“Let's retire to Rivera for the winter,” said the ducks

“Let's retire to Rivera for the winter,” said the ducks

A goosander and a mallard by Dave Steel

It's Day 10 of the 12 days of Christmas and 12 Days Wild, and peatlands birding legend Dave Steel gets his snowboots on for another epic journey, today, along the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.

A wander along the Ship Canal, heading east to see how our overwintering tourists were faring on yet another icy day.

As ever, the choice of resort seemed to be suiting the wildfowl, whose northern homeland is REALLY frozen.

A male goosander found the weather agreeable to preen, whilst a couple of little grebe looked on; unfazed by the nine male goldeneye which were displaying to a lone female. She seemed indifferent to their courtship overtures.

Three male teal whistled and bobbed their heads in their own courtship display, which seemed to be of some interest to three nearby females. Holiday romance was perhaps on their minds? (in truth wildfowl do start their courtship once the winter equinox has arrived).

Gadwall too set their thoughts to courtship as the sun really put the blocks on my attempts to photograph them but, then again, who wants one of those ‘beach photographers’ mithering you when you simply want to soak up the winter sunshine?

A flock of redwing found the ground along the banks of the waterway, less frozen than on the nearby open landscape of the moss. It gave them plenty of opportunities to feed whilst a great spotted woodpecker perched on the highest point of a tree, as if it was the local lifeguard ensuring the safety of our welcome visitors.

Then, once I had been satisfied that all the facilities were in order on our patch of the Ship Canal to suit the discerning wildfowl from the north, I ambled on homeward to write my report.