Like so many things we think we invented, Nature got there first, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).
Bats and dolphins invented radar. Wasps invented paper. The humble glow worm invented the flashlight.
Even the outlandish punk hairstyles of the 1980s were surely copied from the handsome red breasted merganser drake!
Mergansers are fish-eating ducks. Usually seen in lochs, rivers or at sea, this drake and his more demure wife surprised me by regularly fishing in shallow creeks on estuary saltings recently.
At their deepest these pools could not have been much deeper than a standing merganser is tall. It was hard to believe a diving duck could possibly get itself submerged, a fact underlined by much splashing and flashing of airborne bright red feet!
The only prey I saw brought to the surface was a shore crab caught by the male. Instantly Mrs Merganser tried to steal his prize but just as quickly he ran off with it, his wife in hot pursuit. Like most diving ducks, mergansers’ legs are positioned far back on the body, forcing them to adopt a very upright stance on land. The chase was most comical, especially as he was trying desperately to shake the crab into submission as he ran.
At that point he lost his grip and the crab went flying through the air and straight into another pool, with both ducks racing to catch it.
Again the drake caught the unfortunate crustacean which by now had lost the will to live and was quickly swallowed.
So as you may judge, the merganser drake may be a handsome dandy, but ranks rather lower on the chivalry scale!