Wednesday 8 May 2013

The first Mallard ducklings have hatched on the Long Water. There were only two, and probably the numerous Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls have taken the rest.

At some times in the past few weeks Herring Gulls alone have outnumbered the Mallards on the lake. There are not quite as many at the moment, but it's still an unequal contest.

There were perhaps 100 Swifts over the lake, mostly at high altitude, with a few House Martins and, briefly, a Pied Wagtail, which has a different style of aerial hunting and, unlike Swifts, can hunt on the ground.

Swifts literally never land except when nesting, and if they come down on flat ground, they are usually unable to take off again. If you find a stranded Swift and it is uninjured but stranded, the recommended procedure is to put it on your hand, held flat with palm upwards, and wait for a few minutes for it to recover from the fright. Then you should run, holding out your hand with the Swift facing forward. When it feels the wind under its wings it will take off. Needless to say, I have never done this and don't know whether it works..

Sadly, the Long-Tailed Tit's nest near Peter Pan has been destroyed, probably by a Magpie. It had not been finished, so I don't think they lost any eggs, but now they must do all that long work again in a safer bush. The destruction did mean that I could photograph the largest piece of this extraordinary construction. I think it's worth two pictures.

The first shows the outside of the spherical nest, a tangle of moss and spider's webs with a few pieces of leaf and bark mixed in.

The second shows the inside, which is again mostly moss but is softer in texture. It would eventually have been lined with feathers, but they hadn't finished it and there is only one.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes have built a nest on the edge of the netting over the reed bed west of the Lido -- this is where the Bearded Tits were earlier.

It is the eighth grebe nest on the lake, and there are at least 22 grebes at the moment. Compared to the Long-Tailed Tit nest, it is a remarkably crude construction, and again they have built it on the outside of the net when they would have been much safer inside.

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