For as long as I have been going to Juanita Park, I have been hearing about the mandarin duck. We have tons of wood ducks but there is one mandarin that lives in the bay. Everyone talked about whether they had seen it. However, it was never wherever I went. Finally I broke that “duck” (apologies for the awful pun). It was hanging out in the bay in nice lighting conditions and seemed busy playing with some root. After this visit, I was back a little while later and there he was again. I guess I am trusted enough now for him to hang out!
The great blue herons are a regular feature of Juanita Bay but I had seen a few local photographers had managed to get shots of a green heron. By the time I next visited the bay, I figured I might have missed out but was rather pleased when someone said the heron was in amongst the grasses. It did mean he was hard to photograph since he was well concealed. I figured this would be all I could get but there was some other creature in the grass – a rodent of some sort I think. This spooked the heron and it flew out on to the log nearby and I was able to get a clear shot. He squats down a bit when resting but, when relocating, the length of the neck was clear. That is what allows the hunting to be successful when he lunges at his prey.
There are some kingfishers that live around Juanita Bay but I have never previously been even remotely close to them. They seemed to live around the outlet of the creek and head straight out into the bay so they were but a speck from where I was. However, for some reason, a pair of them were out and about. When I was on one pier, one flew right past me and I was too slow to realize what it was. However, luck was on my side.
It was heading for another one over the other side of the inlet and they then started spiraling around before heading back towards me and then straight overhead. I was lucky enough to get a few shots of them as they went by. I headed around the inlet later on and they were flying again. This time one landed on the deck where I had previously been. No doubt, that wouldn’t have happened if anyone had still been there but it was funny to see.
There were lots of swans in the water along Caen Hill Locks. Some families were swimming around together with the cygnets well grown. One of the families had a member that had one foot up and out of the water. I have no idea whether this is a normal behavior for swans or the sign of an injury but the swan did not seem to be having any problems.
At some point, a couple of the swans got into a little bit of hassle. I don’t know whether this was a territorial thing or a case of swan flirting but one of them was really chasing another and seemed to be intent on getting them out of the way. A little separation was enough to stop all of this so I don’t know what it was all about.
You’ll need to be of a certain age or musical interest to get this title I suspect. The seafront of Ryde is home to a lot of mute swans. I knew a few lived on the boating lake but the seafront had loads of them. It seemed you couldn’t move anywhere without seeing some more. Swans do seem to have been a bit of a theme for our vacation as I think about it further.
They were swimming around in groups in the sea and some were sheltering in the marina area. Occasionally some would fly from one spot to the other when swimming seemed like it would take too long! From where I was, it did look as if they might get in each other’s way but I guess that is just the effect of distance on my perspective.
As we walked back along the seafront, a few of them took off from the sea and headed towards the boating lake. They were flying straight towards us at one point (although I failed to get a good focus on them so those shots were wasted) but then turned inland to head to the lake. The sound the swans make as they beat their wings is quite noticeable. If we didn’t have things to do, I could have spent ages watching them.
We did some work on our backyard this year including replacing the grass. Previously, the rabbits had been giving free reign in the yard since the grass was in poor condition. Once we replaced it, it was time to stop them coming in and “spreading weeds”. We have successfully blocked most of the access points that they had but there are still some areas where they have been tenacious enough to find a way in. I stepped out on to the deck recently with camera in hand. There, right in front of me, was a rabbit. I was quite surprised and it looked pretty surprised by me for a moment too. I grabbed a couple of shots of its slightly startled look and then, as soon as I moved, it bolted. I encouraged it back out the way it had come and then replaced whatever it had pushed out of the way. The battle continues…
The River Itchen runs through the center of Winchester and, just downstream of the old mill building, the water is very shallow. The river bed provides a good location for a lot of weed to grow and the ducks seemed to enjoy feeding on this weed. However, it did require a fair amount of effort on their parts as the current was flowing fast in the shallow areas. It was fun watching them either paddling furiously or bracing against the river bed while dipping their heads under water to feed. The water would sometimes roll up across their backs while they fought to stay in place. After watching this for a while, guess what I chose to have for dinner!
While I am wandering around Juanita Bay park, I meet plenty of people that are very knowledgeable about birds. I am not so I tend to follow what others are looking at and shooting. I came across a woman starting up a tree at a bird that she informed me was a sapsucker. She could have been telling me a tale for all I know. It was at an awkward angle but I tried to get some shots of it anyway. When I came back, she was gone but it was still there. It had moved to a slightly more convenient angle for a photo but not by much. For you twitchers out there, is this a sapsucker?
I have recently come across a couple of caterpillars during my wanderings. One of them was in the parking lot at work while another was out on a trail. Caterpillars are strange creatures because they only have a few “legs” which are bunch up together with one other at the other end of the body. No doubt, a specialist would be cringing right now at the inadequacy of my description. The result is that the motion of the body is quite complex. Video is the best way to demonstrate this so I used the phone to get some footage including when the sun angle really helped to emphasize the complexity of the movement.
When watching the herons hunting in Juanita Bay, you never know exactly what they are going to catch. Something like a stickleback will be a relatively easy thing for them to swallow once they have caught it. On one occasion, though, a heron caught something a little longer. I am not good with different fish so can’t tell you what it was but it had a long body and a tail with some power. The heron had the front of the fish in its beak but the back end was still flailing around. The heron was hoping to win the battle but the fish made sure to give it some healthy whacks around the head before it finally succumbed.