Sunday, 30 March 2014

Who'd have guessed it?

We were taken by surprise this morning when I turned on 'duck TV' and saw a mallard sitting on the eggs in the nest box.  She stayed for several hours and then left without covering up the eggs.  After she'd gone I noticed another female mallard swimming backwards and forwards by the entrance to the box as if wanting to go into it but not having the courage.  From her behaviour I think she was the same mallard that wanted to enter the box when Lonely was inside. Whether she was the first to lay claim to the box but lost out I don't know.

Nine eggs in the nest

The last time I looked inside the nest there were only 6 eggs so some duck has been busy when I haven't been watching!  Every time we've looked at the nest via the camera through our TV nothing seemed to have changed so we assumed that the nest had been abandoned.  The good news, so far, is that the mop curtain seems to have kept the crow away.

We think it was the creamy tailed duck in the box but we shall probably know for sure after a few days. Unless, of course, there's more nest swapping!

It's not only the sap that's rising!

The male ducks are now desperate to mate with any female duck and 'Squeaks', a big, fat white duck is being regularly attacked by a smaller white duck.  Her two grey hybrid suitors do their best to protect her but the smaller duck is incredibly determined.

 Squeaks' boys try to defend her from the smaller white duck

 The white duck won't be deterred

I was surprised at how persistent the smaller white duck is, in spite of a determined attempt by Squeaks' two favourite boys to drag him off. The white duck wasn't to be put off and tried at least six times to mate with Squeaks.  

The fruit trees are in blossom

The weather has started to warm up again and most of the fruit trees are now in bloom.  It's good to see bees and several butterflies in the garden searching for pollen from the unfurling blossoms. 

Male red crested pochard 

Yesterday all three pochards came for their late afternoon treat but today we only saw the 'spare' male.
We had a special visitor in the morning, though. A kingfisher spent some time on our railing looking for a 'bite to eat'.  It is such a small bird but truly spectacular and I always feel uplifted when I see this beautiful bird.

Friday, 28 March 2014

It has been remarkably quiet on the duck front today.  At the moment there seem to be far fewer fights than we've experienced in other years.  The four pairs that regularly call by for food time their visits carefully and those lowest in the pecking order wait 'in the wings' for the others to feed before taking their turn.


It's been mostly grey and overcast today with a bitterly cold breeze. Lonely, who's a dark duck anyway, doesn't photograph well when the light isn't good!

No ducks have been in any of the nesting boxes as far as we can tell but I watched one of the crows walk up the plank and look inside the nest without the eggs.  It seemed to want to check out the other box too, the one with the eggs, but was apparently deterred by the mop 'curtain' we've placed over the entrance.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Has the duck nest box been abandoned?

Since Lonely 'borrowed' the nest box from the mallard that had laid most of the eggs it seems to have been abandoned.  For two days no ducks have entered it, only glanced briefly at the covered eggs and moved away.

Ring Neck has been hanging around quite a bit and her mate has investigated the other nest box at least three times since yesterday afternoon.  Somehow she doesn't seem overly interested so I'm not sure what is happening.  We haven't had any ducks checking out the garden deck either so perhaps they've all settled for alternative nesting sites at the moment.

Ring Neck on one of the nest box planks

This morning I was amazed to see one of the crows swoop down on a pigeon that was busy feasting on some wheat I'd put out for the mandarin duck. The pigeon got away and I wasn't sure whether the crow was trying to kill the pigeon or merely chase it away from a source of food.  

A pair of magpies and a pair of Jays are visiting the garden on a regular basis and, for the first time since the floods, I saw two long tailed tits at our feeders.

Because of the cold weather both the mandarin duck pair and the pochard pair have been turning up to be fed.  It's surprising how quickly they get used to my presence.

As the season progresses more and more birds are becoming territorial and this morning we watched as a great crested grebe drove off a rival.  They have very sharp beaks and when they fight each other it is quite dramatic to watch.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The mystery of the additional egg

In order to protect the duck's eggs from the thieving crow Dave adapted an old mop to hang down in front of the box to act as a curtain.  So far it has worked and there are now six eggs in the box, one more than there should be!

Originally the nest was occupied by a mallard but there seems to have been dirty work at the crossroads, as the saying goes!  I watched intrigued this morning as the mallard swam backwards and forwards by the box, looking distressed and seeming to want to enter the box.  I didn't think it could be the 'curtain' that was bothering her because two eggs have been laid since Dave attached it to the box. My only other thought was that another duck was inside and, sure enough, the black duck Lonely has taken over the nest, hence the extra egg.  I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow but we'll be able to watch remotely as Dave has reinstalled the camera we used in the box last year.

 The crow deterrent

Yesterday evening all three mandarin ducks came for dinner and we were surprised to see the female mandarin go into the other nesting box on the river while the 'spare' male mandarin had a look inside the nest with the eggs.  Mandarins are tree nesting birds but, in the past, females have used the nest boxes as night time roosts once the ducklings hit the river.

Female tufted duck

It was bitterly cold yesterday morning and the ramps to the nest boxes must have been icy because a female tufted duck tried four times to waddle up the ramp only to slide down once she managed a couple of paces.  'Tufties' aren't really designed to spend time on land as their legs are set back on their bodies which makes them unbalanced when they try to walk up ramps.  They do succeed when the planks aren't icy or wet though because two tufted ducks shared the same nest box last year and we ended up with so many eggs they were double stacked!  Sadly the nest was abandoned and none of the eggs hatched.

The lone male pochard has just been here for a bite to eat and the spare mandarin male has visited three times already today.  I'm expecting the mandarin pair to arrive just before dark and, in the meantime, the other ducks are turning up in pairs for their evening meal. Ring Neck and her partner are usually the last to arrive.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Ring neck enjoys warm afternoon sunshine

So far so good!  The crow hasn't stolen any more eggs so we're hoping that the 'mop head' flap to the entrance of the nest box has deterred it.  The duck has laid another egg so she must be okay with the new entrance flap.

 Ring Neck finds a warm spot on the roof

I heard a duck quacking quietly outside the front door but could see no sign of any mallards.  Suddenly a head peered over the edge of the roof above me - it was Ring Neck looking for a quick wheat treat. She was able to eat without being disturbed and, shortly afterwards she settled down on a neighbour's roof.  Just as I grabbed the camera it started to hail and the hailstones really stung the backs of my hands.

An hour of sunshine before temperatures plummet

The roof was reflecting the day's heat and there was still an hour of sunshine to bask in before the heat went out of the day.  The forecast is for - 3 C tonight and the ducks seem to know this as they are eating more than they have been during the warmer weather.

I've wrapped the citrus trees and other delicate plants in fleece to protect them and hope that the cold spell doesn't last for too many days.

All four pairs of mallards have been around today but I haven't seen any pochards.  The mandarins are regulars again, just one pair and a spare at the moment,  the same as the pochards.

There have been far fewer swans about today so perhaps one pair has finally seen off the rest.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ducks in the pond

It was a bright sunny start to the day and the duck with the creamy coloured tail and her partner spent ages dabbling in our pond.  She was sitting on our garden deck at first light and actually started to investigate the nest boxes there more seriously.  I looked inside them later in the day and one has been 'prepared' for nesting.

 The ducks can't resist the pond

Even though the river is just below our pond and bog garden the ducks always head for the pond during the Spring and Summer.  These two were grubbing around in it at least three times today.

Heading down the rill for a wheat treat

As soon as I opened the door they both came straight down to the river for some wheat. They've nested with us for at least two years so they are used to us and don't get spooked by movement.

The riverside nest box had another egg in it today and we're not sure which duck laid it.  I thought it was one of the other mallards but I saw the duck (above) being chased out of it later this morning.  Dave's covered the entrance with a 'curtain' made from an old mop to discourage the crow.  We hope it doesn't put the female mallard off, too, but we doubt it.  A short while ago a male mandarin duck was looking inside it but he was immediately seen off by a drake!

Friday, 21 March 2014

A busy day for the dominant swans

We haven't had so many swans in this area since the Hampton flock relocated to Kingston.  I've seen at least 12 on our stretch this past fortnight and the dominant swans aren't happy.  There seem to be two dominant pairs and, as yet, neither has managed to establish their supremacy and banish the other swans from the territory.

 After the chase it's time to take a bow!

In between chases there has been time for romance.  I heard this pair (below) 'sweet talking' in the strange way that mute swans do when they're bonding.  For the record, they're not as mute as their name would suggest!
 Two mute swans bond with each other

I discovered the culprit - the thief that's been stealing the duck's eggs from the nest box.  There's only one left and it has a peck mark on it.  While two ducks were looking at the nest box this morning a crow emerged from inside! They're such clever birds but it's sad that the duck's eggs have been stolen and the nest disrupted.  Normally the crows' broods hatch quite early in Spring and the adults are on the lookout for as much food as they can gather. Duck eggs are definitely on the menu.

The guilty party

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The red crested pochard has returned

While we were out in our boat at the weekend we saw two male and one female red crested pochard. They tend to nest on Garrick's Ait but every Spring they return here for wheat treats.  As I predicted, it wasn't long before we saw one of the males here.  He drops by every morning and stays for several hours.  It won't be long before the pair also turn up once the female has started to nest.

 A fine looking pochard

The blue tits are busy building their nest in their favourite box.  I have also noticed a thrush gathering nesting material and flying with it to an ivy covered tree on the Molesey bank. The blackbird, meanwhile, must have finished her nest as she no longer visits our garden for material.

Mute swans 'busking'

Taggs' island's dominant swans are nesting in the lagoon but their territory extends beyond the island. Unfortunately for them there are quite a few mute swans using this stretch of the river so there are plenty of displays of power and plenty of chases. The two swans above are sizing up each with their wings flared and their necks drawn back to impress each other with their power and strength. 

Yesterday, when I looked in the duck nest box there were three eggs but today there is only one.  I'm not sure whether the eggs are being taken by a mink, a magpie or a crow.  Nature can be very cruel.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Spring blooms in Hampton Court Palace gardens

Although it was mostly cloudy, windy and grey today the wilderness gardens at Hampton Court Palace,  on the River Thames, still looked fabulous.  They are probably at their best right now and quite beautiful.

 The wilderness garden 

While I was visiting the palace with a friend we also wandered around the formal gardens. They are splendid and cost a fortune to maintain.  The gardeners at the palace do a fabulous job.

 A view from The Privy Garden

The restored Knot Gardens are inspirational and we were impressed by the lovely spring planting. When you consider that we've suffered several months of torrential rain it is so good to see such a colourful display.

Left, left and then I think I was meant to turn right . . .

It was so funny to see this female mallard seemingly confused at where she was meant to go in the Knot Garden.  To her it was just like the Hampton Court Maze for ducks!  Of course she has the edge over humans.  She can always get an aerial view of her location.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The blue tits

There's been time for just one grabbed image today but I promised to let you know what the blue tits have been doing.  I previously mentioned that they couldn't make up their minds between the boxes available to them and spent the whole of last week checking out all three nest boxes, including the one with the camera.

Our old home!

Last year a pair had nested in a different box which had needed to be cleaned out for this season. Because of the floods we hadn't been able to clean it and it was only on Saturday evening that the 'old' box was dry and ready for use. Dave had placed it on top of a cupboard in the car port but we hadn't thought any more about it as it hadn't been fixed to a wall.  To our amazement the blue tits immediately started to visit their old box almost to the exclusion of the three other boxes, to the point where we realised that they would probably choose that box.  As it was unsafe where it stood Dave secured it to the wall close to two of the other boxes and the blue tits have been spending most of their time at that box.  It would appear to be a case of 'Home Sweet Home'!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The swans are nesting

It was another day of brilliant sunshine with hardly a cloud and temperatures reaching 22.5C here.  We made the most of the fabulous weather and went out in the boat and looked to see whether we could spot the kingfishers' nest.  The current is still quite strong, even though the river appears placid enough, and there weren't many boats making the most of Sunday on the river.

As we went upstream we saw several pairs of swans determined to establish their territory by means of impressive displays and outright aggression.

 The first chase we saw

A determined attack

This swan made sure that he saw off his opponent and pursued it until it was out of its territory.  The 'loser' finally flew off and then circled back to a safer spot downstream.

Another attempt to drive of a rival

Further upstream a determined swan followed an intruder until it had flown beyond its territory.  We think that the rival swan doubled back once its attacker gave up the chase!

While we were out we saw that the red crested pochards were back on the river near Garrick's Ait.  No doubt they'll be down to feed here in a few weeks.

As for the blue tits . . . I'll let you know tomorrow what they're up to.  They've surprised us!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Indecision time

The blue tits have spent the week checking out all three nesting boxes and pecking at the entrance holes but they still haven't made up their minds!  I wonder what makes for the perfect location? We think that the camera box is the safest from predators such as cats and magpies but the blue tits may have their own thoughts around what's best for them.

The ducks, too, have been indecisive.  In spite of the fact that an egg has been laid in one of the nesting boxes nothing has happened since and there has been little activity around the riverside boxes.  The hybrid duck's partner, whose tail is a very creamy colour so I'll nickname her 'cream tail' spends every morning on the garden deck near one of the two nesting boxes but shows little interest in either of them.

 Time for a break from nesting duties

We're delighted to hear that a pair of kingfishers have started nesting locally.  They used to nest in the lagoon regularly but since camp shedding has been used to shore up the banks in places the birds would appear to have abandoned the lagoon.

A female blackbird spent the earlier part of the week collecting nesting material from our garden.  I haven't seen her for the last two days so her nest is probably fully built by now.  She is nesting in our neighbour's hedgerow while her partner entertains us regularly with his mellifluous territorial outbursts.

The magnolia is magnificent this year

We have an impressive show of blossoms most years but this year the magnolia is particularly abundant and is a joy to look at.  This tree blooms three times every year but only the first flowering is significant.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

First egg of 2014

After days of indecision a duck has decided to lay an egg in one of the riverside nest boxes. We don't know yet which of the three females is most likely to have laid the egg but no doubt time will tell. The other nest box also has the appearance of a new nest.

 First duck egg this year

This morning I heard the sound of ducks investigating the nest box at around 5.00am  Later in the morning the partner of the hybrid male spent quite some time on our top deck again and at one point we thought she might be interested in nesting on the garden deck but she didn't go into either of the boxes while we were observing her. We're not sure whether she is the one that has laid the egg in the riverside box but she has been around for most of the day.

Magnolia in its first flush

The magnolia is in full bloom all of a sudden and it seems to have benefited from the floods.  Once again the weather has been good today although there was thick fog to start the day. The garden smells lovely, filled with the scent from the 'montana' and also from the 'odorata' and the 'mimosa".  The hyacinths also have a sweet and pungent scent.

The blue tits have been investigating all three boxes again today but we still don't know which nest they'll choose.

Meanwhile the blackbird has been foraging for nesting material over the last two days and flies off with her beak full of material to line her nest in a shrub in our neighbour's garden. I hope all is well this year and that no one decides to 'prune' the shrubs and trees close by.  Last year someone radically cut back all the hedgerows and shrubs at nesting time!  I was very upset to see the nesting birds loose their protection.

The pair of mandarin ducks visit every evening now and this evening arrived with a 'spare' male.  He doesn't have all his fine plumage in place but he did his best to raise a rather lacklustre crest this evening in an attempt to attract the female.  She didn't appear to be impressed!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The ducks have gone!

The ducks have done a disappearing act and not one investigated the nesting boxes early this morning. I know they're fickle, we've seen this behaviour before, but they'll probably be back in a few days. "The girls' only showed up at the end of the day! Meanwhile, late this morning some of the rogue males flew in and teamed up.  I see trouble ahead for the poor nesting females in a couple of weeks' time.

Lonely turned up for supper

In the early evening some of the 'pairs' of ducks turned up for their evening treat.  Lonely and her partner, Ring Neck and hers and the hybrid boy and his.

The blue tits continued to check out both bird boxes - I think the third one has been ruled out.  There's been a lot of pecking at the entrances of both boxes and we've seen blue tits in the 'camera' box although the Bob Box is still being investigated.

It has been another chilly and fairly grey day but we've had no rain. For the first time in a long while, some of the less experienced rowers had a lesson - the more experienced teams are definitely making up for lost time!  Unfortunately they've woken us up twice now, once at 5.52am and today at 5.51am, with the cox's electronic intercom.  They have been told not to use loud hailers before 7.00am but they seem indifferent to the disturbance they cause.  All they have to do is to wait until they have passed our houseboats - we are within 400 metres of the boat club - and then they would be in a wider stretch of river and would not wake us up!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Busy day - no time for photos

I haven't had a chance to take any photos today but I did see a blue tit checking out all three bird boxes. As yet we don't think a decision has been made as to which box to choose but I noticed a bird going into the Bob Box late in the afternoon.  We shall have to see which box they finally select for their nest.

This morning the hybrid duck's mallard partner was on the garden deck and she went back there later although she doesn't seem to be looking at the nest boxes upstairs.  There was activity at the riverside boxes at around 5.00am and I saw her looking at both of those earlier this morning.  Ring Neck wasn't around while I was at home and Lonely was as noisy as ever but didn't seem to be checking out the nest boxes.  It would seem that all the ducks are still undecided as to where to nest but are also trying to exclude other ducks from nesting on our property!

The mandarins came for supper and drove off all other wildfowl but then flew away, probably back to Bushy Park.

The day started sunny but cold and then clouded over.  Compared with yesterday it was really quite cold for the rest of the day, which might explain why the pair of long tailed tits came to feed on the fat block. We haven't seen them since the garden was underwater during the floods.  Perhaps we were the only ones in the area at the time who were feeding the birds while times were hard.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

First boat trip of 2014

It was wonderfully sunny today - about 22C here - and we were able to take our boat out for the first time this year.  Until now the river has been flowing too fast and, even today, the current was about 3 mph.  We went upstream slowly and came back at speed on 'tick over'!

 Ring Neck and partner

The ducks have been milling around but in a rather lacklustre way.  Most evenings Ringneck and her boy come for wheat and then spend time on our platform.  The mandarin ducks didn't come today but Lonely and her partner, and the hybrid duck and his all turned up.

 One of our favourite old boats on its last legs

We have always called this "Pop Eye's" boat and have watched it gradually deteriorate over many years.  It has rested on the bottom for a while and sprouted several buddleia bushes over the years but, since it was moved to the opposite bank last year it looks really sad. We hear it was sold for £1 on eBay.

Another sad sight

We saw three boats looking the worse for wear today, Pop Eye's and another one really didn't look as though they could be pumped out and renovated but I think this one might stand a chance of being salvaged.  The floods have claimed many 'victims'!

The garden has been alive with blue tits today and the nest boxes have all been visited.  We were heartened to see, on screen, that our box fitted with the camera was checked out frequently today so perhaps, if we're lucky, we'll be able to watch the nest being built, the eggs being laid and the hatching and feeding of the new brood.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Fine Pair of Mandarin Ducks

 The first pair of mandarin ducks visit us

Every Spring mandarin ducks visit our garden.  Usually it starts with one pair and then, after several days, another pair turns up until we have up to seven pairs and a few spares.  Last year, for the first time, a wood duck joined them to add even more colour to our local wildfowl visitors.

The male begins to raise his crest in courtship

We've had several fleeting visits from another pair this week but they were still partially in moult and rather sad looking specimens.  They were also very nervous whereas this pair were intrepid and attacked the mallards in order to take over the plank.  I have a feeling that they'll be back on a regular basis from now on and, no doubt, bring some of their friends!

It's been another lovely day after a rather grey start and tomorrow promises to be sunny all day.  It was 18C on the garden deck this afternoon!  I think we'll take our boat out for a short trip up river tomorrow.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Another fine afternoon

 A fine evening sky in March

After a dull, grey morning with a few spots of rain, the skies cleared and the sun shone once again helping temperatures to rise to around 16C.  Above is a picture of the early evening sky. 

Perhaps the uncompromising start to the day had an effect on the ducks because there was little activity around the nest boxes this morning and we saw neither the hybrid pair nor Ring Neck and her drake until much later when the sun broke through.

Ring Neck takes off 

By late afternoon all four pairs of mallards had turned up but weren't showing much interest in the nesting boxes. While Ring Neck was having a quiet moment with her mate on the plank in the early evening, Lonely and her partner flew in and chased her away (see above).

Meanwhile, the Blue Tits were also less active around their nest boxes this morning but I spotted one, later in the day, taking a great interest in one of the boxes but not the one with the camera!  Time will tell but it wouldn't surprise me to find that the chosen nest will be the one without the intrusion of a camera!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Life after the floods

View of the flooded garden

As you can see from the picture above, the river flooded the entire garden and stopped just short of the door to the therapy room.  We had to use a series of planks, ladders and supports to get off our boat and out through the car port which was also under water. Fortunately the water level stopped just short of our electricity box at the top of the car port.  The gas meter toppled over and was completely submerged but continued to supply us with gas for the central heating and cooker so we were very lucky!

A thriving clematis 

In spite of being under water for weeks the garden plants have shown amazing resilience.  My mimosa is in full flower and the citrus trees have all survived, despite the fact that the greenhouse was blown apart in the December gales. Luckily I had covered them with fleece. The clematis (above) is in full bloom and forms a fabulous scented canopy over the entire boundary between us and our neighbour.

We have spent the last couple of days clearing as much as possible of the silt and debris from the garden and Dave pressure hosed the patio so it looks a lot better!  At least the weather has been dry and sunny which makes a welcome change and there's a promise of more dry weather to come.

The ducks have been chasing each other far more frequently today, at least three pairs investigated the nest boxes and one female mallard checked out our garden deck box, too.

Dave set up the bird box camera yesterday and this morning we saw a Blue Tit enter the box twice. We hadn't realised that the camera recorded sound, too, so we were surprised to hear the bird's high pitched call as it entered the box.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Today I held a Blue Tit

Injured Blue Tit

Today I found a Blue Tit in our carport on the ground.  It appeared to be stunned and, as I approached, it made no attempt to fly off.  I was able to pick it up and hold it.  From what I could tell, it seemed to be blind in one eye so it may have flown into something and hurt itself. I held it and stroked it for several minutes and then took it to a nearby fig tree so that I could encourage it to fly to safety. It was so calm and chirpy in the palm of my hand but I felt very relieved when it took off. I really hope that, in spite of a damaged eye, it will survive.

After the trauma

Fortunately, the bird seemed none the worse for its accident and, after resting for a few more minutes it flew to the bird table for a sunflower heart.

Female mallard checking out nest box

The ducks have shown a great deal of interest in the two riverside nest boxes and the rivalry is intense. At the moment the main contenders are the mallard with a hybrid male and this female (pictured above) and her pure mallard mate.  A duck we've nicknamed Lonely is also a contender whereas the one we call Ringneck seems to have been driven off.  The female (above) spent much of the morning investigating both boxes and was back again this afternoon.

The dominant drake

It would seem that this drake has the edge over the hybrid male and his mate. They have spent much of the morning and some of the late afternoon at the nest boxes. 

Today has been a lovely, sunny day which makes a change from most of the previous days.  The forecast tonight is for settled and warm weather for a while - what a welcome prospect!

I've started clearing the debris in the garden - there's a lot of work to do, but I keep reminding myself of what the people in the Somerset Levels and elsewhere are still suffering because of the floods.  At least the flood water has 'fertilised' our garden and we can now get on with life!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Spring sunshine, dark clouds, huge hailstones and ice at night!

Blue Tit in early morning sunshine

Spring is definitely in the air and a pair of Blue Tits are regularly looking at the nesting box Dave prepared at the weekend.  The early morning and late afternoon birdsong is delightful and the garden is full of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long Tailed Tits using the feeders. There are plenty of Dunnocks, too, a pair of Robins, a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, too many Wood Pigeons and far too many Parakeets!

A Mallard and her hybrid mate lay claim to one of the nest boxes

Four pairs of mallards are showing great interest in the two riverside nesting boxes and this pair appear to be the dominant pair.  We have two other boxes on the top deck and hope that a pair will nest there too as it is safe from both foxes and mink.  

For the first time in ages, a pair of Mandarin Ducks flew in from the park yesterday to check out the area again.  Usually, from Spring through to late Autumn we have at least 5 pairs visiting the garden.

Storm clouds lift just before sunset

Yesterday's weather was pretty dramatic yet again.  When the sun shone it was warm but the rain was torrential and the hailstones thundered off our roof, boat cover and the ducks' backs!  When will we return to a more normal and typical weather pattern?  The intensity of the rain when it falls these days is far greater than it used to be and all too regular.  Let's hope that we finally get some settled, gentle and warm Spring weather very soon.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

More rain!

I only have one image  for today as a record of the floods during February 2014, though not showing them at their worst!

The view from our home across Hurst Meadows in mid February

For the record, today is yet another day with exceptionally strong winds from the afternoon onwards with very heavy cloudbursts this evening.  The ground is already soaked since the floods and it has rained all too regularly since the river returned to normal levels.

This picture shows how the river flooded Hurst Park and Hurst Meadows but doesn't show just how far the river actually spread across both sides of our island.

Today started with fine weather and we watched a fourth Mallard pair investigate our duck nesting boxes.  Dave checked out the garden bird nest boxes as there has been some tentative activity in our carport with some Blue Tits are already showing signs of checking out their territory.  It won't be too long before some Blue Tits and maybe a Robin decide to start nest building.

We've had a pair of Pigeons (not Wood Pigeons)  raiding our feeders recently and the Wood Pigeons aren't impressed with the newcomers.  Nor am I as they are rapacious feeders and not scared of humans.

Today we saw three boats on the river which is a sign that the flow must be a little less dangerous.  After today's heavy downpours I wonder whether conditions will change again as we have to cope with what falls upstream of us, and that was more significant rainfall.  It's unusual to have so very little river traffic at this time of year. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

It's been a while!

It's been seven months since I posted the last Thames Nature Notes because of family matters. I had intended to start again in the new year but, since mid December the weather in South East England has been atrocious.

We have had the wettest winter since records began with extreme flooding.  Others, in South West England have suffered even more for months now, so we cannot complain, but we're glad that the river has now returned to normal levels and at last our garden is no longer under water.  In fact, the river engulfed our end of the island and there was river from the A308 bank as far as, and right across Hurst Meadows.  It was an unusual sight to see swans swimming down through our carport and around the garden before being swept across the river into the meadows way beyond.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining and, as far as we were concerned, in spite of some extremely worrying times, we had the joy of watching a Kingfisher take advantage of our underwater garden to catch breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 The Kingfisher waited patiently for signs of fish

Because the river was flowing so fast the Kingfisher found our submerged garden a perfect haven.  It spent hours on most days diving for fish, taking advantage of the many convenient perches around the garden.  My husband took this picture of the bird posing on the top of a ladder.  The river had risen higher than 4 ft and we had had to put in place a series of ladders and planks to enable us to get off our boat and out through the garden and carport.  Even beyond the carport the water was still deep enough to require us to wear wellies! 

 Fishing is a tiring business

While I was out one day, Dave was able to grab this shot through our kitchen window.  The Kingfisher had spent ages diving for little fish, with considerable success, and had just finished quite a sizeable one.  After preening his feathers he had a lovely stretch before heading home for the evening.

Our beautiful bird arrives for its morning snack

I was also able to spend a fair bit of time watching this magnificent bird.  The weather was too bad to do much else!  I was lucky enough to get this shot as he arrived for for his first meal of the day. Unfortunately, as the weather was dire for much of the time, we could only get grab shots through the kitchen window most of the time but there were a couple of days when the sun shone and we managed to take some pictures through an open upstairs window without distracting the Kingfisher.

Today is the first day of Spring and we have enjoyed sunshine, bird song, and watched a number of female mallards checking out the duck nesting boxes.  Tomorrow rain is forecast again but tomorrow is another day!