Here are a couple more shots of Red-crested Pochard in Arnot Hill Park. They are interesting birds as many of them are escapees from wildfowl collections, but at this time of year others fly in from wild populations in Europe.
The three photos below show various birds at Arnot Hill earlier in the year – as you can see, the females are much drabber, and one of the drakes has a light back – a sign that it is an escaped bird from a collection (domesticated birds tend to be lighter).
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.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Red Crested Pochard
Robin, Arnot Hill Park
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.
Coot Nest – Arnot Hill Park
Coot nest, Arnold, NottsTAL CAMERA
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.
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
Bird feeding as a competitive sport
Sign – Arnot Hill Park, Arnold
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.
When I look at what we’ve done over the last week I think I could come to like this pretirement. It’s a word I first heard last year on daytime TV last year, and one I’ve adopted for my current state of existence. I can’t be unemployed because I wasn’t employed, and I can’t be self-unemployed because the world isn’t ready for the term. Every time I use it people just look at me blankly. However, if you look it up in Google, there are other people using the term, so it may catch on.
One man defines it as “No rules. No fear. No steady form of income.” I like that, because it makes me sound like a bit of a rebel, rather than a middle-aged layabout. In truth it also defines my mode of self-employment, as the last 23 years have been hard work, interesting and challenging. They were meant to be lucrative, rewarding and successful, but you don’t always get what you want.
The coming week isn’t going to be so much fun. We have a day on the farm teaching people to do some of the jobs we used to do (there have been several emails on the subject, as they have realised getting rid of us not as easy as it seemed). As if that isn’t bad enough I have also been summoned to hospital to follow up on the pre-Christmas hospital visit.
I’m not keen on hospitals, as a visit almost always seems to involve removing my trousers in front of strangers. When I visited to have my arthritic finger examined it was a positive joy to sit there fully clothed and talk to a doctor. If only the trousers were the major problem! This week’s visit features a camera, and although I’m told it’s a good deal smaller than the one I use for bird photography, I’m still not keen on the idea.
That still leaves several days to fill in, but I’m not able to plan that far ahead. Every time I try to think about next week I get a mental picture of a camera. A large camera…
We went to Rutland Water today – the last of the local big nature reserves. It was raining when we set off, but we thought we’d give it a go and see what happened. In view of the curse (which you can read about here and here) that seems to have settled on my shoulders this year it was a brave decision.
At least the rain stopped.
That, as it turned out, was the only good thing at that time. The toilet facilities, which can be quite important to a middle-aged man, were unsatisfactory. As we tried to photograph birds on the feeding station an employee of the reserve found it necessary to move a Landrover – setting of the alarm as he got in and slamming the doors as he got out. All the birds left. The first waterside hide was closed. As we sat in the second hide two volunteers arrived with power tools, later following us to the next one (though we managed to slip out just before they arrived).
If it had been free to enter I may have taken these irritations in my stride. But as they had charged us £11.40 for the privilege of walking round muddy tracks peering at distant ducks I was, by this point, already mentally composing my letter of complaint.
It costs £3.50 at Bempton Cliffs and £9 at Minsmere for non-members of the RSPB, so £ 5.70 seems reasonable – if everything is done properly.
Fortunately this isn’t the full picture of the day.
There isn’t a cafe, so there was no problem there, and the shop staff were very professional. Despite the unusable hides there were plenty of others, with some good views. Seems like the Curse of the Large Nature Reserve might be lifting.
We managed to see some good birds, including Red Crested Pochards, which I’ve never seen before.There were plenty of Pintail visiting and we got good views of both Great and Little Egrets, though there were a lot of reeds in the way of the Little Egret. There was even a distant male Smew.
Great White Egret
As we neared the car park a Red Kite flew over.
All in all, it was a good day.
On the way home we managed to miss the rush hour and all the traffic lights seemed to work in my favour. That’s another jinx lifted; I swear that all the traffic lights have been against me since 1st January.