New owls

Last month a lone female took a liking to the new owl box and quickly settled in. Not long after, she started bringing a fella back and they are now officially a couple. No signs of eggs yet but it shouldn’t be long.

Two new barn owls: male on the left and female on the right

19 March 2023. Having set up a third camera on the ledge we’ve managed to work out the leg ring numbers on each owl. The male is a young barn owl, hatched last year at a site five miles from here, and the female much older, almost five years old and has come from a site about nine miles away.

Part of one leg ring (upside down but legible)
One owl posing for a leg ring photo in front of the camera.

Valentine’s Day

And the frogs and toads are gathering. The toads have appeared first, in great numbers, as they head towards the pond. Some can’t wait until they get there.

Two common toads can’t wait until they get to the water.
Lots of frog spawn in the small pond, 19 February 2024.
Common toads and strings of newly-laid toad spawn, 20 February 2024.
Two common toads and a smooth newt, 20 February 2024.

A gang of male common frogs writhing around a lone female (somewhere in the middle).

Surprise arrivals

We knew there was a moorhen in the pond, but we didn’t realise there were two and they were nesting! Here’s the result: six chicks, probably only a day old.

The mother spends time feeding the chicks until they can fend for themselves.

Moorhens have very big feet for their size, from the day they hatch!

Growing up fast

The greylag gosling is now two weeks old and growing fast. The adult male has disappeared, leaving the female to bring up the gooselet (no, this isn’t a real word) on her own, but she seems to be doing a good job.

Update 12 June. Three weeks old and doing well!

Update 16 June. Unfortunately it looks as though we’ve lost the greylag gosling. We last saw it a week ago and briefly saw the mother fly off a couple of days ago (she never leaves the gosling on its own). Such is nature, though whether it was a predator like a fox we’ll never know.

Two goose eggs

A careful drone flyby when the mother was away feeding shows two intact eggs in the middle of the nest. There may be more to come as four or five are a typical clutch for a greylag goose.

Update 21 May 2023. The two goose eggs disappeared a few days later, then two more appeared but the female crushed one. The remaining one survived and just two hours ago hatched and the gosling is already happily swimming around the pond!

A gang of Mallards

A dozen shy young mallards (mostly female) have just arrived by the pond. I might get a better shot if they’re still here tomorrow, but I don’t want to disturb them.

The next morning and they’re still here, doing what ducks do: eating the pond plants and messing up the water!

Update 20 July. The mallards have gone, back to their pond next door where they had escaped from!

Baby fish

The hungry heron hasn’t eaten all the fish! The little sticklebacks we put in in the spring have, surprisingly, spawned and the shallows are full of tiny little ones, each no more than a cm long but already displaying the three spines than give them their name. Long may they be small and unnoticeable to the big bird.

Exception to the rule

We’ve made the decision to add a non-native species to the pond: grass carp. Originally from Asia where they are used to get rid of weeds in paddy fields and that is what we need them for here. We have the first signs of broadleaved pondweed in the pond and really do not want it to take hold as it could completely take over, as it has done in the small pond.

The fish are herbivores and won’t eat amphibia or other fish, and won’t breed either and so are a safe and hopefully effective form of weed control. So long as the herons don’t eat them.

Fishy lawnmowers
The first signs of broadleaved pondweed
Uncontrolled broadleaved pondweed in the small pond