Swanpool has been my local patch for the last 2 years since I moved to Falmouth during my second year at university. Although in winter Swanpool attracts visitors like Tufted Ducks, the nature reserve in full swing in spring is much more exciting to me! Things have really kicked off over the past few weeks (and did a really good job distracting me from coursework!) as it warmed up and the weather started to look more like the Cornish summer.
Swanpool really spoiled me this year with three families of Mallard babies at a similar stage. I also nearly walked into a mother Mallard with her ducklings snuggled up under where she was sat. I was heading to my usual spot when I sensed a pair of eyes staring at me (she gave me her full attention). The mother was sitting so still she blended into the reeds behind her, this is probably why most of the female birds are not as colourful and showy as the males. I backed away and went for a walk around the reserve instead so that they could have their afternoon nap.
Ducklings are always a joy to watch. The little balls of fluff always have the ‘awww’ reaction from onlookers. As they dabble their little beaks in the water, occasionally finding drowning insects as a meal, the ducklings swim further and further away from their mother, sometimes wandering so close I couldn’t focus on them. Photographing them is always challenging, their energetic but unpredictable darts make them hard to track and focus. Their mother was very wary of my presence and tried to rush her babies out of my sight at first, but as time progressed (with me lying down / chilling on the bank) they started to trust me and came closer and stayed with me.
This mother below started with 9 babies, and was left with 3 the following week. She was very protective and swam past at a distance, navigating and commanding her babies with her loud quacks. Her babies could be slightly older so they didn’t need to stick too close to the bank. I loved the baby that is fully dark brown in colour – it has quite a personality, it keeps wandering off on an adventure and lagging behind its mother and siblings.
Not sure how many this mother started with, but she was only left with 2 babies when I saw them. Hopefully the remaining little ones will survive and grow up well.
The changing light meant I had to be quick to change settings and compose for photos like this high key photo of one of the ducklings.
A territorial Coot was not happy with mother and babies invading her space!
Coots are squabbling and fighting over territories as usual. The light was great for highlighting the splash caused by the commotion, if only there weren’t so many bright white seagulls around!
Swanpool is not the best place for rim lighting, but I experimented with using the harsh morning sun as a fill light, and went for a low key image by underexposing the background. The image would have been better if the sunlight was slightly stronger or at a lower angle.
As the breeding season neared, the resident male Mute Swan started to charge other swans. Feeling the pressure from behind, they would sometimes take to the air during the chase.
Unfortunately eggs were stolen from the swans’ nests this year (smashed eggs found) and the original resident pen was attacked (possibly by a fox) and died after being taken to the RSPCA. Sadly that should mean that there will be no cygnets on Swanpool this year…
Having a local patch constantly reminds me that I do not need to venture far for a good wildlife experience and photos. If you visit as often as you can, you will be able to understand the light, what the location offers in different seasons and different times of the day, and the behaviours of the wildlife. I was able to practise my photography and filming nearly every day here at Swanpool, and I don’t think I ever had a dull day.
But nature can always take you by surprise. I knew there were sandwich terns along the beach side of Falmouth, but I never expected them to come so close! I was walking home after a session at the reserve, then I heard the familiar calls. To my delight, over 20 of them were circling in the air and scanning the water below for prey. Some of the hunts weren’t successful, bu this tern below managed to fish a sand eel for dinner!
Now that my time in Falmouth is coming to an end in a few weeks time, when I leave I am sure I will miss this place so much, and all the wildlife that gave me joy and a little escape from the coursework :’)
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