Wednesday 14 January 2015

There were three Dunnocks in the Sunken Garden and in front of the Orangery. This one was singing inside a holly tree, and then came out quite boldly and poked around on the path.

A Pied Wagtail was flying around the tables and chairs in front of the Orangery calling loudly for his mate, who was out of sight.

The Scaup was on the Round Pond for the third day running, and came quite close into the edge, showing some fine iridescent green feathers on his head.

As with the head feathers of Mallards and Tufted Ducks, the iridescence is green from one angle and reddish purple from the other, but Mallards tend more towards green and Tufted Ducks more towards purple. Scaups seem to be intermediate. These colours are interference colours caused by minute structures in the feathers, and not by pigments. In fact you can get a kind of metallic car paint containing small particles that produce exactly this range of iridescence. On a car it looks abominable, while on a duck it is very smart.

The Jackdaws were foraging nearby, and when they saw me two of them came over to demand a biscuit.

The six young Egyptian Geese, disturbed by an idiot's dog, all flew to the edge of the pond where their mother eyed them solicitously. All seem to have perfectly formed wings, a lucky escape considering the amount of bread they have been given.

The male Tawny Owl was in his usual place, doing very little as usual but he is a cheering sight.

And the two Coal Tits followed me all the way down the side of the leaf yard.

The works in the Long Water are taking shape. This picture was taken from the Italian Garden.

The workmen have built an artificial island, well surrounded by stakes to consolidate it, and are scooping up reeds from the scraggy reed bed and replanting them on the island to make a place for the swans to nest. Other reeds are being used to fill in some gaps in the reed bed on the east side of the lake. So there will be no loss of reeds overall, and we may also get a brand new reed bed elsewhere in the lake. Well planted reeds play a useful role in taking nitrates and phosphates out of the water and so discouraging the growth of algae -- though in this shallow sun-heated lake you would need acres of them to do the job fully.


  1. What are your favourite times of year for bird-watching Ralph? Is there a spring season when all the chicks are newly hatched that is particularly delightful? When do birds change from their winter plumage to their summer feathers? I am asking because I want to arrange a New Forest bird-watching holiday and am not sure when are the best times to go. I'd be visiting a coastal nature reserve as well as the Forest itself. Your advice much appreciated as always!

    1. It has to be spring, I suppose, for the reason you state. The times that birds change to their breeding plumage are very varied, even within a species -- think of our Great Crested Grebes which are half in and half still out. And ducks go into breeding plumage straight after the autumn moult.

  2. Oh thank you. I saw a Great Crested Grebe on the Thames today and it was just as you describe. Looking very elegant and poised amidst a rowdy horde of Canada Geese.