Tag Archives: Arnold

Some Duck Pond Photographs

I finally got my act together and found the lead to connect the camera to the computer. It had been hiding in plain sight masquerading as part of a reading lamp. There are just too many bits of wire in the modern house.

The flowers are starting to show now. I’m particularly captivated by the aconites because of their multitude of alternative names – aconite, monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, mousebane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, queen of poisons, or blue rocket. Obviously the ones in the picture aren’t blue rocket, and to be honest I always thought that wolf’s bane was blue too. I may have to look into it a bit more.

Peter Livesey used it as a poison in one of his books – I forget which one – where a wife killed her husband by feeding it to him in a curry.

There’s a case on the internet of a gardener dying from touching wolfsbane. This gives me pause for thought because I used to work with it regularly in one garden I looked after, and never thought to wear gloves. I thought you had to eat it to poison yourself.

There seems to be something causing a glitch in loading my photos, but I’ve got round it by posting and then editing. If you’ve read part of this post and wondered why it ends abruptly, that is the reason.

I’ll end with a film clip of the Cormorant.

Yellow Flags, Ducklings and Swifts

Things are changing in Arnot Hill Park, the shrubbery has finally come to life, and the trees are in bloom. A pair of camera-shy Song Thrushes took cover in a horse chestnut as I approached and the trees were full of annoyingly elusive birds.

There’s nothing quite like yellow flags for cheering the heart, particularly when you’ve just been confined to the house. I like irises, and I particularly like the yellow ones so it was good to see them in bloom this morning.

As you may be able to tell from the photos, the water has changed colour to an exotic blue-green, while we’ve been away too.

There are ducklings about too – though they are a bit of a handful from the parenting point of view. The first ones I saw seemed to be attached to a pair of Red Crested Pochards but they made a rush for freedom, the adults swam off and the ducklings carried on by themselves. I think they may actually have been Mallards, as they seemed to stay with the adult Mallards.

Round the other side of the pond I found more Red Crested Pochards, this time with four ducklings. I’m amazed by how fast they are for such small things, particularly once you try to get the camera on them.

Incidentally, I’m back on the old camera as it’s easier to slip into my pocket and…well, to be honest, I can’t remember where I put the other one last time I used it. That’s how bad my memory has been during the last few weeks.

Finally, alerted by high-pitched squeaks I found a family of Moorhens with four chicks. Two of the chicks swam across one of the islands and took refuge inside the wire bastions they use for extending the islands. It makes a nice secure cage for chicks, though the other two kept to open water. Typical kids, you have a nice safe cage for them and they make for open water.

There are also two Coots sitting on eggs, so there are more chicks to come.

Unfortunately the Mandarin seems to have gone, so no more Odd Couple.

The film clip shows a pair of Mallards feasting on unappetising scum. No wonder they do so well if they are prepared to eat that.

And finally – Julia was out in the street this afternoon when she heard screaming calls, Looking up she saw eight Swifts. Looking down again after a few moments of Swift watching, she found a woman staring at her as if she was mad.

Who can tell?

Weathering Wood, Bathing Pigeons and Diving Coots

As you can see from the Featured Image the sculpture is weathering and gaining some definition. It also appears to have gained an electric light, though I thought the park was closed at night.

Despite what I say about them our urban pigeons seem addicted to bathing. Julia saw some last week that were showering in the fountain outside the leisure centre.

This is a picture of a Coot diving – quite an energetic performance when you see it. Sadly, when it surfaced it did so just out of shot. Must try harder.

I’m feeling better now I’ve been out and seen some nature.

 

Road to Recovery

I’ve been stretching and exercising and generally paying attention to my legs, which has improved things greatly. . I am now able to walk more or less painlessly and only need the stick for balance. At that point it seemed like a good idea to take a trip to the park and walk round the duckpond.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

We got off to a bad start when my poor, stiff legs refused to cooperate, and only just made it to the first bench. Julia went for tea, biscuits and duck food while I sat and watched wildlife. Things are starting to happen in the park, with lots of leaves breaking out and a plenty of birdsong. I managed to miss photographs of all the singers. The best I could do were various blobs lurking, out of focus, behind twigs. A Long-tailed Tit spent a good ten minutes doing this. I can only assume there is some evolutionary benefit to annoying photographers.

Alternatively, bearing in mind the possibility that birds sing simply because they enjoy it, maybe Long-tailed Tits just enjoy winding me up.

There are at least six pairs of Greylag Geese on the pond, though it’s difficult to tell as they lurk behind the island. There are also six Red Crested Pochard – two pairs and two single males. The only nests we can see so far are two Coot nests.

The Odd Couple are still hanging about, but I don’t hold out much hope of breeding success.

Eventually, having taken tea and biscuits and tutted at the antics of various hellish toddlers, we set off and completed the circuit. I did need a bit of assistance from the stick in the last few yards.

Four hundred yards round a duck pond is hardly an expedition, but it’s a start.

 

A Tale of Two Ducks

Back to Arnot Hill Park and the duck pond again, with two interesting ducks.

One is the Mandarin drake. He wasn’t about last visit, and on the visit before that it was so dull I couldn’t get a good shot.

We have a population of around 2,300 breeding pairs in the UK, with more in Dublin and mainland Europe. In winter there can be as many as 7,000 individuals, including migrants from Europe. All were introduced, either deliberately or from accidental escapes.  In its normal range habitat destruction has reduced the population to around a 1,000 in China, and about the same in Russia. The only stable population is Japan, with 5,000 pairs. It is listed as “declining” worldwide, but is still a species of Least Concern.

The one I saw today, though small, is quite capable of holding his own against Coots and Mallards, two species that are currently getting a bit lively as the breeding season approaches.

 

The other duck caught my eye amongst the various Mallard hybrids is a pleasantly coloured individual with a longish tail that resembles a Pintail. The shape of the neck ring, from certain angles, also resembles a Pintail.

I looked up hybrid ducks and found several records that look like this, plus an analysis of how they happen. Mallards have a bit of a reputation for overly enthusiastic mating and this is one of the results.

The photograph of the duck lacking head was a mistake, but is the only one showing the green speculum which is a feature of this cross-breed.

It’s amazing what you can learn from looking at a duck pond.

Old Men Doing Laundry, and other Sunday stories

There live not three good men unhanged in England; and one of them is fat and grows old:

Henry IV Part 1

We had quite a collection of elderly gents at the Sunday Morning Laundry Club. Vikram, Flat Cap, The Farmer and the Fat Man were all there. I know they call me that because they always call the other fat man”The Other Fat Man”. I call him The Goth, though he isn’t really a Goth. He is quite tubby though. The Scrap Man and Tablecloths were absent, but it was a bit late for them. They normally come in first thing, to ensure they get a drier.

That was one of the things we discussed, people who use the driers without using the washers, thus clogging up the system. We also discussed Vikram’s health and that of his wife (she’s in hospital), the rising price of food, the iniquity of supermarkets, Buddhism, funerals, recent price rises on the driers and wives. Vikram is retired whilst The Farmer and I both have wives who work on Sunday. We’re not sure about Flat Cap. He’s clearly been trained (he brings his own hangers to put his dry shirts on) but he doesn’t wash any female clothes and never reveals details of any former marital status. The general view is that he has been married but, through carelessness or death, has lost his wife.

After that it was time for a bacon cob and a read of yesterday’s paper at the cafe down the road. Fluffy white cobs and nice thick bacon with a garnish of black pudding. Just add pepper and brown sauce for an excellent breakfast.

After a few minutes in the car I decided to give the Waxwings nother go. Result – no Waxwings but plenty of Redwings. There are still a few berries about, so there is still a chance of seeing some.

I thought I’d have a look in the park on my way to the shops, even if this did involve me in shopping at Sainsbury’s. They are only 200 yards from the park so it seemed silly to go to TESCOs after the park.

I saw some ducks, gathered more material for a polemic on the way people abuse open space/nature and took some poor photographs.

After that I shopped, cooked and picked Julia up from work. You can tell the days are getting longer because it’s light when she comes out now, where it was dark a month ago.

From the fact that I’m still writing Sunday’s post on Monday you can probably deduce that the rest of the day was taken up with my normal regime of chatting, snoozing, TV and reading.

We said we were going to have an easy January and that is one resolution I’m managing to keep.

 

 

A Walk in the Park

I’ve been dragging myself out of bed recently, rather than springing into action with eagerness. Whether it’s the time of year, a lack of motivation or just a natural tendency to idleness I’m not quite sure. As spring approaches and removes the time of year as a factor things may become clearer.

The late start, when linked to a bit of paper work, some hoovering, lunch and several episodes of Four in a Bed meant that we didn’t get out until the light was beginning to fail. That meant we had go somewhere close for our walk, and the nearest place with ducks is Arnot Hill Park in Arnold.

I’ll leave a description of the park until later, when I can take some better photographs. There wasn’t much light and I didn’t want to waste valuable duck watching time by taking pictures of buildings. Birds move, but buildings tend to still be there when you go back later.

We started off with a light feed of sunflower hearts and attracted a reasonable selection – Mallards, some interesting cross-breeds, Coots, Moorhens, Tufted Duck and a Mandarin drake. I couldn’t get many decent shots because they were moving too fast for the camera.

At that point a man appeared and started feeding handfuls of food a few yards round the pond. We were still able to see the birds so it wasn’t a problem.

Then, with his partner and child, he moved round to the next bay. So did most of the birds.

It was a bit irritating, but we still had things to watch, and didn’t feel any need to attract every bird on the pond.

Seemingly the man and family did seem to need to have all the birds to themselves. They worked their way round to a small beach and started shovelling food in by the handful. They also started throwing it on the path and attracting pigeons (something the signs specifically ask you not to do). Oh yes, I can be very attentive to detail when it suits me.

I’d never realised that bird feeding could be a competitive activity.

As things turned out it didn’t matter because we walked round to the other side of the pond and found a pair of Red Crested Pochard and a Grey Heron. The heron stood nice and still in a light area, but most other things weren’t so cooperative.

I’m not as excited by these Red Crested Pochard as I was with the ones we say at Rutland Water last week. I like to think the ones last week had flown in from the Continent. The two today seemed as tame as the Mallards, so I’m pretty sure they are feral birds who must spend their time lurking round local ponds.