Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quack whistle squawk honk

We're rather lucky to have near us one of the largest gatherings of web-footed avians in the world, at Slimbridge, where you can meander at will, gawping at the local residents and taking photos of ducks.

Yep, ducks. A huge variety of 'em. A plethora, a cornucopia, a positive horn of plenty of the damn things, all honking and quacking, squawking and whistling at you. No decorum whatsoever.

They are, though, quite interesting and good fun to go and look at, and I would recommend the place to anyone who is passing. If you're very lucky you might even catch a glimpse of Kate Humble stroking a Bean goose. Or if you're unlucky, Bill Oddie doing the same.

So, in the interests of pursuing a worthy family day out, as well as trying to prevent my son thinking a duck is just the bright yellow plastic thing that he throws out of the bath, off we trotted. Straight away, using a mixture of stealth, innate cunning and honed tracking abilities, I saw some birds:

As well as ducks, there are more exotic species to be found, including great lanky bright pink storky things called flamingos. Here they are being herded into what I presume is the milking parlour:

Of course, I'm kidding. They don't really milk flamingos as they are bred solely for their fur.

I do actually know a bit about birds, and was delighted to see this fellow, who happily posed for a photograph:

Now that, dear friends, is a Wandering Whistling-Duck from the antipodes. There is a knack to telling whether your new feathered friend is a Wandering Whistling-Duck, and that is by carefully noting the details written on the sign in front of the enclosure:

It may not look much like it's picture, but it must be a Wandering Whistling-Duck because the sign says so, and how else would another type of duck get in to the compound eh? Fly in? I don't think so. Not with a three and a half foot fence in the way anyway.

After a couple of pleasant hours spent cultivating very cold, red noses, we made our way back as the sun was setting. It was then we saw one of nature's best spectacles (although diminished in recent years due to population decline), which is provided by one of out commonest birds; the dusk swarms of flocks of starlings:

For me, that sort of viewing beats the telly any day of the week.


  1. I didn't know you would call that "fur" on a flamingo.
    I had no idea they did that either
    (bred for commercial use)

  2. Being from the antipodes, i have never heard of a wandering whistling duck... unless you were refering to old Mrs Brown who lived down our street.

    Those signs in front of animal enclosures can make one appear quite authoritative. Even seem to know what your talking about.


  3. Sorry to correct you but we here in Florida have been milking the flamingos for decades. Mostly to sucker the tourists.

  4. I struggle with my conscience every time I see ducks. Firstly, they are wonderful to look at, but secondly, I enjoy eating duck rather too much. Ducklings are ineffably cute too. there's a pond near us where we saw a mother duck take her brood out for the first time on the water (or so it seemed). It was rather special to watch as they pootled about in the pond.

  5. Saw your comment about societal disintegration on Douglas' Boomer Musings, and decided to visit your blog. Some very nice stuff. I loved your story about giving another man a gift; dramatically different than doing so with a woman. Also, I do not think that I have ever seen a collection of pink flamingos. That's an usual sight.

    Thanks for sharing.


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