Monday, 26 March 2012

Two ticks & a bug

On Thursday we headed up to Leicestershire for a few days to check on Muriel, our 60 ft narrow boat, & see if Vera can still cope with being a 'canal dog'. Vera fared better than we expected, but we had a few problems with Muriel. Despite only travelling a mile or so up the canal from our marina, we broke down 3 times due to a clogged fuel filter. We only had one spare on board, so I volunteered to drive off to Sileby boat yard to get some more. The fact that there were a couple of birds I needed in that direction was a complete coincidence!

Having checked out the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society bird report site & a couple of local blogs, I came up with a cunning plan. First stop Sileby for the filters. I then carried on to Wanlip North Lakes, part of the Soar Valley Gravel Pit complex. There is a really helpful map on one of the blogs, although I can't find it now to give due credit. The lake is on private land so can only be viewed from a  slight hill on a distant footpath. I followed the map & found the viewpoint easily enough & also realised that we have history with this particular spot......

Back in 2006 we hired a canal boat with my Mum & Dad to go round the Leicester Ring. We went through Cossington Lock heading South & were enjoying the scenery & expressing amazement that on such a busy route water lillies were still managing to thrive. It took a while for us to wonder if something was wrong, as the river got narrower & more winding. I checked behind us with my bins (I was always wearing them even then!) & a small boat that had been following us was still there, although some way off. So, we  must be OK, right? Wrong! I checked the guide & finally managed to figure out that we had actually taken a wrong turn somehow. By now the channel was too narrow to turn in our 57ft boat, so we had to reverse (not easy) for quite a way until we found a stretch of river wide enough to turn. It was a bit of a tight fit but with the aid of a lot of heaving with the boat pole, we managed to get round & head back to the junction where we had missed the huge 'keep left' chevron! The boat that had followed us was presumably either exploring (they were small enough to turn easily) or were trying to catch us and let us know we were going wrong. The up-side of all this was that Simon wrote an article about our little misadventure for one of the canal boating magazines, it was published & we got a free year's subscription.

Making a U-turn......nice lillies
How did we miss that?? 
As I looked across the the river below towards the field of geese, I recognised those lillies!This was the very stretch of river that we had unwittingly explored.

I was in search of a Tundra Bean Goose that had been hanging about for a while with up to 19 White-fronted Geese. I put up the scope & there they were! I only counted 16 White-fronted Geese, but there in among them was the Bean Goose. Easy!

The White-fronts & Bean Goose were over towards the lake. Note the lillies....
There had also been a juvenile Whooper Swan at Watermead Country Park South for a few days & an adult last week. This is still part of the same gravel pit complex, but further South towards Leicester. It hadn't really registered that it was a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon. I was soon reminded that it was..... queues of traffic to get in & out of the car park and wall to wall ice-cream-eating families. I felt somewhat out of place with bins & scope & quickly made my way down to the lake, wading through slices of bread & goose poo. There were swans, geese & ducks getting fatter by the minute.

One of the quieter sections of the Watermead Country Park South
I started to scan the swans looking for the juvenile Whooper. Almost immediately I was pleasantly surprised to find an adult in my sights, quite close & heading in for a free meal. It made me wonder if it was a countable bird, but having checked the web I haven't found any evidence that it isn't wild.

Bad photo of the Whooper Swan, taken with the Lumix
I had a look for the juvenile on the main lake & then noticed a sign showing a smaller 'nature lake' next to it. I thought I'd check it out. It did have a 'hide' ....of sorts. I thought I'd go to the side of the hide instead to look beyond the reeds, big mistake. I guess there isn't a loo nearby....

Watermead CP South hide, comes complete with Vodka.....Charming!
Not one of my more enjoyable birding experiences. Still, at least I got my bird!

We've made some inquiries about out fuel-clogging problem & it appears we have diesel bug. Once you get it, it's apparently very difficult to get rid of. The bug lives at the diesel/water interface in the tank, living in the water & feeding on the diesel. As they die, the bugs form a black slime that clogs the fuel filters & if it gets through them, knackers the engine. We probably got water in the tank through condensation over the winter & have no idea where we picked up the bug. Simon changed the filter again, we made it back to the marina & came home early. We now have to research our options. I love nature but this is one bit of wildlife we could do without.

Year List now on 147 & 1 Sub-species.

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