Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from a snowy river Thames

Kingfisher on our mooring bar

The lagoon has been frozen for much of the past week and, as a consequence, a kingfisher has been visiting our stretch of river in search of sustenance. Our pond is something of a magnet at the moment because the two Shibunkins are far from dormant and are proving too much of a temptation. Last year we lost five of the six fish and presumed they'd been taken either by a heron or a kingfisher (or both). We've since been told that the culprit may have been a grass snake! We saw one swimming away from our river bank across the river during the summer so that is another possibility.

I was hoping to grab a few more shots of this magnificent bird (through the kitchen window) but someone's cat had other ideas and scared it away. I'll have to hope that it returns and stays for a little longer another time. Whenever I've caught a glimpse of a kingfisher in the past it takes flight the moment it spots movement.
A view of Hurst Park from Garrick's Villa

While Dave and I were visiting Colin last week there was a blizzard and, for a while, we couldn't see across the river to Hurst Park. After lunch, however, the sky brightened and Colin showed us the magnificent views from upstairs.

Hampton Court Palace gardens

The snow really did lie deep and crisp and even during the week and the Palace was obliged to close the gardens to the public. I work at the Palace on Mondays and was therefore able to take this shot from King Williams Apartments, looking down over the Privy Garden.

Another view of Hampton Court Palace gardens

Early morning in the freezing cold

The big freeze lasted long enough for the river to start icing over. I had to break the ice in the stretch of water between our houseboat and the riverbank so that the ducks and swans could reach their feeding station. Only one duck had used his initiative and must have flown round to be fed. He was standing on the ice waiting for his breakfast! Even the main river had chunks of thin ice forming in places. It reminded me of New Year's Day in the year 2000 when the river froze solid and remained unnavigable for almost 10 days in spite of the efforts of the Environment Agency's ice-breaker.

Male Pochard in the early morning light

On one of the few really sunny mornings the beautiful early morning light enhanced the plumage of the various ducks, geese and swans. There was an amazing mix of wildfowl including eight mandarin ducks, a pair of pochards, a widgeon, all the usual suspects and Bidou, the black swan, whose feathers were encrusted with ice particles. She looked quite stunning as the sun glinted
off her frozen back.

The lagoon was partly frozen over last Sunday

A parakeet waiting its turn on the peanut feeder

The garden birds have been particularly hungry during the cold spell and more are taking advantage of the bird feeders to stave off hunger. When it comes to pecking order the parakeets have their own but they all defer to the woodpecker. I've seen some interesting fights between both breeds and the woodpecker always wins.