have surprisingly poor vision when they are flying in the half light. The weight is one of the most sensitive barometers of a bird’s well-being. It is dawn, cold, grey, cheerless with a south wind promising rain that a single Goose called out of the darkness and then passed low overhead, only just visible against the sky, he was mysterious. The Nightingale, Blackcap and Curlew are “Nature’s Soloists”, but the Geese are her “Chorus !”
Imagine yourself buying an eighteenth-century Wooden Lighthouse right in a wetland, like Cootes Paradise Marsh. The walls would have to be lined inside to make it reasonably dry. But it looks more like a windmill without sails than a conventional Wooden Lighthouse of four storeys, where the largest room is sixteen feet and the upper rooms are smaller. But the top storey you encase with glass and make it your studio. Here, geese of the world flock to this Wooden Lighthouse and you photograph, paint, sketch to your heart’s delight. Some geese you view come globally for your creative artistic photographic work. The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) has been claimed to belong to the Labrador Form, in which the base of the neck below the black ‘stocking’ is almost white, front and back. The Cackling Geese are a sub-series of the Canada Goose. Looking against the sunset there is a continuous coming and going of birds. A family of Barheaded Geese spread their great wings across the evening sky as they bank steeply to land on the grass. Mallards cross and re-cross the sky in pairs and little teams, splashing down at Cootes Paradise Wetland from time to time in a glitter of ripples. The Whitefronted Geese, at dawn they stream over Cootes Paradise on their morning flight, and under the full moon the night echoes with their wild cry. ” The Blue Geese rise like smoke from the marshes and I crept to within 10 years of one to get the best flight photograph of geese I have ever taken “, said Sir Peter Scott. There are the Ne-ne Geese of Hawaii, that in the 1950s were almost extinct. The Spur-Winged Goose, and Ross’s Snow Goose that flies with much faster wingbeats; the short neck and short bill make them look quite different. There is the Lesser Whitefronted Geese, perhaps the most beautiful of all the world’s Grey Geese. The Lesser Whitefronts which breed in Lapland, fly south-east on their winter migration, through Hungary to Macedonia and the Mediterranean. The Lesser Whitefront has distinctive features, such as, eyelids that are golden yellow, a small and extra-pink beak, and the white forehead patch rises high onto the crown of the head. This White-Front Goose has that smooth, dark, perfect look, almost as if there was a bloom on the feathers, which is so characteristic of Lesser Whitefronts. So, on a cruise in the Mediterranean you may have spotted Lesser Whitefront Geese. In Hungary is the Red-breasted Geese and they are also in Persia. There are two more species of Grey Geese – the Bean Goose, and the common or Russian Whitefront, and the largest flock of Russian Whitefronts tend to winter in England. There is the Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, and the Graylag Geese, and the Pinkfoot Geese. These Geese you view daily and get a real sense of their beauty and grace. And, in your travels on your “wild goose chase” around the globe obtaining Geese for your Wooden Lighthouse you are enriching nature by placing many of your photographs of the geese up the walls of the old Wooden lighthouse.
Who is Sir Peter Scott ? He was a naturalist, conservationist, artist, author illustrator and pilot. His passion was wildlife specializing in the Anatidae. The World Wildlife Fund described him as “father of conservation.” as he led a campaign for endangered wildlife that captured the imagination of a generation and inspired many to care about the environment before it was fashionable to do so. He gave the scientific name of Nessiteias rhombopteryx to the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland (in Greek it means – the wonder of Ness with the diamond-shaped fin), so it could be registered as an endangered species. He was the founder of World Wildlife Fund. He was the founder of several Wetland Bird Sanctuaries in England. The London Wetland centre opened in 2,000 and was the first global project of its kind of 40 hectares created wetlands within the city of London , England. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the shift in policy of the International Whaling Commission and signing of the Antarctic Treaty. In 2,009 at his centennial, an ironic twist occurred at his statue as “Mute Swans nest at bottom of Sir Peter Scott’s Statute.” How did this illustrious nature career occur ? His explorer father from the Antarctic wrote in a letter to his sculptress mother ” Make the boy be interested in ‘Natural History.’ It is better than games. They encourage it in some schools.”
Source: The EYE of the WIND , An Autobiography by Peter Scott
Mute swans nest at bottom of Sir Peter Scott’s statue
In a fitting gesture to celebrate Sir Peter Scott’s centenary year, a mute swan has laid a clutch of eggs at the foot of Scott’s commemorative statue at WWT London Wetland Centre. The statue is on a small island in the middle of the entrance lake and visitors can see the nest as they enter the centre.
The pair started building the nest around three weeks ago, after fending off two Canada geese that wanted to nest on the same island. Swans usually sit on their eggs for 35-41 days and will then carry the cygnets on their back to protect them from predators for the first ten days. The swans will feed their young underwater vegetation and small animals including tadpoles and worms.
‘We are delighted that the mute swans have nested on site. There are at least six eggs in the nest and we expect them to all hatch because the swans are very protective of the eggs.’ says Adam Salmon, Reserve Manager. ‘Mute swans typically build their nests on water banks, mostly with mounds of rushes, reeds and other vegetation.’
Sir Peter Scott’s statue recognizes him as the founder of the Wildfowl & Wetland’s Trust and marks his significant contribution to wildlife conservation. Long before it became widely acknowledged, Sir Peter Scott recognised the threat that human activity posed to the environment. He foresaw that the conservation of wildlife depended on safeguarding habitats and crucially, on involving and inspiring people. He remained at the forefront of conservation throughout his life.WWT London Wetland Centre was Scott’s vision in his last years and was opened in 2000, just 11 years after his death.
Photos by Jacqueline and Doug Worrall Photographer