Thursday 8 March 2012

Doris and Stanley

Meet Doris. It's not what you think. Doris is my Great Crested Grebe. She lives just next to my office in Canary Wharf, and I have adopted her. The fact that she lives at Canary Wharf might be viewed as slightly masochistic, but it may be a very clever strategy. For Doris has laid an egg. Just one for the moment, but she looks very proud. Stanley, Doris' husband, or perhaps I should say partner, isn't that bothered. For now, his work done, he is just loafing around in the dock, but his time will come.


I counted an amazing 17 Great Crested Grebes on my patch in Canary Wharf earlier this week. Quite a few of them were pairing up, doing the facing each other thing, but I have no idea where they might nest. Doris and Stanley seem to have stolen a march, and nabbed the best available spot, which is on some floating reed structure, which I have in the past dismissed in an offhand way as "Habitat". "Habitat" seems to be doing the job though, as a pair of Canada Geese were also in situ, as were a pair of Mallard, a pair of Coot, and a pair of Moorhen. That they will all nest in such a confined space seems inconceivable, but I will keep you updated.


I have a vague recollection of seeing young Great Crested Grebes in this dock before, some time in the dim and distant past. Although it looks very unpreposessing, especially from my point of view which is generally at a desk, it may in fact be rather good. There are no mammal predators for starters, animal lfe is banned in Canary Wharf. The docks are steep sided and very deep, and unlikely to harbour things like Mink, and any rubbish that accumulates is quickly fished out with nets by estate staff in a small skiff. The area is very busy night and day, which probably also keeps things at bay, yet despite this constant traffic, ninety-nine percent of the people here have probably not noticed them, and fewer than that probably even care. And to top it all off the nest is right next to a security hut, so any human trash that might have more than a passing interest in eggs isn't likely to risk it.

I spent a very happy half hour just taking in all that I have just described at lunchtime today. I had the sun on my back, and although I could see my office, all seemed well with the world. A lady saw me photographing the Cormorant - I brought a proper camera today, in case I found a Wheatear on the Flats in the morning (I didn't) - and asked what a bird with long legs that looked like a dinosaur might be outside her house in Sussex. It's been a while since I watched Jurassic Park, but I think I remember the killer Herons. She then asked what the Cormorant was, and so I told her. Sadly I had forgotten my protractor and compass and so was unable to fill her in on the finer details of gular-pouch morphology, but for someone who thinks a Heron looks like a dinosaur, I suspect that simply Cormorant was good enough. It was, I have to say, a particularly fine Cormorant.

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