Pond Life

On the edge of a small housing estate near where I live is a small nature reserve and pond. It’s one of my favourite places to walk with the dog in the morning.  Hundreds of people walk round the pond each day, but it never seems overcrowded, and I take hundreds of photographs there each year. The pond’s edges are mostly lined with reeds, and there are two magnificent willow trees too. The pond teems with birdlife: mostly ducks, moorhens and swans, but there are other visiting wild birds too.

I confess that I don’t like January and February: they just seem to be a cheerless slog.  If you dislike winter too, the selection of photographs in this essay might just cheer you up and point towards better months to come.

The Pond

Here’s the pond on a sunny day in March 2016. It’s still early in the year, but there are signs that spring isn’t too far away. In a few weeks it will be packed with wild birds, and there’s no shortage of people who want to feed them. In the height of summer a crowd of ducks, swans and moorhens will mob anyone who turns up with a stale loaf. Originally it was the mill pond for a corn mill: it’s still fed by the mill beck and drains into the River Derwent, so the water is always fresh and clear.

The Pond

Here’s a wide angle view of the pond. It’s fairly small as you can see, but teems with life all year round. A footpath runs round the perimeter, and I walk there most days.

Ducks

Noisy, argumentative and endearing: I can sit and watch the ducks all day. The duck population on the pond is mainly mallards, and there must be at least a hundred of them at the height of the summer. By and large the ducks live peacefully with each other, except for during the mating season when the drakes compete for a mate. The ducklings are normally the first birds to hatch on the pond, in spring: I love it when the first of them appear because I know summer’s on the way.

Ducks at Mating Time

Three of the dozens of ducks on the pond. Mating time’s always a contest between the drakes. One of these is going to lose out!

Ducklings

Here’s two of the dozens of ducklings that are reared on the pond each year. I love watching them grow up and learn to forage for food.

Moorhens

There are always several pairs of moorhens on the pond and they breed every year. When the chicks are very young they look just like small feathery balls. They are always on the move, scurrying round the pond’s edge and they have a distinctive call, which you can hear at night when all the other birds have settled down. They have huge feet, quite out of proportion to their bodies, but it makes them agile in the water, and they can outmanoeuvre the ducks when competing for bread.

Moorhens

Moorhens make me smile. They’re quite shy animals, ungainly on land, but always darting about busily on water. They spend most of their time amongst the reeds along the pond’s edge and rarely swim across the middle. They move around rapidly and they’re quite a challenge to photograph.

Moorhen Chick

Moorhens tend to stick close to the edges of ponds, where they forage for food amongst the reeds. The chicks are quite elusive, so I’m quite pleased with this picture.

A Quick Trip Ashore

Moorhens have the funniest walks of all the residents on the pond. These two have come onshore to forage for breadcrumbs. They’re definitely better swimmers than walkers.

Swans

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the swans. The same pair nest on the pond each year, and they are imposing, regal and graceful animals. Every year I follow their progress as they build their nest and lay the eggs. Sadly, I always seem to be away when the cygnets hatch, but hopefully this year I’ll be there to see them new born.

King and Queen of the Pond

A pair of swans nest on the pond each year. They are bird-life royalty, but live happily with all the other birds. They are imposing animals and will definitely warn you off with a hiss if you get too close. Fortunately they’re quite used to people, so are reasonably approachable.

Nesting Time

The swans build a nest in the same corner of the pond each year. It’s fascinating to watch them build it, and then carefully tend it afterwards. They’re quite imposing structures and solidly built and sited to give the swans protection from predators.

Counting the Eggs

Whilst they’re incubating their eggs the swans guard them carefully. It’s quite rare to get a view of the clutch of eggs.

Swan and Cygnets

It’s always a tense time waiting for the cygnets to hatch. These three must be about a week old, because for the first few days their down isn’t waterproof and they can’t swim. The swans laid nine eggs this year, sadly only three cygnets survived from the clutch.

 

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Jane Hutchinson

Loved the pictures and narrative. Intrigued with the nest picture and the reflection in the water top right. It’s an upside down world for this person!