Tag Archives: ducks

A Misty Dream

Actually, there is no mist involved, but I think I used the days of wine and roses quote as a title before. I also used it in a comment I made on a blog last night, so I don’t want to overdo it.

Yesterday I visited the local duck pond for the first time in months. Even when I’ve been well, I’ve been tired or out of sorts and the trip has seemed too long. Last time I went the yellow flags were just starting to flower. Now they are finished. Being somewhat morose at present, I can’t help seeing it as a metaphor for my life.

A cup of tea soon dispelled that thought (no biscuits – I’m on a diet) as very few depressing thoughts survive tea and sunshine. Even a comparison to the pond couldn’t dampen my spirits – I’m happy being shallow.

Anyway, enough of the introspection, and on with the character assassination.

Earlier in the year I mentioned that a woman thought the white ducks were swans. I was, I think, a little critical. In fairness I shouldn’t really have a go at her for being as dim as a 40 watt light bulb, or say that there…

No, I still think there should be a permit system for breeding. Two kids per family and none at all unless you’re smart enough to distinguish a duck from a swan.

While I was reflecting by the side of the pond yesterday a group came to feed the ducks, led by a woman who, to be chivalrous, was older than me. This is old enough to know that geese don’t have cygnets!

The pictures show geese with their goslings, some young moorhens and coots and some ducks in eclipse plumage. Eclipse plumage is the dull, almost camouflaged, plumage that ducks grow when they moult after all the hassle of raising a family. I can sympathise.

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Mallards in eclipse plumage

Later there was a small child called Sam (name changed for Safeguarding purposes, and because I forgot it). His mission in life seemed to be to feed birds and use huge amounts of energy as he ran round saying hello to people. I would have been happier if he hadn’t introduced himself to dogs by holding out his arm in such an appetising manner, but even the Staffordshire Bull Terrier with leather harness and tattooed owner merely licked his hand and allowed itself to be stroked.

 

 

 

 

 

The Odd Couple and Strange Pigeons

We went to the park today to see the ducks. The first thing I saw was a Wood Pigeon in a tree and a charm of Goldfinches drinking from the stream which acts as an overflow for the pond. The pigeon looked a little rumpled and the Goldfinches were too quick for me, so there are no photographs of those two.

We were surrounded by feral pigeons at one point. I counted them twice, getting 57 in one count and 62 in the next. Call it 60. That’s a lot of verminous skyrats. It may be that I’m being unfair to them, as they do look quite tidy, and even seem keen on taking a bath.

The odd couple are still there, though the goose does seem to be paired up with another goose too. The three of them were together on the grass at the far end of the pond. It now looks a bit like one of those situations where a man has married but still has one of his old mates hanging round, or playing gooseberry.

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The birds seem to be paired up and defending territories, but apart from daffodils and a few mahonias there is nothing much happening to suggest Spring. Outside the walls Spring is definitely here but inside the park things are a bit behind. It may be the trees, or the stone wall holding cold air in, but it just seems like the park is a couple of weeks behind the surrounding streets.

 

Shiny Ducks and Spurious Swans

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A Spurious Swan

You can’t blame kids for being ignorant when you see a parent tell them “Look at that Swan.”

That’s the “Swan” in the picture above. The white bird that’s the size and shape of a duck and has a curly tail just like a drake. It walks and talks like a duck too. I’m not one to take the moral high ground on bird identification, having already proved I’m shaky on waders and not good on gulls. (And if you wait for summer I’ll parade my tragic lack of warbler skills).

However, a Swan is a basic bird, like a Pigeon, a Sparrow and a Magpie. In an ideal world such basic knowledge would be part of the Parenthood Exam and if you couldn’t ID a Swan you wouldn’t be allowed to breed.

That should also weed out people who feed pigeons even though told not to.

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Who? Me?

 

Meanwhile, the Odd Couple seem as close as ever.

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I worry about these two…

 

Ducks and Sunshine

It’s one of those Saturdays where I had nothing in particular to do.

Leisurely breakfast, drop Julia off at work and take a walk round the park in the sunshine.

It’s not a bad life. I didn’t go shopping because there was a queue for the car park (which would have dispersed my feeling of well-being) and I couldn’t go on anywhere to take more photographs because I really needed to get to grips with something that looks like work.

Life can’t be all ducks and sunshine.

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Arnot Hill Park – ducks and sunshine

My sister reminded me last night that I have a cookery book I haven’t used yet. She didn’t actually say that, she told me it was currently on sale at half price and did I want her to get me a copy.  At that point I guiltily recalled buying it just before Christmas, flicking through it and putting it to one side for later.

I have two sorts of cookery books – ones “for later” and ones with food stains. Really I should get rid of them because these days I mainly get my recipes from blogs I follow or from the internet. That means one pile is redundant and the other is a health hazard.

Time, I think, to open the book, work out a menu and write a shopping list.  Julia has already started it with three items. For those of you who like shopping lists, it reads:

Union Tea

Black Sloe Potash

Bears

You may gather that I have trouble reading her writing. It’s not a one-sided problem, as everyone has problems with mine. I have, over the years, managed to use a squiggle to replace most letters of the alphabet and developed a style of handwriting which even I have difficulty reading. This probably disqualifies it from being called writing.

However, bad as mine is, I still have to buy three items based on the list.

I’m off for another go at shopping now, before picking Julia up. I’m going to buy Lemon Tea, Black Shoe Polish and Beans. If there’s a problem I’ll tell her TESCO doesn’t stock Black Sloe Potash. Or bears.

First day of the next week

It’s the end of January and the first day of a new week. Being accurate, I suppose it’s the second day of the week, but it always seems like the first. It’s certainly the one that I treat as being the first working day of the new week. Julia, working from 6.00 to 16.30 on Sunday, doesn’t really share my enthusiasm for Mondays.

We originally said we’d have January off, and without us actually doing anything it seems like it’s going to work out just right.

Julia is looking about 10 years younger with the responsibility of running Quercus and the Centre lifted from her shoulders and is slowly becoming more cheerful. Meanwhile, I can feel my enthusiasm returning.

Julia has already had a couple of enquiries from people about her availability for work, but we’re taking things slowly and making sure we only take on work that suits us.

Nobody has asked me if I’m available yet, but I’m trying not to take it personally.

Julia decided to do the laundry this week as she doesn’t altogether trust me with delicate whites. I don’t either, to be fair, which is why I don’t own any. I do own a white shirt, which I wear with one of my two ties for special occasions. White shirt and black tie for funerals. White shirt and rugby club tie for weddings etc.. Everything else can be taken care of by a coloured shirt. (For these purposes lightish grey counts as white).

I went to the park and then shopping. They have been cutting trees on the island in the duck pond. Moorhens, Black Headed Gulls and Wood Pigeons were feeding on the grass around the pond, whilst nothing much was happening on the pond. The Mandarin, the Greylags, the Heron and about half the Tufted Ducks were all absent. I’m not sure where the next nearest pond is – I will have to look into it.

I’m currently perfecting some new recipes as part of my new commitment to eating a better variety of healthy food. We had tragically under-seasoned bean burgers bean burgers on Saturday, excellent sweet potato, ginger and chilli soup on Sunday (even if I do say so myself) and Welsh Rarebit for lunch today, which (after three weeks of trying) was just about right.

Now all I need to do is make it again, note the measurements and write the recipes. That’s the worst bit of the job. Apart from eating badly made bean burgers…

 

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.