It seems that just one month in to my challenge to see as many birds in one year, I have already pretty much run out of species to accidentally encounter with a wander down the local pond, park or area of woodland. To this end, I have started having to scour the internet for reports of sightings not on my list…
Those helpful people at the Surrey Bird Club informed me (via their website) that a Tern – possibly a Sandwich Tern – had perhaps been seen at Frenches Pond in Redhill. This was a place just a couple of miles from where I had woken up, so I thought I’d pop along. I had yet to see any sort of Tern thus far this year, so if it was still around, it would be a definite tick. Hooray!
On arrival, I scoured the trees and the water for the Tern. It wasn’t there… This is the problem with trying to spot things that move about. They are quite often not in the same place for long.
Frenches Pond was an interesting place – a sizeable water feature that you would usually expect to find itself sloshing about in a park, but is one that is actually in the middle of a housing estate. There were a surprising amount of waterfowl dabbling – Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Coots, Canada and Egyptian Geese and significantly, for list purposes anyway, a solitary Red-Crested Pochard. I’d only ever seen one of those at St James Park in London before and I had assumed that that one had been there because the groundskeeper had tempted it there with some tasty pondweed nibbles and then clipped its wings to make sure it never left. Cruel, but excellent for the tourists who always love to see exotic looking birds with bright red heads on their way from Buckingham Palace to 10 Downing Street.
If I’m honest, all the birds in this pond may have had their wings clipped – as none of them flew anywhere during my visit. The Tern had definitely flown somewhere else. If my morning was a board game, you could say I had missed a Tern.
There were also a couple of Tufted Ducks that appeared to be cross-bred with another unknown bird. I have yet to work out where the other 50% of genetic material may have originated from. Does anyone have any suggestions? I’m confused because all the pictures of Tufted Duck hybrids I’ve seen have had bright yellow eyes. These birds seemed to have pale blue ones. The only other bird I can recall having similar coloured eyes is a Jackdaw and I’m pretty sure that sort of cross-breeding is incomprehensible! In fact, I was starting to doubt the first half was Tufted Duck. If only Gregor Mendel had hybridized with Charles Darwin – I imagine that their offspring would know the answer…
Bewildered by genetics and trying to imagine what a Mendel/Darwin cross would look like, I moved onto Earlswood Lake for my weekly visit.
In the car park and heading in the direction of the top lake was a ‘Swan Rescue’ van. Had I had stumbled across a 999-style emergency? Was Michael Buerk somewhere in the undergrowth offering his trademark semi-whispered commentary? Probably not… I don’t think 999 covered animal incidents (with the exception of that time an administrative assistant somehow managed to get his leg caught in a lion whilst photocopying). I assume there is/was an animal-based equivalent – but its memory escapes me.
I took a wander up to the top lake and saw the Mute Swan on the bank. I don’t know what an unhappy Swan looks like, but this one definitely wasn’t smiling and was sitting fairly motionless.
The van had not yet arrived because it was now stuck in the mud on the far side of the lower lake.
Four of us took up a position behind the van and pushed. It lurched forwards and was able to drive back onto the pathway. We had rescued Swan Rescue! If I understood the meaning of irony, I might say that the situation was ironic… but, I guess, it might only be ironic if at least one of the pushers was a swan. Yes, I definitely don’t understand the meaning of irony.
The chap got out of the van, put on full waders up to his armpits and grabbed a ten-foot pole with a hook on it from the back – He needed neither as the swan was not in the water and let him pick it up without resistance. I was always under the impression that a swan would always break your arm if you got too close – This was surely definitive proof that this is a myth.
A day full of excitement, but only one new bird for my list. I am now at eighty-three for the year.