My companion were sitting quietly in a bird hide discussing the view in front of us.
In particular we were focusing on the two families of mute swans on the opposite bank of the nearby lake. Once more we were visiting the grounds and wildlife reserve at Coombe Abbey – but today were both of us were armed with proper cameras and not just our smartphones.
‘I’ve no idea how to tell which is male and which is female…’ I said abstractly – reflecting on a serious gap in my knowledge regarding one of my favourite animals. In front of us as I looked through my viewfinder a small flotilla of them passed serenely by with four little swanlings in a row.
My friend fell silent – looking at her phone, and I was momentarily distracted by an unexpected flyby of a heron, heading for a small island on the lake to the right of us.
I just managed to point my camera and focus in time as it passed me by. I looked at the camera photo viewer and smiled looking at the result. I’d managed to capture it in mid flight and it was only a teeny bit blurry!
My friend touched my shoulder. ‘It’s the size of their knob.’ She said, giggling a little.
I looked around smirking. ‘The size of their knob?’ I said.
‘Yes – the knob on their noses. If they have a big knob it’s a male and if they have a small knob it’s a female!’ She replied, and carried on scanning through the article.
‘…but not all of them have big knobs…’ she continued, despite me obviously starting to titter next to her.
‘If they don’t have a big knob the only way to tell is to stick a finger up it’s bum.’ She said triumphantly – seemingly satisfied with Google’s explanation.
‘What will you find up it’s bum if it’s a male then?’ I asked, now laughing.
‘I don’t know..’ she said ‘…you just have to stick a finger up it’s bum!‘
Immediately I envisioned an offended swan on the end of my finger shouting ‘**** off!’ in a manly voice – and THAT being the indicator of whether it was a daddy or a mommy.
Since I rather like smutty humour I spent the rest of the afternoon chuckling away to myself thinking about invaded swans swearing at their inappropriate investigators in a male Glaswegian accent (their offence in my imagination seemed somehow Scottish) whilst a guy in an overcoat holding a clipboard nearby duly noted that this was a male swan and no longer of the ‘mute’ variety.
Although today was overcast and cooler than my last visit the plants and wildlife were no less fascinating than they were before – and all were somehow subtly different.
Although the herons were hard to capture on their island (even with 30x zoom) I managed to get a couple of shots of them and the geese nearby – who continually floated past in little armadas of orange and brown.
They weren’t the only ones around that day though and I spotted another few I’d not seen before.
Now – I’m not 100% sure about this – but I think (from looking at the RSPB site) that the little grey one with the insect is a Pied Wagtail (although it could also be a Water Pipit) that the large goose is of Egyptian descent while the lovely little guy with the flash of blue on his wing on the log is a Jay.
It’s also been quite a nice day for flowers and fungi!
All in all a most amusing and relaxing day of twalking and bird watching was had by all concerned!
In other news – I’d like to thank my audience for their kind comments regarding my recent emissions issues.
There have been many helpful suggestions for how to stem the gaseous tides – which I will look into and take into consideration. Low stomach acid, artichoke tablets, and brewers yeast have all been suggested as potential culprits and may well be valid.
However the kind offer of ‘a big cork’ by one reader will probably not solve the issue at hand, so I’ve discounted that one.
If things get really bad internet I can always pretend to be a swan and hope that (thanks to my small nose) a kind ornithologist is nearby to help with the blockage…