The two Tufted Ducks with red nasal saddles, which visited East India Dock Basin in spring 2011 and returned in the spring of 2012, are back on the Basin again this month. Male “RedU1” (see photo below) reappeared on 6 September, followed by female “Red-1” (above) on 17 September, and both were still present on 19th.
Both birds were fitted with their numbered saddles, which allow their movements to be monitored, at Sao Jacinto Dunes Nature Reserve in Portugal. They both visited Normandy before making their first appearance at East India Dock Basin in 2011. Male RedU1 returned to Portugal in the winter of 2011-12, while female Red-1 did not. She was seen at Hillfield Park Reservoir in Hertfordshire shortly before returning to East India Dock Basin in March 2012.
Since then, all reports of these two ducks have been from Tower Hamlets. Both were seen on and off at East India Dock Basin throughout spring 2012, with the female last seen on 23 April and the drake on 31 May. Both of them were on Millwall Docks on 23 June, where the drake was also seen on 30 June and 22 July, suggesting that he, at least, summered in east London.
Whether either of them bred somewhere nearby is unknown. Perhaps if East India Dock Basin is de-silted, they may stay to breed there in future years. Tufted Ducks used to nest at the Basin, but the water by the reed bed is probably now too shallow for them to feel safe nesting there.
It will be interesting to see whether RedU1 returns to Portugal again this winter, and whether anyone can find female Red-1 on her wintering grounds. Keep an eye open for Tufted Ducks with red saddles on their bills on water bodies in the borough.
Photos by John Archer