Birds on the Pond

Over this year I’d heard some good stuff about Hammonds Pond in Carlisle – the otter sightings had particularly caught my interest – so Zahrah and I set off bright and early to make the most of the morning.

We were immediately met by a beautiful green park with footpaths snaking off in all different directions. Nestled in the middle of the green was shimmering water. ‘Pond’ seemed too small and meagre a word for it. It took us half an hour to circle the perimeter, though that may have been as a result of us stopping to photograph the inquisitive and downright adorable Mallard ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos).


The skies were clear and the sun was shining down on Hammonds Pond. As we crossed the bridge that split the water in half I saw my first black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) of the year. The last time I’d seen these smart-looking little gulls was at St Andrews beach in Scotland several years ago. According to the ICUN Red List the species’ current population trend is decreasing. I hope they can regain their numbers; it’d be a shame for yet another British species to become threatened.


After leaving the water birds behind, we followed the track further down the pond. Suddenly a bright speck of blue appeared in the dark soil. After some deliberation we decided the egg had belonged to a blackbird (Turdus merula). Although similar to those of a thrush (Turdus philomelos), theirs aren’t quite as speckled. Sadly this egg was still inhabited – a crack in the shell showed a glimpse of shiny orange yolk inside. Although this bird wasn’t going to make it, we both knew someone would gladly take up the offer of a free meal.


IMG_5639 (1)

After a loop through the woods we had a sit down by the miniature railway and watched flies wander closer and closer to their fate on the spider-web covered information post. We were joined by a regular visitor to the pond, who told us that the otter had recently left, but that there had been sightings of three individuals here. Although we wouldn’t see any otters for the foreseeable future it was good to hear that these beautiful mustelids were visiting, especially since stumbling upon Hammonds Pond is unlikely. As no water leads to it, the otters were obviously travelling across land to reach the pond, which was both interesting and encouraging.

Soon I heard the sharp trill of a wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and moments later the tiny bird appeared atop a signpost, singing at the top of its lungs. After graciously posing for us it took to the air and disappeared, though its voice could still be heard loud and clear.


Just before we started to head back we got one last treat: mating chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs). I’d only just seen the male chaffinch’s mating display in Carna a few weeks previously; watching him shuffle to one side then another with chest puffed out and head bowed was fascinating then and now. In response to his alluring routine the female bowed low to him with an upturned head and accepted him. It was a privilege seeing such an intimate moment and rounded off a great wildlife-filled morning.

Field trip to Derwentwater

As part of the module ‘Interpreting the Natural World for Media’, we visited Derwentwater, a beautiful body of water in the Lake District. Our assignment involves writing a report about the site, the geomorphology of how it was formed and the impact humans have had on its development.


Mallard - Close Up
Mallard – Close Up

It was such a serene location. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to walk around the whole circumference of the water, but hopefully I’ll go back before the assignment deadline so I can experience everything Derwentwater has to offer.

Silhouetted Rook in the Trees
Silhouetted Rook in the Trees
A Pair of Greylag Geese
A Pair of Greylag Geese

I saw a variety of species on my visit, including a nuthatch hopping through the trees and a large gaggle of Greylag geese bobbing in the shallows. They later took off and soared overhead, organising themselves seamlessly.


Discovering Leighton Moss

There is something magical about nature reserves. They’re safe havens for creatures great and small, where both food and shelter are plentiful. For photographers, they’re gold mines on the right day.

A Spider's Pearl Necklace
A Spider’s Silver Necklace

Alas, for me Leighton Moss Nature Reserve did not reveal its treasures. I wandered through the woods wide-eyed, hoping to catch a glimpse of the red deer. We sat huddled in hides for otters, but they too missed the memo that we were coming. The lone bittern remained in the marsh and the crested tits stayed nestled out of view.

Female Pheasant in the Undergrowth
Female Pheasant in the Undergrowth

It was a long shot, hoping to see so much in a single day. It’s a shame Leighton Moss is an hour’s drive away, otherwise I’d be there all the time. I didn’t bring a car to uni because of the expense that comes with it, but hopefully we can go to some closer sites over the coming weeks.

View Over The Water
View Over The Water

Although we didn’t see any rare gems, we were entertained over lunch by a very bold robin who sat perched on our picnic table, chirruping. I offered some crumbs and was amazed to watch him hop over and peck the food out of my hand!

Our lunchtime visitor hopping through the trees overhead. I couldn't resist capturing him at such a quirky angle.
Our lunchtime visitor hopping through the trees overhead. I couldn’t resist capturing him at such a quirky angle.

Despite a lack of deer and otter, I was fortunate enough to tick off four new birds: shoveler, greenshank, water rail and kingfisher! I was astounded at how tiny kingfishers are; a rapid flash of blue and he was gone, but I definitely knew I’d seen my first king of the pond.

Female Shoveler On The Lake
Female Shoveler On The Lake
The secretive Water Rail wading through the reeds
The secretive Water Rail wading through the reeds
The head of a male mallard is one of nature's unappreciated beauties. Such vivid emerald green is always incredible to see.
The head of a male mallard is one of nature’s unappreciated beauties. Such vivid emerald green is always incredible to see.
Little Egret In Flight
Little Egret In Flight

It’s so thrilling being around other people my age that cherish wildlife. The excitement around me from others on my course was contagious.

Lone Swimmer