10 January 2011

Bradgate Park and Groby Pool

9th January and we got around to actually going somewhere – the usual reasons for a late start – illness and Seri’s work getting in the way of our playtime, ce’st la vie :-).

So we awoke to a glorious day, bright winter sun, which means very blue light and overly long shadows to the photographer. Sunshine and a diminished ice supply makes for a pleasant change – this winter started early and has been quite harsh, compared to a usual UK winter, of course……

We decided to make the 28 mile trip up the M69 to Bradgate Country Park, in Leicestershire, not a long trip and a great place to visit.  In a previous post we showed Bradgate in the snow, now, finally the snow has all gone, although the river is still iced over in places.

Each visit we make to Bradgate also encompasses a visit to Groby Pool, again see the previous post for details and a map of the area. Groby, a sizeable lake, is still iced over, with pockets of clear water.

It is quite interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable

for the Swans and Ducks, to see the waterfowl walking the ice sheet in order to get the the feeding spot. A very small rocky bank from which visitors, and there are quite a few visitors, feed these lucky birds. Mute Swans are at the lake in larger numbers than normal – for the free food  no doubt – with many of them doing their dominance display – all fluffed up making themselves look as large as they possibly can. The swans are also getting quite fractious – many squabbles are occurring – and the youngsters are having quite a hard time. Restricted swimming space and a food supply which they are trying to protect for themselves is certainly having an effect.

Coots and Black Headed Gulls are ducking and diving amongst the larger species and manage to hold their own quite well. The Coots grab food and run, usually with the gulls in hot pursuit. Great to see, not so great to be a participant perhaps……. Alas such is the life of a wild animal.

The resident hybrid ducks are back – they were missing last time we visited – and it was so nice to see them.

Whilst at Groby we took the opportunity – nice place with few people – to test some new equipment. A Hahnellive view” remote control unit – which allows the used to view what the camera’s viewfinder is seeing through a small wireless screen, which in turn accommodates a remote control unit that can operate the shutter from up to 60 metres distance. We have few photos of Seri and myself together, and now we have the opportunity to take such shots – at the risk of scaring people :-)

The system works, but we need to practice with it at home, to get the best out of it. Click the link above to get info on the unit…….

The reason we have few shots together – well, basically on the first hand we don’t feel comfortable handing several thousand pounds worth of camera equipment to a stranger and asking them to take our photo and secondly it is not practical to set up the tripod, push the timer switch and then try to run back into the shot. I’m not that fast on my feet these days :-)

A happy 45 minutes or so feeding the birds and off to Bradgate.

We visit Bradgate for the whole of the environment, we love to see the birds, deer, the ancient oaks and indeed all the people interacting with the environment. We fed the ducks, couldn’t find our little friend – the noisy Wigeon – on the way into the estate, but we could hear the little monster on the way out and gave him his customary feed.

Lots of ducks around, a Bibbed Mallard and a bunch of Mallard mostly, but also this visit a trio of Tufted Duck males, with a solitary female. A couple of Mute Swan adults bathing enthusiastically as it their wont.

We discovered a few years ago that Swans, as well as many geese species, invert in the water when bathing, kicking their legs in the air as they do so. It is very funny to see, but hard to identify as the manoeuvre takes only a second or so to complete. So, if you see a Swan bathing watch closely you may see this very funny spectacle. Last year we found a Leucistic  Jackdaw, this trip we found it again. A very odd looking little thing :-) good to see him still around.

One does not visit Bradgate and not go in search of the herds of deer, it is one of the reasons for the parks “fame”. It is perfectly possible to visit Bradgate, spend several hours on the estate – assuming one can afford to park there, now the price has gone so high – and find no sign of deer whatsoever, apart from copious droppings and hoof prints.

It is equally possible to walk into the park and find Fallow bucks on the pathways, within a couple of metres of the hundreds of visitors who arrive daily with their children and their dogs. Red Deer, despite their immense size, compared to Fallow, tend to be a little less “friendly” and prefer to keep their distance from people. We have often observed that the Fallow are unimpressed by people, and take little notice, whereas Red Deer look distinctly uncomfortable in human company.

On this trip we were quite fortunate in that, after a reasonable walk, we found a large herd of fallow females, youngsters and yearling bucks. Unfortunately they were in a less than ideal spot to photograph, with the now failing light behind them, but we got a few shots….. Just across from them we also spotted a group of 5 adult Red Deer stags, all friends again now the rut is over.

It was interesting to see that 4 of the stags were very relaxed, whilst the 5th was very agitated – and was keeping a constant vigil on the numerous people around them. It was equally interesting to see that this guardian was dominant within the small group, where he walked so his colleagues moved out of his way – and quickly :-) They clearly knew who was the boss……….

Whilst photographing these handsome fellows we began chatting with a really nice young fellow from Africa – who was, like us, enjoying the experience of photographing such majestic animals.  Didn’t catch his name, but we enjoyed the chat nonetheless……

Lovely day, good company, nice gentle walk and to end the day a gorgeous red-sky sunset. What more could one ask for :-)

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