On Monday, we went to Thwaite Gardens, in merry Cottingham. Thwaite, if you didn’t know, is an 18th century swear word to be directed at a petulant chimney sweep (or ballboy). I’m fairly sure that my membership there is largely wasted as I go about twice a year and have never seen anyone turned away at the gates for not being a member.
Aquatic fare was the aim of the day so we trudged aimedly with that aim in mind, with nets and wellies to aim at anything with fins. I’d noted how the streams in the north east had previously been resplendent with fish, so we made a beeline for that particular area (ironic, considering the lack of bees). We spent the past part of an hour merrily plunging nets at fish. The most common catches of the day were 3 spined sticklebacks and the aquatic snails Common Ram’s Horn Planorbis planorbis and Radix balthica (now known as the ‘The Stumpy Radix’). While I headed further along the streams to become mired in the steep-banked sides of the stream, James’ beckoned me forth with the aid of his phone. I struggled up the bank and sprinted to him. He had caught the day’s target species, a gorgeous ten-spined stickleback.
I was surprisingly charmed by it, expecting it to be largely similar to its 3-spined kin, but it held its own. The head is a lot more blunted than it’s relatives, given an almost pike-like appearance from above. It also prefers to spend its time in thick vegetation, with James (if memory serves correct) accidentally catching it while lazily wafting his net through some pond weed.
While taking it’s picture I stumbled upon a small pile of bones and scales on top of some railings.
Our best guess is it’s the remnants of a pellet left behind by a kingfisher, making it one of the most special piles of sick I’ve come across in my time.
We decided to trudge around the rest of the gardens before heading home. It was lucky we decided to do so, otherwise we wouldn’t have witnessed one of the most horrific things I’ve ever encountered.
While admiring the ducks and geese, seemingly largely of domestic origin, a domesticated mallard began to indulge one of the species’ bad habits, a spot of forced intercourse. This is a very common thing amongst mallards and many of the strange behaviours related to this can be read in more luxuriant detail here. Unfortunately for the female duck, the mallards are often followed by a goose that believes it is also a duck. The goose than made its own violent attempts on the female mallard, forcing its head under the water for a prolonged period of time. In some kind of divine attempt to make the world feel like a worthless, horrid place, the goose also happened to be domestic greylag/Swan goose hybrid. This might not inherently make things worse, but the awkward, tortured honks it gave triumphantly after the whole ordeal seemed confused and pained.
So to summarise – A greylag/swan goose hybrid with identity issues forcibly mated with and attempted to drown a domesticated mallard. It was like being a fly on the wall at an abusive care home.
I’m fairly sure we’ll know if the mating was reproductively successful, as the moon will glow red and a darkness will envelope the planet for 40 days.
EDIT – This what scientists are speculating the offspring would look like if reproduction was successful.
I also had a fever dream where this was the end result, but I choose to believe anything just vile and abhorrent could actually exist