Wednesday, 12 May 2010

From Swan to Speedboat!

This month of May continues to feel more like March here, or even February! It has been cold and dull for most of the past week with only the occasional glimpse of sunshine. The verse below is really about April but I thought it was very appropriate.

'The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.'
(Robert Frost)


I glanced out of the window yesterday and thought the Stock Dove which visited me on Big Garden Birdwatch day had returned but when I opened the door for a better look I realised it was a Feral Pigeon and, while very common birds in more urban settings, I thought I would include a photo as I have never seen one in the garden before. I do hope it doesn't tell its friends as I really don't want my garden full of them!

Feral Pigeon

It is descended from the Rock Dove. I think it has lovely plumage and looks much nicer in a garden setting rather than wandering dusty streets as we so often see them.

At the same time, I photographed this juvenile Wood Pigeon, unlike the adult it has no white marking on the neck and is quite fluffy looking. I was slightly confused by the very distinct black wing bars and if anyone would like to tell me that it is in fact a juvenile Stock Dove I will be more than happy...but I think it unlikely.

Wood Pigeon (Juvenile)

This lovely little Robin seems to be very busy in the garden at the moment so I am hoping it may have a nest hidden away somewhere.


'Tis true; and therefore still we find
That gentle spirits love the robin
That comes as Wordsworth says, "When winds are sobbing;"
Pecks at your window; sits upon your spade,
And often thanks you with a serenade.'
(Mary Howitt)


We visited a small Nature reserve a few days ago, unfortunately it was a very dull day with only brief moments of sunshine so the conditions were far from ideal for photography. However, I was happy to see these lovely Cowslips which were a welcome splash of bright colour.


I also saw another of my favourite Spring flowers.

Lady's Smock

'Where the grass is damp and green,
Where the shallow streams are flowing,
Where the Cowslip buds are showing,
I am seen.

Dainty as a fairy's frock,
White or mauve, of elfin sewing,
'Tis the meadow-maiden growing---
(Cicely Mary Barker)

'When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smock all silver white
And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight.'
(William Shakespeare)

The colour of these pretty flowers, also known as 'Cuckoo Flower', vary from white to pink but are more commonly pale lilac. The ones I saw were very pale with just a hint of lilac. Its leaves were once popular in salads as the plant is closely related to Watercress.

The scent wafting from this Crab Apple blossom was beautiful.

Crab Apple Blossom


This Great Tit posed nicely for me.

Great Tit


We sat for a while in the hide, overlooking one of the reclaimed gravel pits, and watched a pair of proud Coot parents out for an afternoon swim with their family


and no sooner had they left the stage than enter proud Mrs Molly Mallard with her family. Her erstwhile husband, Mr Malcolm Mallard, having done a runner of course (or should I say a swimmer) as soon as incubation was well underway!

Mallard Duck and Ducklings

I noticed a bird flitting around the edges of the water, it was intent on playing hide and seek with me and unfortunately this was the only photo I could get. It is only the second or third time I have managed any sort of picture of a Reed Bunting.

Reed Bunting (Male)


When we visited a small lake, one day last week , I saw this Swan sitting serenely on its nest. Considering how, when building a nest, they seem to fling the material around haphazardly, I am impressed by how relatively neat the finished article is. It reminds me of a large wicker basket which, I suppose, is pretty much what it is really!

Mute Swan on Nest

'Queen-Bird that sittest on thy shining-nest,
And thy young cygnets without sorrow hatchest,
And thou, thou other royal bird, that watchest
Lest the white mother wandering feet molest.'

(Charles Lamb)

Some time later, after that scene of calm serenity, we were at the opposite end of the lake and about to make our way back to the car when, seemingly from nowhere, into view zoomed one very angry Swan! Of course I have seen Swans acting aggressively many times but this one was particularly persistent. Whether it was the mate of the one on the nest I don't know but it somehow hardly resembled a bird at all and seemed to have metamorphosed into an almost surreal, feathered speed boat!

'It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage!'
(Robert Frost)

And the object of its derision?

This hapless Canada Goose and its mate, who had previously been swimming around, minding their own business!

Canada Geese

They were left marooned and bewildered on the bank trying to work out how to get to the opposite side of the lake and into the reeds, where I suspect they had a nest, without unwittingly antagonising the Swan again. It made eye to eye contact with them,

before patrolling up and down for a while, until it was sure they had got the message.

When it was happy that they had, it looked to me like it was taking a curtain call and inviting applause!

And the Canada Geese? They made a sudden dash for it and with much loud honking flew across the lake and out of sight into the reeds. They went so suddenly and quickly that the Swan had no time to return...and I had no time to record their escape with my camera...


Finally, as we haven't seen much blue sky in the last couple of weeks, I thought I would post this photo of a Squirrel, taken at Draycote during April when it seemed Summer had arrived easily we are lulled into a false sense of security...

Grey Squirrel

'In the joy of his nature he frisks with a bound
To the topmost twigs, and then down to the ground;
Then up again like a winged thing,
And from tree to tree with a vaulting spring.'
(Mary Howitt)

Enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. What a great post! Lovely babies, bewildered geese, an angry swan and a well-timed poem by Jack Frost! Blooming cold here too!

  2. I also have a pair of Feral Pigeons feeding in my garden Jan. The only thing i don`t like about em, is that they keep bullying the Stock Doves off the seed.

    PS : yes it is a juv Woodpigeon.

  3. I agree with you, where is the warm sun; I hope it doesn't mean that we wont get a summer. A beautiful list of the nature displayed. Last, the poor Canada Geese, they are aware of Swan.

  4. Hi Jan,

    Wonderful photos, crazy Mr Swan!!! We all know how aggressive they can be near their nests... But that's verging on psychotic :D

    I love the little ducklings, how cute are they??!
    Coot babies on the other hand... Only a mother could love ;)

    The Cowslips look wonderful, I love wildflowers, even more so when they're left to do their own thing in the wild.

    I hope the weather gets better for you, it's mixed here but we have seen sun! Oooh look at me boasting! ha ha, it was even warm in the sun day would you believe!

  5. Great post - loved seeing the 2 families - so sweet! And the swans nest is huge. I've never seen one before. I guess they couldn't be small with a bird that size, LOL. We've had pigeons coming to our yard too and have been chasing them and the Stellars Jays off because they are pigs about taking all of the food from the little guys. Someone told me your Robins are so much different looking than ours, now I see why. Much prettier than ours I think.

  6. I do love Robert Frost, his words ring so true. Your photos are lovely, the cowslips, lady's smock, and crab apple blossoms were beatiful. The blossoms on my crab apple trees are a very distant memory, but I do have tiny green apples growing!

    The photos of the swan nest, and the fierce marauding swan were amazing. I could feel his outrage at the intruders!

  7. I really enjoyed your post. The threatening aspect of that swan almost defies belief!

  8. Great post Jan! Love the pretty flowers and the ducks and those swans are beautiful!! At least I get to see the water fowl through your eyes. Hugs!!

  9. I so enjoyed the photos of the angry swan, Jan! I've never seen anything like this before. He really does look quite menacing:) I've spent the last week visiting my youngest daughter whose apartment faces a wetland area. Every morning I would take her little dog out for a walk, and we'd get glimpses of all the ducks and their new ducklings swimming in the creek. I even saw two males, I assume, get into a fight one day! It was a great way to start each day.

    So sorry to hear about your cool spring. We had such a warm April, but May has been unpredictable here, too, with several mornings dipping near freezing. It makes it hard to know whether to plant some of my tender annuals yet or not.

  10. Another lovely post Jan with some great images and the poetic lines you have a real knack of finding the correct poem for the various images and it makes great reading.
    Yes Swans can be very aggresive to other species as well as there own, I witnessed a real battle about six years ago at Stithians at 6 o clock in the morning which lasted about 20 Minutes. I think I have some pics somewhere and if I find them I will post them.

  11. As always, loved seeing your birds. People in this area sometimes keep swans in their ponds to discourage the Canada geese. For some reason, swans will accept ducks but hate geese.

    Robert Frost is my favorite poet and you chose one of my favorite of his poems.

  12. Hi Jan....swans, they make my heart sing. No matter what pose they take, they have such an air of serenity about them. I know they can be aggressive.

    I had a reed bunting feeding with the sparrows for quite a while.He has gone now......must have paired up and looking after babies.

    The poem at the beginning is most apt for the month of May so far. I have been lighting log fires each evening it is just so cold.

    Jan, your posts always bring 'Diary of a country lady' to mind. Always enchanting.....

  13. That's a very nice post and I really like the header photo of the Chaffinch. Whenever I see male Swans acting in this fashion the two words that always spring to my mind are 'bristling' and 'battleship' for some reason. Very intimidating and it always seems to me that the aggression is particularly intense when Canada Geese are involved.
    Thanks very much for your continued kind comments on my blog by the way.

  14. Great post Jan, and a cracking new header.
    You'll get the Reed Bunting posing beautifully for you one day. I get quite a few here; very fortunate.
    The Mute Swans always amaze me how they power through the water so effortlessly when going into defence mode. You've really captured his pose perfectly. And that sideways glance at the end...priceless.

  15. Another cheery post Songbird, well done :-) the cold weather seems to be a theme om most blogs i look at.

  16. ShySongbird ,
    That is most definitely a Swan with attitude !
    Really enjoyed the post .

  17. Aren't the Swans just beautiful? I have only seen a few juvenile birds yet this year so it's nice to see them in your post! You can certainly tell the bird in your photo is a Reed Bunting despite it hiding :-)

  18. Lovely post.
    Cracking shot of the Chaffinch.
    I just came back from a holiday in Cornwall, and it was in full bloom. It's a pretty time of year.

  19. Some lovely poetry and I especially like the shot of the squirrel. Having few trees on the Peninsula we don't see very many of them.

  20. Dan

    Thank you, Dan :) It is lovely to see the 'new babies' and the parents always look so proud to be showing them off.


    Thank you, Dean and for the confirmation :) You are so lucky to have regular visits from the Stock Doves!

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you, Bob :) When warm April turned to cold May I had a feeling we were in for a month of it! Yes, those Geese certainly got a good telling off...for just being there!


    Thank you, Liz :) I definitely wouldn't have wanted to be a Canada Goose with that powering towards me! You are quite right about Coot babies, they do make me laugh...poor little things :) I have Cowslips growing in the grass in my garden, I look forward to seeing them every year.


    Thank you Linda :)

    That is the problem with birds that size such as Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves, they hog the bird tables and wolf the food down in moments! I have seen your Robins on blogs and they are very different to ours. Apart from the colouring, ours are much smaller and very dainty. Yours are lovely too though, very striking, I always think.

    Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Thank you, Jenny :)

    I think your season is much further on than ours! The weather in May has been so cold and slowed things down a lot so we still have lots of Apple blossom here.
    That Swan was quite something to see, he really had a mission :)

  21. Lovely post Jan, I enjoyed the Robert Frost poem about April.

  22. Wilma

    Thank you, Wilma :) It was very threatening, I definitely wouldn't have wanted to be the object of its rage!


    Thank you, Ginny :) I always enjoy hunting out the wildflowers and have done since a child. Take care, I am thinking of you...Big Hugs.


    Thank you, Rose :) I know it is not unusual for swans to be aggressive but that one did seem particularly fierce!
    It sounds like your daughter lives in a very nice place and the dog must love it too :)
    The last few days have been really cold here with overnight frost, not good for anyone who planted their annuals early, luckily I haven't!


    Thank you, Monty :) I do wonder about the poetry sometimes, it takes quite a time to find the right pieces and I'm sure it's not to everyone's taste but I think after all this time it wouldn't be 'my' blog without it.
    Goodness, a 20 minute swan battle, that must have been quite something to see! My incident went on for quite a while but at least the geese showed no resistance :)

    Roses and Lilacs

    Thank you, Marnie :) Yes, I have noticed that the swans don't seem to show any animosity towards ducks, perhaps it is because the geese are nearer their own size.
    Robert Frost did write some lovely poems, I seem to be using his work quite often.


    Thank you, Cheryl :) How lovely to actually have a Reed Bunting in your garden, it just shows what a wonderful habitat you have created.
    It has been exceptionally cold here too, such a disappointment as May is often so beautiful.
    Your last comment has made my day, what a wonderful compliment...thank you so much :)

  23. Wonderful nature shots! That swan definitely means business ~ whoa! I bet those Canada Geese were taken aback. It's a lovely time of year with new growth in all forms.

  24. Phil

    Thank you, Phil :) 'battleship'... yes, I like that, a very appropriate description!
    It certainly does seem to be the Canada Geese that the swans dislike most, I suppose they must feel threatened by their similarity in size.
    I am very pleased to have found your blog, it is always a pleasure to read :)


    Thank you, Keith :) If only the birds would pose to order things would be so much easier although you must have the knack as they always seem to pose beautifully for you.
    Yes it was funny, the swan definitely looked like it was inviting a round of applause :)

    Warren Baker

    Thank you, Warren :) Thankfully the weather seems to have warmed up slightly in the last two days but the clouds seem to be rolling in too. Hope it's better in Kent!


    Thank you, Greenie :) It was very entertaining to watch. Quite a drama!


    Thank you, Pam :) Yes, swans are beautiful creatures and usually look so serene.
    I haven't seen as many juveniles as I would have expected but it has been such a strange season weather-wise, so far.

  25. Razboynik

    Thank you, Andrew :) The prettiest season of all in my opinion and Cornwall in the Spring...just wonderful! I'm sure you had a great time.


    Thank you, Kerry :) We are blessed with many trees here so we see lots of Squirrels. My friend who lives nearby has them in her garden, eating the bird's food most days.

    Linda Yarrow

    Thank you, Linda :) I thought the Frost poem fitted in quite well, the weather was obviously just as changeable in his day as it is now!


    Thank you, Glo :) The geese did look rather bewildered, especially as they had been quietly minding their own business and the swan had travelled some distance along the lake to make its point :)
    I agree, such a lovely, positive time of year.

  26. Hi Jan,
    Finally getting around to catching up..

    Lovely new header of the Chaffinch..The threat of the Mute Swan is sooo macho..makes me smile when I see them.

    Just another wonderful post, don't know how you do it.


  27. Your pictures are wonderful. I particularly like the shots of the swan. We seem to be having the same sort of weather, cold and damp here.

  28. Lovely collection again of photographs with supporting text and verse. A lot of birds do become very agressive during the mating season and is something I would rather avoid seeing. Dipper next Jan.

  29. excellent post jan,you certainly have a way of connecting verse and photo, hopefully we are going to have a good summer to combat the harsh winter, not that long ago they went hand in hand.

  30. John

    Thank you, John :) I hope you are feeling much better now. The swan really did want to show the geese who was boss...and succeeded! I saw a Canada Goose picking a fight with a Coot the other day, I'm sure you can guess who won that one :)


    Thank you, OC :) It seems to be warming up here at last although we still don't have much sunshine, hope it improves for you soon!

    The Abbot

    Thank you, Trevor :) I agree, they can become really quite vicious!
    A Dipper would be wonderful but unfortunately not at all likely in this area, oh well! I will continue to admire them on your site.


    Thank you, Denis :) It is fun trying to match the verse with the photos but can be very time consuming! When we had such a nice April I remember thinking that if a good Summer is the reward we get for a harsh Winter then it is worth the price but May has been very disappointing here, so far. Hopefully it will pick up for all of us soon.

  31. Hi,
    The swan pictures are awesome... Its attitude is so nice. Well done on these capture. I do also love a lot the robin and the chicks pictures. We still do not have any chicks over here.

  32. Chris

    Thank you, Chris :) The swan certainly did have attitude!

    It has turned warmer here again in the last few days so I think we will soon see more youngsters, I hope you do too.

    I hope all is going well with Lucas :)

  33. Thank you for the Swan story. He is so gorgeous....
    I love the way his wings are up at almost full sail.
    It has been a cold wet month so far at my house too. I see sun this evening....

  34. Don't know how I missed this post Jan. Anyway a marvellous illustrated read as always. Love the captures of the irate swan.

  35. Beautiful and lovely shots !!Simply amazing and fantastic !!You are a great photographer !!I hope you are well now after surgery !!will come back soon !!Take Care.

  36. Lovely Springtime images there Jan, guessing things have changed around you since then with the warm weather we’ve been having. Love the Lady’s Smock :-D

    Great to see the Coots and Mallards out with their families. I saw a pair of Mallards just yesterday with slightly older young but only two :-(

    Lovely swan images… you caught mood and reflection very well indeed. However, I have to say I’m rather taken with the Canada Goose.

    Lol… that grey squirrel image is priceless! Very good. We had one doing some acrobatics at the bird feeders at the weekend.

    Hope you are well. Have a great week :-D

  37. Q

    Thank you, Sherry :) I'm glad you enjoyed the swan story, it was fascinating to watch him.
    I hope your weather improves soon, it has turned very warm indeed here in the last few days but is set to turn cooler again soon.

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you for your kind words, John :) We spent quite some time watching the swan, I'm just glad I wasn't the object of his ire!

  38. Hi Jan I hope you pick up on this message, If you want to try and identify anything wild in the UK, have a look at
    Not a complete reference but pretty darn good. Also I use a couple of Books , these are "Complete British Wildlife Photo Guide" from Collins around £14.99. Also the "Collins Complete Guide to BritISH Insects" at £16.99 although you may find them cheaper online. Hope this helps.

  39. Hello Jan, so many cute as well as beautiful pictures. I think it’s me that needs to get some tips from you when it comes too photography.

    I loved the picture of the robin!

    I hope you are keeping well…love Lou xxx

  40. Unseen Rajasthan

    Thank you, Bharat :) Your comments are very generous and much appreciated. I am a lot better now but things will be much improved, I hope, when I have had surgery on the other eye which will be in July. It was very kind of you to enquire. I am struggling a little to keep up with blogging but will visit you very soon!

  41. shirl

    Thank you, Shirl :) Yes, things have changed...and changed again! We had temperatures of 28 or 29 degrees last week but today we have persistent rain and 12 degrees :(

    I too saw a Mallard with only two young the other day, I don't like to think what happened to the rest...

    I felt sorry for the Canada Geese but just last week saw one being aggresive towards a Coot, they all seem to be as bad during the breeding season! Yes, it is always fun to watch the Squirrel antics, so entertaining and agile.

    Have a good weekend, whatever the weather!

  42. Monts

    Thank you very much for taking the time, Monty, how kind of you! I have looked at 'wildabout Brtain' and it is as you say a very good reference site and I do own the Collins books which I think are excellent, my insect one is particularly well thumbed :) but I still find it quite challenging, sometimes, to identify what I have seen as there are so many different types of tiny insect...and then there are the many different moths...!! It is fun trying though :) Thanks again Monty, it is much appreciated!

  43. lou

    Thanks very much for your kind comments, Lou. Luckily for me the Robin was a bit of a poser :)

    I hope you're not working too hard, I know it's a very busy time of year for you! Lots of love and XXXX to you and Poppy.


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