Tag Archives: Water Birds

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.

Coot

Coot

Coot

Coot

Coot

Coot

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 🙂

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.

A Phalacrocorax carbo

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

This is a post about the Cormorant.

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.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant

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.