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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

22 November, 2009

Hooded Merganser (Mergus cucullatus)

The Hooded Merganser is not really a part of the nature of Dorset other than that there has been this single male at the RSPB Radipole Lake reserve for about a year now and it has become part of the 'furniture'!

My reason for including it is to qualify a message I am always anxious to give budding nature watchers who are keen to find something rare and exclusive.

I have always been a numbers person so early on in bird watching 'career' I understood very well what someone said to me. "If you are not sure about which species a bird you have seen is then, out of the options, it is statistically likely to the most common one and you need good evidence to be certain that this is not the case." I have always found them wise words.

So, having promoted this message I felt I should add a rider to it - always expect the unexpected! Last weekend I was out with two friends counting wildfowl on the River Frome near Wareham when we put two geese up. In astonishment we looked at each other and said "Egyptian Geese?" And yes, two Egyptian Geese they were as they flew over our heads.
Yes, always expect the unexpected.

The origins of this Hooded Merganser are unknown. It appeared on the River Wey about a year ago as an immature male bird. Hooded Mergansers are a north American species and it is just possible that it made the journey across the Atlantic to arrive here but far more likely is that it was born to parents that are part of a collection somewhere and before it could be pinioned it made its escape and, finding the company of many other ducks and plenty of food in the centre of Weymouth it decided to stay.

Escapes from collections, and those two Egyptian Geese almost certainly were too, have always been a problem and the plethora Sika Deer in Purbeck is another case in point. It is particularly true in wildfowl where there is a greater tendency to interbreed with other ducks.and to create hybrids which can weaken the genetic strain of the natural birds.