Sunday, 26 August 2007

A partner for Bidou, or not?

This camera-shy dabchick (little grebe) took ages to photograph as it dived every time I tried to focus on it. I ended up with plenty of blurred images or glimpses of tails and feet disappearing from view. Several photographer friends told me that they, too, find dabchicks a challenge. We decided that their fluffy little bodies confuse the automatic focus and it's better to focus on the head and eye to get the sharpest results.

This heron, photographed at the Barnes Wetland Centre, was looking mean and hungry. It wasn't too long before it struck lucky and speared a fish. They are magnificent birds to watch as they move stealthily along river banks and reedbeds, poised and ready to strike when they spot their preferred prey.

A result of my spoiling the garden birds with sunflower hearts is a garden full of sunflowers in the most unlikely places. We've had one grow and flower from a tiny gap in our decking and there are at least a dozen other sunflowers scattered around the garden. They're so lovely I haven't the heart to remove them even when they are in the wrong place.

Many of the islanders got excited on Monday when we saw Bidou and another black swan swimming upstream. We couldn't work out whether Bidou was chasing after the other swan to catch up with it or to chase it off. Sadly, the latter was true. We had all hoped that she had finally found at least a friend, or better still, a mate.

She calls by for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and takes time to preen her feathers every morning, except when the mute swan family see her off. She is an elegant looking swan but still seems nervous of us when feeding. She flinches when I throw her the wheat and snatches at the food nervously. Perhaps she had a bad experience when she was younger?

As the breeding season comes to a close and the ducks, swans and geese are going into moult, the mute swan family are slightly less aggressive with Bidou. Occasionally, the cygnets even allow her to feed alongside them. As you can see, if you've looked at my earlier postings, these two have grown considerably and are almost at the stage when their parents will chase them away and stop looking after them. Life can be so cruel!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Back from holidays and it must be summer!

Summer's arrived and the swallows have just started feeding their young

Mum & Dad are kept busy with the various mouths to feed

Waiting for more insects while catching the afternoon sun

This one seems to get all the attention . . . and the food!

We managed to avoid the worst of the downpours and floods while we were away in sunny Portugal but we came back to a garden that resembled a jungle! The combination of wet and warm weather had accelerated the growth of weeds as well a the plants though.

We were surprised and delighted by the appearance of about 20 swallows and laughed at the unsteadiness of the youngsters as the landed on the telephone lines. It was such a pleasure watching them but they were only here for two days and disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived.

Jay on the arch ready to grab some peanuts to feed its youngsters

The jays have also started bringing their brood to the garden, much to the annoyance of the magpies which also had youngsters to feed. The aerial battles and harsh cries made for interesting viewing.

Grab shot of a blackbird through the kitchen window

The male blackbird is quite happy to use the pond but the female is much more discreet and hides under the acer tree. We were amazed to see a her gather a huge beak-full of nesting material from dead leaves and grasses and fly off with it to a tall tree. I didn't think birds built nests so late in the season but perhaps she's making up for time lost due to bad weather. With her glossy brown feathers and the massive amount of dead grasses drooping from her beak she looked for all the world like a Mexican bandit with a moustache to be proud of.

We were surprised to see a lone duckling on Saturday evening. It had attached itself to some adult mallards but none of them seemed to want it and it looked more like the young of a tufted duck. Two massive crows swooped down to take it and it dived for cover but I don't suppose it lasted too long. Perhaps, if the blackbirds are nesting again, the ducks will have yet another attempt this year and we'll finally see some ducklings make it to adulthood?

One other surprise this week was the sight of a goldfinch in the garden. It spent time gathering insects and then came down to the pond for a drink. Typically, the camera wasn't to hand at the time so I'm hoping it will return.