Monday, 14 March 2016

A well earn't break and a trip to the University lake

Today the sun was shining, and having spent the last few weeks shut away, slaving over a dissertation, I decided it fit to take a stroll to see what the university lake had on offer. I was thrilled with what I saw. The first of the chicks for this year was pottering around the shallows, the lesser black-headed gulls were dancing like fighter planes in the wind, and the swans seemed like they had mastered the technique in gaining every ounce of respect from their peers – well most of them had it sussed anyway.
Last week I had been lucky enough to see four Egyptian Goose chicks scuttling around the lake as I was undertaking a practical with the university catching invertebrates. I had not thought to bring my camera, but came back a few days ago to see how they were getting on. I was disheartened to find that only one chick remained from this clutch, and so came back today, willing him to still be alive, having survived the harsh frosts of last week. It comes to no surprise that these doting parents have been struggling to support their children when there is still frost on the ground, and a biting wind in the air. However, after being assured by the the chick's mother and father that the he would be looked after with all the care they could provide, I carried on my jaunt to see mass of gulls at the end of the lake, as something was drawing a crowd.
Checking that I am not up to mischief and am staying a good distance from her chick
the chick sleeping in the sun, with dad grooming his feathers
The Egyptian Goose chick (ironically not actually classified as a goose)
On arriving at the madness of diving, and squawking, and swooping and squeaking, I soon realised what the fuss was about. An older man was providing quite a feast, and each time the little man threw some food out of his trolley, it attracted a swarm of locust like gulls that would dive down to crash land on the grass for a meal. Each bomber would waste no time in redeeming their dignity from the fall, and instead would snatch a snack, or begin to scream to their neighbour to hand over the winnings without a moments hesitation. I laughed when one wave would cease for a moment and the gulls would sore back into the sky, to leave the shell-shocked mallards below. The ducks had a completely different tactic to eating their dinner, as they plodded along through the grass, continuously wiggling their bottoms side to side, in hope of picking up something that the all too frantic gulls may have missed. Once the man left with his food, the fun was over far too quickly, and I left the ducks to rummage through the crumbs to pay the swans a visit.
the man with his bag of food
the black headed gulls diving for food
the gulls flying off after their feast
There were three swans who seemed quite at home at the lake, and even though I couldn’t be sure if it was Elizabeth, Philip and Charlie from Wollaton, I was certain that this family would provide just as much entertainment. First I met one of the parents. He was more in charge of this area of the lake than I thought a bird could ever be, with feathers raised above his back, sitting on the floor – not a duck nor a goose dare to argue with him. At one point a female mallard tottered close in hope of getting a share of food within the vicinity of the swan, before she was hissed away so the swan could carry on his meal in peace. The other parent, alike the first, was a very important figure in this group. She walked around, and ate her food with little disruption from any minion that was inhabiting the area at the time. While this swan was very beautiful, I could not help but be distracted by a younger swan who was last year’s chick, and who just seemed to be a little too distracted to be part of the royal family today. He stood away from any of the food that had been thrown on the floor, and looked at me full of attitude but equally as lacking in the ability to instil any sense of fear in me. He first wiggled his neck low in front of his body, before stretching it high, and then holding it in one peculiar shape that made me wonder if he’d forgotten how to be a swan at all, let alone one exerting any sense of importance over anyone else. It must be said that while I was not afraid of the juvenile, I still kept my distance, careful not to aggravate any desire to chase me away or worse.
The swan seems to have his eye on a Coot who dared to come near

One of my most regal shots of a swan 
The juvenile trying to state his territory, I kept my distance

The juvenile again, showing his size 
The youngster appearing to have given up a little here
After chuckling to myself, with the knowledge that gaining the sense of composure of a swan does clearly take a few years practice, I left the park and got back to my desk. I was refreshed and excited with the thought that this little chick I saw today was the first of many, and that spring was nearly here. Coursework deadlines may loom, but with that comes the bloom of new life that greets us this year.
not so relevant to my story, but I had to upload this picture of a moorhen who was crowching around the side of the lake

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