Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The cygnets practise flying

Mute swans bonding

As the cygnets become more and more independent our mute swans reaffirm their commitment to each other with a half hearted courtship ritual. The pen was swimming downstream this morning with her two cygnets ahead of her when her mate, the cob, approaching from the other direction, spotted them and flew in to join her.

The cob takes off to join his mate upstream

The power in his wings as he lifts from the water before full take off is quite impressive. No wonder people are sometimes afraid of swans when they get too close.

The cygnets have learned how to fly and are practising circuits round the island

These two hybrid ducks fly in for breakfast, bully the mallards, then return to Hurst Park

There are a large number of hybrid ducks in this area, most of which are larger than mallards and they take advantage of their size to get to the wheat before the others are allowed to feed. This morning was colder than usual and the number of ducks clamouring to be fed nearly doubled. There is definitely a pecking order and the fights that sometimes break out are vicious and vociferous. Sometimes I wonder how they don't damage themselves with the amount of wing bashing involved.

A male tufted duck enjoys the early morning sunlight

When we first came back from overseas, the tufted ducks were very nervous of us but now they swim towards me when I open the french windows or patio doors. They're clever enough to have worked out that when the swans are feeding there's plenty of spillage from the plank to dive for.

A fisherman shows his sons how to gently reel in and then release a catch

I was impressed by the gentle and careful way this angler reeled in his catch and then released it. There are so many people with fishing rods these days, many of whom haven't a clue how to behave responsibly, and they do untold damage to the wildlife with their carelessness and their ignorance. So often we have to rescue everything from herons and swans to moorhens and tufted ducks from the damage caused by discarded lines and hooks. If the birds become ensnared, the lines get tighter and tighter around their legs, necks or bodies. I've seen a heron drown because it had a hook in its beak and the line was caught round driftwood which dragged the herons head down to water level. As it got weaker it finally couldn't hold its head above water. I tried desperately to reach it but couldn't. I've also seen so many smaller birds lose limbs because the lines have cut off circulation. Tufted ducks and grebes dive for food and if they get caught on a hook underwater they can't resurface. If only all 'would-be' fishermen were taught how to fish responsibly!

A cold and misty morning last week

One of a dozen or so female mallards whose territory this is

A drake preens and oils his feathers after feeding

Ducks must oil their feathers to keep them waterproof so preening is a serious ritual. You can see the (white) third eye closing over as he smooths and oils his neck and chest feathers.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Images from the garden, riverside and park

Grey wagtail by pond

I was standing at the kitchen window when I spotted this shy wagtail searching for insects and taking delicate sips from the cascade. I knew it would fly off if I opened the door or window so I decided to photograph it through the glass in spite of some loss of image quality.

Grey heron in the park

After the miserable weather of the previous week we had several days of glorious sunshine and I decided to take advantage of the lovely light and head for the park. It was surprisingly empty for such a sunny afternoon and there were no dogs off their leads to chase the wildlife away. I spotted the heron stalking purposefully through the grass. It wasn't the least bit phased by my proximity.

One of a number of lakes in the woodland gardens

I've been told that a kingfisher can sometimes be seen here but as yet I've not had the pleasure of spotting one at this location. Occasionally I hear the metallic call of a the halcyon bird and see a flash of electric blue disappearing downstream elsewhere in the park. Perhaps, with persistence, I'll be fortunate enough to spot one for longer than a second! At least I sometimes see them at home. Earlier this spring one landed on a mooring post outside the kitchen window and sat there for about a minute. I couldn't get over how tiny it was and yet how stunningly beautiful.

A familiar face checks me out

I mustn't get blasé about seeing the foxes on a regular basis but it's great to know that there's a good chance of spotting them. I'm also pleased to see that they're still cautious around people but they are becoming quite an attraction so they will soon become habituated to humans and maybe that's not such a good thing.

A red deer stag declares his "love" to no one in particular

As the rutting season gets under way it's fascinating to watch the stags fight each other for dominance, making forays to steal the occasional doe from another male's harem. This one was calling and grunting as he trotted by but there were no females in sight. I noticed that he occasionally paused when he heard a rival stag "roaring" in the distance.

Garrick's temple to Shakespeare

We haven't been out in the boat much recently because of the wet or dull weather so we couldn't let this opportunity pass us by. It was a lovely sunny late afternoon and we took our usual route upstream and around some of the other islands in the vicinity. The temple is just upstream from us and was built by the actor David Garrick in tribute to Shakespeare. It was restored a few years ago and is now open to the public on certain days.

Autumn colours reflected in a pool

How quickly the leaves are turning flame coloured. It seems like only last week that everything was still green, but I do love to see the lovely colours of the leaves on the different trees.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Further afield than the Thames

Ring necked parakeet in full glory

The weather has been so dull and I've been so busy that I've only managed to take a couple of images this week. However, as we're heading for warmer climes and more exotic wildlife I sorted through some images from a previous trip to the Everglades.

Otter snacking on a crab

Manatees at a dock in Key Largo enjoying fresh water from a hosepipe

Anhinga resting on the back of a what looks like a rock but is, in fact, a turtle