Hissy and Scratchy the swans have made feeding the birds at the visitor centre feeding station an interesting experience in the mornings. Although it’s not a friendly one. When they see me arrive at the feeders, they swim to the bank, get up out of the water and waddle up to me hissing in an aggressive “feed me now, but keep your distance” sort of way. I’ve noticed that if I squat down to put food on the grass they are much happier than if I stand up. I’m obviously more threatening if taller than them. But no matter how much I feed them, that aggressive attitude is always there.
Hissy and Scratchy, doing their thing.
But things have taken an interesting turn in the last few months, as there is a new swan around. George is a black swan, and much more socially acceptable. Black swans originate from Australia and four of them turned up here in August. We get a lot of exotic wildfowl here each August. Such oddities include teal from Argentina. There is no way these are birds which have got lost, but obviously birds which have not been pinioned properly in a collection, and then wander off as teenagers. Can’t possibly think of a place not too far away which breeds exotic wildfowl in such numbers ?
George the friendly swan
And George is really friendly. Even if he does have an evil looking red eye. He follows Hissy and Scratchy around but they continually rebuke him, which is quite sad. He tried to make friends with 8 whooper swans on the main lake yesterday, but they mistook his advances as an attack, and fled to Haverton. Poor George.
So as he followed Hissy and Scratchy up the bank one morning, but was not allowed any of their food, I put some sunflower hearts close to where he stood looking all sad. And now …….…. Gloves are essential. Birds never forget a food source and George is no exception. He now tries to get the food from my hand as I put it on the grass at the waters edge, where he mixes it with water before he eats it. I need to be careful with this. It wouldn’t be good if he waddled up to visitors and bit their fingers. That would make me a very bad warden.
Well another week has flown by here at Saltholme and it has been a busy one at that. With the Wetland Bird Count (WeBS) on Sunday and Winter Bird Count on Wednesday, showing the abundance of bird life around the reserve in particular the Canada geese. A very common species that can be seen anywhere around the UK. The number of geese present at Saltholme is incredible with well over 500 individuals. Alongside the barnacle geese and greylags, the number geese present at Saltholme is around a 800-900 mark.
Also this week has seen another two sunset safaris. There has been lots of murmuration in the last few days with more than ten thousand starlings. The display is quite unpredictable but with the presence of sparrowhawks and marsh harriers this may get them going.
Starling By Tom Allen
The Water pipits are still showing regularly alongside a green sandpiper at Phil Stead Hide. There have also seen sightings of weasels and a fox. Overall a busy week with plenty of sightings around the reserve.
Until next week take care and keep wildlife watching.
There are a lot of little grebes at Saltholme now. I really like little grebes so I’m sort of happy ….. ish. Because there is something about their appearance in winter. Something that makes me uneasy. The bulbous back end looks like it could house an engine. They dive, as you’d expect, but when they come back up, they stare at you with a strange mechanical look, and this got me thinking.
Just supposing, a country far away, with a dictator hell bent on world domination, wanted to spy on us to see if we had some precious resources ? What better way than to manufacture lots of little robot grebes with cameras inside them. Let them go all over the place and then collect the data back.
T- 800 little grebe ? by Lockhart Horsburgh.
As herons eat little grebes they can process the data and recycle the useful components. Of course this also means that somewhere there is a factory churning out robot herons as well. Or maybe it is the same factory ? A bit like the Twix factory with two halves. I expect each command heron has a squad of little grebes which they distribute and control, using that antenna that is supposed to be a plume.
So what should we do about it ? Well, nothing. For several reasons:
Firstly, all they are going to learn is that we are a country full of strange looking folk who wander around wearing extra thick clothing, woolly hats and bundles of optical equipment to make up for bad eyesight, some of it so heavy we need an extra set of 3 legs to stand it on.
And secondly, it could just be that those cute little grebes look that way because the water is so very cold ? .
That definitely changes my appearance.
Now where did I put my medication ?