Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Beside an eider

Seahouses on a British Bank Holiday Sunday - you either love it or you hate it.  A heady mix of smells - chips, candyfloss, doughnuts, dogs (hot or otherwise); visual treats - people stuffing their faces with chips, candyfloss, doughnuts, dogs (hot only); and sounds - the whirring credit card machines at the Farne Islands trip kiosks, the hubbub of the tat emporium bursting at the seams with punters, and the local lads eyeing up the lasses and going ahh-ooo-er when they see one they like the look of....... and that's just the ducks.

Although I would admit to being particularly partial to a pintail, there is nothing in the duck world that quite matches the eider in my humble opinion and there is no finer place to get up close and personal than the harbour at Seahouses.  Feed them your sandwich crumbs if you want an even closer encounter.

At this time of year there is much posturing going on between the males and the mixed group of a couple of dozen ducks and drakes were full of interaction, noise and bustle with a bit of sex thrown in too. 

Almost as enjoyable as watching the eiders is watching the people watching the eiders. The sound that the drakes make as they throw back their heads and puff out their chests  (here in case you need reminding) makes everyone smile. Its hilarious and so are the passers-by who, without fail, seem unable to resist turning to their companions and mimicking ah-ooo-er.

Much has been written about Cuddy's Duck and I dare say some of it is even true, but one aspect of the UK's heaviest duck that intrigued me recently can be found in my earlier post about snotty nose syndrome


  1. I'm with you on the eider duck issue - my favourite duck, no question. People seem to feed them a lot of chips in Seahouses harbour and I can help wondering how much heavier a cuddy duck can get before it fails to get airborne....

  2. Eiders certainly are a bit special, especially the ones at seahouses. That call is something else.

    Nice pics :)

  3. One true thing about 'Cuddy's Duck'. I have lived and birdwatched in Northumberland all of my life and one thing is for sure. NO one EVER has called an Eider a Cuddy's Duck in general conversation. Unless of course you are Billy Shiel. He is also the only person in christendom who calls Puffins 'Tommy Noddy' :)

  4. They get my vote too and have to admit I'm partial to the strange charms of Seahouses. I was reminded of your previous post about the salt glands of Eiders that I enjoyed. Nice work, Linda

  5. Thanks for the interaction everyone.
    Stewart - I'm fascinated by rural myths and how they get picked up and spread as fact, not least by the tourist industry desperate for some local handle to hang their wares on. The internet is brilliant for sustaining this as site after site repeats or links to the same bit of nonsense until it hits Wikipedia and becomes, by definition, fact.

    I would be tickled to discover that this whole Cuddy's Duck thing (never mind Tommy Noddy!)has no basis in fact whatsoever but was just a bit of throw away patter on a Farnes boat trip commentary. However, there might be a grain of truth in there - see the comment from a chap called Simon on this blog post
    Or is he just part of the conspiracy....

  6. Hi, I am sure the Cuddy Tommy Duck Noddy thing is real and historical.

    I laugh when I hear Farnes Billy say , while rrolling his rrrrr's, 'Up heor they arre known as the Terrmy Nerrdy' to eager tourists as Puffins scatter ahead of the bow. Same goes for his Cuddy Ducks.

    The thing is though...They aren't are they. They aren't called Tommy Cuddy anywhere in the English speaking world except for on a 30ft boat out of Seahouses.

    They simply aren't called Tommy Noddy or Cuddy Duck.

    I might start a campaign to get them into everyday usage.

    Regards S... ;)