Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Not so bird-brained

FOR the regatta the gosling nursery was removed to below Hambleden Lock where the birds clustered

FOR the regatta the gosling nursery was removed to below Hambleden Lock where the birds clustered by the lock gates, trying to return upstream, while the other adults rested on the weir, detained by minders with long poles in coaching craft.

A small flock of rose-ringed parakeets has colonised the Wootton Manor estate, feeding on the ash seeds and waking the residents early with their squawking contact calls.

They are brilliant green with long, slim tails. You will hear them before you see them.

A quieter evening walk is to be had above Marsh Lock where the yellow water lilies are flowering in the shallows.

Here the coot has a chick on a nest under the bridge and a great crested grebe dives for fish in the mill pool.



Nearby two cormorants fish in parallel at dusk. They dive simultaneously and swim upstream in the weir pool for 15 seconds, emerging at the same time amd the same distance apart.

On the third dive one has a fish in its beak, flips it straight and swallows it whole — shared method but not shared food.

It has been found that the bird brain, although the size of a walnut, is so packed with neurons that it has the power of a human brain.

This year, the river bank is bordered by fragrant, creamy meadowsweet, mallow, willow herb, purple and white comfrey, reeds and sedge growing so high that you only glimpse the river where the fishermen have cleared patches.

The osier and alder provide cover for warblers but the resident kestrel needs a higher perch to watch for voles on the oak by the polo field or the huge cedar on the Wargrave bank overlooking the lock.

Swallows swoop to and fro as the light fades but you must wait until dark for the Daubenton’s bats to emerge.



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