Wildlife Watch June 2017 by David Cummings
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WILDLIFE WATCH

Barn Owl
David Cummings

David Cummings

June

2017

A monthly series for 2017 about the wonderful world of wildlife. Each month I hope to share with you some of my experiences of watching and filming wildlife across the world, as well as keeping you up to date with wildlife sightings in the Parish

Cranes and Swans

Last month Beryl and I planned a visit to both Slimbridge Wildlife and Wetland Trust Reserve and Wells Cathedral as part of a journey south to search for our family history. The visit to Slimbridge took place early on a really warm spring day, and whilst the waterfowl sightings of swans and ducks were wonderful, we also heard the most superb bird song, with cetti’s, sedge and reed warblers, lesser and common whitethroats in full song. A pair of superbly coloured kingfishers darted in and out of their nest site along a river bank, whilst suddenly from out of the blue in the sky above our heads, came three colourful cranes. Cranes were re introduced to the West Country several years ago, with staff at Slimbridge being heavily involved, and in the last two years, nesting attempts have been made. I think it is only a matter of time before successful breeding takes place, after an absence of over 400years. We had wonderful views of the cranes flying out towards the Severn estuary, seeing them feeding in the big lagoon, as well as seeing them circle majestically over the reserve grounds. There was also a pair in one of the centre’s pens, performing a dramatic courtship display, with some extraordinary bouncing flights and dances. I hope that this dramatic display will eventually lead to egg laying and breeding. It certainly deserved to.

We also had the opportunity to take a canoe safari and gently paddle through the grounds, to get a closer look at the warblers in the reed beds, and had even better views of the cranes as they floated and circled in the warm air currents overhead, before landing nearby in the centre grounds. I hope the pictures accompanying this article will give you a good impression of these magnificent long legged, long necked birds that are now very much part of the scene, at the WWT reserve at Slimbridge and on the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury.

Our visit to the Bishops Palace adjacent to Wells Cathedral co-incided with the birth of eight healthy cygnets to the current resident pair of mute swans. Swans are said to ring a bell in the wall at the Bishops Palace when they want food. It seems that this tradition goes back hundreds of years, and I remember first hearing the story back in the 1950s when I visited the Cathedral on a school trip. There are a number of videos on U tube illustrating this fascinating story, but I can’t image the swan family ever needing more food as there was an enormous supply of plants and weeds in the moat surrounding the Palace for them to forage on. You can see the efforts the adults were making to bring the food to the surface in the accompanying pictures. These cygnets will grow to adult size in just over four months, and then be chased off the site by their parents. The question I keep asking myself is. “ How is the knowledge of ringing the bell for food passed on to each new generation of swans”. It’s been going on for so long, tens of different pairs of swans must have been involved. Just how do they do it?

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Crane

    Crane

  •  Crane

    Crane

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Cranes

    Cranes

  •  Wells Cathedral

    Wells Cathedral

  •  Swans

    Swans

  •  Swan

    Swan

  •  Swan and cygnets

    Swan and cygnets

  •  Swans with cygnets

    Swans with cygnets

  •  Cygnet

    Cygnet

Wildlife Watch June 2017 by David Cummings