Eighteen months after the last new bird visitor to the grounds of Bracken House, a mandarin made an appearance on the large pond bringing some much-needed colour. The bird, a male, was the 44th different bird species noted since recording started in February 2010.
The mandarin arrived during the afternoon and seemed to enjoy swimming around with the pair of mallards who visit the pond almost every day. The resident moorhens weren’t too impressed with the new arrival and kept their distance.
Mandarins were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity. The main population, numbering around 7,000, is in south, central and eastern England, but small numbers occur in Wales, Northern England and Scotland. Likes lakes with plenty of overhanging trees and bushes.
Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a large feral population was established in Great Britain; more recently small numbers have bred in Ireland, concentrated in the parks of Dublin. There are now about 7,000 in Britain, and other populations on the European continent, the largest in the region of Berlin. Isolated populations exist in the United States. This population is the result of several mandarin ducks escaping from captivity, then going on to reproduce in the wild.
The habitats it prefers in its breeding range are the dense, shrubby forested edges of rivers and lakes. It mostly occurs in low-lying areas, but it may breed in valleys at altitudes of up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft). In winter, it additionally occurs in marshes, flooded fields, and open rivers. While it prefers freshwater, it may also be seen wintering in coastal lagoons and estuaries. In its introduced European range, it lives in more open habitat than in its native range, around the edges lakes, water meadows, and cultivated areas with woods nearby.
The bird was possibly blown off-course by recent gales. It remains to be seen whether it will return to Bracken House, or find its way home.