Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Beauty and the obese

Watery sunrise over Molesey Lock

February has been a pretty bleak month with many days of grey, overcast skies. Occasionally there's a hint of sunshine in the morning or late afternoon but we've had very few bright days. On sunny mornings and evenings, though, the lengthening days herald the arrival of Spring.

Red-crested Pochard

Two pairs of red-crested pochards and a extra male have been turning up at mealtimes recently. In spite of the generally overcast skies the view from my living room downstream to Hampton Court is quite colourful when the pochards, the mandarin ducks, the black swan and the sundry other waterfowl come to visit. Whereas the mandarin ducks fly up onto the deck outside for their 'wheat treats', the pochards feed only from the platforms at the front and side of the house. They are usually much less aggressive than many of the mallards and hybrid ducks but they hang around for as long as it takes for them to be fed. At present two pairs of mandarin ducks and a 'spare' male visit daily.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Both the male and female woodpeckers feed daily from their favourite location. Occasionally, if too many parakeets are on their preferred feeder they will fly to the more exposed peanuts but, generally speaking, the woodpeckers 'see off' the parakeets!

The Blackcaps are now regulars, spending most of the day in the garden and, once in a while, one or two nuthatches show up.

Male Tufted Duck

The tufted ducks are very used to us now and spend most of the day hanging around. They dive for the wheat that spills from the main feeding stations but often get mobbed by 'pirate' gulls when they join in the general feeding frenzies as people on the towpath throw bread out for the ducks. One of the local crows, however, outwits and intimidates even the gulls and often swoops off with bread crusts.

Is this an obese Blue Tit or is it just fluffed up against the cold?

We noticed a particularly fat blue tit in the garden and it hung around for several days, snacking from the window feeder, sitting inside the bird table or kipping on a branch of the magnolia tree. We weren't sure whether it had fluffed its feathers up against the cold or whether it was unwell. It either fed or slept during the day and couldn't be asked to open its eyes once it went into sleep mode. It allowed me to get so close to it that I wondered whether it might be ill and so, not wishing to distress it, after that I kept my distance. It was able to fly well and there was nothing wrong with its appetite, so maybe it was just feeling the cold!

Blue Tit on my bird table

When I first noticed it I approached the bird table and took this image of it. I was surprised that the bird seemed unruffled by my presence and, although it looked up at me it soon put its beak back under its wing.

Bidou has an early morning stretch

If Bidou times her visits well she gets plenty to eat and is able to feed in peace and undisturbed by the dominant pair of mute swans. She likes to hang around after breakfast and preen and be generally sociable. When she's ready to move on she nearly always emits a series of trumpeting calls before heading upstream. She also calls out every time she hears swans flying overhead.

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