Sunday, 8 January 2012

Signs of Spring in January

View across the lake to the hotel
After a week of high winds and rain, Saturday turned out to be very calm and at least dry, if overcast at 8am when I set out. I headed to North Caldecotte first. Now that the rowing club is getting so busy, it's a fair bet that wildlife will be "sheltering" in the small bays round the lake.  As expected most birds were behind the hotel, where a good number of coots (as usual) scattered between gadwall, widgeon, mute swans, cormorants, mallard gulls, grebes and greylag. Surprisingly no Canada geese though!
Male Goosander
There was a surprise though: a pair of great crested grebes were practicing their mating dance.  They didn't spend long - more like an orchestra settling in before a concert and running through a few remembered riffs as warm up. They soon returned to feeding. While watching them I caught a black and white flurry dash from the cover of the lakeside bushes - there was the male goosander that everyone had been talking about, but which had eluded me for a couple of weeks. 
All four Goosanders
Coots being Coots
 He is spectacular. I realised the reason for the flurry soon enough- he has paired up with one of the three females I'd seen over Christmas - and the other two were still hanging around - in hope it seemed!  They were a little wary of me - especially when I pointed my lens in their direction it seemed, but the two single females were determindly following him.

 As I moved along towards the weir a commotion set up in the lake. Winter truce appeared to be over and the male coots were being their usual combatative selves again. One fight led to another as males lined up to assert themselves, causing upset all round.
I passed round the weir and hotel to walk under the road bridge to the south lake. There was a chance that the diver might be around there - if he was still here. No such luck though. 


There was one moment of comedy as a rower who was sculling the edge of the lake in a leisure trip rather than the more usual training runs from north to south. Rather than shooting the central piers, he was trying to row between the pier and the shore, but it appeared he hadn't realise the lake level was still a bit low ... I'm surprised his oar escaped unscathed as he collected the concrete floor of the bank.
Black headed gull regaining summer plumage
As I made my way south along the western bank of the lake I wasn't expecting to see anything exciting - the small birds in the reeds are too far away to photograph and most other birds seem to avoid it. I did discover where the canada geese were hanging out though.  However all was not lost - A low fast-flying blur darted along the lake and landed below me -and  I got my first recognisable shot of a kingfisher! normally all I ever get is the tail feathers as they head off!

 The south of the lake was relatively quiet for life in any location I could photograph them. I did notice one or two of the black headed gulls were regaining breeding colours however - yet another sign that the shortest day has passed and the weather is mild. Some Mallards were even a step further ahead and were actually mating too - a bit optimistic of them I thought!

Cormorant roost
By now it was nearly mid-morning and about a quarter of the cormorants had returned to the roost to dry their wings after their morning feed. The colony is never still - there are always some birds coming or going.

While there a greylag came flying in and was greeted by its mate with more bonding dancing with high and low neck posturing and lots of vocals. Spring is definitely on the minds of the birds, that's for sure, although in several locations the great crested grebes (juveniles?) were still hanging around in large winter flotillas.
Posturing greylag
I can't finish without adding the image of the very cooperative robin I met as I left the lake.  A really great morning walk all around.

Grebe flotilla

Got any food?


  1. There's some great birds around here at the moment Marilyn. I just managed to see the male Goosander before he left for Willen.
    There's an amazing number of Great Crested Grebes around now as well.

  2. I saw 3 separate groups of grebes and there were at least 24 in each group, all over and above the singletons and pairs scattered over the lake.

  3. A great start to your blogging adventure Marilyn. I look forward to seeing all your future posts. Good luck and best wishes...[;o)