It turns out that moorhens have freakishly long legs. I'm not sure if it was just the rain or that the rain also drove the people out of the park; but whatever it was, the waterbirds were out of the ponds and swarming the park yesterday.
We have a lot of water birds in the park behind our house. As well as the usual ducks and Canada geese we have some smart brown tufted ducks, dozens of coots and moorhens, the odd heron and the other day a rogue cormorant diving in the big pond with it's dinosaur face like something out of the Plecioscene era. I'm used to the moorhens lurking in the reeds with their little red beaks but have never seen one walking around and there they were, the moorhens, bobbling about on their stilty legs looking like the aliens had landed. They had young, as well which looked even stranger, puffs of grey-black fuzz on top of lollipop sticks.
I'm not sure if it was the rain that rained all night outside his window or that it was a bank holiday and all sensible Londoners were either out of town or snuggled in bed for the day but the Spud had slept 11 hours straight that night for only the second time ever. He refused naps all day however and by 3pm was red-eyed with sleep deprivation.
I thought that bundling him up in a blanket and his pushchair and taking him for a walk in the rain would help. The rhodedendrons have all come out and I don't remember them being so many or so colourful. There is cow parsley up in the wooded areas and flag irises around the ponds. And ducklings. And goslings.
I tried to interest the Spud in these things and for a moment his eyes lit up at the ducks however the rain distracted him and I realised shortly afterwards that I was making 'quack quack' sounds and doing the baby-sign for 'duck' for my own benefit as he was busy trying to grab rain drops from the inside of his plastic cover. And I was wearing birkenstocks and no rain coat. I plead motherhood.
We weren't quite alone. There were joggers, two of them, clearly insane and in matching red tops running with a grim look of satisfaction on their faces. They were followed shortly aftwards by a third even more insane person with a big f-off grin on his face and dangerously short shorts. There were two over-grown boys on those wretched mini-motorbikes cutting a swathe through the puddles, wearing plastic bin bags. There were dog-walkers in various anoraks and rain-capes and exuberant dogs headed for the puddles and one, solitary smoker in her mac standing under a tree watching the birds. There were some small birds with white fronts paddling around and I asked her if she knew what they were but she didn't. I wondered why she was there, standing with her cigarette. Turned out that the small birds were baby coots, blowing with the wind.
The tufted ducks have at least five chicks. I would swear there were six but they were so busy turning tail and diving under the water with a fluffy 'plop' that it was impossible to count. But there are six, I'm certain.
The motorbikes screamed past again, surprised to see anyone out in the rain. I waved them away from the moorhen chicks who stuttered and stilted their way back to their wobbling parents. I checked the push-chair and the Spud was asleep. I couldn't feel my fingers so I plashed my way home to a nice cup of tea and half an hour of baby-free time.