Just starting out on a quest to encourage ducks at Reffley Reservoir to eat healthy corn, we were interrupted by a robin singing. We were lucky enough to see the bird – though not in huge detail in the lessening light – as it bounced about from one branch to another, but it was obvious it was producing the sound. This, of course, was a pleasing interruption, as it gave me the chance to improve my knowledge of the redbreast’s song before more species start singing as well.
As we walked to our destination under a bright three-quarter moon, several more bursts of a robin’s delightful sweet song tumbled into our ears. Happily, it would seem there are plenty of robins around.
At the Reservoir, we found two pairs of mallard – double the number of the previous day, my daughter said so was word spreading on the duck grapevine? They swam towards us, but being a bit wary, didn’t leave the water, so we threw some of the corn in their direction.
Then, in the very chilly January evening air, we made our way back round to the local pond to give the mallards and muscovies there a meal. This bunch – I counted about 10 males and a similar number of females, plus two muscovies – are more used to handouts of grain from our family and their reaction was much more enthusiastic! (That said, however, I don’t think even this group has been fed when it has been completely dark).
We sat and watched the ducks as they foraged in the grass and molehills near the pond for every last bit of corn. My daughter suggested we keep a look-out for some rats to appear and join the feast and sure enough, a few minutes later, two small, stealthily scurrying shapes did do so. It was hard to pick them out as it was now pretty much dark and their browny colouring blended very well with the patches of earth. Their scurrying movements back and forth gave them away. Apparently, they have been seen on this site before.
I can’t say I particularly like rats. They aren’t the pleasantest of creatures, for instance, locals say they have seen them attacking ducklings. However, I admire the way they have survived over the years, adapting to whatever life throws at them. And it has to be said, if we humans gave more thought to what we did with the remains of our food, there may well not be so many rats around. It could be said that the rats help us to clear up our mess. This, of course, is one of the points of the River amd Canal Trust’s project to encourage people to offer healthier foods to ducks rather than the usual bread, which can get left lying around uneaten and clogging the waterways.
A larger mammal came into view on the opposite side of the field – a muntjac out for an early evening meal. Nearer home, we heard a tawny owl calling from the nearby woodland – a real bonus to top off an interesting outing.