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Arnside and beyond

Friday 17 February 2012: Two in tow

The advantage of the quest for the Kendal Three on the River Kent is that I get to see things I've never seen before. Not an otter showed today, and maybe because the weather has warmed up these last few days, the goosanders are starting to exhibit different behaviours.

This rather aloof male had an attendant female who followed him everywhere, prostrating herself flat on the water with her bill snorkelling in the air. After a while she was joined by a second bird, and together they tailed him up and down the river while he studiously ignored them. Occasionally though, perhaps to keep them interested, he would throw his head back and stretch his neck vertically.

Goosanders breed on the upland rivers of Cumbria, including the Kent and its tributaries. Last year I photographed a raft of about 40 birds, mothers and juveniles, downstream in the Kent estuary. The birds which are present here on the Kent at the moment will include both resident birds and visitors from colder climes. The wintering population is four or five times larger than the breeding population in Britain.

The pair bonds are formed in late winter - now - and that is what I was seeing today on the Kent. The wintering birds will migrate back to their breeding grounds together.

Thank you for all the stars, hearts and comments for yesterday's swan. No, I wasn't that close. I have a healthy respect for swans and wouldn't push my luck. That's the wonder of telephoto lenses and cropping of images. The background of the river was dark, but I deepened the shadows to give more of a contrast between the bird and its backdrop.

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