Dawn Chorus and an Otter or two

May started off,  in perfect paddling style, with a dawn chorus trip along the River Tamar.

The appallingly early start paid off with some great wildlife sightings and a mysterious paddle through the early morning mist that was reluctant to be dissipated by the sun.

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Misty morning on the Tamar

The river surface was glassy smooth but round a corner I ran into some ripples that I suspected might have been created by an otter. I then heard some loud sloshing noises coming from the bank beneath some trees and through the mist could see a Roe Deer trying to clamber out of the water and up the steep slope…..I had missed it swimming across the river in front of me by about a minute!….and would have seen it but for the fog.

 

 

As the sun appeared the dawn chorus really got going and over the period of about three hours I picked out at least twenty-five different songs. The most frequent, and loudest, were Wrens and easily the best were Blackbirds, hotly pursued by Blackcap and Robin. Assisting Blackcaps in the migrant department were Chiffchaffs, Sedge Warblers and the tuneless rattle of a rarely seen Lesser Whitethroat (which of course I didn’t see). Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting did not want to be left out and four species of Tit just about qualified as songsters. Stretching it a bit was the coo of Stock Doves and Pigeons, the crow of a Pheasant and laugh of a Green Woodpecker. Nearly forgot about a single Goldcrest. Oh, and Swallows.

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Chattering Swallow

If you were to toss in to the mix the whistle of a pair of passing Mandarins, the peep of a Kingfisher, jink of a Dipper, and assorted cries of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, crows, rooks and jackdaws, that brings the total of bird species heard to over thirty. Surely you’d struggle to find a better place on the planet.

Unfortunately the serenity was shattered by the death-screech of a Song Thrush, a fledgling I suspect, that was carried off by a Carrion Crow for breakfast for its own brood.

While lost in listening to a particular loud and clear blackbird, a big swirl on the surface fifty yards ahead caught my attention. An otter for certain. And it was struggling with a BIG fish. I drifted a bit closer and watched it splash and twist and roll with occasional glimpses of what appeared to be an eel about three foot long. After a minute or so it swam to the bank and then rapidly followed the shore downstream, constantly struggling with the eel which was still very much alive, so there was quite a lot of splashing still. It travelled fast (three to four mph) and as it approached a dense bush overhanging the water it uttered a high pitched ‘peep’ and disappeared into the bush, and that was it gone.

 

 

 

Perhaps it was just  finding somewhere  quiet to eat its breakfast, but I think that there may have been cubs nearby and it was presenting them with a live fish and had called to them on its approach.

A couple of weeks prior to this encounter I had seen another (possibly the same) otter with a fish on the shore in roughly the same place, and had then glimpsed a smaller creature disappearing into a large hole at water level….was this a cub? Intriguing, and a good reason to go back to investigate.

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Otter eating fish

I dropped in to the shore for a thermos of coffee at a place where there are an awful lot of signs making you feel very unwelcome and basically saying you can’t get out. So I always do.

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Unwelcoming signs

Nice to see a Common Sandpiper who also contributed to the catalogue of ‘peeps’ with its own version (and Sandpipers are the best at it).

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Common Sandpiper

Apart from the assault on the eardrums of scores of singing birds along the Tamar in early May, nostrils are bludgeoned with the overwhelming smell of Wild Garlic, which seems to concentrate in the heavy air of a cold early morning. It’s so strong it makes your eyes water.P1080558.JPG

The Beech trees seemed to have got even more yellowy-green on the way back.P1080358

I passed a couple of broods of Mallard ducklings, the first was a large family of a dozen and a week or so old, the second straight out of the nest and about eleven.

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Mallard family 1
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Mallard family 2

Most bizarre was the Canada Goose that was looking for somewhere to nest and making sure that the site was above high water level. She had clearly factored in the recent heavy rainfall but when calculating a margin of safety I think had got her decimal point one or two places out.

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Canada Goose looking for nest site
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….bit too far for the goslings to jump, maybe…

 

2 thoughts on “Dawn Chorus and an Otter or two

  1. Perfect morning adventure!
    Sad about the song thrush. We
    Have been blessed with one here
    Recently and her repertoire is truly
    Awesome! X

    Sent from my iPhone

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