Sunday, 22 May 2016

Swan Update and a Snake

Today I had a busy day, checking my trail cam and doing my usual patch survey and then later checking on the swans.

My trail cam, after a period of problems, is now working well again and this week recorded a resurgence in badger activity.

Elsewhere on the patch it was unusually quite, The Whitethroats were busy singing but apart from that there were remarkably few birds in evidence. I spent a lot of my time counting Banded Demoiselles and the butterflies. I also kept an eye out for snakes. Yesterday had been cool and wet but today was very warm in the sun and I thought that if I checked suitable basking spots I stood a remote chance of getting a glimpse. I carefully approached all the suitable sites but to no avail, but when I was returning from my camera and I had forgotten to look for them I spotted one. It saw me well in advance and was already slithering off the thick patch of drift material. It was a soft tan brown perhaps only 60 cm long and only about as thick as a stick of rock. I first thought it could have been a slow worm but a swift glance at the head showed yellow marks at the neck meaning that it was a Grass Snake.

In the afternoon I decided I wanted to confirm the arrival of my Mute Swans. During the week I had noted their hatching and from a distance counted 8 cygnets. I wanted to confirm this and whenever I went down to see she had taken them back on the nest and they were barely visible.

Luckily today the adults had taken the brood out along the canal and I was able to catch them as they returned to the nest for the evening. There are indeed 8 cygnets. This is only the second brood in Warwick to have 8 cygnets in the last 10 years.

From the canal I headed to St Nicholas Park. I had heard one of the pairs had hatched 6 cygnets and the other was still on the nest.
On arrival I quickly saw that both nests were empty, and that a single cygnet less pair were on the Kingfisher Pool. So either the nest failed or they had hatched during the week and all been predated/killed. There were no egg shells in the nest and no grey feathers at all which suggests to me that either no eggs were laid at all or all the eggs were taken.

Whilst looking for the cygnets I spotted a rare visitor to Warwick, a Great Crested Grebe. They visit the lake occasionally in the summer and this one was roosting on the water. It looked sound asleep but was well aware of all around it, quickly paddling free still in the sleeping position when I or a swan approached,

From Kingfisher Pool I moved on to the river and found the Pen with 4 cygnets further down river. She had started with 6 and so had lost 2 in the intervening weeks.

This means that in Warwick from 5 known nests 19 cygnets have hatched so far and 17 survive. A good year so far. Only one nest is unknown at the moment - Rock Mill.

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