Saturday, 9 January 2016

Melverley - Whooper families

Here's the long overdue images of the younger members of the Whooper Swan population wintering in the Melverley floods area January 2016. Starting off with part of one of the three family groups amongst the dispersed groups of adults....

The bill pattern in most of the youngsters - typical whooper colouration beyond the nostril in a shade of rather dirty white.

Individuals can of course be recognised by the patterning of the black on the bill and the same families could be picked out as they moved around. They also kept together and tended not to mingle with others.

A few random individual juveniles....

The plumage in the vast majority of juveniles a mottled soft grey....

A gull hoping in vain for a free handout?

And the submerged crop in the field was the reason they were all quite happily settled down here!

Quite a mouthful!

The most interesting family which eventually approached within range had two clearly more advanced juveniles with pink marked bills and completely white plumage! Are these just 'older individuals' or do the other families include more juvenile birds / possibility of Scandinavian origin. It's a strange mix. Icelandic Whoopers are known to develop white plumage more quickly than their Eastern counterparts.

They were munching away at the crop too!

Here's the bill pattern of these two... The first a 'black base yellowneb' and is the lower one evolving into a 'darky' with the extensive line of continuous black up the bill? You can see speckles of yellow pigment beginning to appear which will eventually be complete later this year.

And a lovely nodding pose to end up with!

Repeated counts gave consistent results:

Lone or paired adults without young - 19
Family of two adults with four juvenile - 6
Family of two adults with three juvenile - 5
Family of two adults with two pink billed juveniles - 4

Whilst Kris and myself got a combined count of '38' mostly distant and mobile Whoopers on the 5th, the maximum count was consistently 34 thereafter....

Whatever is accepted, 34 individuals has to be the biggest gathering of Whooper Swans within Shropshire, in recent years certainly that I've ever seen and presumably a combination of the usual returning Whoopers to the Melverley area coupled with those normally gathered at Caersws?

A fantastic Swan spectacle and with flood water reaching epic levels the following day, access to the area was not possible to enjoy them again! Shame Kris missed the 'close up' day too but I have no doubt he was more than happy with what with what Kathmandu had to offer!

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