You may notice that, in some years, the Lake & Grounds area have relatively few posts. However, the photographic record was maintained and you can expect new material to be added when time is found. This means the new posts may appear anywhere on the site and not just in the current year's page. The best way to ensure you miss nothing is to visit the What's New page where you can find how you can subscribe to our newsletter.
This week the camera was left pointing at the bridge to the island. As one crossing of the bridge looks much the same as another, this week only a few clips are included the video. The first pair of clips show that the Muntjac don't just use the bridge in the middle of the night. On Friday a cat appears to spend almost an hour on the island. A final pair of clips are included to show some of the mystery of wildlife camera captures.
While opening the bedroom curtains one day last week I saw, for the first, time a Muntjac deer crossing the bridge to the island. Last month I had encountered a female with its young on the island. So, this week, the wildlife camera was set up to see how often they and, perhaps, others animals used the bridge to reach the island.
Over the last few weeks I have been reporting that things aren't taking place in the way that they have over the last few years. Since 2017 the swans have been nesting on the main island. This year is different. We did have a battle between two pairs in February and more recently alternating visits by one swan then a pair. We had three on site over the weekend and battle commenced.
After the concern about the Swans last weekend and having completing the move of the paving slabs to the Reed Bed, I went round the lake to take some further pictures of the goslings. That led to a conversation with a holidaymaker who had witnessed a commotion during the week where the two adult birds had appeared to become agitated and rushed around scattering their goslings. Some time later he took a count and reckoned there were now only seven. The picture I took confirmed that.
Diana has plans for a Green House. It needs to stand on a firm base so this morning I was tasked with moving all the paving slabs that used to form the patio behind the Music Room. That was relaid last September. Since then the old slabs have been stored by the arbour seat, half way to the Wildflower Meadow. The job took a couple of hours. They are now in two similar stacks on the old Reed Bed. One stack has all the odd pieces. The other stack has the remaining full slabs.
We were a little more than half way through watching the early evening news on BBC One when I spotted that a Muntjac mother and youngster were making one of their visit's to Peter's field, next door. They stayed for some minutes within the view of our lounge windows. Once I felt I had sufficient record we went back to watching the TV. I guess it's that they are so common around here that we can become so blasé about seeing them.
A light drizzle had just started to fall as I was returning to the house with a guy who had come to measure up for a quote on work to be done at The Manna. I led the way but as we approached the bridge to the island he spotted a pike under the bridge. I only had my phone with me, not the best device for taking a picture, but at least you can get an idea of its size.
After discovering that the geese had hatched their young on Thursday, today I managed to take more photos and confirm how many goslings there are. But while walking around the grounds to get to the geese I encountered a lone swan. Whilst I optimistically reported that we had a pair of swans in the lake on 28 April, the pen disappeared that night. There are eight goslings! How long that number will survive is another question.
Over the last week we've done some work on the paths. We'd had some grass seed in stock for ages and it was applied to the path beside the boat dock, by the bridge, and working back towards the house. After the seed had been laid it was topped with some leaf compost. Wednesday was spent chipping the log piles and they are no more! The plan was to use the chippings on the path around The Manna. Unfortunately, there were not quite enough generated to top dress all the area.
Diana was concerned when she spotted that the goose nest had a collection of broken eggs in it. I took a photograph and then turned to taken a second of the two adult birds on the lawns behind the cottages. The pair of geese looked alone so I went round to the cottage side to get a better close up only to realise that I had failed to spot their youngsters. We're not quite sure yet how many goslings there are. Could it be five or six in the picture.
With the Geese Nesting Diana and I had become concerned that it had been a while since we'd seen any swans and, most recently we'd only seen a lone swan and not a pair. Why worry? Because since 2017, when the swans had begun nesting on our island, there had been no need to oil the eggs of the geese. The swans did the job for us. They ensured no goslings survived. Today Diana came in from the grounds where she had been doing some work to give a "Good News" report. There were a pair of swans on the Peninsula.
It was just before 20:20 and the doorbell rang. It was Jim our neighbour, saying, "I know you like photographing wildlife! Well, there's a stork sitting on a neighbour's tree". It was 10 minutes after sunset. The sky was overcast and the tree is 100 yards away, but I like a challenge. I went upstairs to grab my camera and found the window open that looks towards the tree in question. It's a substantial specimen and every couple of years our neighbour has it stripped of all branches making it an ideal perch for a stork.
If you followed your way around the island in the tour of the grounds last week then you will know that we have goose nest on the island on the side that faces the cottages next door. This 15 minute compilation of clips captured over 36 hours show how the gander behaves, regularly turning the eggs, occasionally leaving the nest and includes her defence of the nest when it is approached in the dead of night by a cat.
It was lunch time and we'd been watching the news when Diana spotted "a brown furry thing". It was somewhere amongst the pots on the step outside our patio doors. After a few moments it appeared and it was immediately obvious it was a stoat. It made a dash for the edge of our decking then ran backwards and forwards for half a minute or so, seeming to spend some time staring over the edge and down into the water.
This week the wildlife camera was moved from its most common location on the Poors Allotment and hung it, facing towards the house, on the trellis panel next to the Arbour Seat. Our hope was it would show us how close deer came to the house and how frequently they crossed to Peter's Field just beyond our decking. The results show that, after dark, whole families of deer will come within yards of the house.
At 08:31 last Thursday morning I took my usual Weather Watcher image. It was mid-afternoon when I realised the scene had changed and took a further photograph. The bench had escaped Storms Corrie, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin earlier in the year but the unnamed winds at the end of March had managed to topple its shelter for the second time. Only the "Beast from the East" at the beginning of March 2018 had managed it before. The shelter is now upright again.
I always used to think that if you saw a Moorhen then a Coot wouldn't be far away. That was in the days when I was sailing my SeaHawk on the Broads. Since moving to Ruston House I have discovered that's not the case. In eight years I only recall seeing a coot on the lake once and I didn't manage to get a photograph of it. Today was different I did manage to get a picture. Perhaps there have been coots around more often than I realised as today's example could have been easy to miss amongst all the tufted ducks.
As I was returning to the bridge after taking photographs of the completed clearance of our boundary dyke I took the opportunity to photograph the only Bulrush I am aware of locally. It's then about another 40 yards to reach the bridge back onto our land where you see the steps up to a small bench and Dave, which are both positioned in front of a large bay tree.
I woke this morning and took a photo from the bedroom window of the length of the dyke that I had been working on yesterday. It was 09:40 when I was ready to start work on the most choked part of the dyke, the section that is only accessible from Peter's side. Two hours later the top of the dyke was cleared but with a fair amount of muck left on the bank. To finish off I decided it would be a good idea to take a final photograph to compare with that taken at the end of the first day's work on the dyke.
The plan for today was to get out early in the morning to carry on with the work started yesterday. Perhaps it was the fact that I was fresh after a good night's sleep and unlike yesterday afternoon I didn't need to take the constant breaks. By 10:40 I had reached my target for the morning session. After lunch, I found myself in much the same state as I had been yesterday afternoon. My work rate had slowed, so I put in little more than half an hour figuring I'd finish the job tomorrow when I was feeling fresh again.
Having erected "Dave" in the morning, the weather continued to be bright. After lunch, with low levels in the dykes, the plan changed I started work there instead. It was relatively easy to drag the weed and silt and drop it on the bank. At least, it felt that way for the first ten minutes. After that it began to seem like quite hard work and after a number of short breaks I stopped work when I thought I'd completed about a third of the dyke.
It was a bright, if cool, day and I took the opportunity to set "Dave" upright again, which had been blown down during Storm Eunice after being stood up only nine days earlier after being brought down the first time by Storm Corrie. It was clear that simply screwing Dave back onto the buried tree stakes was not going to do the job so this time I took a near complete paving slab that had been salvaged from the old patio to provide a firm weighty base for Dave.
Today Richard came to erect the retaining wall that we'd planned should run along the old reed bed's embankment opposite the bridge to the island. The wall replaces the remains of the old balustrade which has been holding back the embankment since the bridge was re-decked in 2015, just before we got married. We are just left with a couple of minor tasks, removing the rotting remains of the old balustrade and sowing some grass seed on the embankment to help keep the soil from over-topping the new wall.
After Storm Eunice came Storm Franklin. We didn't notice it as being particularly strong. Originally forecasts suggested in would affect Northern Ireland the most, but local news programs on 22 February showed quite torrential downpours in Essex. All appeared calm this morning as I began to tackle the two trees that the we knew Storm Eunice had uprooted. I had realised, the day before, that Franklin had not been as benevolent as we had first thought. There was a new blockage on the path in the north west corner of the site.
I looked out of the window and saw this great gathering of ducks, most of which are not Mallard, but Tufted or Diving Ducks. They have the most penetrating yellow eyes. Males have pronounced white flanks while the females only have a smaller white patch near the tail. They're difficult to count because, as their alternative name implies, when feeding they constantly dive disappearing below the surface for around 20 seconds or so and you can't always be sure that the bird you saw rise was the same one that disappeared a while earlier.
Today the wind had dropped and it was time to inspect the damage. We found a fallen Crack Willow. I ducked through the trees to its right in order to reach the decking on which we have the "Ruston Bench". We had seen from the house that the tarpaulin tied over it for the winter appeared to have been partly blown off. But now, as I approached it, I could see the entire double seat and integral coffee table had been upturned and nearly blown into the lake.
We'd been warned that Storm Eunice was coming. All that had happened when Storm Dudley passed through a couple of days earlier was a lot more twigs and small branches than usual fell from the trees. Eunice was different. We were watching the One o'clock News news having our lunch hearing stories of a record breaking 122mph gust at "The Needles" on the Isle of Wight, and deaths from falling trees when we saw our heavy 6ft diameter glass topped table along with three of the chairs that were tied to it get swept from our patio into the lake.
I got round to lifting "Dave" back onto its two mounting points. But first, I wanted to take photographs of the tree stakes to which it had been screwed. As might have been expected, securing the sculpture to the top of a tree stake was not going to last long. The screw had pulled out of the post bring all the gently rotting wood around the thread with it. All I have done to fix Dave is screw into the top of the post in a new position. I am not under any delusions that this will be a very temporary fix!
We reported on three days of debris clearance on 30 January. That certainly was not the end of it! I photographed another small collection today that we managed to reach with a rake and lift onto the decking behind the house. Probably all of the contents of the barrow can be associated with the work that was done, last November, to dredge the area of lake behind the neighbouring cottages, but there is a mystery about some of the contents of the barrow.
This is the second time we've found a newt in the house and the second time it's been recorded as being found in "The Grounds". This time it emerged from under Diana's desk in our office. The first of the two photographs show it on the carpet in the office, about to cross the threshold into the office toilet, and the second on the tiles found there.
Today I found that Storm Corrie had brought "Dave" down. Dave is our life-size red deer sculpture that stands on one of the highest points in our grounds, appearing to guard the approach from the Poor's Allotment. It is sited with the intention of taking visitors by surprise as they approach The Manna. It turns out the he stood for almost exactly two years held upright by screwing two of this legs into short piles driven into the ground.
It's funny! Just two days ago I was explaining how we expect a battle between swans once there's more than a pair on the lake. Today, we witness just such an event. I became aware something was going on in the lake shortly before 15:00. I picked up my camera and went to go outside to photograph the commotion. Reaching the kitchen door I was surprised to see a swan sitting on the gravel.
Nationally January has been a record breaking month. The first was the warmest new years day on record in Central London and, as a whole, the month has also been the sunniest and driest for most. The first photograph I remembered to take was on 7 January at 09:50 and the weather appeared to be living up to what was to become the sunny trend for the month. Three days later and one sees much the same conditions, other than the light which has a spectacular golden hue.
It's now near the end of the month and from time to time I have been taking photos of floating debris found in the lake that accumulates behind the house. There's a large quantity of chopped lily leaf uncollected from the time the lake was dredged late last year. Over the latter part of the month we have spent a good number of hours dragging as much of the debris out of the lake as we could and today the boat was used to recover still more.
It was shortly after lunch and I was upstairs changing in order to start work clearing the debris floating in the lake and I saw a lone swan come under the bridge towards the house. This is about the we expect to see them. Indeed, Diana and I had been talking about how it was late for the geese to arrive only a few days ago and wondering if the geese had finally given up on using our lake.