Tuesday 11 November 2014

Lights out 11th November 2014

My bedside light gave up the ghost last night and on examination it looked terminal. No way was it going to work again. Verbal threats, tapping various parts of the lamp and even a new light bulb did nothing to persuade the lamp to resume illuminating the dark recesses of my bedside.

You may think it unrelated that I now inform you that a female Ring necked Duck was residing on a lake at Wicksteed Park in Kettering which is located in the next door county of Northamptonshire but pray read on.

There was no other option today but to head for Banbury some fifteen miles away, from where the errant lamp originated some years ago. The upshot was I had to buy a replacement according to the man in the manufacturer's factory shop. I was advised that it would be cheaper than repairing the lamp even if that was possible.

Clutching my new lamp I returned to the car and Banbury, ahem, being sort of on the way to Kettering, give or take fifty miles, it was no surprise that I had the scope, bins and camera on the back seat of the car.

An hour later and I was driving into Wicksteed Park on the kind of grey and depressing day that only November in Britain seems to specialise in. Wicksteed Park is 147 acres of parkland surrounded by the unattractive sprawl of housing, industrial estates and busy roads that now constitutes Kettering, or at least that part of Kettering where the park is located.

Wicksteed Park was founded by one Charles Wicksteed, a wealthy local industrialist, in 1913 to provide a place for children and adults to have fun and is the second oldest Theme Park in the UK. It is divided into four main areas; Playground, Fairground, Lakeside and Arena and has an iconic miniature railway that over 15 million people have ridden on. Many of the attractions are almost as old as the park and therefore of antiquarian interest. There is even a collection of aviaries in one corner full of budgies, small parrots and doves.

I would imagine the place is heaving with visitors in the spring and summer and is vibrant and lively but now everything was closed and the whole park had taken on that air of sad, sombre desolation and abandonment that permeates such places at this time of year. Large though the park was there was hardly a soul to be seen, just the occasional dog walker and two groundsmen planting winter pansies as if that would make things any better.

I parked the car and wandered across the wide expanse of grass towards the distant lake and then walked along a circular path that took me round to the far side of the lake as this looked the most likely place to find the Ring necked Duck. 

The Lake

Circular path with railway on the right
A small island at one end of the lake sheltered the usual Mallard together with a couple of Gadwall and a handful of Common Teal snug and mostly asleep under the overhanging bank of the island but further on was a wider expanse of open water and here there were a few Common Pochard and Tufted Duck.

I scanned these ducks and soon found the Ring necked Duck amongst them, unusually active, preening and swinging about in the water as it adjusted its feathers. 

Ring necked Ducks seem to be asleep whenever I see them so this was a pleasant surprise. Understated in various shades of brown and somewhat drab in appearance the Ring necked Duck still had a certain charm about it as I watched and photographed it. It spent all its time with the Tufted Ducks and would indulge in a curious action of throwing its head up, closing its eyes and opening its bill wide as it swam with the Tufted Ducks.

The little group of ducks were relaxed, feeding, preening or just sleeping and I watched them for some thirty minutes before they showed signs of alarm and swam further out towards the centre of the lake. The cause of their alarm soon became apparent as two men in a small boat which appeared to be dredging the lake approached and with an audible pattering of feet across the water the ducks fled, taking to the air as one and circling the lake and flew high and far under the grey skies.

That was close. If I had arrived any later I would have missed seeing the Ring necked Duck.


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