There have been some rapid changes on the Decoy Lake during May and early June – although in the middle of May, little of that was visible. The grebes were quite calm, not engaging in territorial bouts – and generally seen singly rather than in pairs. I suspected that they were probably taking turns sitting on eggs, but as the nests were hidden, I had no way to confirm this.
Great crested grebe, looking elegant at the Decoy Hide
Meanwhile, there slithered into view a grass-snake, swimming from lily pad to lily pad, demonstrating why it’s also called a water snake.
Grass snake on the lily pads outside the Decoy Lake.
A week later I went in the early morning and soon discovered that major changes in the lives of the grebes had taken place: the two pairs nearest the hides had both had chicks. Unfortunately the bright sun from the direction of the tor meant that photography was very difficult, and decided to head off to Ham Wall instead.
A few days later I went with my mother to the Decoy Hide. As we walked along the woodland path to the hide, a buzzard swooped along the path and perched on a branch.
Buzzard at Shapwick Heath
On the lake, the grebe parents were entirely occupied in feeding their young.
The grebe parents were very busy feeding their chicks.
This should have led to some great photo opportunities, but for another growing problem – the lily pads, which look pretty, have been spreading rapidly across the lake, and it has become increasingly obvious that the grebes have been avoiding the areas covered by them. As the lilies cover the area in front of the hide, the grebes have retreated to the middle of the lake, which is still lily-free. Still, the sight of chicks riding on their parents was very cute!
The grebe family to the left of the hide
Feeding time for the grebe chicks – one of many!
Other species were also quite active. This pied wagtail flitted by, briefly.
Pied wagtail at the Decoy Lake
Seeing a Great White Egret float in was a lovely sight – although I was less enthusiastic when a grebe family, with their brood of chicks, swam close by – each of which would have been a tiny morsel for a hungry young egret. Fortunately the parents were alert enough to the danger to shepherd their young out of the way.
Lovely to see a young great white egret on the lake – until the grebe family was in danger of wandering a bit too close
By early June, the grebe chicks were too big to piggyback their parents so easily. The family to the left of the hide hung together much more obviously than the family directly in front, and offered many more ‘happy grebe family’ photo opportunities!
“I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal!”
Grebe family to the left of the hide
Hobby at Shapwick Heath
In mid-June Jen and I went to the Decoy Hide for a short visit. We were entertained by three hobbies, hawking for dragonflies over the lake – one of which sat in a tree long enough for me to get some photos – although it was much too far away for any good photography (and is notable only because it’s my first photo of a hobby!).
Although the grebe pair to the left of the hide seemed the most cohesive family,it was the one in front where the most fishing was being done for the chicks. (The comparison may well be unfaiir: it may simply be that the grebe families did things at different times of day, and my relfections tend to be based on early afternoons).
There were many fish-laden trips to the chick.
The chick was very alert to the availability of more fish!
They looked very harmonious swimming side by side…
…but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that feeding the chick was a demanding process!
One of the photographic highlights recently was a little egret that flew in and perched on a nearby tree stump.
Little egret on the Decoy Lake
Little egret in alert pose
Little egret picking food off the lake surface