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Another Monday night bout of ballet lesson related Dad’s taxi duties provided a window sufficient for a good long walk, but, unusually, wading through a quagmire of lethargy, I took a while to get going and then eventually set off to repeat the short circuit along the Bela to its confluence with the Kent and back via the Orchid Triangle and the road past the Heronry.

I was photographing a distant Little Egret when I noticed this Heron sat on the river bank. I adopted my standard iterative approach – take a photo, walk a few paces, take another, repeat. As a rule, Herons are very cautious and will soon fly away if you get very close at all, but this one was unusually forbearing, so that when it did take off I was poised to catch another picture…

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By where the Heron had been a sitting, a Mallard and her chicks…

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How many in her brood?

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Seven!

It seems to me that she must be a relatively successful parent, as Mallards go. These are not particularly young ducklings and she still has seven. I well remember the instructive experience of taking our small children to see the ducklings at Bank Well one spring back when we lived nearby. There were 14 little balls of fluff to begin with, the next day there were only 12. Then 10. And so on. ¬†Eventually, there were none. Like ‘ten in the bed’, but more final. A harsh introduction to ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’ for the kids.

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A little further along the bank, a pair of Greylag Geese seemed to be without goslings.

The Heron meanwhile, had only moved on as far as the top of the weir.

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Below the weir, a pair of Mute Swans were feeding…

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The Bela and Dallam Bridge.

It not being as windy as it was last time I came this way, I was able to get some slightly better photos of the Oak Apple Galls

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When I was in my early teens, my parents let me subscribe to a partwork called The Living Countryside. I’d always loved books about animals and had quite a collection of animal encyclopaedias, but what I loved about The Living Countryside was the fact that it covered only British wildlife and brought everything closer to home. It built up into several large tomes, which sadly I no longer have. Apart from my general enthusiasm, I don’t remember many individual articles, but I do remember reading about gall wasps, because I was so astounded by their life-cycle.

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This gall contains numerous grubs which will eventually become gall wasps, both male and female. The female wasps are winged and can fly, but weakly. After mating they fly to the ground, burrow down to the roots of an Oak tree and lay eggs. A gall forms on the roots producing a new generation of flightless wasps, all female. This generation is agamic, that is asexual. The wasps crawl up the trunk of the tree and lay eggs on twigs. The eggs irritate the tree, causing it to form the gall around the eggs. And so on.

This seemed, and still seems to me to be more like something you might read in a Science Fiction novel than in a Natural History magazine.

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The Oak, meanwhile, has its own reproductive agenda and is busy flowering.

This patch of woodland…

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…is the site of the Heronry. I watched several Herons and Little Egrets fly in and out.

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I guess that they too have young secreted up there in the trees.

This Chaffinch…

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…was serenading me when I got back to my car and continued to do so whilst I changed my footwear.

Turned out to be well worth the effort to get out after all, despite my initial lethargy.

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