Tag Archives: moorhen

Skies and Disappointments

Last night I took No2 son to work. It was just after 10pm and the sky was a fantastic shade of saffron. As usual, I didn’t have the camera with me, though it wouldn’t have helped much – all the best views were from roadworks and dual carriageways where I couldn’t have stopped anyway.

This morning, at around 4am, on the way to the bathroom, I noticed the sunrise was similarly colourful. This time I did have access to the camera and I didn’t need a parking place. I did, however, manage to ignore these advantages and went back to sleep. That’s why I’m using the pictures fron last Wednesday.

I’m not cut out for the hurly-burly of high-level blogging. I’ll leave that to Derrick Knight and Tootlepedal – they are like blogging machines. Me, I’m more of a dormouse.

After a hard half day sorting parcels and pennies I went for a cream tea with Julia. We’re thinking of blogging about cream teas.

I’ll show you the pictures later.

Have to go now- Julia says it’s time for me to cook.

Derrick and TP don’t have this problem…

Monster of the Deep

Forget the Blue Planet, look what I photographed in the depths of the duck pond at Arnot Hill Park on Sunday morning.

It appears to be a grey plastic supermarket trolley. If my memory serves me right these were used in Wilko’s. I’m going to have to go in next week and see if they still use them.

It was a bit chilly so I resisted the temptation to dive in and photograph it in its natural habitat.

There were also a few ducks and moorhens about.

 

Mallard/Pintail drake cross

Mallard/Pintail cross drake

Rufford at Last!

I finally managed the trip to Rufford.

The car journey was only the first step, the hundred yards of varied slopes between the car park and the lake was more of a problem.

It was worth it to sit in the sun and watch a pair of Moorhens struggling to build a nest with unsuitably large twigs. (It wasn’t so much the struggle as the persistence that made the watching worthwhile).

Things are very different from our last visit, with fewer birds, more sun and a lack of seating space. Where the winter visitors (the human ones, not the birds) tend to walk round the lake it seems that the summer visitors, who are generally older than the winter ones, like to sit. It was very pleasant to sit out in the sun, and I enjoyed it after all the time I’ve spent indoors recently. My only reservation is that sitting in the sun with a group of octogenarians is a clearer vision of my future than I want.

As soon as I’m out of hospital I’m going to start doing that list of things that’s been at the back of my mind for years.

Fortunately there’s no skydiving or mountain climbing involved.

Back to Basics

All these specialist bird reserves are alright, but today it was time for a trip back to the duck pond. It’s not as exciting as reedbeds and saltmarsh, but you can pull in a visit between getting a new watch battery and buying the ingredients for meatballs instead of making a full day of it.

I haven’t been for a couple of weeks and it seemed emptier today, with no gulls and only a couple of Tufted Ducks instead of the normal 20 or 30. There were five pairs of Greylag geese, which is more than usual, though I doubt there is room for five nests on the island.

The Mandarin Duck was there again today, following the geese around. I’ve never seen him with a female so he may be lonely.

That, apart from the numbers, seems to be the main difference – they now seem to operate in pairs more than they have been. Apart from the pigeons. They just seem to operate as a mob, and as soon as I even thought of feeding anything they gathered like vultures using ESP. They can’t, of course, read my mind. If they could they wouldn’t be so keen to get that close to me.

The pictures include a Mallard drinking from a puddle at the side of the pond (presumably on the grounds that he knows what ducks do in ponds) and a Moorhen standing beside the shoots of yellow flags, one of the few signs of spring produced by plants in the park. The landscape shot uses the “Dramatic” setting, which could equally be called the “Dark”setting.

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“Dramatic” photograph

 

A very strange day

Time marches on.

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The day started with a visit to the farm – we are still tidying up as we had an enforced rest over Christmas due to my infection – and continued with a visit to Men in Sheds. They made us tea and offered to share their Lincolnshire sausages. We declined the offer, but donated half a dozen pullet eggs from the bantams, who seem to have sprung into laying action while we’ve been away.

On the way home we dropped in to feed the ducks at Rufford Abbey, which was the fun part of the day, and pottered home as the light faded. That was where we got our big surprise.

Julia opened her emails and was rendered speechless.

It’s quite strange seeing Julia speechless. she impersonates a goldfish and emits tiny mewing sounds.

I waited patiently, and after she recovered the power of speech she read the email to me.

When I recovered the power of speech she told me off for using bad language.

It seems that one of the teachers who has been visiting the farm has arranged to rent land on the farm to start a group using horticulture and animals for therapy. Sounds vaguely familiar. Also seems like it must have been organised during the time we were being thrown out.

What really stopped us speaking though, were the words “As I understand it, the timing was right for change for all of us”. The timing, as you may recall from previous posts, was not right for us, but was forced on us. However, it seems to be a growing belief within the farmer that he did us a favour as we were working hard and not making a living from the project. That, of course, makes him feel better at throwing the group out. It also highlights the difference in our approaches, as we don’t need a lot of money if we’re doing something worthwhile.

Anyway, now I have recovered the power of speech I’m not going to waste it.

The lake at Rufford was still partly frozen, providing hard standing for a variety of birds. We had bird food with us and, as you can see from the video it inspired some enthusiastic feeding.  The light was fading, so we restricted ourselves to the lakeside. I did try a couple of photos of squirrels under the trees but the light was so bad that camera shake rendered them useless.

I’m currently trying to improve my bird identification skills so I had a good look at the gulls and was pleased to find two that were different from the mass of Black Headed Gulls. They were both immature birds so they have lots of brown feathers and their beaks and feet are different colours from the mature adults. I took plenty of photographs and checked them against pictures on a gull ID website. Yes, there are such things.

One of the gulls seems to be an immature Common Gull. As you may gather from the name, it isn’t a rare gull. The other is an immature Herring Gull. They are even commoner than Common Gulls. It would have been nice to have spotted a rare gull but at least I managed to see them amongst all the others.

 

 

Attenborough Nature Reserve

We decided on Attenborough Nature Reserve for an expedition a few weeks ago. It had come up in conversation with visiting birdwatchers on the farm and it occurred to me that I hadn’t been there for about 10 years.

I started to remember why very soon after arrival. For one thing, the reserve is a series of gravel pits, and gravel pits on a murky December morning can be a bit bleak. For another, there isn’t much else to it. There’s no ruin or old trees.

First stop was the cafe. It’s so long since I’ve been to Attenborough that they hadn’t built it last time I was there. It wasn’t very welcoming. Some people who arrived after us started moving chairs around, including a couple on our table. They seemed to be regulars from the way they spoke to the staff, and clearly felt we were in their way.

After that one of the staff members started telling them that despite her years of experience nobody listens to her, and they had put the Christmas tree in the wrong place.

It’s a decent cafe (with shop, toilets, classrooms and a sand martin nest bank/hide) but after our experience on the farm we just don’t want workplace politics with our scones.

The nature area at the back of the cafe has several things of interest, including three sorts of bug hotel, all pictured below.

Add that to being trapped in the sand martin hide whilst a lecture was delivered, loud conversations, brightly-clad joggers and a man letting his dog chase ducks. It all adds up to  an uncomfortable experience.

It seems, from postings on the website, that the bustle doesn’t upset the wildlife and the habitat is some of the best in Europe. It’s also clearly well-used by many people for a variety of recreational and educational purposes.  You can’t really fault it when you look at it like this.

It could have been so good…

Ah well, we’ll just have to give it another try in the New Year. I’m sure it has lots of good points, but the last thing we needed at this point was cafe politics (read previous posts if you want to see why).

 

 

 

 

Another day at Rufford Abbey

We had a disappointing day at Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday so we decided another trip to Rufford was in order. (I’ll write about it in a day or two when my good humour has re-established itself).

As usual, we have enough for two posts, so I’ll do the birds first. I started off with a sore knee after yesterday’s walk so we weren’t quite as ambitious as last time. We concentrated on the bridges by the lake and then looped back through the woods. There are bird tables at various points in the woods and we spent some time sitting quietly and watching.

I’m gaining in confidence after a decent flying Greenfinch photograph earlier in the week, so I was hoping to carry on the good work today.

The sitting quietly approach has worked wonders in the past when watching birds, but it can be difficult on a busy day.

It amazes me how many people think it’s appropriate to talk like a bugle whilst walking in the countryside. If I can hear them 25 yards away I don’t know what it must be like when you are walking next to them. It also amazes me the details people are prepared to broadcast about their lives, relationships and health.

Whatever happened to reticence?

As you can see from the Featured Image I found a Marsh Tit again. It’s tricky watching a bird table and snapping a shy bird when you only have a screen to work from. I ended up with a selection of shots featuring either blurs or emptiness. It all fell into place nicely when the Nuthatches arrived, but even then it wasn’t plain sailing as I managed several blurred shots and several with them facing away . Julia was away at the time so she missed them, though she did get back in time to see one pecking at a nut it had wedged in a crevice in a yew tree. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a shot.

As you can see from the other shots we got two unusual birds on bird tables. Moorhens can be quite adventurous when feeding (as I found when they used to rob my bait box when I used to fish) but I’ve never seen them on a table before. Note that the squirrel has a fly on its back – what a photobomb!

Final shot is a Coal Tit – the best shot from about 20 I took of Coal Tits. You can’t see the distinctive white nape in this shot but in the ones where you can see all lack something else.

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Coal Tit at Rufford Abbey

Julia got some good shots  today too so I may use some of them later on.

We also saw Goosanders, Siskins and a (very distant) Kingfisher plus the usual suspects we saw on the last visit. The Goosander and Siskin pictures are poor and the Kingfisher was too far away.