As soon as I spotted his bright chestnut-coloured head I knew this was a Pochard (Aythya ferina). Though this was a first-ever sighting for me today, on Roath Park lake in Cardiff, his colouring was unmistakable, and what a handsome chap he was. The origin of his name is, apparently, something of a mystery – and its pronunciation arguable! – though he’s attracted a very long list of common names, including doucker, dun bird, dun poker, poker, red-headed wigeon, smee duck, well plum, whinyard, and, my favourite, red-eyed poker.
The Pochard has only been a British resident for about 200 years and, even now, the majority of birds come here primarily during the winter months, to escape the bitterly cold conditions in Russia and eastern Europe.
My new friend was amusing me with diving demonstrations – he dives for food, which could include anything from submerged plant life and seeds to small fish, snails and insects. I didn’t spot any females around today but I’m a regular visitor to the lake so will certainly be looking out for Mrs Pochard and hoping to see this beautiful creature again.