Saturday, March 21, 2009

A brief visit

After the demoralizing visit to the Downtown site with other members of the DDC I wasn't really feeling like celebrating the joys of spring and I really wasn't ready for a light hearted walk. But we had a newcomer, Lisa, amongst us so we took her into the park beyond the site where the trees have now been completely smashed. It was useful to show her what the site backs on to, and the areas which the development will impact. I am glad that we went because the Downtown site may have made me thoroughly miserable but the park cheered me up no end.

Steve took the mick out of me about having a broken memory card in my camera last time and asked if everything was okay this time. I said that it was but it was a huge sin of omission - the only lens I had with me was the macro lens on the camera, which wasn't exactly great for either the Downtown fiasco or for good views of the parks. Never mind.

We walked out of the site around Downtown pond, where I was lucky enough to see a Great Tit or Blue Tit, which was busy making a nest in one of the boxes made and put up by the local school. I was particularly glad to see it because my father and I had seen one sounding out the very same nest as early as the 28th December 2008, which I photographed and posted. I got an almost identical picture today. At the base of the tree there was a big clump of Honesty coming into flower, with purple blooms and untidy green leaves. We pointed out the bat boxes to Lisa, which occupy trees on the same row.

Sue Agnew told me that she had seen a heron at the Downtown pond yesterday, and we wondered whether this was the same one that had been here all last year. We also wondered about the nesting habits of herons but we needed Mike Scott to let us know, and left none the wiser. When I got home I looked them up. Grey herons nest in trees, sometimes as solitary couples but often in colonies. I was initially surprised about the fact that they sometimes live in colonies, only ever having seen individual herons in England. But I then remembered the many times that I have seen herons in groups on the granite boulders in Aswan, all sharing each others space. Perhaps English herons, like some English people, prefer the politel formality of keeping one's own space private rather than the Egyptian custom of forming happily gregarious groups :-)

The next stop was Globe Pond. There was a lot going on. A small girl in a bright pink coat was feeding a whole host of mallards and some coots, accompanied by her father, and beyond them we spotted a lovely grey heron and two very fat Canada geese.

Proceeding through the ecological park we passed blossom and violets, many Bombulius major and bees, and two comma butterflies. Stave Hill itself was covered in daffodils which sparkled in the sun, and the view from the top over the woodland was wonderful. The woodland below was a blend of colours provided by new leaves and blossoms, a fabulous range of shades picked out in bright sunlight.

I went home directly from Stave Hill, mainly because I was beginning to get cold. I saw nothing more of specific interest other than a small white terrier who was making himself thoroughly wet and dirty in the soggy channel that runs parallel to Waterman's Walk, and which I am fairly sure belongs to Antony. But the light was fantastic, a silvery pale-gold which filtered through the trees and picked out all the bright new greens. Lovely.

There were lots of people in the woodland and ecological park today, and it was very enjoyable to see everyone having such a good time.

When I arrived home I took some work onto the terrace and went to watch the world go by on and around Greenland Dock for the next couple of hours. Unlike the parks the dock was surprisingly quiet. There were no boats and only a few birds using the water, and not many people walking along the paths which surround it. Of the birds there were the inevitable coots and some seagulls. Two Canada geese floated up, perhaps the same pair that had been at Globe Pond earlier in the day. The highlight of the birdlife was a shag which flew the length of the dock only inches above the surface, so black that it almost blended with the darkness of the waters. I love the shags and cormorants. When swimming along the surface their bodies are almost completely submerged and they look around them endlessly, constantly alert. When they sit on the buoy with their wings held out to the sunshine or breeze they seem almost eternal, like statues. Beautiful. I saw one fishing yesterday and he caught a really big fish, which he proceeded to dispatch in an awesomely efficient way.


Dr Plokta said...

As far as I know, UK herons generally nest in colonies -- there are several large ones around London. I often see herons roosting in trees around Globe Pond, but alas they're showing no sign of nesting.

Your shags are almost certainly cormorants (great cormorants, technically). Shags are pretty uncommon around London. But I think you have to be an expert to tell the difference (a lot more expert than me).

Andie said...

I initially identified the shag as a cormorant, but was corrected by a friend who grew up on the coast and has an interest in sea birds. Either could be possible. I'll try to get a good photograph next time I see it.