Thursday, 28 June 2007

Some old photographs and footage of mink attacking cygnet

I've been away for a few days and therefore have no up to date news and photographs but here are some older images and some unusual footage of a mink biting a cygnet.

Red deer having a mad moment

I was watching some deer towards the end of the day last winter and after they had crossed a stream in the park they started to get frisky and playful. One of them began bucking and leaping around and another covered its antlers and head with dead bracken, They reminded me of cats when they have mad moments and chase their tails or climb furniture.

This heron caught my attention as it appeared to be taking a bow

Mute swans fighting over territorial rights

These two swans battled for supremacy for at least 10 minutes until one of them was vanquished. The victor tried to drown its opponent but eventually contented itself with following the exhausted opponent onto the river bank and standing on top of him. We thought the other swan must be dead but it remained supine for at least five minutes after the other swan had swam off with its mate and then slowly struggled further up the bank and started to preen its damaged feathers.

An early morning rower
One of the joys of living here is sitting in the comfort of my own home while being able to watch river life from our lounge and dining areas. This is a view downstream through our patio windows.

This is the rare footage of an American mink attacking a cygnet outside our house. This particular mink stayed in the area for over a year and became very used to us. They are incredibly bold creatures. He killed many waterfowl during the time he was here but I was able to save some ducks. If I heard him attacking a duck (he used to drag them underwater outside our door) I would grab the duck by its feet and start to pull it back up and the mink would immediately let go. He would then look at me reproachfully and I suppose, in reality, I was saving one duck but causing another to die a little later on.

The BBC Natural History Unit saw this clip and thought it was a set up but it was one of the many attacks we saw this, and subsequent minks make on the local wildfowl and fish!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Images from home and upstream at Hurst Park

One of the few male mandarin ducks in full plumage

Most of the male Mandarin ducks are now looking very sorry for themselves. Their former glory has all but deserted them and some look as if they have the avian equivalent of chicken pox, with speckled faces where previously there were fine chestnut whiskers and a magnificent crest.

This greater spotted wookpecker has its favourite feeders and always gives a short sharp warning call just before it swoops down into the garden

A male tufted duck

Most of the tufted ducks are now quite used to us and come to feed by our front door. One or two of them have developed the habit of flying towards me and then swerving away when I throw out a scoop of wheat or seed. There was a time when they wouldn't come near the house but I've even had a couple of them fly onto the deck, which is most unusual.

Three orphan ducklings snuggle up together on Duck Ait

These three have either been abandoned or their mother is dead. We see them most evenings when we pass Duck Ait on our boat. I'm glad to see that they seem to be surviving on their own.

A kid having fun swinging from one of the trees at Hurst Park

When we were out the other evening we watched a group of youngsters having a wonderful time using a trapeze on ropes to swing from a tree into the shallow water. How nice to see kids having fun without some politically correct individual dampening their enthusiasm!

A jay with peanuts on its mind

Just the one?

This jay is almost fearless. It must be feeding youngsters because it sometimes crams as many as nine or ten peanuts into its beak/throat. The other day we were watching one of a pair of jays grab at least seven peanuts from the bird table. As it flew off it was mugged by two magpies and dropped the nuts on my therapy room roof. It tried desperately to fend off the magpies but when a third magpie joined the fray it was forced to leave the remaining peanuts to the feathered thieves!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Baby Woodpecker sees off parakeet

The first young greater spotted woodpecker in the garden this year

This youngster seemed a bit confused at first and not at all nervous of me. Its flight was somewhat erratic but once it found the peanuts it gained confidence. Its parents were still busy carrying peanuts off to the branch of a tall tree so perhaps they're feeding another youngster.

An unlikely pair of adversaries

I was amazed to see this youngster outface the parakeet. The parakeet kept threatening the young woodpecker, which in turn, would flap its wings and lunge back. To my surprise, the woodpecker was the victor.

This parakeet knows no fear

We can almost touch this particular individual, it seems quite unperturbed by our presence. So much so, in fact, that it gives me a fright quite regularly, by taking flight just as I walk by. I'm so used to seeing these birds in the garden that I hardly notice them.

Just as the sun was going behind a cloud the grebes performed a brief courtship ritual

While we were sitting on the outside deck having dinner a pair of crested grebes floated by and did a brief courtship dance right in front of us. Unfortunately, the sun went behind a cloud almost immediately and the light was too low to take more pictures. It's wonderful to watch grebes courting. They extend their crests and make flicking movements with their heads.

Today I had the joy of seeing my first baby grebe of the season, tucked behind the wings of its mother while the adult male presented it with the tiniest of fish.

Crested grebe in summer plumage

Male mandarin duck going into winter plumage (eclipse)

When in breeding plumage the vibrant colours of the male mandarin duck are a work of art. As they go into eclipse (moult) they gradually lose their finery and eventually look like their female counterparts. This one still has ginger whiskers . . . just!

Bidou takes time to relax after a snack

They cygnets tuck into wheat

The mute swans bring their cygnets round at least twice a day and spend some twenty minutes enjoying the wheat and churning up the water to release nutrients for them all. They also graze for weed and gravel, holding their necks under water for a surprisingly long time. Since lead fishing weights were banned we've seen fewer deaths from lead poisoning but their are still some old submerged weights and, occasionally, an unlucky swan swallows one and dies a slow and painful death.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

River views and mandarin ducks

View along the river bank close to Taggs Island

After the cold and wet weather of last weekend we decided to take advantage of the warm sunshine and get out in our boat. We go out most evenings when the weather's fine if only for a breath of fresh air. This is a lovely stretch of river with some attractive views and we never tire of travelling up and down it. There's always something different to see, whether it's the wildlife, the boats or various friends we pass by.

We like to go out after 6pm when there's much less river traffic and everything takes on a tranquil air. Sometimes we stop off at a friend's house or invite friends to come with us. It's a relaxing way of catching up with what's been happening locally.

Garrick's temple and lawn, just upstream from our island

The actor/manager, David Garrick built a temple and gardens to celebrate the genius of William Shakespeare in 1756. It was restored to its former glory in 1998/1999 and is now open to the public. The attractive octagonal building and gardens are a great asset to this stretch of the River Thames.

A male mandarin duck in moult

This, formerly fine looking specimen has already lost its fine chestnut 'sails' and part of its crest and eventually will be virtually indistinguishable from its mate.

A male mandarin duck (left) in mating plumage. Eventually he will look like his female partner on the right

The fervour of the breeding season is beginning to lessen. Some of the drakes (male ducks) have started moulting and are going into eclipse. Eventually the mallards and madarins males will look like their female counterparts.

Bidou, the black swan, has abandoned her eggs so we can only assume that they were infertile. Also, Golden Eye laid two eggs in our plant pot and has now abandoned them.

We do have a surprise nest with seven eggs! We have an old tyre, tied horizontally to our hull so that it's like a rubber raft, on which a pair of coots have built a ramshackle nest. It's right outside our bedroom window and I can assure you that coots can be quite active and noisy at night!

A few years ago we had a similar situation and one morning, when I woke up, I peeped out of the window at the nest and was able to watch several baby coots fight their way out of their egg shells with the help of an adult while I lay in bed.

Enough for now. Don't forget you can double click on any image if you want to enlarge it and if you click on the "subscribe" button at the bottom of the blog you'll receive the latest news when I update the site. Of course, there's no charge.