Epping Forest – Time for a Squeeeee!

If you thought the baby mandarin ducks that I photographed in Epping Forest were cute, just take a look at these fellows

Baby Bunny

Baby Bunny

There were loads of them out in the forest yesterday evening when Mab and I went for our walk and Mab had her camera ready.

What's this then?

What’s this then?

They are quite confident and you can get quite close to them before they hop it.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Return to Terror(pin) Island

There’s something primordial in the swamp.

Here there be monsters

Here there be monsters

Caught this fellow out hunting in the shallows of Strawberry Hill Pond in Epping Forest.

His friends were all up on the island,

Sunbathers

Sunbathers

catching a few rays in the early afternoon.

Going flat out

Going flat out

As far as I can tell there are three of these creatures in the pond and given their size I don’t think they have any natural predators to worry about.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Mandarin Mum – Epping Forest

I took a walk through Epping Forest around lunchtime and was pleased to encounter Mummy Mandarin and her brood at one of the ponds.

Mandarin Mum

Mandarin Mum

The ducklings are getting quite large now and there are another two who were just out of shot. I’m glad to see that she has moved the family while their little legs are still vulnerable to the non-native predators at Strawberry Hill pond.

There be dragons

There be dragons

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Bald Coots and Psycho Swans – Welcome to Epping Forest’s Connaught Water

Connaught Water is an artificial lake dug in 1880 to drain some of the forest land near Chingford. Named after Prince Arthur Duke of Connaught and Strathean, the seventh child of Queen Victoria and the First Ranger of Epping Forest. It soon became a local tourist attraction for east end folk who fancied a paddle and then in 1888 a certain Miss Searle was granted permission to hire row boats. The row boats went in the mid 1970s, but it’s still a popular place for people who want to enjoy the birds or walk their dogs.

Mandarin Duck - Connaught Water

Mandarin Duck – Connaught Water

This year the mallards, teal and pochard have been joined by mandarin ducks (find out more about Epping Forest’s mandarins here). I was pretty pleased with this shot of a drake and duck, showing the contrast between the colourful male and the drab female.

Drake and Duck

Drake and Duck

Of course the duck’s less opulent plumage helps to keep her disguised from predators when she is brooding on the nest, but there were no baby mandarins to be seen over the weekend. There were some coot chicks though.

Coot chick

Coot chick

The funny thing about the coot chicks is that with that red colouration around the head you’d quite easily mistake them for young moorhens and you can see where the expression ‘bald as a coot’ comes from too. The Mute swan also had some young.

Mute Mum and Cygnets

Mute Mum and Cygnets

This mum had eight cygnets and very well behaved they were too.

Keep up kids

Keep up kids

Unlike their father. We dubbed him Psycho Swan a couple of years ago when we saw him pick up a coot by the neck and throw it aside in a feeding frenzy, but on Saturday it was one of the Canada geese that had upset him.

I'm gonna getcha

I’m gonna getcha

The poor goose wasn’t safe on land or water!

Connaught water is about a mile from Chingford with limited parking.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Meet the Epping Forest Dinosaurs

Today I went for a walk in Epping Forest. It was the first time I had ventured into the forest since the big chill and imagine my surprise at running into these guys sunning themselves on one of the islands in the pond at Strawberry Hill.

Terrapins - Epping Forest

Terrapins – Epping Forest

These are terrapins (not turtles my North American friends), I’m not sure what particular species although one of them looks like a red eared terrapin judging by the markings on his head, but they are definitely not native to the UK and really should not be found in Epping Forest. Judging by theĀ  fact that they were about the size of a dinner plate I’d hazard a guess that they have been living in that pond for a good few years and that they have weathered many winters since the craze for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles peaked and their uncaring owners dumped them into an alien environment.

Watch the Birdie

I have just been out on a secret photographic mission, but before I left the house I spotted this handsome fellow in the garden.

redlion2Now I know I have blogged pictures of magpies before, but I thought this chap was particularly fetching in his evening dress.

redlion3

In the Midst of Death

When I came downstairs to make our early morning tea I looked out of the kitchen window to behold a dead squirrel in the garden. ‘Bloody fox‘ I thought, seeing as the cat had an alibi for last night, ‘I will have to clear that up later‘.

A bit later after Mab had gone to work I looked out into the garden again and saw a carrion crow having a pick at the corpse. Now some of you may think it ghoulish, but we don’t often get carrion crows in the garden so I ran for the camera. Typically the crow had buggered off by the time I got back to the window, but then I noticed this little fellow having a sort through the discarded fur.

Great Tit

Great Tit

I imagine that the dead squirrel’s hair will now be lining a nest providing insulation for a clutch of eggs.

Nest builder

Nest builder

Which just goes to show that very little in nature is wasted, not only has poor old Tufty provided a meal for the fox and a crow, but also building material that will be used to bring a future generation into the world.

More Bird Feeder Action

We had some goldfinches using the bird feeder yesterday. These are infrequent visitors to our garden and the last time I remember a visit was about two years ago. Unfortunately by the time I got the camera I could only get a few blurry shots of the bird behind the feeder before this chap arrived and chased them off.

Bird Feeder Bully

Bird Feeder Bully

I was a bit surprised to see him there as I hadn’t seen the robin using the feeder before. I always thought his little fat head was too big to get to the seeds.

Not the Mandarin Tony Stark was Expecting

As the weather has improved a bit I have started taking regular walks in Epping Forest with my trusty Nikon again. On Monday I spied a few Mandarin Ducks on two of the ponds but they were being very coy and all the photos were rubbish. Today was a different story, there were loads of them and it wasn’t long before this little chap was bearing down on me.

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin Duck

He then turned broadside to show me his sails

Mandarin Duck broadside

Mandarin Duck broadside

To find out more about the Mandarins of Epping Forest see my previous post here. Other species spotted out in the forest today included, Mallards, Moorhen, Coot, Canada Goose, Magpie, Blackbird and Collared Dove

Long-tailed Tit Feeding Frenzy

I was very tempted to run with a headline that involved the words tits and orgy for this post, almost certainly would have done wonders for my visitor stats. Yesterday afternoon I swapped the positions of the seed feeder and the fatball feeder. As I closed the back door we had a visit from a blue tit.

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

Nothing unusual about that, but then this lot turned up.

Long-tailed Tits

Long-tailed Tits

These long-tailed tits are less frequent visitors to our garden, but they make up for their rare visits by turning up in bulk.

Busy little critters aren't they?

Busy little critters aren’t they?

At this time of year you often see them flocking with blue tits.

Pretty little things too

Pretty little things too