If I ever write a novel about Time Travel, and I’m not saying one way or the other, I’m going to need a way of making my protagonist travel in time. One way I’m considering is making him write a blog which gets behind, a bit like I often do, so that he trips over his metaphysical feet in trying to catch up.
It’s taken me three days to write about Monday, and nothing much happened on Monday. If it had been a day filled with incident I’d still be writing. As it is, I’m just about to start writing about Tuesday.
I loaded up the camera, put a handful of bird food in my pocket and set off round the lake at Rufford Abbey.
Rufford Abbey – footpath by the Lake
Mill on Rufford Lake
Silver Birch – Rufford Abbey
It was an interesting day and after taking nearly 300 shots I’ve already deleted over 100. The problem is that birds just don’t cooperate. They move too fast, they hide in shadows and they lurk behind twigs (which prevent the autofocus working).
At one time I did consider a post based on near misses – the blurred Goldcrest, the fence rail recently vacated by the Dunnock and the twig where the Wren had just been perching. Fortunately I had second thoughts, or this could have been one of my less popular posts.
Mute Swan – Rufford Abbey
Black-headed Gulls at Rufford
Squirrel at Rufford
Greylag geese under archway at Rufford
The best bit of the day was when I was photographing at the woodland bird tables, and fighting off squirrels. Suddenly there was a flurry in the leaves and the squirrels scattered, closely pursued by a weasel. I was too slow to get anywhere near it with the camera, but it was very funny, and what they deserved after stealing most of the food I put out.
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 Bedmeant 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.
Sign – Arnot Hill PArk, Arnold
Sign – Arnot Hill Park, Arnold
Bird feeding as a competitive sport
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.
Grey Heron at Arnot Hill Park
Heron at Arnot Hill Park
Heron at Arnot Hill Park
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.
As the title suggests, I was attacked by a swan today. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even a rare type of swan, just an ordinary, and innaccurately-named Mute Swan. In attack mode they can be quite vocal, with a range of hisses and low growling sounds. It doesn’t have the same blood-curdling effect of a snarling pitbull, but it is still a little off-putting, and definitely not mute.
Over the years I’ve often read that a single blow from the wing of an enraged swan can break a man’s thigh, but I’m doubtful. A quick search of the internet seems to support me. However, none of the people discussing the damage a swan can do seems to know much about catching turkeys.
Each year we eat about 1.3 million turkeys in the UK. That means that 1,300,000 turkeys have to be caught, loaded onto lorries and moved to a processing plant. Although they now have mechanical help, in my day they were all caught by hand. Many of the experienced catchers wore cricket boxes to preserve themselves from injury. Think of frantically flapping wings meeting delicate parts of the anatomy, and things will become clear.
A swan is pretty much the same size as a big turkey. If I say that my leg wasn’t the first thing that I was worried about,Ii trust you will apprecuate my problem.
It started by getting aggressive with Julia, who was putting food down to attract photographic subjects. I diverted it at that point by standing between the two of them and throwing some food about. That worked until it got bored and started trying to eat my trousers.
Swans are about 28 pounds and tall enough to come just past my waist. In truth it shouldn’t be a problem. I should be able to best it in single combat, but beating up a swan in a nature reserve doesn’t seem right. Swans in open water are owned by the Queen – I’m not sure what the exact legal position is, and whether self-defence is seen as a good excuse. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 the maximum punishment is £5,000 or 6 months in jail. If, on the other hand, it counts as treason due to royal ownership, I might end up in the Tower of London.
Mute Swan at Rufford Park
Fortunately it didn’t come to that. After a bit of trouser tugging and hissing from the swan and some grumbling from me, I used a handful of food to cover a strategic withdrawal.
It should have ended at that point, but a one-legged Greylag goose hopped up to the food and the swan grabbed it round the neck.
It was a dilemma – help the underdog or let the swan get away with it?
The goose was about half the size of the swan, has a leg that is permanantly tucked up to its body and has a damaged wing. It clearly needed help. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be incarcerated in the Tower of London.
I offered my trousers again, but got no reaction.
Mute Swan attacking Greylag goose
In the end, after a certain amount of shouting and posturing, we distracted the swan and fed it again as the goose scurried away.
It seems a bit unfair that the swan gets extra food for bad behaviour, but that’s how it goes.
Here are photographs of more birds from last Wednesday, following up on the previous bird post and the Friday post.
The Goldfinches are acting like a bunch of thugs, quarrelling amongst themselves and driving other birds away. You wouldn’t think it to look at them, but they really can be very aggressive.
We had a flock of Long-tailed tits look in, but they perched in the surrounding trees calling to each other before deciding not to contest the feeders with the Goldfinches. We really need fat balls to tempt them, but after the Jackdaw [roblems earlier in the year I don’t really want to use fat balls again. I may try coconut halves filled with fat as they seemed to work well when we saw them at Sherwood Forest last Friday.
We have moved the second feeder from the back garden to see if we can ease the thuggery by spreading the birds out more. It has never been well used, even though it is situated close to a belt of trees that attracts quite a lot of birds. The ones that use the feeders tend to fly out of the trees and pass it on the way to the other feeder.
Birds can be very strange.
Male Chaffinch at Screveton
Greenfinch at the feeder
Goldfinch at Sreveton
Heron stalking the field margin
So far, after one day, very few birds have chosen to use the new feeding station, despite it only being five yards from the other.
It’s a tricky situation because we will have to stop feeding the birds at the end of the month when we leave the centre. We haven’t really started feeding properly since we let it tail off in late summer. They have had plenty of food in the fields and some of the food in the feeders had actually gone off because birds had stopped visiting.
I rushed into it last week, cleaning the feeders with a piece of stick and using food that had been stored in a bin for the last few months. The bin had been chewed by mice and I had to evict several before I could get the food, which smelt very mousy. I’m not sure if this has a bearing on the lack of enthusiasm for some of the feeders.
We will wash the feeders on Monday and refill everything with freshly purchased food. I know I found the smell off-putting and I wouldn’t blame the birds for feeling the same way.
We will feed until we leave and will leave the remains of the food and ask the farm to feed after we have gone. It’s not ideal but it’s the best we can do. Meanwhile the group can continue to watch birds until we finish.
Practical note here – cheap plastic feeders buckle when subjected to boiling water. It may seem hygenic, but it’s annoying to hqve to buy new feeders so be careful. I’m going to use Milton. It works for babies, lambs and apple pressing so it whould work for bird feeders.
The following photographs were some we took in Sherwood Forest on Friday. I’m quite pleased with the shot of the acrobatic Robin eating from the coconut shell and the Nuthatch. I’d hoped we would see a Nuthatch and we did see several in the end, though they are difficult to photograph. Julia managed to get the best shots, much to my frustration. Most of mine looked like blue blurs.