Sunday, 30 October 2011

Swans, heron, deer and the island mink!

 Swan shows intruder who is boss

On one of the few cold and misty mornings we've had so far this year I went over to Bushy Park to 'soak up' the atmosphere.  Part of Heron Pond was in sunshine as the mist started to burn off and I spotted this swan preparing to attack an intruder.

 The intruder decides it is better to 'fight another day'

On this occasion the intruder thought better of taking on his attacker and opted for flight rather than fight.

 The dominant cob is determined to make a point

Not satisfied with the intruder's attempt at flight the dominant male tries to pick a fight and chases the other swan in an attempt to engage in battle.  A coot hurriedly swims away from the battle front.

 In hot pursuit

The intruder puts on a spurt of speed and heads away from the dominant swan's territory with his pursuer gradually losing momentum.

What powerful wings . . .

 Meanwhile, away from the fight, another pair of swans glide across the park

 The Diana Fountain in early morning mist

 Stag in sunlight

As the day warmed up most of the stag 'activity' calmed down and this stag stood unchallenged with his harem close by.

Two young bucks reflected in the Longford River
 Doe makes a bid for freedom

This doe managed to sneak away from the harem and headed for the stream.  She had only rested there a few minutes when a rival stag spotted her and decided to 'try his luck'! 

 Not interested!

The doe was underwhelmed by her erstwhile suitor and 'did a runner'.  Undeterred he followed her but soon encountered a rival stag on the other side of the water.

 Loser . . .

 Another loser . . .

Stags with no mates!  These two old boys showed signs of battle fatigue.  They were obviously just two of the losers in this year's rut.

 Tern and its reflection in the Longford River

 Heron on the hunt . . .  a failed attempt

I watched this heron patiently wade through a stretch of water in search of lunch.  During the 15 minutes that I stopped to watch it in action it made many attempts to catch but failed more often than it succeeded.  However, I did see it spear and swallow several fish.  

 Another impressive attempt

 Success at last

 A little grebe goes unnoticed by most members of the public

 Mink on neighbour's deck with supper

 The mink has been around quite a bit of late which is bad news for the local waterfowl.  Several weeks ago I saw it carrying off a coot and last week I was just too late to save a young female tufted duck.  It hides in the shadows of the bank and pounces on unsuspecting wildfowl but it also catches fish.  This is the second fish I've seen it take.  Shortly after it had carried off the tufted duck I saw it or another mink hiding in an overhang of the riverbank.  I knew its habit of swimming round the house in order to access the front deck and had occasionally seen it head along the neighbour's deck towards me before suddenly doing a disappearing act.

 Heading for home

For several years a mink has been using the end section of a neighbour's hull as a bolthole.  I can usually tell when the beast is about because the ducks and other waterfowl are spooked at any sudden movement.  If the mink's on the prowl they fly in panic away from the river bank and head for the middle of the river.  Once there they all turn and face in the direction of the mink, watching its every movement.  It's a bit of a giveaway!  I've sometimes seen it sneak from its bolthole into the river and immediately hide in a recess in the campshedding.  In the shadow of the bank the mink is almost invisible with only its bright eyes glinting and the white dot on its chin showing if it raises its head.
The mink has now been evicted from its bolthole and is no doubt looking for somewhere new to rest up, eat and digest its meals in peace!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Autumn in Bushy Park

 Fallow deer resting

It's been incredibly warm for late September/early October - far too warm for much activity in the daytime.  This is the time of year when photographers flock to the park to take images of the rut, pictures of stags locking horns.  The park echoes to the sound of belling stags trying to impress as many does as possible with a series of deep bellows and rapid grunts, their breath turning to vapour in the cool autumn air.  This week the deer are in heat with temperatures to match.  Most of the 'action' happens between dusk and dawn but in a normal year, when the weather is cooler,  there's still a chance to watch stags lock antlers during the morning and late afternoon, but this year the heat has taken its toll and the deer are lethargic.

Young fallow deer keeps an eye on me

The female deer still have young with them and are very protective at the moment.  What with the stags in rut and the does guarding their young now is not the time to get too close to the herds nor to allow dogs to 'worry' the wild deer.  In spite of notices posted in many places in the park requesting dog owners to keep their dogs on leads for the time being, I saw only one dog owner abiding by the rules while I was there, putting the deer's welfare before their own gratification.  No wonder there have been incidents of stags attacking humans this week.
 Young fallow deer heads towards his mother

Hugging the shade
Albino fallow deer 

 Leaping deer

Red deer proclaiming his prowess

This stag had 'acquired' a good sized harem but was still on the lookout for any stray does he could round up.  Earlier I had come across a stag who'd obviously had a rough night and was recovering on his own in the shade.  He look very dejected and may well have sustained some injuries over and above the indignity of defeat by a stronger rival.

 Fallow doe heading for her herd

Time to make a run for it

 You're going the wrong way!

 Tender moment between doe and her youngster

I can't believe you're still hungry

Elsewhere in park  . . .

 Moorhen feeding her chick