Tuesday, 20 November 2007

After a night of heavy rain

We've had some very heavy rain over the last four days and river levels have risen. I woke up this morning to a swamp, rather than a bog garden. The ducks, coots, a moorhen and a pair of Mandarin ducks thought it was wonderful as they grubbed around in the muddy water.

What I didn't know was that wed had a larger visitor half and hour before. My husband was awake before me and managed to take a photograph, through the kitchen window, of Bidou the black swan, enjoying the submerged greenery!

A few minutes ago there were seven ducks swimming around the bog garden. I wonder what the damage will be when the river levels go down? At least it's dry and sunny at the moment but there is more rain to come.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Home and Away

Snowy egret with attitude!

While we were in Florida this snowy egret caught our attention. It was busy having a scratch but it looks like it's telling us to 'clear off' with an unsubtle gesture.

A reddish egret intent on lunch

We watched this reddish egret hunt for food, confusing the fish by its ridiculous dance in the water. Its antics made us laugh out loud as it led its prey a merry dance. It was in one of the many lagoons within the Ding Darling Nature Reserve on Sanibel Island.

Mute swans on Taggs Island

While visiting a house on the lagoon of Taggs Island, a houseboat community in south west London, I watched a family of mute swans try to persuade residents in the lagoon to feed them!

Mist on The Thames in the early morning in winter - a view from our lounge!

We've had a series of beautiful, crisp, cold and misty mornings recently. It's so lovely to see the light change as the sun burns off any mist on the river.

We're the top swans on this stretch

On a really misty morning I watched the mute swans let anyone and everyone know that they were the top honchos. Bidou, the resident black swan (on the right in this picture) is protective of her adopted family and drives off any swan intruders.

Tufted duck grooming

After breakfast the ducks and swans take time to preen and keep their plumage in good condition. This male tufted duck made us smile as it paddled round in circles trying to keep its undersides ship shape.

If you wish to enlarge any of the images just double click on them.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Monday morning

It was such a beautiful morning with a wonderful light on the river, burning off early morning mist.

The swans and ducks are frantic for wheat at the moment, even though it isn't desperately cold for this time of year. I've noticed that the mute swans, and Bidou the black swan, are spending more and more time begging for food. At night, they haunt the house until around 9pm in the hope of a late night feed.

There must be something in the air because the Mandarin ducks are gradually returning. First it was a solitary one, then a pair and tonight it's two pairs.

Since our return from Florida an old coot has taken up residence on the deck. I think its partner might have been killed in one of the vicious battles I saw just before we left. This coot hides from the resident pair by crouching down behind the kayaks, lurking beneath the bistro table or disappearing into the garden pond. It makes a real mess of the deck, pooping everywhere, but I feel sorry for it; it comes right up to my feet to be fed.

While we were away some friends took it in turn to feed the garden birds and the waterfowl. The postman also asked if he could put out wheat for the ducks when he delivered the post. He was amazed at how many ducks and swans turned up. At one point he heard a strange thudding noise approaching and then realised that it came from a drake thundering along the deck to join in the feeding frenzy!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Some local images and a few from a recent holiday

Swan battles in the early morning mist

For about an hour I watched Bidou see off another black swan and also a mute swan that was foolish enough to venture into her adopted family of mute swans' territory. It was surprising to see her take on the role of the male mute swan and chase the newcomer away. It's almost as if Bidou believes she's a mute swan! Every day she turns up with her 'albino' family. If the cygnets are on their own Bidou tries to drive off one of them and, recently, the parents no longer bother to defend it.

Bidou flies upstream to attack the intruding black swan

There is no love lost between Bidou and the other black swans. Usually there's just one intruder but today she had two to contend with. She seemed to concentrate on one more than the other. Once she felt she's chased them far enough away she immediately returned to the mute swan family, only to have the drive the black swans away again, several times.

An osprey waits for its mate to return

We were delighted to be able to watch this osprey for quite some time while we were in the Everglades on holiday. We could hear its mate calling while it hunted but weren't lucky enough to see it return with a fish in its talons. They are such magnificent birds and such powerful hunters.

A little green heron waiting patiently for supper

Little green herons are shy and retiring birds. This one was standing on a branch overhanging the water waiting for the right moment to strike. Sometimes they stand motionless in the water but there was an alligator close by and this one was probably wise to keep it in his line of sight.

A tricoloured heron watches for prey from the safety of an overhanging branch

This heron flew to the safety of the branch when a sly alligator made a sudden lunge at a little blue heron wading in the water close by. Alligators can accelerate faster than a racehorse over short distances but, fortunately, both birds were safe on this occasion.

An iguana poses for the camera

We were 'sitting on the dock of the bay', as the song goes, when this iguana chose to munch on some grass at the side of the beach. When it had eaten a few mouthfuls it slowly ambled across the beach at the water's edge and climbed a palm tree in the neighbouring cove. A few minutes later we saw another iguana emerge from the shadows and follow the first iguana up the tree. Iguanas are now flourishing in the wild in Florida after people bought them as pets and then dumped them when they grew to be too large. They don't make good pets. They have very sharp claws, are bad tempered and can carry the salmonella strain.