Tag Archives: geese

Distractions…

I have 25 minutes before I have to take Number Two Son to work, so just 25 minutes to write this post. I’ve had all day to do it, but haven’t been able to concentrate and get anything written.

I’m slightly distracted by the different colours that seem to have appeared on WordPress. My “Publish” button is an unattractive shade of red, instead of green and several other things have changed colour too. I’d love to know why, as it’s definitely not an improvement. Things were fine just the way they were, and I can’t help thinking there were more important things to do, like fixing the inability of my site to search for photos that are more than a couple of weeks old.

Apart from that, I’m distracted by the number of things I have to do. I have three book reviews to write, for instance, but can’t seem to get to grips with any of them.

At least I managed to run a few errands with Julia today (it was an unadventurous day off today) and finish a book that arrived in the post yesterday. It was a short book.

And so, in twelve minutes I’ve accomplished what I couldn’t manage in the previous twelve hours.

Amazing what a little time pressure will do.

When I post this I will be in the final week of my 100 post challenge and down into single figures for the haiku challenge. Time to think of what will replace them. I’ve gone off the 100 tearoom challenge as I’m having to think of my weight.

The photographs are from a visit to Anderby Creek in 2017, which was a day I remember fondly.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

More from Rufford Abbey

Still catching up from yesterday. A mysterious glitch seemed to stop the photos loading, whilst still allowing me to upload the post. As I’m trying to post every day, it left me, at quarter to midnight, with the choice of posting something imperfect or posting nothing. That isn’t say that I don’t post imperfect pieces all the time (they are all capable of improvement) but yesterday’s was far from finished.

This post will mark my 70th consecutive day. It’s not much compared to the magnificent achievements of some people but it’s a considerable one for a man of my disorganised personal habits. The only fly in the ointment is that some days I know I’m writing rubbish just to tick off another day. I didn’t set out to be a blogger of great dignity and importance, but I do have standards, even if they are low.

I’m going to continue with daily posts as long as I can, but I’m going to improve the quality. Er…

Yes, exactly. What is quality in blogging?

I’m not sure. I tend to like the ones about people of a certain age who do a bit of pottering, and I also like the ones about nature, which could be because that’s a description of me and my life. In fiction terms I suppose you could say I’m looking for something character-driven. Or you could say I’m nosey. (I’m the sort of person who enjoys railway journeys because you can look into people’s back gardens).

I suppose I’m not really talking about quality, but more about what engages readers and makes for a popular blog. Quality, which tends to make me think about seriousness and maturity, is probably not the exact word to use.

What does anyone else think?

So, back to Rufford Abbey.

The first thing we found was that a bottle of gooseberry vinegar that emptied itself on the back seat of the car (where my jacket was conveniently placed to soak it up and save the upholstery).

We had a look at the lake, which seemed less populated than usual. I suppose they are all off doing spring things. Apart from the Great Crested Grebes. I’m sure they should be exhibiting some interesting courtship behavior but all they did was sit there and float.

I nearly managed a video of courting grebes two weeks ago but they didn’t try very hard and it just looked like two birds flapping. My attempted video of two Robins fighting wasn’t usable as they were both quick and in cover, though today’s Robin photo shows one of the combatants  perching with its tail cocked as it keeps an eye on the interloper.

Julia spotted the Kingfisher, which I missed completely, and we both saw a pair of nuthatches, a Marsh Tit and several Wrens, which also all eluded the camera. I did manage to get a shot of a Coal Tit and the Ice House. Ice Houses tend not to move when you take photographs.

 

 

 

 

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…

 

Birds at Rufford Abbey

The walk started with me scanning the treetops for greenfinches, which were calling loudly, though they were quickly chased away by Fieldfares. I couldn’t get a decent photo because the twigs prevented the autofocus from working. That was followed by a photo of a blurred dot over the abbey as I failed to get a good shot of a circling buzzard. Bird photography is a bit trickier than buildings.

We decided to walk round the lake, a route which includes walking through woodland. The first birds we saw on the walk  were eating food someone had put out for them on a picnic table.  We saw blue tits, Great tits, chaffinches and (something I’d hoped to see) a Marsh Tit. I’m sure it was a Marsh Tit, though Willow Tits are very similar in appearance. In fact, Victorian ornithologists didn’t even know they were two species until 1897. The glossy cap and white stripe on the beak (which you can’t see on this photo) are good pointers to it being a Marsh Tit.

 

Further round, we crossed several bridges and took pictures of Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and Black Headed Gulls, though the light wasn’t very good and they were mostly blurred. many of the gulls were in their 1st winter, as shown by the brown feathers amongst the grey and white. I find I have difficulty with autofocus on subjects with white bits – the Coots  all came out looking like the heads were blurred. I also had trouble with a Magpie and the heads of the Great Crested Grebes.

 

On the main lake we saw Great-Crested Grebes in winter plumage and Greylag geese, finally walking round to the shop and tea room (where you can buy duck and goose food). We bought Bakewell tarts and tea, crumbling the pastry from the edge to feed the birds and provoking a minor riot.

 

When the boys were small (oh, how easily I fall into nostalgia mode) the Canada Geese were both numerous and aggressive, but these days there are only a few about, though they were quite aggressive in the pursuit of food from small children. There was also a small group of Egyptian Geese, which I always thought must have escaped from a collection somewhere. When I was searching for information for the link I found out they’ve been breeding in England for around 300 years, so it’s possible they might have been proper residents.

There also used to be a lot of rats around because people were over-feeding the birds. At one point the water by the tearoom used to be full of floating bread and the surroundings full of notices about not over-feeding. The current lack of notices suggests that people have become more sensible, as does the lack of rats.

You can currently buy duck and goose food from the shop for £3.50 a bag. Let’s say that at that price I’d rather be a seller than a buyer, as the bags don’t look very big. Next time I go I will take some of my own bird food. Once the cold weather takes hold the smaller birds will appreciate it, and are happy to comedown and feed. I may take a little bread too, but there really isn’t much danger of the ducks and geese going hungry.

The featured image is a Tufted duck – the white bits on his back are the water droplets from his recent dive.

 

Keeping busy

 

Sorry about the lack of activity over the last few days, we’ve been a bit busy.

For instance, while I was talking to a visitor on Thursday afternoon, the peacock came to call.

On Friday morning we visited Abbots Bromley, home of the Horn Dance. There was no dance, but there was a prize-winning butcher. I bought a pork pie and a Moroccan lamb pie. They both had lovely crispy crusts and plenty of densely packed meat. As usual, I didn’t think to take a photo until they were gone. At the risk of being a bit of a Philistine, I did find them a touch dry, as I like a bit of jelly in my pie and prize-winning pies tend to be a bit too meaty for me.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t do a food blog as I’d probably be frowned at for remarks like that.

After that we went to the National Arboretum. It’s the second time we’ve been and it was somehow less impressive than the first time, even though they have done a lot of work. I think this is because it’s now more cluttered and because a lot of the memorials now seem to be made from modern materials. We have to visit at least once more, so we will have to see.

We saw a Little Egret amongst the Canada geese, which was nice, and there were loads of dragonflies and damsel flies on the pond that cost £35,000 to build. Yes £35,000. To put it in context our butterfly garden cost £32.50 plus a lot of volunteer time and donated plants. I’m thinking of building a wildlife pond next – just need to see if someone will give me £35,000 to do it!

And yes, we did see a few memorials too.

These are for the Cockleshell Heroes, 1914 Truce (with game of football) and the Women’s Land Army. There is also a replica trench to commemorate the Great War, though I’m not sure my grandfather would have recognised it.

 

Rainy Monday and a feeling of Doom

Well, the elastic bands sort of worked. Only one feeder was knocked off over the weekend, and it retained its contents. On another feeder the band had snapped and was lying in the water container. It makes refilling the feeders a bit more complicated but as it seems to have saved a feeder of Nyger seed it’s worth it.

We had a blue tit visit the feeder I stuck on the window. It announced its presence with an irritating irregular tapping sound, which tends to suggest it might be a bit of a mixed blessing.

Out in the cherry trees down the drive Alasdair spotted a green woodpecker. We’ve had a bit of a chequered history with the species, having some good sightings locally but none round the centre. We hear them all the time and sometimes see something in the distance that flies like one but we’ve not had a good sighting. Alasdair is usually very good on IDs like this, so I added it to the list. A bit later I saw it too, as it rose from the ground and flew down the drive just as Alasdair had reported. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.

As I write this there’s more irritating tapping on the window. Julia says it’s a blue tit but as soon as I moved it spooked and flew off.

The keets are all keeping well, as are the two chicks that are in with them. We’ve called it a day with the eggs in the incubator as they were showing no signs of life and were well overdue. That’s what happens when you put dirty eggs in a dirty incubator. I know there’s a skill to it too (It’s not like the monster incubators we used to have at work) but basic attention to detail goes a long way to ensure hatchability.

There are around 17,000 pores in an egg shell. That is 17,000 places for a pathogen to enter. As the egg cools the contents contract and air and is drawn into the shell.

If your egg is laid in a dirty nestbox, or on the floor, the cooling process will suck in germs, which will find the mix of nutrients and warmth in an egg a very good environment.

When I worked in a hatchery we used to candle the eggs at 18 days and transfer them to a hatcher, which had a different environment for the last three days. It was dark in there, it was cramped and , above all, it was 37 degrees C (about 99 degrees F).

Just to add to the excitement, an egg would would occasionally explode when you pulled a tray of eggs out of the rack. These “bangers” were eggs that had incubated a full load of pathogens and, on being disturbed, burst under the pressure. When that happened we used to grab a disinfectant spray and mist the incubator in an attempt to stop a build up of germs. They used to work continuously, so there was never a time when we could switch them off. In fact those machines only stopped three times in 30 years – once when we moved them to another building, once when we programmed a major maintenance programme and once when we switched them off for the final time.

Anyway, backed to the cramped darkness and the stench of a burst egg. It wasn’t pleasant, and it was bad for the other eggs. Sometimes you could see this when candling as you could see a central egg and a spreading ring of eggs around it where it had infected the others.

And so, as my wife gradually draws me back into dealing with poultry, and into incubating more eggs, you can see why the feeling of doom is creeping up on me.

Two of the pictures are from today – the wet one with wheelbarrow and the red one with keets under a heat lamp. The others with poultry are from last week – look how the goslings have grown! Look at the way one of the parents (probably the gander) is thinking of having a go at me. He is going to end up with a shiny jacket and a couple of hours in a low oven if he isn’t careful.

The goats, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth, are planning an escape. I know that because I had to spend 20 minutes getting them back in the pen later that afternoon.

Great days! 😉