Stars And Autumn Leaves?

Not quite …

Stars And Autumn Leaves

… but leaves fallen and left to drift upon the water’s surface, and specks of tiny plant debris sprinkled afar as if they were stars.

Photograph taken November 2016, local canal, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

I came across this tall and magnificent heron whilst walking along the towpath of my local canal. He or she was on the opposite bank of the canal, and it seemed fixed to the spot. Then it sudddenly snapped a fish out of the water and flew off. It all happened so very quicjly. Apparently they also eat frogs, reptiles and small mammals like rats. Grey Herons can remain as still as a statue or walk slowly along the water’s edge before darting at lightning speed to seize fish in its powerful bill. It builds its nest from sticks in treetops laying 4 to 5 eggs in 1 brood from January to May. They can live for up to 25 years.

It can be seen all year round in fresh or salt water habitats, or even near garden ponds in urban areas. It is also seen perched on top of trees or rooftops. A common and widespread bird throughout the UK.

Photograph of Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), taken June 2010, local canal, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2010. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.



Fulica atra

Have you heard the phrase  “As bald as a coot”? Well, it comes from this bird’s white facial shield. Along with the Moorhens and the Mallards, these are another water bird I see on the local canal. On this particular day the chicks were calling out to their mother and making quite a noise about it.

The Coot is a distinctive all black water bird except for the white facial shield and bill. The juvenile has a yellowish bill, lacks the white facial shield, and is somewhat paler over all.

It dives under water to feed on vegetation, eats grass, seeds, shoots, snails, tadpoles, and other aquatic animals. The nest is a bowl of vegetation in branches or reeds, or on a mound of floating debris near the water’s edge. The female lays 6-9 eggs in 1 or 2 broods from April to August. They can live for up to 15 years.

Seen all year round, on lakes and ponds, and reservoirs. A common and widespread water bird, except for the far north and west of Scotland.

Photographs taken July 2016, local canal, Staffordshire.

Not Such An Ugly Duckling

This little duckling and its mom was quite a sight to see as they came bobbing down the canal waters.

They had been ducking and diving (please excuse the pun) below the water looking for aquatic vegetation to feed on. It is called a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).

Visit Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) to learn more about this wonderful  waterfowl.


Gallinula chloropus

These distinctive water birds are always a delight to see when I walk the along the canal towpath. Sometimes called ‘Marsh Hens’, these have distinctive bright red bills with a yellow tip,  red eyes, and rich brown plumage. The bills of the juveniles tend to be duller than the adults, yet the chicks have the distinctive red bill.

They feed on seed, fruit, shoots, roots, snails and insects. The nest is a shallow bowl of leaves and stems built in reeds or trees. The female lays 5-11 eggs in 2 or 3 broods from April to August. They can live for up to 15 years.

Seen all year round, on ponds, canals, ditches, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. A common and widespread species, although scarce in northern Scotland.

Photographs taken June 2013, Stroudwater Canal, Stonehouse, Stroud, Gloucestershire, and July 2016, local canal, Staffordshire.