Monday, 14 April 2014

Displaying Lapwings and some pond life at the London Wetland Centre

I really should have checked the LWC website before heading there today. I'd completely forgotten it was the school holidays and the place was packed with families. However, it wasn't too bad once you got your head around all the children running around, all the loud chatter and the constant rolling of pushchair wheels across the bridges.
On the island in front of the café, a pair of Canada Geese have made a nest and already laid eggs. As I went past the female got up, covered all the eggs up with whatever that fluffy stuff is, and joined her mate for a bath.
The Wader Scrape hide was lovely and quiet, in fact for an hour this morning, there was just me and this obliging Redshank.
Oh and this Robin who was busily gathering lots of food then flying off,  returning minutes later to do it all again.
From the Peacock Tower, I was busy watching the Sand Martins gathering nesting material off the islands and idly wandering if my little 300mm zoom lens would be able to photograph them, when a Yellow Wagtail landed in front of me. My little lens struggled to pick him out amongst the scrub, but I managed two passable photos plus a rather blurred comparison shot of the bright little Waggy next to a Lapwing.
Near the Wildlife Garden I found my first Water Vole of the year. Sadly I couldn't get the right angle for a decent photo, and with all the children running over the bridge, Mr Ratty didn't hang around for long.
Over in the Wildside one of the resident Little Grebes was showing well.
and I watched an adult Moorhen feeding one of its offspring.
In the Berwick Swan enclosure, I found this unusually coloured teenage Moorhen. It's siblings were all black, but this one was very much paler.
I also managed to grab a photo of this little Mallard duckling.
The resident café lingering Jackdaws were happy to pose no matter how noisy the outside seating area was.
In the afternoon I headed back to the Wader Scrape hide. Earlier this morning I had seen behind some reeds, a male Lapwing displaying to a female. I was hoping he might have moved nearer the hide so I could observe the behaviour in a bit more detail. And he had.
The male was right in front of the hide on the first island. As I watched he started to crouch down.......
and got lower......
and lower.....
and lower thrusting his tail right up.....
After that he would acrobatically fly towards the female, swooping low over the water, then up high, sometimes almost upside down, before landing very un-gentlemanly like, on the back of the female. I watched the same sequence of events several times, always beginning with the male lowering himself into the ground and ending with him puffing his chest out towards the female after the copulation. Occasionally the female wasn't receptive enough and the male sort of fell off her back.
If I had seen a Lapwing doing the 'ground shuffle' without then witnessing both birds mating, I would have guessed it was a female making a nesting scrape, so it was lovely to watch the full ritual today and know it's the male that appears to make the scrape and not the female. After spoiling me for an hour right in front of the hide, the male then decided to resume his courtship behind the reeds again.
I was seriously thinking of heading home shortly after that. The centre was getting busier and busier, but I received a text from Audrey who was volunteering there today. Audrey is the lovely missus of my fellow 'Cranford Birder' pal, Tony. She asked if I was going to stay for the afternoon pond dipping session, so as the weather was good, I said yes.
It was actually very interesting. The four staff running the session, including our Audrey, were very knowledgeable, and so after letting the kids do all the hard work of pond dipping and emptying their nets into trays and little jars for further investigation, all I had to do was wander around taking photos.
Ashamedly I cannot remember what this one is !!!!! Help me Audrey 
Caddis Fly larva, carrying its own 'nest' of tiny broken twigs. Some of the others we saw today were carrying green 'casings' made up of bits of reed.
Water Boatman. Fascinating little critter that spends most of its time deep under water, only coming to the surface to get air. When they do that they swim upside down, eventually resting on the water surface with only its rear end breaking the surface and gathering air in the form of a bubble. This photo was taken of one in a jar, that was closely examined by all before being released back to its pond.
Pond Skater. A surprisingly aggressive little critter. They are able to 'float' on the water surface as well as being great fliers, and great jumpers. They detect their prey when a fly drops on to the water surface and causes a mini water ripple. The Pond Skater then scoots across, bites the fly and sucks out all the juicy bits.
The kids also found two newts, and I got to see them but sadly couldn't photograph them.
There's an adults pond dipping session at the LWC in June that's starting to appeal to me.
So overall not a bad day at Barnes. Although it was fairly sunny all day, it was quite windy at times, so no butterfly photos today as they just weren't settling long enough. Butterflies seen were Peacock, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White and my two 'bogey' Flutters, the elusive Brimstone and the Orange-tip.

1 comment:

  1. the water critter at the top is a damselfly larva - susy :)