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A large white water bird seen all year round, it is a native species of the UK and Europe, fossil remains from as early as 6,000 years ago have been found. The second largest water bird behind the Trumpeter Swan, in actual fact it can be the bigger of the two because it has a bigger body mass and can be heavier than a Trumpeter. They are easily distinguished from other swans by the orange and black bill and the rounded black knob on top of the bill, this is larger in the males, and females are slightly smaller, although it's hard to tell until they are out of the water.
Typically Mute Swans start mating from spring through too early summer, the pairing couple will probably stay together for life, or until one of them dies. Their nests can be a large mound of grasses, reeds, roots, plants, sticks and twigs, usually near to land in the shallows. The female swan called a Pen will lay between 4 to 7 greyish eggs, which will hatch about 6 weeks later. The male swan called a Cob will alternate with the female incubating the eggs, once the eggs hatch the young swans are known as cygnets, and both parents will look after them, the Cob and Pen will be extremely aggressive towards anything that approaches the cygnets, including humans.
Is the largest of the European grebes, it is a migratory bird that comes here to escape the extreme cold in some western european countries, and also too breed. Well distributed throughout the western world, there are 22 species of grebe, dotted around the UK, you are likely to see 5 species of these winter visitors, the Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black-Necked Grebe, Red-Necked Grebe and the Slavonnian Grebe.
The grebe is an excellent swimmer and can stay under water for nearly a minute, in pursuit of it's main diet of fish, Crustaceans including (Crayfish and Shrimp), sometimes Amphibians, Molluscs and Insects also eaten. Grebes have their legs towards the back of body, which is a great benefit when in the water, but pretty useless when it comes to walking, you will rarely see a grebe on land, on the nest at breeding time is when you will see how clumsy they are moving out of the water.
The Coot as it is commonly known, is a member of the Rail and Crane family, closely related to another waterfowl bird the Moorhen. The Coot is about the size of a medium sized chicken, while the moorhen is a bit smaller. They are black/Dark grey in colour with a strong white beak, it also has a featherless white patch just above the beak, this gave rise to a favourite saying "Bald as a Coot" in medieval times. It's feet are webbed, although the webbing is more like a frilly fringe around it's toes, the webbed feet help the coot when walking in the margins or diving underwater, it can dive up to 2 metres in search of food. The coot does have wings, but is a clumsy flyer, if you watch them on ponds and lakes, you will see them flapping their wings frantically but only just skimming on top of the water in a series of hops, a bit like walking on water. If they do fly it may be at night when less predators are about.
A very common Dragonfly and can be found around all the British Isles and Europe, often seen throughout the Summer and Autumn months. It prefers still or stagnant water like ponds, lakes or wetlands, can also be seen around very slow moving rivers. Male Darters are the more colourful, being a reddish through to brick red when in breeding condition, while the females tend to be more drab looking, yellowish to brown depending on their developement.
The Common Darter is a predator and will usually lie in wait for prey to pass by, then will fly after and catch the unsuspecting prey, taking it back to a favourite perch to devour it. They will eat anything that is smaller than themselves, insects being the main food source. Very terrotorial they will chase bigger dragonflies away from their favourite spot if possible.
Your garden is a source of food for a variety of species, if you have liliums, then you're most likely to attract the Scarlet Lily Beetle. This small beetle which is a non-native species was thought to have been accidently imported on lilies in the early 1900's, it has now spread too many parts of the UK.
It can devour whole plants and every lily in your garden is at risk once it gets a foothold, beetles and especially the larvae will feed voraciously on leaves, buds, flowers and the stem. Once the beetle wakes from hibernation in early spring it will first locate food and then seek out a mate, once mated the female will spread her eggs around by laying them on the underside of lily leaves, she will then cover them with excrement to protect them from predators and the elements.
Fallow Deer were a natural inhabitant of the Britain Isles 1000's of years ago, with the onset of the ice age they were pushed into Europe. It was only through the scarcity of food that they were re-introduced to Britain during the 11 century by the Normans, deer parks were established to hold small herds used for royal hunting and food. It is deer that escaped from these parks that we now have wild herds scattered around Britain.
The Deer graze in small herds up to 200 strong, smaller groups are generally made up of the same family members, consisting mainly of a dominant female doe and females of all ages and may include young males, older males tend to be solitary or roam in small bachelor groups.
Fallow Deer are ruminants meaning they will re-digest and chew their food to break it down more effectively and quicker, this commonly known as chewing the cud. Their stomachs with several chambers, 4 in fact and food passed from one to other and it goes through different processes to enable it to be digested and to get the maximum nutrition from the food.