Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Thames wildlife near Hampton Court

My name is Suellen Raven and I live on a houseboat, surrounded by wildlife, in a beautiful area on the river Thames, 15 miles from central London. As I look downstream I can see Hampton Court Bridge, just beyond which lies the fabulous palace that Henry VIII appropriated from Cardinal Wolsey in the year 1525.

I've lived here with my husband Dave for the past 12 years and have had the daily delight of watching the local wildlife (and some exotic imports) run through our garden, sit on the various decks, nest on our upstairs garden deck and generally come and go as if we didn't exist. It's amazing how quickly wildlife becomes habituated to humans.

One of my reasons for photographing and writing about the local environment and wildlife is from a desire to share my passion for the beauty of my surroundings with anyone who might appreciate it. The other is in the hope of raising people's awareness of the natural world by displaying photographs and recording the day to day existence of some of the wildlife that is an integral part of my life. If some of you enjoy reading about the ducks, coots, swans, grebes and other bird life surrounding me then you might look with greater curiosity and interest at the feathered occupants you can see on and around your local ponds, canals, gravel pits, streams and rivers.

When children become interested in school projects their parents, willingly or otherwise, tend to get involved as well, so I'm hoping that some teachers may introduce my local wildlife into their classrooms eventually. As well as the stories and images I'm hoping to post short video clips as well, so that people can identify the different calls made by the various creatures.
Not all the stories will have a happy ending and some of the images may give you pause for thought but if this raises even one extra person's awareness of our imprint on our surroundings then that individual, too, can pass on the message.

I realize that while some people find he natural world to be an alien environment for many it is a source of enjoyment and pleasure. I just have to look at the towpath opposite to see how many people come to the water's edge to feed the waterfowl and watch the wildlife. I care a great deal about the need to protect our wildlife and green spaces and believe that if there were a greater awareness amongst the general public there would be less litter, less vandalism and considerably less harm done to wildlife and the environment through lack of understanding as to what constitutes a hazard to the natural world. That's the end of the mission statement . . . or sermon . . . now for news of the ducklings about to have their first experience of water.

We are sometimes asked how we ever manage to get any work done from home as there can be so many delightful distractions and the reality is that there are times when we just have to stop and observe both the beauty, and sometimes the dramas that unfold before us. At the moment we're both on "standby" waiting for the mallard sitting in one of my plant pots on our upstairs garden deck to escort her ducklings from the nest to the river for the first time. This would be a lot easier if they were at ground level but there's a 12' drop and many of them land awkwardly on our lower deck before making it to the water. In addition, they don't all want to leave the nest at the same time so some of them have to be "encouraged". Often, over the years, we've heard the frantic quacks of a desperate mother duck with half her brood in the water and the rest running around upstairs calling in high pitched tones but refusing to take the plunge.

Beaky, the name we've given this particular mallard, has already made two attempts at encouraging them to jump out of the pot. It won't be long now. . . I can see at least 10 ducklings moving around and occasionally peering over the top like a line of meercats with necks outstretched.

In addition to the garden birds and the nesting ducks we are visited by coots, great crested grebes, little grebes, cormorants, moorhens, canada geese, egyptian geese, mandarin ducks, tufted ducks, mute swans and a black swan. Yesterday the mute swans brought their 5 cygnets to see us but the black swan is something of an enigma in that there's no other black swan in the area and yet this one is sitting on a nest on an island just upstream from us and we're wondering who the father can be. Could it be a mute swan or even, heaven forbid, a canada goose? We should know in another week to 10 days as the eggs, if fertile, should have hatched by then.

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NeighbourFomHell said...

Move over Steven Spielberg!

Next stop Hollywood!

Your Duckling film is simply enchanting.

But where did you get all the Duracells?

Jill said...

This shows something of the wonder of the wildlife we have on our own doorstep if - like Suellen - we take the time to look. Lovely! By the say, we have a nice little broody coop on the next island upstream if you need to dry out a mum and have a safe place for her and her chicks for a few hours.

Suellen said...

Thanks Jill, it's good to know there's a safe haven for ducks in need!

ToadHall said...

Although the wildlife I am surrounded with here in Lincolndale, NY, USA, is quite wonderfully diverse and substancial, there is nothing quite like 'being right there'on the Thames, thru Suellen's eyes, with picures and writings. I can see the river, smell the wind coming off the water while the hustle and bussel of the bird life at Koraki surrounds us. I look forward to my daily shot England and you all that I miss so very much...joni

Suellen said...

Hi Joni, glad you like the site and hope it brings back happy memories. By the way, Skeezix is gorgeous. . . he reminds me of Harrier, the Cyprus cat.

Suellen said...

Hi neighbourfomhell! Glad you like the ducklings, they're the clockwork version.