Tag Archives: Cannop Ponds

Softly Softly Catchee Monkey

I’ll tell you now, we didn’t catch a Monkey but we tried. Today I took my lean, mean, walking machine to the woods.

FizzWe are not going to any old wood. The woods that we were in on our last walk were very nice. English woodland, mostly Oak with some Beech. Very nice but my eyes see managed for timber production. The trees are all the same age, they are closely spaced and there is no significant dead wood, still it’s a nice place to walk.

Today we are visiting a cathedral. You have to walk with reverence around this place. It is beautiful. (but there are no Monkeys)

RSPB NagsheadNagshead is a 1250 acre nature reserve in the Forest of Dean. It is a collaboration between the Forestry Commission and the RSPB. I don’t know exactly where the FC come into it, there is no evidence of their management but I think that they might own the land and have agreed not to mess it up. (Which is very nice of them and I am grateful). Anyway they are not messing it up.

More than half of the reserve is nineteenth century Oak woodland. There are two ponds with viewing hides and quite a large meadow. There are also good, sign posted, trails around the reserve, a long and a short one.

The reserve is managed by the RSPB for birds obviously but it is just as well known for it’s butterflies and dragonflies. Boar and Fallow Deer also wander about the reserve but we didn’t see any today.

The RSPB understand that birds eat insects and so to create a habitat for birds you have to start with a habitat for insects. There is a lot of dead wood here. Whole trees lie on the floor and there are also dead trees standing. There is a lot of life in dead wood and it is very important.

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB Nagshead

RSPB NagsheadWe have been here about six times this year and the one thing that I have never photographed here is birds. I did take a few pictures today but the light was too poor. Part of the reason though is that just across the road from this reserve is Cannop ponds and that is brilliant for birds and just as well managed but with more water.

RSPB NagsheadFizz wants to go to the ponds. They have a very nice picnic area and she wants to eat. I don’t really want to go there because we have been walking for three hours, it will take at least two more to get home and the ponds can easily add hours to your day.

Eventually I gave in but just to go to the picnic area, no looking at birds.







CootOne Coot. Coots are irresistible. It was in the way, I had to shoot it to get past and then Fizz got her sandwiches.

I will just show you quickly a few images of the ponds then we have to go.

Cannop Ponds

Cannop Ponds

Cannop Ponds

Cannop PondsAt the top of the ponds there is another nature reserve, that one is wetland and marsh, we just don’t have time today. I wasted the time creeping about in the forest looking for big game, that was what I really wanted but not today.

When I started walking Fizz at the beginning of the year she was absolute rubbish on these long walks.

She was about three years old and had a huge garden to play in but she didn’t get walked regularly and dogs need that. She didn’t have her own lead and she didn’t have any idea how to play ball, it took a while to teach her that.

When it came to walking home she was like a little child. She would throw herself on the floor and try and convince me that she couldn’t go on.

Dead DogI need a carry!

Dead DogYou could drag me.

Dead DogThat was six months ago. Today at the end of a six hour walk she was as full of life as when we started.

FizzIt is really nice to see the difference that six months of basic training has had on her. I, on the other hand, have not got any fitter and I still feel whacked at the end of a long hike.

FizzShe has started calling me “Limpy Old Man.” As in, “Come on, limpy old man.” It’s a term of endearment, I think 🙂

Making it look easy

Mute Swans

I suppose it is easy, floating about on the water.

This is one of our breeding pair and I think that it is the male. The only real difference between the sexes is that males have brighter orange bills with a bigger black knob on top of it. They are easier to sex when you just have a pair of them like this.

Mute Swan The female is on the nest.

Mute SwanIt could easily be the other way around though, they both take it in turns to incubate the eggs which is a good thing because it takes five to six weeks before they are ready to hatch and that is a lot of sitting on a nest.

Then we could have as many as six or seven Ugly Ducklings or cygnets as they are sometimes called. and when they are little they can sometimes be seen riding around on their mothers back. I can see a few good photo opportunities coming out of this.

For now we are just going to have to be patient.

Mute SwanThis is the first time that I have been able to photograph Swans on the nest. This is another family that we are going to see a lot on this blog.

Mute Swan


The Cure for Love

In the philosophy of Feng Shui the Mandarin Duck is one of those objects that is used and it is considered to be the “cure for love.” By that they mean that placing images or sculptures around your home will help you to find love. This is because the Mandarin is supposed to mate for life and partners are faithful to each other.

We arrived at the ponds quite early in the day and probably the first thing that happened was that we disturbed/woke up a group of Mandarins. Eleven males and no females huddled together on the bank.

Mandarin DucksOkay that is only six, here are the other five.

Mandarin DucksFinding all of these males huddled together made me start to wonder about the breeding habit of these birds. The females were obviously nesting.

Then we saw a female with two chicks and a male was with her. I couldn’t get a proper picture of this because she scarpered as soon as she saw me but I will post one so that you know I don’t lie.

Mandarin DucksDon’t worry, eleven males on the ground implies eleven females on the nest and a typical brood is eight to twelve eggs. Pretty soon there will be more ducklings than you can shake a stick at.

So now on with the photography and the understanding. I hadn’t planned to photograph the male at all but I ended up with some pictures that I hadn’t seen before and I am quite pleased to have got them.

Mandarin MaleThe males don’t play a part in incubating the eggs. They abandon their partner while she gets on with what, in the world of Mandarin Duck’s, is obviously considered to be “women’s work”.

They pair up again when the ducklings leave the nest and then take an active role  in feeding and protecting the ducklings for the next two months.

Mandarin Male Mandarin MaleI was intrigued by how the chicks get out of the nest. Mandarins nest in trees, with a preference for old Woodpecker holes close to water. These are often twenty to twenty five feet above ground. They must have to teach the chicks how to fly before they can leave the nest and they would not be born with flight feathers.

Silly man. They jump. The chicks are born with the ability to swim but they won’t learn to fly until their flight feathers are fully developed. So with the courage of a Red Beret they fall out of the nest and plummet to the ground. They can fall thirty feet quite safely and then they join their mum in the water and that is it for the tree.

Mandarin Male Mandarin Male Mandarin MaleThe other interesting thing that I found out about these birds was their diet. I always imagined that ducks ate some kind of aquatic weed and in fact they do but… Fruits of the forest, Beech Mast and Acorns are two of the favourite foods for the Mandarin. Obviously those are only available in season and in the spring Mandarins eat a lot of insects. Catching midges and even Dragonflies and that makes sense if you have ever looked at the surface of the water. It usually swarms with midges and small flying things. They also eat snails and beetles and catch fish. they are very versatile feeders.

Mandarin Male Mandarin Male Mandarin Male Mandarin Male Mandarin MaleSo that is about it for Mandarins today. I hope that you liked the pictures, some of them were better than others. Photgraphing it out of the water like this and also learning a bit about it has changed the way that I look at this bird and now I am seeing it as much more than just a “Floats on water” Duck. It nests up trees and feeds on acorns and is a proper woodland bird.

Plus it is beautiful.

Mandarin MaleComing soon….Families.

Not exactly ducklings

Well I had a good adventure, thank you. I am a bit tired after my ten hour hike (not as tired as Fizz) so I am just going to show you some of the best bits.

We wanted ducklings but this time we got goslings.

This is a perfect little Greylag Goose, it has even got it’s own reflection.

Greylag GoslingI am getting very fond of the Greylags and I am really pleased to be able to see and photograph the goslings.


Greylag GeeseThis was a family group with both parents proudly showing off their chicks. Well not really showing them off, they were avoiding people but came over to me when a dog jumped in the water on the other side of the pond.

The goslings moved freely between the two adult birds, they weren’t just following mum.

Greylag Geese Greylag Geese

It was really nice to see them and I hope that I get the chance to watch them growing up.Greylag Geese Greylag Geese Greylag Geese

Making Plans

It looks like we are going on an adventure tomorrow. It needs careful planning and I have to make my sandwiches.

Adventures have to start before dawn and right now that means about four AM so planning things the day before is essential.. We are going to the ponds.

Mute SwanYou are probably thinking, “So what, what is there to see at the ponds?” Well, I don’t know, we make our adventures up as we go along and we don’t ever know what to expect.

It is not just the ponds it is getting there, an hour and a half walk through ancient woodland, which is why we have to start at dawn.

Then there is having our sandwiches, that is always good. I just hope she remembers to bring some this time.

Sandwiches.Sometimes there are birds.

Canada Goose Canada GooseIn fact Cannop is famous for it’s breeding Mute Swans. I haven’t really done the Swans justice. They are harder to photograph than you might think. They are very white and easily over exposed.

This one isn’t a breeder it is an offspring so less white and a pretty pink bill.

Mute Swan Mute Swan Mute Swan

Sometimes we just like to relax and drink in the scenery.

DrinkDrink in the scenery, geddit? I’m so funny.

DrinkI’ll bring water.

Cannop is also famous for it’s Mandarins and they are not hard to photograph.




MandarinTomorrow I will be trying hard to get closer to the female of the species.

MandarinThere is one other bird that I am keen to get closer to and that is this Tufted Duck.

Tufted Duck

Tufted DuckWe might see birds, even ducklings. There might be Bluebells on the way and if we are really lucky Fizz might get chased through the woods by a Wild Boar, except that she will be with me so that won’t happen.

She nearly got run over by a Fallow Deer on our last trip. We were walking down a track with woodland on either side and Fizz was about ten feet in front of me. I saw this deer racing through the wood straight at Fizz and just as it broke cover I called her, she turned her head and didn’t even see the deer cross her path. She turned back walked on a few steps and then suddenly picked up it’s scent and went racing off into the wood it had just come out of.

“You are going the wrong way, Nature Detective Dog!”

We will see what tomorrow brings.

Today I am going to have another crack at the Swallows and Martins and take Fizz on an insect hunt. (Shortish walk)

I am excited.



A post about Greylag Geese.

I am having a bit of calm in my life now. I am just wondering whether I want to take a walk to the nearest village and get myself a little bottle of whiskey, maybe rent a film and have a cosy afternoon/evening.

Cannop PondsThere is something very relaxing about watching geese. I think that it is just the way that they move so effortlessly. Movement with no apparent moving parts.

Greylag Goose

Cannop PondsThese are Greylag Geese.

Greylag Goose

Greylag Geese


7Here is a beautiful, relaxing scene.

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese

Greylag GeeseI should probably work on my Easy Wildflowers blog while I have got a bit of time. Perhaps I will just put my feet up and have a little afternoon nap while I think about it.

Greylag Geese

12Yup! That’s me relaxed.

A Phalacrocorax carbo

Sounds prehistoric doesn’t it? Well it looks prehistoric too.

This is a post about the Cormorant.


It is also going to be a post about Cannop Ponds. Well I told you that I would show you around, just a little bit today though.

Cannop PondsThe Ponds are part of my playground. They are a bit of a walk and the last time we went out there we were gone for nine hours. I had to get Fizz’s feet re-soled. It is actually about an hour and a half walk from my house, through beautiful forest but I dawdle.

There are Cormorants here.

CormorantI think that they come here to laugh at the fishermen who seem to find it so hard to catch a fish. All that you have to do is dive in after it.




CormorantThat is a very strange looking bird.

Cannop Ponds

The Ponds are a very popular part of the forest, I haven’t really seen them in the height of the tourist season. I expect it must get quite busy but when Fizz and I come out on these walks we set out before dawn (we see wild animals) and we get here while it is still quite early, we have only seen it quiet.

Cannop PondsThis is a really nice place, completely different from the farmland and forest that surround us. We come here to look at birds and we will be back soon.


Coots at Cannop Ponds


A little bird in it’s natural habitat.1




5Cannop Ponds are two man made ponds just north of the Nagshead nature reserve. It is a great place to visit if you ever find yourself in The Forest of Dean.

I will do a post on Cannop Ponds soon and I will show you around.