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Lots of birds, and a mysterious find by the river


This week I have been away skiing in the Cairngorms, so the walk Dad and I planned today was fairly easy. We decided to walk along one of three rivers in my village, which is mostly straight, but we knew that sometimes there were otters down there. We didn't see any otters but we did find something else which we didn't expect !

It was sunny but cold and the ground was frozen. The river isn't very wide, but it was moving fast. It runs alongside a train track and I saw loads of trains which we were out.

The first bird we saw was just after we joined the river. It was a grey heron which had been fishing under the road bridge. We've seen a pair of herons near here before.

Then I saw a group of eight mute swans flying east:

Then there was an even bigger flock overhead, flying west. There was a big group that I thought had about 70, and three smaller groups with about ten each.

I could tell by the sound they were making that they were pink-footed geese. They come to the geese lakes over the winter from Iceland.

There I saw this bird flying between the fenceposts. It waited long enough for dad to get a photo of it, but even so it is difficult to identify. My best guess is a Meadow Pipit.

We walked up further, then something weird happened. First of all I thought it was a mummified cat or something like that before I noticed the tail. It was a pike (or maybe not, see the comments) lying in the middle of the path next to the river !

It looks quite scary and it seems like quite a big fish for the river. How did it get there ? It could have been somebody fishing, and then they left the fish behind, but that seems strange. Or it could be an osprey or a heron which caught it, but the osprey have flown to Spain or Africa for the winter, and it seems a big fish for a heron to catch.

Whatever happened, it was still pretty cool. We left it there for now, to pick up on the way back. It was frozen solid and stuck to the ground.

At a bend in the river we stopped for a break. Dad explored a little further but found there was another river up ahead which would have been difficult to cross even if we had wanted to.

All the time as we moved down the river, there were small dark ducks ahead which flew off before we could get a proper look or dad could take a proper picture. They seemed to have dark red heads, grey bodies with a white flash on the wing, and a white underside. They were very difficult to identify, but might have been teal or female goldeneye. There were a couple of pairs of mallards as well.

Here is a bad picture of one flying away. 

We picked up the pike on the way back, but I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but Mum won't let it in the house. On the way back we went through Cat Skull Wood (which is where I found my first cat skulls, as well as a buzzard skull). We saw two roe deer, and two heron in a nest, and one or two bones, but nothing interesting.

The final bird was when we were almost back at the bridge to go home. Dad had seen one earlier, and thought it was like a blackbird with a white chest. He thought he had seen one fly out from underneath the water ! He glad when he saw another because then he could take a picture of it.

It has a brown head, a white chest, a red tummy and a brown body and it was perched right at the waters edge. Even though we had the bird guide we couldn't work it out until we were home. It was a dipper ! They can dive underwater to catch food, and after a few minutes we saw this bird do that !

On the way back I got to say hello to two horses and two donkeys. 

This was a really good walk. I didn't find what I thought I would but I still came back with some interesting bones !

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Hannah said...

Wow. that pike looks even more monstrous edged with frost.
Smashing blog, I love it.

Si Barber said...

Hi Jake,

Our family had a Labrador Retriever that could spot pike in fen drains and go in and get them out. The females are quite sluggish in the breeding season and can be vulnerable to predation from animals that would not otherwise bother them.

We've had a very mild winter in East Anglia this year. A lot of the wildlife and vegetation thinks it's already spring and time to reproduce. I wonder if it's the same up your way?


tai haku said...

Hi Jake
It may just look different to me because there is only one angle on the photo and the decomposition is quite bad but are you sure that's a pike and not something more delicious? The shape of the lips and the width of the head looks wrong for pike to me but it's not clear enough on the photo for me to say for sure.

Jake said...

@Hannah: Thanks !
@Si: It has been very mild here too (but snowing now) so maybe.
@Tai: Are you thinking salmon ? It could be. The end of the jaws look a bit more salmony. Salmon swim up the river that joins onto this, so maybe it got lost.

Mori said...

That Dipper is a fantastic find! :) I would love to see one of those one day.

By the way I think your mystery ducks are most likely to be Wigeon. Here's a reference picture: http://i.pbase.com/o4/35/632935/1/56463656.smient6845kl.jpg I think you're right about the Meadow Pipit though.

Jake said...

Thank you ! I think you might be right !

Unknown said...

You're so cool. Camo trousers, nice shot.

Ed Betteridge said...

It is very likely that the ducks are wigeon but the one flying is definitely a teal also from your picture the meadow pipit looks more like a linnet

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