Freshwater Families

Newmillerdamswan familyIT’S GOOD to be back at Newmillerdam and on a morning like this I can’t resist at least trying to paint a lightning watercolour (below) when we stop for coffee and, as we set off back along the lakeshore, I’m tempted to try to photograph a couple of families of waterbirds.

Much as I like my Olympus Tough, it does struggle with anything animate as several seconds can pass between pressing the button and the photograph actually being taken, so there’s always an element of luck involved.

watercolour sketch of lake
Newmillerdam lake from Becket’s Cafe.

A few weeks ago we saw one of the mute swan cygnets tucked between the wings of one of the parents as it swam along, a wise precaution as some of the pike in Newmillerdam are enormous and would be capable of pulling a young cygnet below the surface. The other cygnet followed closely in it’s lake with the other parent bringing up the rear and keeping a watchful eye on the family.

I notice in this morning’s photograph that the male, the cob, is leading. He’s got that projection above his bill.

Counting Coots

coot family

I squat down to see if the coots near the boathouse will feed their young on freshwater mussels again, as they did last month. One of the parents dives down a couple of times but in the short time that I’m watching catches nothing. As I’m kneeling there a toddler, who has just picked up a feather, and his mum come and stand alongside us.

‘Can you tell me how many baby birds there are?’ she asks him.

‘One, two, three, four . . . and two mummy birds.’

‘They could be a mummy and a daddy?’ suggests his grandad.

‘Are you allowed to say that nowadays?’ I ask.

‘It’s not P.C.’ says grandad, ‘but I think with coots we can be fairly sure.’

‘Even a coot is entitled to life choices.’ I suggest.

‘We’re not doing mummies and daddies yet,’ explains mum, ‘just the babies.’

It’s good to hear parents and grandparents encouraging young children to explore the world of nature and not to put them off with too much health and safety.

This brood of coot youngsters have lost their ginger top-knots and the hint of red on their beaks that they had  a month ago and they’re now in the sober plumage of adolescent chicks.

Further up the lake we see a single great-crested grebe. We’ve previously seen a pair here and I hope that some day we’ll see them with their stripy young again.

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