Nesting Swans at Waddon Ponds

nest swanEvidence of Spring can be found at Waddon Ponds, where the swan has been busy building its nest. The male will assist in the construction unlike most birds, with the nest being about a metre across and away from land predators. Here the nest is tucked in front of a willow tree. An egg will be laid every 24 hours and as last year they had 10 cygnets this should take about a week and a half (assuming all eggs hatch) when the incubation process will start. Then about six weeks later the cygnets should appear. Ok, I know you can’t wait that long so here is a picture of some of the cygnets from last year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cygnets from last year 2017

I noticed that a Canada Goose had taken residence in one of the man-made nesting boxes usually designed for the smaller coots and moorhens. Canada Geese like swans mate for life and the eggs are incubated by the female for about a month while the gander stays guard outside. When I called the gander was nowhere to be seen but a flock of pigeons seemed to be standing guard nearby. The goslings can swim within 24 hours of being born.

nest goose

Not much headroom for the goose

nest moorhen

No room for the moorhen who is thinking “get out of my box!”

nest guard

pigeons standing guard over the resident Canada goose

No signs that the ducks are nesting although they have paired off. I noticed that the drake is protecting his “girl” not only from any lone males but also from other nearby couples!

nest mate

keep clear we are a couple

 

Advertisements

Winter Wonderland at Waddon Ponds

signThe new widened entrances, signage and gates at Waddon Ponds have been completed. New seats and the ubiquitous cycle stands have also been fitted. The new equipment seems to be enhanced by the snowy scenery.

sign entrancesign seatIt amazes me how birds have the energy to fly in this weather. As birds flap their wings on the downstroke the energy applied is twice the force needed to counteract gravity, whereas on the upstroke no force is exerted. The total effect is to just counteract gravity so that no wasted energy is used to maintain flight. Useful when birds need to conserve energy in this cold weather. The exceptions are seagulls that when cruising act more like aeroplanes. They apply force to their outstretched wings even on the upstroke.

seagull in flight

a cruising seagull

snow duck

snow feet

A coot on one leg

snow coot

tracks of a Coot

Water fowl like to keep warm by occasionally lifting one leg up into their feathers. This prevent any incidence of frostbite. As their leg muscles are located higher up in their body and their feet are connected by tendons, they require less heat to keep the foot warm. This prevents the duck from losing body heat through their feet.

snow gull

snow egyptian

Egyptian goose

If you are feeling chilly then this fact may keep you warm : the weather in the Sahara at this time of year is around 24 degrees. You may ask what is the Egyptian goose that hails from just south of the Sahara doing at Waddon Ponds then at this time of year? The Egyptian goose was considered to be a sacred bird but many Europeans who visited the area regarded it as an ornamental bird. Ferrel populations became established in Europe and now the bird can be seen in pairs in our local parks.

snow heron

snow swan

snow house

An abandoned bird house used for breeding can provide refuge in the cold weather

snow gulls group

snow bridge

 

White Egret and Albino Squirrel

egret stalkMy new years resolution is to take my camera on even the shortest walk as you never know what you might see. On New years day I was richly rewarded by having the rare opportunity to photograph an albino squirrel and an egret within 500 yards of each other.

egret dipI was walking downstream from Waddon ponds when I spotted an Egret fishing in the shallow waters of the Wandle near to Guy Road, Beddington. Usually they are very shy birds and fly away as soon as they detect any human presence. Perhaps because there were few pedestrians and little traffic on the nearby road, the bird seemed unperturbed and spent at least twenty minutes while i was in the vicnity, sourcing his dinner.

egret ripple

I believe this bird maybe a little egret due to its yellow feet. The little egret is a member of the heron family and was once hunted for its feathers to festoon hats, driving the birds into extinction in Britain. Since the 1950’s thanks to new conservation laws and measures to clean up its habitat, including rivers like the wandle, numbers have increased and are no longer a cause for concern.

squirrel tailOn the other side of Guy Road near to the new footpath heading to Beddington park I saw this Albino Squirrel. This had caused excitement amongst other walkers who had also taken out their cameras and smartphones to grab a picture.

image resize

The chances of an albino squirrel are estimated to be one in a 100,000 although other sightings in Surrey over the last year indicate that they may not be as rare as these figures suggest. Nevertheless this a genuine albino squirrel due to its red eyes, other squirrels may turn white due to a genetic illness, known as leucism, but they keep their black eyes.

squirel treeSadly albino squirrels may not survive for long as they lack the traditional grey camouflage to protect them from predators.

squirrel rear

On my return journey I was pleased to again see the Egret who had continued fishing despite the fading light. Overall a good start to the new year and may I wish my readers a happy and healthy 2018.

Twelve days of Christmas

Here is my take on the 12 days of christmas featuring the plants and animals that I have seen and included in my blog over the last 12 months. I have also provided a link to each post should you like to read more.

One the first day of christmas my true love sent to me..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

one carp in the pond

On the second day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

two dirty rats

On the third day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

three shorn sheep

On the fourth day..

gulls channel

Four seagulls on a post

On the fifth day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

five wild flowers (and a honey bee!)

On the sixth day..

On the seventh day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

seven props for an insect play

On the eighth day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

eight magnolias

On the ninth day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

nine cygnets and swans

On the tenth day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ten trees in the park entrance

On the eleventh day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

eleven camelias

On the twelfth day..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

twelve by twelve tulips!

And a Happy New Year to all my readers.

Seagulls and Swans at Waddon Ponds

gulls shadowA sunny day in winter is as rare as tickets to the new Star Wars movie . Plus my daughter let me borrow her Canon PowerShot 14x optical zoom ( better than my 5x) so I hot footed it down to Waddon Ponds to capture the action.

gulls channelWhen I was small boy my mum told me that the sight of  seagulls inland meant there was a storm at sea. All I can say is that most days there must be a storm at sea as there are always gulls at Waddon Ponds. They seem to permanently inhabit the perches meant to guide the Kingfishers through the water channel when hunting for fish. Unfortunately, the idea never took off with the Kingfisher and the only time you will spot him is on the information board.

gulls fisher

gulls swans

Swans investigating any food sources

Of course Gulls are such a common sight inland nowadays that they are referred to as urban gulls. They find rich pickings in the discarded food packets that tend to be left behind on our streets and hang about over refuse centres. They nest at the top of  office blocks and houses safe from their usual predators like foxes so that more gull chicks survive. It is estimated that there are 100,000 breeding pairs of urban gulls in our towns and cities.

gulls swan miror

He looked in the water and saw he was a swan

Besides the gulls the swans and the herons were out enjoying the winter sunshine too.

gulls swan feather

A swan’s feather

gulls heron bwh

Heron in the shade of the setting sun

gulls heron color

Heron in color. No sign of his partner that also frequents the ponds

Birds sing at dusk

A recent late trip to Waddon Ponds ponds was undertaken with the light fading fast. As the light dimmed the chatter from the birds in the trees grew exponentially. I knew birds sang in the morning but I wasn’t as aware that they also sang at dusk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

roosting birds

They sing in the late afternoon to tell other birds they are regrouping in the trees at night to sleep, as there is safety in numbers from predators. It is like calling the family together for the evening meal, but not everybody arrives at once so they make many calls to their fellows to say I am here please join me for a soirée.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is usually the male birds that sing and it can take a lot of energy. So they will often leave the trees for a quick feed and then return in numbers. I tried to capture their flight patterns but with the poor light and only my compact camera the results, as you can see, are not so effective.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Birds roosting  in trees at Waddon Ponds  include starlings, rooks and the ubiquitous parakeets. Water birds will sleep sitting or standing up in the water, They often stand on one leg to keep warm. If you have been following the progress of the two cygnets then you will be pleased to know they are still with their parents and would now be unlikely to be evicted from the family home before xmas. But come the new year and with the adults swans thinking of nest-building, it will surely be time for cygnets to move out on their own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also noticed a large carp or is it a trout in the far pond away from the birds? There was a little more light in this area so I was able to capture the dark black fish against the dark bottom of the pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The far pond where the carp was located -see below

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fish seemed to be on its own so how it got there must remain a mystery as there is no friendly fish ladder from further downstream  into the ponds. Perhaps a bird took the fish egg and transported it or it might have been a family pet that had outgrown its fish bowl and was surreptitiously deposited into the ponds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Currently the entrance to the ponds at Mill lane is closed as paths and entrances are being improved. I will of course keep you updated with developments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Two cygnets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back in May 10 cygnets  were born to proud parents at Waddon ponds. Now just five months later only two cygnets remain with their parents and I managed to catch up with them on an unusually warm day for mid October.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To remind you of how small the cygnets were I have included a photo from my previous blog “ten cygnets”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we were young

On average cygnets stay with their parents for about six months before the parents push them away, forcing them to depart the ponds and find a flock of swans to join. At around four years of age they will find a mate and in turn have cygnets of their own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today though with the unseasonably warm weather there was no evidence of the swans pushing off the remaining cygnets they were all too busy preening themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterestingly, there are new information boards around the ponds informing visitors of the different species of ducks and mammals you can find at Waddon ponds and warning of the dangers of dumping unwanted aquatic pets in the water. I include a selection of the boards for your information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ten Cygnets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first “babies” of the year at waddon ponds belongs to the swans. Ten cygnets were born a couple of weeks ago, a good number considering that the average is around six cygnets and the maximum is ten. The swans at waddon ponds have done well and the parents mate for life so there is potential for a large brood every year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

cygnets about to try the new slide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unfortunately, I am sad to report that a visit yesterday confirmed a sighting of only eight cygnets. The most likely culprits are foxes, crows, magpies and herons that may pick off the youngsters that stray too far from their parents sides.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I note the swans have moved to a more secluded part of the pond where I photographed the cygnets. I thought at one stage the cygnets were going to walk up the plank to afford me an even closer view, but the female swan sensibly discouraged their adventures by swimming away from the edge of the bank.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASwans reach maturity after 4 years but the parents encourage them to leave the area from around six months and you can see more pictures of older cygnets on my previous blogs.

Crazy Coots at Waddon Ponds

Now that the coots have finished their “easter eggs” they can get down to the serious business of finding a mate. Once found the difficulty the male has in holding onto his chosen bride is keeping away the other marauding suitors. Best to keep the head down but feathers up position ready to charge at a moments notice. As the following pictures show it’s a case of “sparks” will fly when two males meet and the pond is not big enough for the both of them. Hmm reminds me of a seventies pop group.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

guarding his mate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uh oh potential trouble spotted , best adopt head down , feathers up position

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m off on the attack

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearly caught the intruder

The Canada Geese are adopting a more serene pose , surprisingly, preferring to preen and clean their feathers whenever they come into land. They adopt an upright pose after coming to rest in order to carry out their ablutions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How they can stand up in the cold water , almost walking on water is beyond me. If we tried something similar, provided we did not sink first, hypothermia would quickly set in as the cold would be transferred by our veins straight to the heart. In contrast the goose has an artery next to the vein that warms the cold blood and takes the chill off as it reaches the heart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You Dirty Rats

Down by the Waddon pond something lurks with a rather long tail. Yes, it’s a dirty rat helping himself to the grain feed left by well-meaning members of the public for the swans and ducks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A rat on the bank

It was difficult to photograph a rat as they never sit still as I can testify from the intrepid smaller house mouse that is currently occupying my property. I took many  unusable photographs before the rat got used to my presence and settled down to feed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Foraging for food

Later he was joined by a second rat, they never mentioned two of them in “toad of toad hall” or “wind in the willows”. A lady passed by curious that I was standing still and photographing what looked like from her angle an ordinary patch of grass bank. As she came closer she remarked the rats were rather big and furry and gave out a hearty laugh.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

deux rats

Later I was photographing the swans who came out from the pond to say hello. A couple of labrador dogs were curious about my camera and stood beside me quietly watching the swans.  The peace did not last long , the swans noticed the dogs and the  swans started hissing and reared up to their full height raising their feathers in a show of defiance. Their year old cygnets were behind them  and the adult swans came extremely close affording me some great shots. Shame that by now the light was fading, but at least you get a good impression of the scene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swan alert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swan warning

The parkkeeper came over as it was near closing time and told me the waddon pond swans are very tame. He then politely asked me to leave as he was locking the gates. No one has said that to me since I was a young boy down the very same park. Once I was seven years old ..