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.
To remind you of how small the cygnets were I have included a photo from my previous blog “ten cygnets”
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.
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.
Interestingly, 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.
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.
cygnets about to try the new slide
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.
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.
Swans 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.
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.
guarding his mate
Uh oh potential trouble spotted , best adopt head down , feathers up position
I’m off on the attack
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ..
a snowy coombe wood
What a difference a week makes regarding the weather, last Friday snow fell on Coombe Wood Garden. Today at waddon ponds the sun shone and the water was crystal clear.
The swans were very inquisitive as we stood on the viewing platform. While they may appear contented, the cold snap has caused a dearth of insects and natural algae that the swans feed on.
The adult swan was even prepared to leave the safety of the water and encroach onto the bank in case we had food to offer.
You should be careful about feeding bread to swans as mouldy bread can kill them and any processed bread is unhealthy. The council parks recommend whole wheat grain in its natural state, not processed, brown rice and lentils.
a pair of herons
Good news to start the new year, the heron is no longer on his own again. He was spotted high up in the tree with a new partner. They were clearly enjoying the most of the twilight sun before the usual evening chorus of songbirds began.
One bird that prefers to whistle instead of singing is the aptly named whistling duck a migrant bird to these shores. He was strutting around outside the pond showing off his unusual plumage.
The duck is also known as “the Egyptian duck “, and hails from Africa where they were considered to be sacred. Certainly a treasure to find him at Waddon Ponds.
Whistling Duck: what is his favourite tune? Suggestions please in the comments.
How will he and the other birds will manage in the predicted snow over the next few days? I will keep you informed.
An unusually mild and sunny day yesterday for Halloween. The seagulls were sunning themselves on the posts in the middle of Waddon ponds that were meant for the kingfishers! But can you spot the heron amongst the gulls? Scroll down to the end of this blog to find the answer.
spot the heron?
The mice were also out on the platform deck sunning themselves while looking for scraps of bread that had been thrown for the ducks in the pond, but had fallen short of their target.
mouse and bread
The swans were taking their young out on the water, although by now they look almost like adult birds. If a baby swan is called a cygnet, what is a not quite adult swan called? Why in the song did the ugly duckling turn into a swan when ducklings are not baby swans?
when we were young
Regardless, I have photographed the cygnets growing up into nearly there swans and its fascinating to see them mature so beautifully as i’m sure you will agree.
todays older cygnets rush to get their copy of this blog!
where did they go?
Were you right, did you spot the heron among the seagulls?
If so try this harder one, the heron flew off to his house in the trees. Can you find him/her?
heron in the tree
Heron enjoying the sun
Spotted this heron at Waddon ponds recently. He was in no hurry to move and quite happy to sit on his perch so i was able to get numerous photos of him. Like all of us who were outdoors in December he was no doubt enjoying the unusually mild and sunny weather. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!
Keeping herself clean
In a closer view the heron was doing some early spring cleaning keeping her feathers in tip-top condition. Wondering whether she sleeps in the willow tree nearby or the tree , pictured in golden red, by the bridge in a more sheltered position?
sheltered tree by the bridge
keeping lookout for fish
A beautiful bird we wish her/him luck in finding fish in 2016 , so that we may all enjoy spotting more of this fine creature.
Waddon Ponds is very popular with the local wildfowl , especially the Canadian geese who have thrived here over the last few years. Numbers of geese have risen so much that the banks are being eroded and the vegetation trodden. In response the parks departments has planted new reeds and used a wire mesh fence along the bank to restrict access to the water for the geese except at strategic points.
The results have been extremely successful, the reeds have flourished to over six feet tall and the vegetation has grown back substantially attracting insects and improving the aesthetic appeal of the waters edge. Top marks to the council!
Ducks racing to the bank
During the poor weather last Spring the heavily eroded bank could no longer support one of their tallest trees that eventually toppled over. The parks took this opportunity to shore up the banks and provide wooden walkways down into the water for the ducks and geese.They like the easy access looking at this picture.