Tag Archives: Coots

Home Sweet Home

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At last. Settled. Our new home. Same old house (narrowboat) but a new location. Droitwich Spa Marina in Worcestershire. We’ve been here now for just over 2 months. Getting to know the area. But at the moment, as I write this, we have been off the boat and away more than here on the boat. Let me explain.

You see, my best friend has a new art studio (she paints acrylicly). It just happens to be in this neck of the woods and was a long drive from Apsley, where we were moored previously. Now it’s only a 40 minute drive. And, we’re out in the country, surrounded by lots of natural foliage and occasional whiffs of manure.

The marina is part of a working farm near the town of Droitwich Spa. This field, near the canal, kept flooding, so the farmers thought…hmmm, next to the canal. Boaters need a place to moor. Let’s build a marina on this useless piece of farmland. And a good job they made of it too. Complete with a boaters’ lounge. Comfortable space to relax with free TV and everything. There is also a block for toilets and showers…even a bath in one of the rooms. I think we’ll stay.

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The offices and diesel jetty at Droitwich Spa Marina from the canal.

My favourite place is the boaters’ lounge, the top floor of the marina offices and small shop that sells everything from milk to mooring pins. The upstairs lounge has comfortable seating, is carpeted, has a balcony and a TV. A sideboard provides us with free coffee and tea and a sink. I go there to use the free wi-fi and do some writing. Rarely do people come in. But when they do, I get to meet some interesting folk, then they get on with their stuff and I continue with mine.

One day, a family came in…dad, grandparents and two little girls. They all had ice cream. We said our hellos and they went over the other side of the room, licking and slurping away. I was typing away when I sensed a presence. I looked up and there was a small girl offering me a some of her ice cream. I thanked her but politely declined. Boaters are a friendly bunch.

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Boaters’ Lounge looking out to marina.

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Boaters’ Lounge with the coffee and tea bar.

The chap who runs the marina is Nick, the farmer’s son-in-law. He is everywhere at once. I think he has been cloned. He fixes this. He moves that. He is in his enormous tractor hauling a narrowboat to be blacked (read through back Blogs), he’s cutting grass and he is in the office administrating. There is a staff of competent people who do most of the office work. Nice group they are too. Very pleasant. Very helpful. Nick orchestrates all of it, and is off to do 10 more things at once.

Everything we need for boating is available here. Diesel, pump-out for those who have built-in shitters, boat equipment in a small chandlery, gas for cooking and heating, coal or wood for our stoves, water and electrics. I mentioned a toilet block with showers, an elsan point (to empty our shitters) and an enclosed space to get rid of our rubbish. All of the jettys are long and stable. But they are quite narrow. You must have your wits about you when walking the length. Don’t want to fall in the water…again.

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The Glad Victor moored at Droitwich Spa Marina (north end), long, narrow jetty and no boats either side.

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Droiwich Spa Marina from the south end. Shower block to the right of the tree.

The marina is only a mile from town, a good walk and great exercise along the towpath. It spills out onto a park and the main shopping area of town, replete with many pubs and a train station. We walk in, buy our supplies for the day and walk back. It has been very hot here since May. On one trip into Droitwich Spa, I complained that I was hot and tired. “Oh, stop your moaning you baby,” says my best friend. “I’ll get you an ice cream if you behave.” Result.

When we arrived at the marina, there were no boats on either side of us. We loved the space around. Open the windows, look out at the water and breathe. But then they began to arrive. No, not other boaters. Ducks, coots, swans and an unidentified fowl that half quacks and half squeaks. With no boats on either side of us, they can jump up on the jetty and poke their beaks in our window, looking for munchies. On the other side of the boat, the water is wider. That’s when the male swan, a grumpy bugger, sticks his long neck up to the open window and hisses and snaps at anyone who walks by inside the boat. Bring on the other boats.

Our old marina had space for a little over 60 boats. Droitwich Spa Marina has 238 moorings. Lots more people and goings on. We’ve met some of our neighbours. Good bunch so far. One chap even helped my best friend carry groceries back to the boat from the car. He is a hulking sort of chap with a very little dog. It takes all types. We have a couple from Australia who come to England to cruise the canals. One of the boats beside us is used for trips out only. Nice couple own it. We have yet to see the other boat on the other side of our jetty. Apparently, they are out all summer long.

We do have our resident curmudgeon. He is several boats away and grunts when we greet him. So, we stopped with the greetings. One day as he passed, we said nothing but he still grunted. Not sure what that was supposed to be. And, we have the naked lady. She is alone on her boat. She likes to wear nothing as she sits in her boat. I only know because one day I stopped to look at some baby ducks by her craft and she was sitting naked by her window. I stared in utter amazement until she caught me. I have gone past her boat every time since, eyes down, staring straight ahead.

Lots of fowl babies too. Ducks, coots and finally, cygnets. We are the 4th boat from the northern end of the marina. On our first day at the marina, the end corner was fenced off with orange mesh (Nick’s work of course) protecting a nest with 4 swan eggs. The mother was off doing something we guessed. On our way up the cut we had seen plenty of cygnets and so we thought this hatching was probably late. It was, according to the local boaters.

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Swan on nest and a hint of Nick’s orange netting..

We thought the mum was not being attentive enough. It happens. The usual vultures circled the nest…the heron, the seagulls, various vermin and a fox. Somehow the eggs survived. This charade went on for a couple of weeks. We had to leave the boat one weekend, thinking when we came back the eggs would have finally been destroyed. And they were. All gone we thought. Stupid mum. Then, up the jetty beside us where there is no boat (yet) came a mum, a dad (old grumpy Gus) and 4 cygnets. Relief. All are doing well.

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MARINA BABIES

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MARINA BABIES

Last year we had ducklings in the marina that I Blogged about in Duckingham Palace. They have all grown up and since moved on to greater things, I hope. It was a pleasure watching them grow week by week. The duck lady raised them as much as mother duck did. She has become the marina wildlife guardian and feeder….the good stuff, not bread and other things that are not supposed to be good for them.

Then an edict from above came over the ethernet to all residents of the marina not to feed the ducks in the marina because it caused them to poop on the pontoons. We didn’t think the demand went far enough. The ducks fed outside the marina ought to be told not to come into the marina for fear they would poop on the pontoons and we would be blamed. Not for us pooping on the pontoons, you understand, but those pesky ducks. Nonsense, all of it.

Feeding ducks, geese, swans and coots is a time-honoured tradition that goes back to prehistoric days when cavemen fed pterodactyl and such. You can dispute that fact all you like, but you weren’t there either. The point is, going to the park to feed the ducks and such is a given. Feed them better food than bread if you like, but feed them we must. I’ve read conflicting reports as to the efficacy of feeding swans bread. Some say it’s okay, others say they get some kind of wing disease. I also read that, unlike ducks, swans only eat what they need. Ducks are a bit like me. They eat anything put in front of them until they explode.

So this year a wrinkle has been thrown into the mix at our old marina. At first we thought there would be no ducklings. Duckingham Palace lay empty and no baby fowl of any description could be seen in the marina. The only babies we had were of the human species on our side of the marina. 2 of them to be precise, a male and a female. We made no attempt to feed them even without an edict from above (head office for those who have not yet caught on….no deity involved here).

At first it was 4 baby coots. Then it was three. They are so tiny that even a fish could swallow them. Apparently, we have a mean-spirited Pike in the marina who has a taste for cootlings and ducklings when they are very small. It may have been the Heron. We just don’t know. Anyway, 3 survive and took up residence in Duckingham Palace….a changing of the guard, so to speak. Cute little coots too. Tiny balls of black fluff cheeping away as they passed by.

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Cootlings head for their new home in the marina.

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Cootlings being fed in their new home.

Then in moved the swans with 5 cygnets. They are the ugly ducklings of Hans Christian Andersen fame. I remember Danny Kaye singing the song. But they are anything but ugly….the cutest big balls of fluff ever. Swan parents are not good at sharing space, so the Coots were driven out and the swans moved in to Duckinham Palace and what a scene that has been. Try moving 5 large fowl into a space built for tiny ducklings. Result? The roof was displaced slightly.

I suppose feeding them in the marina doesn’t count in the overlord’s dictate. They do not usually get onto the pontoons to poop and only eat a certain amount. The same goes for those very pesky Canadian Geese that are prolific and profligate. They give all Canadians a bad name. And they hiss a lot as you walk by, even when no goslings are involved. We don’t like feeding them, greedy buggers. Come to think of it, that’s what my best friend calls me….a greedy bugger….hmmm.

Anyway, the swans swim up to us when we are sitting at the end of our pontoon and pretty well demand being fed or they’ll start snapping at our legs and feet. And they do. They snap at them and hiss at us even when we feed them. They are protected by the Queen, so we can’t fight back. Canadians may be greedy, but these are nasty, vicious, English bastards I have to say. Still, we forgive them now because of the babies who don’t hiss or snap….yet.

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The coots, meanwhile, had to move into an old tyre (tire) tied to the back of a boat that came into the marina a week or so ago. It’s a temporary home that the mm or dad or both threw together when they were made homeless by the vicious swan parents. We all hope the boat owner doesn’t move out any time soon and leave the poor Coots completely homeless. That would be tragic.

And so into the mix come the ducklings. At last, the darlings of the marina. I don’t think it’s the same mum as last year, but who knows? They do tend to look the same to me. The duck lady will know. I’ll have to ask her when I see her next. They were 8 ducklings now down to six and are nested on an impromptu stand situated at the back of the duck lady’s boat. Problem” The duck lady has a cat who loves to torment the ducks by sneaking along the gunwale to the back of the boat and saying BOO! in cat speak, scattering the mum and ducklings out into the centre of the marina.

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Quite entertaining actually. Mum duck appears to have a certain quack for “Swim for it!” as they scatter wildly when she quacks it. As long as no one gets hurt….don’t judge me. And so it goes, day in, day out and we love it. What we don’t love is nature taking its course when some babies depart from this earth. Always a sad moment. I’ll update as time and situation permit. In the meantime, get out there, buy some fowl food and feed the little buggers wherever you are. Rise up and defy the Man. It is our right and our heritage.

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