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UK

Adventures in mid-England

We are nature people.  We love the hills, mountains and coastline.  Having traveled the world and lived across Western Europe I can hand on my heart say that the UK has some incredible coastlines and mountains and we enjoy nothing better to do on our weekends than to experience these wild places.  So it was with trepidation that we moved inland to landlocked and flat Oxfordshire, a place so unfamiliar to the things we love that, despite the extensive countryside, we felt cooped in.

That's when we got hold of an inflatable boat.  That’s when we discovered the rivers. 

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It Takes Two...

Two years is an awfully long time.  Really, it is!  Do you remember what you were doing two years ago today?  Normally I would struggle answering that question myself, but on this occasion I know exactly what I was doing.  Two years ago today I was sitting in a cottage in the Lake District preparing to give a Key Note lecture entitled 'Climate Change Through the Eyes of a Polar Explorer' at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Stick Duck

We've been watching 'Stick Duck' for over a month as he toiled tirelessly right outside our balcony in the marina lake moving sticks around.  He fetched the sticks from the other side of the lake, or from the lake bed diving deep down and reappearing with a prized stick in his mouth.  The sticks tended to be double his size and we watched as his little beak strained to hold onto them.  But his hard work paid off and we were treated to see a nest emerge just under the next door neighbour's mooring.  We can only glimpse the side of the nest from our vantage point but Stick Duck was clearly going to impress some female very soon!

Stick Duck isn't actually a duck but a coot, he is all black with a distinctive white forehead.  Coots are also the smallest of the waterbirds that reside in the marina making his endeavours even more remarkable to watch. 

We were mightily impressed by Stick Duck's work and undoubtedly Stick Duck must've been to.  But then, a week ago the marina lake received a couple of visitors.  These two visitors, Great Crested Grebes, started to hang around the lake by Stick Duck's nest.  They were double the size of Stick Duck and double the number.  In our naivety we thought nothing on it but they had other intentions.  What happened next broke our hearts. 

Over the course of two days a battle ensued between the two Grebes and Stick Duck and culminated this morning.  I caught the fight from the kitchen window

Stick Duck was no match for these two and despite putting on a very aggressive show he was evicted from his nest that he spent the last month making.  The two Grebes didn't waste any time and have started to increase the size of the nest at an industrial pace. 

As for Stick Duck, he spent some time in the area, watching from afar... but now has gone elsewhere. :(

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