The Editor explores the local bird life experienced on the Stoke Ferry common.
Just as we thought Spring was here we get yet another cold snap. I reckon these last few days have been some of the coldest of the winter. But at least we have some of nature's gifts to lift our spirits. I am always delighted to see the first spring flowers and this year was no different. As my next door neighbours says, they give a real lift to the spirits after the darkness and drabness of winter. The even grander daffodils have now replaced the wonderful snowdrops and aconites and many trees are already sporting their spring blossom. I have a "pussy willow" in my front garden which is simply a mass of cascading yellow.
And already the birds are sorting themselves into breeding pairs with considerable noise and territorial battling. We have been delighted over the past couple of weeks to have regular sightings of a pair of Kingfishers on the Relief Channel at Stoke Ferry common. Last year one of the partners seemed to have fallen foul of a predator, so to see a pair back on "our" patch is wonderful. As last year, the Fieldfare's have been back in their noisy 'chuckles' chattering away as they frantically rush away from our approach. I may be wrong, but this years groups seem smaller than last year. Let us hope that is not a bad omen.
A major source of amusement and interest is the behaviour of the local herons. The heronry on the south side of the relief Channel must have had a really successful breeding programme last year. On one occasion we saw fourteen (14) herons all standing in a line, each equidistant from the next and nowhere near the water. Tony Vine from Wereham, who amongst other things, maps heronry's for the English Conservation Trust, assures me that they are hunting moles! Has anyone else some evidence to support this view? I thought nothing ate moles!
The waterfowl on the Relief Channel has increased dramatically over the winter. I suspect this is evidence that the mink that previously ruled the channel bank have either been destroyed or have moved elsewhere. Most days we now see several ducks and swans and a small group of moorhens who seem, despite their size, to make more noise than all the ducks put together. It would be an omission not to mention the punks of the duck world. These past few weeks we have been delighted with a pair of red-necked grebes and several tufted ducks; both species of course disport their head tufts in true punk rocker style. Our grandchildren delight in watching both these attractive birds and become totally involved in trying to predict at which point they will surface after their repeated long dives for food.
One sad episode in our daily foray to the common has been the discovery of a one-legged lapwing. I first saw him with the Fieldfare, wagtails and skylarks in the horse paddocks. It was a sad sight to seem him standing on his one remaining leg and trying to feed from the ground. Initially, every time he pecked he fell over but he soon acquired a modicum of balance. Today I saw him again, standing very forlornly on the channel bank. He gave the impression that he was fast losing his battle for survival. Sometime nature can be very cruel; he is obviously too ill now to fend for himself and none of his family are prepared to give him assistance. Once again, it is the survival of the fittest.