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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘little egret

Walking The Dog 9

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High summer.  A blanket of thick grey cloud and a force four or five south-easterly blasts a fine drizzle into my face.  We’re checking out the aftermath of yesterday’s invasion and the pleasant surprise is that there’s no evidence at all of the drama that was played out near the Langstone bridge.

The world, his wife and about a thousands grockles invaded our space yesterday all in search of a dying whale.  Actually there were probably about a hundred turning the sea wall in front of Langstone millpond into a grandstand.  It’s a well known fact though that one grockle causes a disturbance in the Force equivalent to 10 locals so the initial, instictive estimate is more accurate.

Sid, the harbourmaster, came into The Bluebell at lunchtime on Thursday and relayed the news.  I took a walk up there with the dogs out of interest and the fantasy of a five figure photography fee.  To be honest, I don’t understand the fuss.  I know that Captain Kirk and Mr Spock have helped to endow whales with mystic, spiritual qualities but I see more interesting, exciting and tragic things nearly every day in Chichester harbour.  When the grockles arrived the following day I don’t think one of them turned round and noticed the 30 odd little egrets roosting in the trees just a few yards behind them.  The television crews certainly didn’t.

The entire area was in gridlock.  Glorious Goodwood and the whale turned our local paradise into an extension of the M25.  Television crews and photographers with lenses as long as my arm clogged our roads and pathways.  In the harbour itself, massive RIBs, the inshore lifeboat, helicopters and even a police boat added to the mainly manmade drama and the huge cost of it all. All credit to them though because this morning when I walked past the millpond where yesterday there was even a tent erected for the press and the multiple veterinary, wildlife and eco professionals, there wasn’t a single scrap of litter to be seen.

The same morning that the sorry whale paddled up the channel between Thorney and Hayling, Capone, Carla and I were on the other side of Thorney, in our latest favourite spot, waist deep in the saltmarsh grasses.  Our friend the heron came into sight and as we sidled up towards him I was delighted to see that his mate was there.  My longest lens is a mere few inches so, as best as one can with two dogs squabbling over a stick, I tried to get closer.

The birds took off and escaped me but as we reached the limit of that direction where a vicious barbed wire fence hinders any further progress,  I saw them both on the side of the river bank.  Then I saw double, for perhaps 60 or 70 yards in front of me were four herons casually watching the water and thinking about breakfast.

This was a truly remarkable sight.  Much more interesting to me than a enormous, sad mammal lying in the mud and I managed to record it at the limit of my zoom lens.  This was my scoop, captured in glorious Kodak colour while the grandstand roared and cheered and applauded.

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Walking The Dog 8

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If I was to say that I bumped into Capone on the foreshore posing as a Japanese tourist you’d say I’d flipped.  Were I to propose that some 30 exotic herons were nesting at Langstone millpond you might think I was exaggerating. To say that the maize in the field next to my house grew a foot in the space of one humid Saturday…

Well it’s all true.  Unfortunately, my greedy anticipation of some innocent scrumping in the sweetcorn field has been thwarted.  A previous pilferer assures me that it’s cattle feed and the more you boil the cobs the harder they become.  It does amaze me though, the way this stuff reaches for the sky.  Planted in May as two or three inch shoots it now averages a foot above my head and, yes, on that very hot and humid Saturday it put on a full twelve inches.

Behind Langstone millpond I counted 28 little egrets nesting in the broadleaved trees. This feels more like something that you might see in the African bush but there they are, distracting me as Carla’s beady eyes focus on the coots and mallards taunting her from the pond.  Little egrets were unseen in the UK until 20 years ago but now they seem to be taking over Chichester harbour due, we are told, to the effects of global warming.  I wonder when the ostriches and flamingoes are going to arrive?

As for Capone’s antics well I wish I’d had a camera to record them.  It was in the leg pocket of my trousers, the strap dangling carelessly.

As Capone put in another withering Ieuan Evans style run down the nearside wing he managed to pass his head through the camera strap.  The pocket was ripped clean off my trousers and as he felt the weight he came to a shuddering halt and turned back to look at me, my camera hanging round his neck.  He thought he was in trouble but not for long!

We’ve discovered a truly magical new walk recently.  It’s as close to virgin territory as you can get on the south coast.  I’m pretty sure that there’s no other humans have passed there in many months or even years, perhaps not since some maintenance work was last carried on the Thorney Island airfield approach lights.  Judging from their sorry condition that’s been a very, very long time.  It’s on the right side of the MOD boundary so I don’t think I’m in danger of being shot on sight.  It’s saltmarsh with acres of waist high grasses and patches of damp but parched and cracked mud that sounds hollow as you walk across it.  The dogs thunder across it sounding like a herd of buffalo and there’s a pair of herons, huge cormorants and shelducks always in the same place, vastly offended by our invasion.  Walking here is an overwhelmingly soothing experience.  Cares and worries just evaporate and I find myself returning to the car with a wide, involuntary and peaceful smile.

Only three days after that sweltering Saturday the temperature has dropped 10 degrees and out on the foreshore under thunderous skies there must be another 10 degrees of wind chill.  My two favourite dogs are about 40 yards out squabbling over a stick in the heavy chop that’s thrashing in from Hayling.

Rain or shine, calm or wind, it’s just perfect out there.