Monday, 20 March 2017

A Slack Sunday!

Spent a couple of hours early yesterday morning walking around The Slack at Dagenham Chase NR. The Slack is a conservation area and fenced off to reduce disturbance, you can't get especially close to the wildlife, which is a good thing and probably why it is one of the most productive areas of the whole site.
map of the southern half of the park and nature reserve
Redshank - A scarce visitor to the site and my first record!

Redshank has been present on The Slack all weekend
Pintail - another scarce record for the site and again my first record here!

drake Pintail found by Bill Stallard on Thursday

Glad it stayed for the weekend!
Goat willow (Salix caprea) provides an early source of nectar for bees.

Still a good few Wigeon around

Common Gull


Egyptian Goose

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Richmond Park

Spent most of today in Richmond Upon Thames. Popped in to have a look at the new ponds in Ham Common Woods, then had an hour in Richmond Park.

Great to see that Richmond Borough Council fully support the toad patrollers in conserving the common toads at Ham Common Woods by closing the road during March.

In the ditch below in Richmond Park I spotted both common toad and frog spawn!

Toad spawn - can you spot it?
Frog spawn

More frog spawn

Common Toad

Common Toad

and a nice froggy bench to sit on

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Grebes - A wash & brush up!

Yesterday lunchtime I popped over to see how the grebes were progressing, no display activity in fact I only saw the pair together briefly on one occasion. Most of the time what I'm assuming is the female, was out of sight at I guess the nest. The male would often pop in to see and occasionally there were some very strange noises coming from the small patch of reeds.........I wonder what they are up to in there!

It was really amusing to watch them having a wash and brush up and some of the odd positions they had to get in!

and back to looking lovely again!

The local corvids all went up at this point, I suspect a bird of prey went over...and it was certainly not missed by the grebe!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Hottest Courtship Ritual in Essex!

Mid to late February is the time to look out for the most elegant of courtship displays in Essex. At Dagenham Chase I have been lucky enough to watch a pair of Great Crested Grebes begin their annual mating ritual. The pair look resplendent especially when the sun breaks through their black and chestnut head plumes appear to shine.

At first you can hear them as you approach their lake; one bird will send out a braying advertising call and then wait for an answer. From across the lake a reply, the pair swim towards each other, then once they are in almost touching distance of each other one rears up out of the water almost to its belly, yet with its neck arched down, holding the posture known as the ghostly penguin display – for a few moments. It has proposed itself to its mate.
Now there is tension because the reaction it gets from the other grebe is vital. If the other grebe performs a display by half-opening its wings, ruffling its feathers and extending the frills on its cheeks he has impressed her and bingo she did exactly that! We now have a pair who are ready to perform!
And now comes the amazing courtship ritual – a water ballet. First, the grebes face each other, shaking their heads from side to side. With utter elegance, they occasionally turn around to flick their back feathers with their bills. This is called bob-preening, yet has the grace of the best curtsey. The head-shaking ceremony that follows is the birds’ tango – all intimate and sultry – and leads to the climax of the show!
Unfortunately I was peering through the reeds to see the display begin!

The grebes dive deep, resurfacing with vegetation in their bills. They rush towards each other and meet breast-to-breast, rearing high up out of the water as they do so, paddling wildly with their feet to keep their balance. They remain thus ‘embraced’ for some time, showing off their waterweed with sideways shakes of the head.
And the weed dance took place completely out of view!

Eventually, the birds settle back down onto the water and enter into one last bout of head-shaking – the finale to one of the most elaborate chain-reaction displays of any bird!
Annoyingly on Sunday the pair performed the full courtship display including the weed dance, but were hidden from my camera behind a small patch of reeds, ah well maybe next time! 

large piece of nest material!