Blue tits on a wet, dark evening.

7th May 2012:I had another try at photographing the blue tits this evening. By the time I arrived at the south end of the marsh, the light was fading fast. The sky was black, and it was raining. Still, I managed to get a few images, even if they are a bit grainy.

The house martins were there in force too, but they were conducting their speedy aerobatics over the standing water this time – making the ducks duck (I expect Dezra will have trouble getting her mind around this).

The coots have chicks! I haven’t seen any ducklings yet. I think the swans have a nest in a flooded wood next to the scrap yard. There was only one swan swimming about this evening.

Early start on the north marsh…

Saturday 9th April 2011 – 20:30: I was out on the dew-drenched marsh at dawn this morning. It was unusually quite along Hoo Brook – the traffic on Wilden Lane being very light at this early hour. The sunlight streaming through the trees gave the water in the brook a magical golden twinkling appearance in the faster flowing sections, which was completely spoiled by a pile of tree branches and a purple plastic dog basket straddling its banks – not the sort of place any self-respecting fairy would want to reside, I suspect.

The slack water in Hoo Brook and in the River Stour reflected light like a mirror, as can be seen in some of the gallery photographs below.

Two narrow boats were moored alongside the canal bank, on the west side of the north pasture and, even at this time of the day, the early morning cyclists and joggers were out doing their Saturday morning ‘thing along the towpath – just like I was doing my Saturday morning ‘thing’, except I was not being as energetic, nor was I on the towpath.

The morning chorus was well under way by the time I arrived at the North Pond and the warmth of the sun was starting to burn-off the veil of mist from the surface of the water. I surprised the mallards again and they flew off along the Stour.

Toadspawn usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to incubate, so I was expecting a pond full of writhing tadpoles: I didn’t see any. I am interested to find out if the tadpoles will encourage more birds to the pond, which won’t be the case if the water level keeps dropping. I have a feeling that this warm spell will bring the tadpoles out. Before they get their legs, tadpoles are vegetarians; when they have their legs they become carnivores. I have heard it said that it is often a good idea to float a ball of dog or cat meat on the surface of a pond to ensure that the tadpoles have enough to eat, but I am not sure that this is advisable, or necessary in a large pond – there should be plenty of insect larvae for them to eat and we don’t want to be overrun by toads.

My intention today was to take a few landscape photographs.

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Nest building is now a priority…

SUNDAY 20th March 2011 – 20:15:

Blue Tit 27-03-2011

I disturbed the Hoo Brook kingfisher this afternoon. It flew like a dart down the brook to the Stour; if I hadn’t disturbed it, it’s unlikely that I would have seen it let alone photographed it.

The toads, having had their fun, have left the north pond. The pond is now toadless. Not a single toad did I see this afternoon; the pond is eerily silent without their constant squeaking, plopping, squishing and squashing, and there is now an oily bloom covering most of the water surface – I have no idea whether the oily bloom is anything to do with the toads. The water level has fallen steadily since the beginning of the year: rainfall has been quite low. I can’t help wondering where the toads have wandered off to; did they all leave the pond together? Perhaps the head toad gave a signal and they moved out en-mass –  and did they leave by day or by night? I have  a mental video playing in my head featuring a million toads crawling out of the pond and hopping away in all directions, only to disappear into the distance leaving a mystery to be solved by an eagerly awaited sequel.  Perhaps, in the real world, they have just moved off into the swamp.

Dunnock 27-03-2011.

Nature, like time, keeps moving along and if you blink your eyes, or turn you head at a sudden noise, you stand a good chance of missing an important event. A sudden noise might indicate an important event, so I often feel obliged to turn my head towards the noise and that will be when the otter swims out of the river, does an Irish jig on the bank with its paws on its hips, whilst also juggling a couple or three fish with its mouth. No matter how important the event, there is only a finite amount of free time a person can muster for leisure projects,  and it’s impossible to see every thing that might be of interest. Prioritisation, did I hear someone say? Wherever I go and whatever I do, this word is not far behind me. I had a dream once in which a huge black, slimy, slug named ‘Prioritised’ made it its business to track me down. No matter how far I travelled, nor how fast I travelled, nor in which direction I travelled, I knew that if I stayed still long enough the inevitable would happen:I would find myself under prioritised. Being under prioritised is a bit like being under insured – if you are under insured and something nasty happens, you struggle to know what the next important thing is that you should be doing. So I admit that I prioritise, but I am not really convinced that this gives me an advantage where nature is concerned. Let me put it another way: If I wander around with my camera at the ready will I see more and photograph more interesting wildlife than I would if, say, I sat in a hide with my camera on a tripod? I am bound to say that I usually find wandering more productive than standing still. If I decide that I’m going to spend an hour in the hide, an hour on the river bank, and an hour wandering aimlessly about, then this is a plan. If I then schedule these activities in terms of importance, then I am prioritising my work or leisure time. Now having mentioned  planning…I think I had better quit here before I slip into rant mode.

I saw 16 bumble bees today: four in Hoo Wood and the rest on the north marsh.

Buds are just breaking out on the Hoo Wood silver birch trees; hawthorn, elder and honeysuckle are quite well leafed and the beech trees are heavy with catkins. I think Hoo Wood is around one or two weeks ahead of the marsh in the growing stakes.

More to come when I get a minute or two…