Monday, 21 February 2011

Ducking and Diving at Draycote

After last week's, optimistic 'Suggestions of Spring' post, showing Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and Daffodil buds it has felt more like Winter again here with low temperatures, rain and dreary days.

'Ah ! wherefore still the leafless wood,
The angry, roaring, raging flood,
That headlong rushes red as blood?
Ah! wherefore still, snow, sleet, and hail,
When vegetation should prevail.
And winter end her dismal tale?'
(Stephen George Kemble)

It was a pleasure, after an enforced absence, to be able to visit Draycote Water again recently but unfortunately when we arrived the wind had picked up and made walking and trying to hold the camera steady, an uncomfortable experience.

I love Draycote. It is one of the only places within easy reach to see birds which wouldn't usually frequent this landlocked area. The problem there is though, that unless you have the time to walk the five and a half miles around the whole perimeter, the decision has to be made as to which is the 'right' way to walk. As I don't usually have enough time to go all the way round my luck is that unfortunately, when looking for a particular bird which I know is there, I inevitably manage to pick the 'wrong' way. I always check the Draycote website before I go so this time was hoping to see the drake Smew off Farborough Bank where it had been sighted the day before and for several days previously. Of course, as is nearly always my luck, when I visited it had moved to the other side :( Oh well! We made the best of it and I was pleased to see a pair of Goldeneye Ducks. The Goldeneyes have a slight look of the Smew I think.

Goldeneye Ducks

'From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings.'
(Frank W. Harvey)

What a striking bird the drake is.

Goldeneye (Drake)

The female has an attractiveness of her own too.

Goldeneye (Hen)

'And when beneath the pool
They dabble, and when they swim

And make their rippling rings,
0 ducks are beautiful things!'
(Frank W. Harvey)

Diving ducks (as opposed to dabblers) such as the Goldeneye can of course be frustrating to photograph due to their habit of disappearing under the water just as one is about to press the camera shutter but I can be pretty well always guaranteed to see another diving duck there, the Tufted Duck and I managed to catch this one just before it dived.

Tufted Duck (Drake)

We walked to the hide but as seems to nearly always be the case at Draycote it was locked. If it hadn't been I would have had a much better view of this mixed group of ducks which included Mallards, Teal and the odd Wigeon and Gadwall.

A Mixture of Ducks

'Tails uppermost, or waddling
Sailor-like on the shores
Of ponds, or paddling -
Left! Right! - with fanlike feet

Which are for steady oars.'
(Frank W. Harvey)

In the field on the far side of the water, among the Crows, I saw lots of Fieldfares but unfortunately they were too far away for photos.

In the trees, I spotted this Squirrel.

Grey Squirrel

'Small as he is, he knows he may want,
In the bleak winter weather, when food is scant,
So he finds a hole in an old tree's core,
And there makes his nest, and lays up his store.'

(Mary Howitt)

A little further on, I saw a gull, walking in the grass below the trees, which I think may be a second winter Common Gull or just a Common Gull in Winter plumage but as I am no expert on gulls and in my experience Black-headed Gulls are far more 'common' than Common Gulls, I stand to be corrected.

Common Gull?
(Edit: Thanks to Warren for confirmation of my ID)

The following photos were all taken at Draycote too but at the end of October, during a visit I didn't get round to posting here.

As is usually the case there were plenty of Pied Wagtails on the rocks looking for a tasty insect or two.

Pied Wagtail

I was pleased to see a good number of Meadow Pipits foraging on the grassy bank at the side of the path. They weren't too bothered by passers by, just flying a little further on when approached, before settling again.

Meadow Pipit

'Birds are poetry come to life and set to music'
(Elizabeth Gordon)

On this occasion I got a better view of a Teal

Teal Duck (drake)

and also of this Gadwall which entered into a prolonged and sometimes synchronised preening session with a Mallard. I watched them for some time hoping that the Gadwall would give me a better pose but it was far too busy with its ablutions to worry about photo opportunities!

Gadwall with Mallard (above and below)

The Cormorants at Draycote are usually seen standing sentinel on boats or buoys but the one in the photo below was in the water seeking its next meal


While this Canada Goose looked as if it was trying to will something to appear for its meal!

Canada Goose

Well that's it for now...enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. A good blog and a wonderful series of waterlife that you have taken.

  2. Hi Songbird,
    .......and where, may I ask, did you get that sunshine from? !!!


    I agree with your ID on the winter Adult Common Gull, also can you send me a Meadow Pipit, not had one here all month.

    See Ya!

  3. ShySongbird ,
    My first question was going to be re. that sunshine , almost forgotten what it looks like .
    Glad Warren ID'd your Gull , I always get them wrong .
    Great shots all the way , but especially those Goldeneye . Those and the Smew , shame you didn't get the drake , are my favourites .
    Most enjoyable .

  4. Hi Jan,

    Lovely photos, very nice to see the Meadow Pipet!

    I can't help with the Gull, sorry... I'm ignorant when it comes to the gulls and their plumages - especially when so many look so alike! :D

    Please get rid of all this grey for us, I've had enough now and would like the sun and warmer temperatures back, thanks!

  5. Hi Jan, Always a pleasure to read your blog. Thankyou.

  6. It seems that ducks and squirrels have made their way into a few blogs across the globe, which confirms we are all connected in many ways. I recognize similar species as over here, and some that I'm not familiar with. I think we're all ready for some decent doesn't necessarily have to be really warm, but bright sunshine is always a plus. Your choice of poetry is delightful, and many I have never read before which is an added plus :)

  7. Lovely to see so many 'quackers' Jan but the Goldeneye have to be the star. As you know the Smew can be very elusive but one day I know you'll get a super close view.

  8. Bob Bushell

    Thank you very much Bob :)

    Warren Baker

    Hi Warren :) Thank you, it was only a couple of weeks ago but I can hardly remember the sun now myself ;)
    Thanks for the Common Gull confirmation.
    I'll swap a Mippit for a Goldcrest or a Siskin !


    Thank you Greenie :) I can barely remember that lovely sunshine myself now!
    It was disappointing not to see the Smew, such is my luck ;)

  9. It appears to be a good outing no matter which side you take--but I can understand the chase its part of the fun right? Well you got some really awesome photos for your trouble..your Pipin reminds me of our wood thrush..and I knew the pied wagtail just from seeing all the great post by my UK friends!! Thats just super--hope you get a great week--

  10. At least you got to see quite a few of those beautiful ducks on your trip. That water must be so cold. Is all your snow gone?? We have quite a bit here yet and it's not done snowing yet. But then it's still February. I sure am looking forward to spring though. Take care Jan and thanks for all your comments. Big hugs!

  11. It really is a great place isn't it Jan, and a great selection there.
    I love the shots of that Meadow Pipit.
    I guess the local yobs are the reason for the locked hide; a shame some people can't leave things alone, and have to spoil it for everyone else.
    The Canada Goose does look very interested in something there. His reflection perhaps?
    Vanity in the bird world lol

  12. Wow what a diversity.. I can almost see all these birds over here too, but not now, a little bit later. The meadow pipit for example is not back, but we have the teals and ducks ;-)

  13. I don't think I've seen the Sun since last Wednesday and the temperature has hovered around 3C day and night here.

    Draycote seems a lovely place for spotting our feathered friends. You captured a lovely variety there.

  14. Hi Jan, it's so fascinating to see the different birds. The ducks are all so beautiful and the Goldeneye is something I haven't seen (on blogs) before. Love the photo of the squirrel and great captures of the meadow pipit and the pied wagtail.

  15. Jan,

    Nice shots of the Gadwall, one of my favourite ducks, which has a soft purring quack.

  16. Very nice post again Jan and how nice to see that rare commodity, sunshine, in some of your super pics.
    The Goldeneyes are great, especially the drakes, you just have to point the camera at such super birds. Ditto the Teal, which I can never get close enough to for a decent picture.

  17. Liz

    Thanks Liz :) I agree, gulls can be a nightmare to ID!
    I too have had enough of this weather, the sooner we get some more sun, the better :)

    Mike Atwood

    Hi Mike, thank you very much :)


    Hi Glo :) Thank you, yes I had to smile when I saw your post knowing what mine was going to feature.
    I agree, it doesn't have to be warm, just some nice, bright sunshine, it makes such a difference I think!
    So glad you enjoyed the poetry, it isn't easy to find the right pieces, I think I will have to start repeating myself soon ;)

  18. Frank

    Thank you Frank, I thought the Goldeneye were stars too especially as the Smew and also a Scaup outwitted usual :)


    Thank you Sondra, you're quite right of course, on the rare occasion that I do pick the 'right' side it is a real thrill :)
    The Meadow Pipit is a super little bird which usually turns up on that grassy bank about the same time every year...and long may it continue to :)


    Thank you Ginny :) The water certainly looks very cold and the wind that blows across it is biting! Thankfully our snow is all gone now but no guarantee that we may have some more before Winter is finally finished with us though. So pleased you are feeling reasonably well Ginny, I am thinking of you as always and sending huge hugs back :)

  19. Delighted to see you out and about with your camera at your fav spot again, Jan :-)

    I do enjoy seeing and hearing about your walks through your eyes. I’m certain in the past I have admired the Meadow Pipit. I have never seen one and once again, your wonderful images have made it catch my attention again! Very nice :-D

    There is a walk near us that has the same dilemma of which point to start (8 miles) and which direction to go. I am never looking for a particular sighting but could understand how frustrating/disappointing it must be if you miss out by going the wrong way.

    In my eyes you do very well with the number of species you seen and the photos you manage to get. BTW I loved the little Pied wagtail too. Enjoy the rest of your week :-D

  20. holdingmoments

    Thanks Keith :) Yes it is, I love it and only wish I could get there more often. You are so lucky having Caldecotte on your doorstep.
    The hide was vandalised but even before that it never seemed to be open much and last time I noticed they hadn't been filling the feeders by the side of it. I meant to mention that on my post in the hope it might get back to the right quarters but forgot. I will see if there is any change next time.


    Thank you Chris :) There is usually a good variety of birds to see there. I think I read that you see Meadow Pipits in Iceland.
    I hope your health is still improving.

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you John :) No sun here either now but it is a little milder today.
    Yes, Draycote is a great place, I'm so glad I discovered it.

  21. kanak7

    Hi Kanak :) Thank you. I had not seen a Goldeneye in my immediate vicinity either, that is why Draycote is such a pleasure to visit, there is usuallly something of interest there.
    The Squirrel wasn't in the best light for photos but at least it stayed around for a while which makes a nice change.

    Derek Faulkner

    TThank you Derek :) I love to hear the different water bird sounds but I'm sure that living where you do you are much more familiar with all the different ones than I am.


    Thank you Phil :) I think we are all ready for some more sunshine now. It is a little milder here today but wet and miserable.
    The Goldeneyes and Teal are very striking and as you know the Smew is too...well it would have been if I had found it ;)
    Hope you are feeling better than you were.

  22. shirl

    Thank you Shirl, it was good to get out again and lovely to catch up with Draycote :)

    I have only ever seen Meadow Pipits at Draycote and always on the same grassy bank and at the same time of year, they are lovely little birds.

    It can be very frustrating but when I do pick the 'right way' and see the bird I was hoping for it does feel good ;)

    Those little wagtails always seem such cheery little things.

    Enjoy the rest of your week too :)

  23. As always, such a delightful collection of photos, Jan! You are so fortunate to have a place like Draycote near you. I live in a land-locked area, too, so "water" birds are something I only see when I travel. I know so little about ducks--the Goldeneye is a beauty. But I especially love the photos of the gadwall with the mallard. They look like a pair of ladies fixing their hair and make-up before going off to party:)

  24. Jan, It must be lovely to have Draycote so close. I would be there at every available opportunity. What a wonderful way to get some refreshing exercise.

    Is it due to vandalism that the hide was not open? I find that happens here more often than I like.

    I love the meadow pipit.......
    you are so lucky to have seen one.

  25. Dear Jan,
    I have so enjoyed catching up with you this evening. Always a delight to see your birds.
    The waterfowl are amazing but the Meadow Pipit stole my heart. A darling bird.
    I am feeling much better. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  26. Hi Jan Just catching up with your post's after a couple of weeks,and love the spring flowers. I agree with Frank, that Goldeneye is the star of this post
    Also may I say many thanks for your kind wishes you left on my blog, they were greatly appreciated.

  27. Rose

    Thank you Rose :) It has been a real pleasure to discover Draycote, I just wish it was a teeny bit nearer than it is.
    It must have been a very fine party that the Gadwall and Mallard were preparing for, they spent a long time getting their appearance just right ;)


    Thanks Pete :)


    Thank you Cheryl :) Yes, Draycote is a joy to visit, it is about half an hour away by car which isn't too bad but I do wish it was even nearer.
    Sadly the hide was vandalised last year and I am not sure if it has been repaired since but even before that it was often locked by mid-afternoon which always seemed too early to me. The visitors centre has been closed for some time also, there were plans to improve or replace it I believe but nothing seems to be happening.
    The Meadow Pipits are delightful and seem to favour that grassy bank each year at the same time.
    I hope you and Mr P have a lovely weekend in Cornwall :)

  28. Hi Jan.
    Nice set of photo's. It is always nice seeing Common Gulls, even though they are not that common, saying that, I am seeing a lot more of them now than I did a few years ago.
    Love your blogs Jan. Keep it up

  29. Hi Shy, You always have such an array of great photos! I love the quote: 'Birds are poetry come to life and set to music' :-) Mr. Shady loves the ducks!!

  30. Q

    Thank you, I am so pleased you are feeling much better now Sherry and it is lovely to 'see you out and about' :) The Meadow Pipits were a delight to see, such busy and cheerful little birds.
    I do hope you continue to improve, make sure you don't try to do too much too soon :)


    Hi Monty, Thank you :) I hope things are getting back to some semblance of normality for you...these things take time.
    I did enjoy seeing the Goldeneye, it is not a bird I would see closer to home.


    Thank you Ken :) I think when it was given the name Common Gull it must have been a lot commoner than it is now, certainly where I live the most 'common' gull is the Black-headed, not that any gulls are really common here.

    Shady Gardener

    Thank you Shady :) I particularly liked that quote myself, it says so much in so few words I think. Thank you also to Mr Shady for looking!

  31. Great shots. I don't know how that squirrel is managing to hang onto those thin branches, lol.

  32. oldcrow61

    Thank you OC :) That's a very good point that hadn't occurred to me but I can see exactly what you mean :)

  33. Lovely post ShySongbird & great photos. I love the one of the Canada Goose! I keep hearing the UK are getting wet & grey weather at the mo - Ireland have had days of glorious sunshine, for a change! Hope you get the sun soon :)

  34. Sharon

    Thank you Sharon, The Canada Goose made me laugh, it was just peering so intently!
    It has been horrible here for some days now, it is dry today but so dull and cold, only 4C at the moment :( It sounds lovely weather where you are, maybe I should come and visit :)

  35. Hi Jan, such wonderful pictures that I always enjoy so much. In saying that I wonder how I missed so many of your posts recently - I just got caught up and I'm always so envious of how many different birds you get to see and photograph. I'm lucky to see 10 up here. I took pictures of a wetland the county (?) is developing on the way to town. Hoping it will attract lots of birds and critters.
    Hey my anniversary was in February too but I was very late. I was reading your profile again and I'm amazed at all that we have in common - especially movies. I have a collection of old ones - probably a couple hundred black and whites and I see you like Notting Hill - I LOVE that movie and especially the song (She) at the end. Take care and you too stay well. We've had a go of it haven't we?

  36. RainGardener

    Hi Linda :) I find it difficult to keep up with all the blogs I like too, you are welcome here whenever you have a moment.
    The develping wetland near you sounds very exciting, you must keep an eye on it and keep us updated.
    We too have hundreds of old movies on dvd, they are great to watch over and over. Husband bought me a dvd boxed set of Bette Davis movies as part of my Christmas present which replaced a lot of old VHS tapes :)


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