Sunday 27 March 2022

Gadwall courtship. Walmsley sanctuary 26.3.22.

 Sometimes the courtship display and free for all in the duck world can be a dramatic affair which does appear to be very unpleasant for the females.

Here 5 drakes vied for the attention of the duck and there was a lot of jostling for position and bullying of the female. I'm sure the avian equivalent of rape is widespread amongst wildfowl.

I once watched over a dozen drake mallard kill the female in a continued onslaught just to mate with her. 

Gadwall have successfully bred at Walmsley sanctuary since 2012 when this was a first breeding record for the County. They've bred every year since.

They are usually very late breeders and don't normally hatch till late June although everything seems early this year so it may be sooner.

The female is the bird with the orange sides to her bill, there is only the one female in these photos and up to 5 drakes.

Here are a few more images of the amorous adventures of Gadwall.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Life begins again on the river. Kingfishers 22.3.22

Kingfisher pair copulating


It's that time of the year when the days have started to lengthen & hormone levels rise and the birds start to think about nesting & egg laying and all the stress, strength &  fortitude it takes to raise a family on the river. Amazingly for the kingfisher it'll probably be 2 families as they usually have 2 broods.

I got lucky this morning (although I'd like to think I got my timing right) the male bird had been excavating the nest burrow... see photo with mud on his beak. When he flew off upstream the female dropped onto the same sprig of riverside Alder. Not long later I heard the male bird calling in an excited manner and in the blink of an eye he was perched beside her and in another blink had started mating.

They mated twice inside of 15 minutes and after that he brought her a gift of what I'm pretty sure is an Emperor dragonfly larva. She struggled to get the insect down and took quite a while to swallow it. I've seen them catch dragonfly larva before but always in the past when the river was in flood & the water the colour of chocolate. 

Not long after he returned again, this time with a fish, neatly presented to her head first so the fins and spines don't catch in her throat.

Later he caught a bullhead but she had retired to the nest burrow so he eventually flew off with it for self consumption I guess!

These photos were taken on private land and I hold a Natural England Schedule 1 licence for this species. 

Here are just a few of the images I took this morning.

I hope to take many more as the spring & summer progress.

Male with earth on its beak through excavating the nest burrow

Kingfisher pair copulating

Kingfisher pair copulating

Kingfisher pair copulating

Kingfisher pair copulating

Kingfisher pair copulating

Kingfisher pair copulating

Female with an Emperor dragonfly larva

Female with an Emperor dragonfly larva

Female with an Emperor dragonfly larva

Female in the sun

A tasty salmonid in this food pass

Male kingfisher with a bullhead

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Bittern finally shows in the open at Walmsley sanctuary, Wadebridge 8.3.22.


After a few weeks of trying to get a decent photo of this elusive creature today it finally gave itself up to my trusty Nikon!

I'd seen it in the reserve a few times now but it was always distant. 

I'd even become quite proficient at finding it and pointing it out to visiting birders but today as they say was "something else!".

It skulked out of the reed bed and strolled across the grass towards the willows , occasionally stopping to pose and do a bit of sky pointing. The light was pretty good but there was a bit of rain swirling in the strong southerly winds so really all I had to do was get it in focus.

This was point blank range stuff and I was concerned it may pick up on the dulcet tones of the Nikon shutter but no need to be concerned it took no notice whatsoever....I add that I was in a hide.

Here are a few more images of it as it gave up its private world for a few minutes.

Monday 7 March 2022

More Otter pics from the Amble marshes, Wadebridge, Cornwall 7.3.22

Otter having a clean and roll in the grass 


This otter has been around our reserve, Walmsley sanctuary near Wadebridge since November and has been uncharacteristic in its habits, showing openly at all times of the day whether in sunshine or the darkest of gloom.

Many visitors to the reserve have had their first ever sighting of a truly wild otter and it has been so good to see peoples faces when they've watched it swirling in the water and diving deep only to be betrayed by the line of bubbles with which we've been able to track its progress.

It's not always easy to see which makes it even more exciting when we do catch sight of it and because of its high metabolism it does seem to be always eating. I've watched it with sticklebacks, with newts and also with what I think is a large Rudd.


One of the largest fish I've seen in the reserve, possibly a Rudd.

In the 25 years I've been warden of this site I've never come across such a "showy" animal and feel privileged to watch and photograph it at such close quarters.

Here are a few more photos from the past few days.