An hour in the life of a Mallard at Cley

12 noon on a cold grey windswept day.  The lakes are still frozen except for this bit next to the big wooden building called a hide.  It helps to keep the wind off us. Most of us are on the bank, preening, sleeping, chatting, the normal sort of hanging out stuff.  The snow has mostly gone from the grass here so we’re ok.

12.10 one of the windows opens on the building.  Then another.  Then two more open but the other two shut.  I can hear some people leave, but someone is looking at us and drinking from a cup that has steam rising from it.  They think we can’t see them, but we know they’re there.  We know they stay there though so we ignore them.  I wish the teal would stop jumping in and out of the dyke, dreadful fidgets they are.  My missus is thinking of going for a swim.

12.15 A shelduck flies over, looking for somewhere to land and feed.  Tough luck mate, try the next field.  The black headed gulls go over at fairly regular intervals, just looking…  The shelduck comes back and lands on one of the islands.  Then it walks over the rough ice towards us.  It gets to the end of the rough ice and looks to the expanse of smooth ice between him and us.  Don’t risk it, mate, I think to him.  He obviously thinks the same as he turns and looks at the rest of the rough ice.  Then he flies off again.

12.25 That snipe that was ferreting around at the edge of the reeds out of sight of the building decides it’s time to find some decent grub.  He flies off with a couple of calls just in case anyone fancies joining him.  I join the missus for a short swim, and chat with the boys, and then we come out again.

12.30 Scramble Chaps!!! We scatter and jump into the water again – a kestrel flies over, quite low, checking us out.  Not that it would harm us, but it takes our chicks.  We haven’t got any chicks at this time of year but old habits die hard, better safe than sorry and all that sort of stuff.  We climb out again and join the wigeon and teal back on the bank.  The wigeon have decided it’s lunch time.  Another shelduck checks out the mere but goes off again quicker than the other one.

12.40 Four of the chaps are very agitated and on red alert.  I can’t see what’s bothering them and they just say it’s not safe here and take off.  See you, guys!  Two come back then a couple of new guys and a lady circle round and decide to join us.  I told you it was a good place to hang out.  When the wigeon aren’t trying to eat the grass from under your feet, that is.

12.50 The pink foots are on the move, first in ones and twos, and then in small groups.  They are playing fun and games with the greylag though which will confuse those birdwatcher chappies.  A couple of the first year teal keep playing leapfrog in the dyke.  They’ve upset the water rail who flies up from the sheltered side and goes into the reeds.  They probably didn’t realise she was there.

13.00 The windows shut in the building.  The watcher has probably had enough.  Hope they had a nice time.  Good thing they went when they did as they wouldn’t have seen the flypast of 450 pinkfoot otherwise.  I’m having a nap.  See you sometime.


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