Moorhen Teenagers Helping Out with their Younger Siblings – and Other Photos

It’s nice when your teenagers help you out with the chores isn’t it?

While walking past Yelverton pond a few days ago, we noticed a new clutch of Moorhens had hatched and was being looked after by the ‘teenage’ Moorhens from the previous bunch of eggs that hatched a few weeks ago.

It’s quite interesting behaviour and isn’t common in birds. We suppose that it takes a bit of responsibility and effort off the parents, and gives a bit of experience to the juvenile ones before they grow up and presumably try to raise their own in future years.

We’re privileged to see that behaviour in action on our pond so close to home.

After a previous post saying there were 3 juvenile birds, there now appear to be 2 left, after some evidence that one got run over by a car by the corner of the pond. A big shame as that generation were doing so well. The sight of 4 more chicks takes the edge off though, fingers crossed for those doing well.

On the same walk a couple of Linnets were fluttering around and singing on some bushes, we’ve not seen those very often at all in the Parish, even though they’re not rare nationally. They’ve got a beautiful song and look great with a grey head, brown wings, and a bit of red on their chest.

A linnet waiting on a branch
A linnet feeding

And last but definitely not least, here’s another thing you don’t see every day, there were a couple of Red Kites over Garrick Field flying off towards Poringland a week ago.

A red kite over Garrick Field

Indeed, over the same couple of days there were posts on Facebook by Poringland residents saying they’d seen them.

It’s spectacular to see these birds over the Parish, there are apparently only 1800 breeding pairs of Red Kites in the UK, with half of those in Wales. So having a pair in the area makes our Parish (and wider group of villages) seem even more special.

Yelverton Wildlife – Grown Up Moorhen and Goose Chicks.

This year Yelverton pond has been home to a family of Moorhens and a family of Egyptian Geese. Originally we counted 5 moorhen chicks, and 6 Egyptian Geese chicks.

Newly hatched chicks in mid-April

As these things often go with wild birds, most of the chicks seem not to have survived, as far as we know it’s been because of natural predators getting them, which is a shame for the birds but all perfectly normal of course.

But some have thrived and made it.

Moorhen loves own reflection too much

There were 3 grown up young moorhens on the pond yesterday, foraging around, which was great to see.

This author believes the whole first clutch of 5 chicks didn’t make it, a new nest was built on the central island instead of by the road, and these 3 are from that second attempt. It was obviously a more secure location.

The Egyptian Geese must be proud of this beauty! Nearly fully grown now:

Adult Goose thinks it’s about time his kid moved out and got his own place.

Elsewhere, we’ve heard of mallard ducks having a very successful year even though they got booted off the pond by the geese. 24 chicks from two families swimming around elsewhere in the village, so that’s also good news.

Moorhen chicks on Yelverton pond

If you’ve visited the pond recently have you noticed the Moorhen family? It’s nice to see that the pond renovation hasn’t put them off and they’ve still set up home again. How cute are these little guys? 😃

An adult Moorhen with 4 of its chicks foraging for food

We saw 5 chicks with the 2 adults.

Moorhen chicks by the water’s edge on Yelverton pond

Moorhens can have two or three lots of eggs each year, and the “teenage” kids from the first clutch help out with feeding and looking after the chicks in the second clutch, and so on. It’s pretty unusual.

A moorhen nest on Yelverton pond

The nest is in quite an obvious visible place near the edge, and if we can see it easily then we would imagine it’s visible to predators as well, so our fingers are crossed for the little guys. Maybe it’s far enough from the edge.

We don’t actually know how easily disturbed Moorhens are by people getting close, but they are next to a road after all, so they can’t be too nervous about noise.

Do have a look if you go past, definitely show your kids for example, as it’s really interesting, but we’d hope of course that everyone keeps a respectful distance, just in case they get spooked.

Oystercatchers seen just outside the village

Our post last week about the new birds at the pond got quite a bit of interest, so we thought we’d see what you thought of another one!

After that previous post, a resident (who I now definitely owe a beer when all this is over) contacted us to say that we also get oystercatchers in the fields to the east of the village in spring, and that you can often hear them before you see them. They’ve got a high pitched sort of whistling sound that carries quite far.

No way, we thought. But he was not wrong! The next day we went to have a look, and amazingly we heard and saw a couple and managed to get a picture. Very lucky.

They are a coastal bird that typically would be combing a beach for muscles and other snacks like that, so we wouldn’t have expected to see one on our doorstep. Apparently they can come inland to feed on worms that they can get to in the soil with their long beak.

Ok, what on earth is an Oystercatcher??

Well, here’s what one looks like in Yelverton near the solar panels:

An oystercatcher standing in a field among old harvested stalks of corn

And here’s a couple of photos that are actually good:

Stock photo of an oystercatcher. Image credit
If you see one flying away you’ll notice the white bars across the wing. Image credit

And here’s some more info if you really want to geek up on it, and also to hear what they sound like:

Oystercatcher info from the RSPB SITE

So next time you’re walking round that footpath that goes from the back of avenue farm, north across the fields, coming out at the top of Dranes Lane, keep your ears open for that sound and you might spot one.

What else might I see?

Find out what other wildlife you can see around the village on our wildlife page

our wildlife page

Yelverton pond renovation brings in some new wildlife

Ever seen an Egyptian goose? How about a Grey Wagtail? Have a walk down to the pond! It seems that the Yelverton pond renovation has perhaps created a home for some new wildlife.

Grey Wagtail

These are actually relatively rare in general, but a few times over the last few weeks we’ve seen a Grey Wagtail hanging around the pond.

A grey wagtail next to the puddle over the back of Yelverton pond. Can you see it? 🙂 No? Look a bit closer I promise it’s there.

There’s only about 70000 in the UK, so we’re quite lucky to have one in the village. In contrast there are roughly 7 million blue tits in the UK.

It might have always been there and we didn’t notice, but if it’s the pond renovation that’s attracted it then it’s a really good sign.

A grey wagtail
A grey wagtail facing away

It’s a bit tricky to see in real life, let alone in my photos, but it has a bath in the pond sometimes and seems to like the puddle in the field behind the pond, just at the top of the embankment and over the barrier.

And if you’re wondering how it got its name “wagtail”:

A short video of the grey wagtail wagging it’s tail!

Egyptian Goose

There’s one or two on or around the pond pretty much every day at the moment, I don’t remember seeing one here before.

Anyone know what a baby Egyptian goose looks like? Maybe we’ll find out soon!

The Moorhens and Ducks

Nice to see that neither of our usual moorhens have deserted the pond while the works were carried out. But since the Egyptian Geese arrived we haven’t seen the usual pair of ducks around, have they been bullied off their patch? We’ll have to see if they come back… If not then we’ll leave it to you to decide if having the geese is a good trade!

What else can I see?

Find out what other wildlife you can see around the village on our wildlife page

our wildlife page

A plea on behalf of local wildlife

There’s been reports of hedgehog casualties on local roads lately.

Please drive carefully and keep an eye out for hedgehogs and other wildlife crossing the road. Also, check for sheltering hedgehogs when clearing up in the garden or having bonfires.

Hedgehogs are now classed as “threatened with extinction” in the UK, and need our help. Also, there are increasing incidents of items such as face masks, wipes and gloves being discarded on paths and roads. This can be hazardous to people as a potential source of infection and to animals who can either become entangled in face masks or eat these items. 

Please dispose of these items safely in your waste bins.

Many thanks!

Swallows and House Martins

Got any good trips planned next month? Some of our birds have!


By the end of September most of the swallows in Alpington and Yelverton will have begun their huge migration, all the way to the far south of Africa. So there’s only a few weeks left to see them in the village, before we lose them again for another year.

Swallows in flight

We’ve noticed them often on the telegraph wires and flying around above Cherrywood, but they also zip around above the church’s trees, and you might see a few above your head as you walk near the pond, as we think a few nested in the barn down dranes lane.

Typically they’ll start flocking together at this time of year in larger groups, perched on telegraph wires and branches before taking off together on their epic voyage.

They’re fast and powerful in flight, quite “flappy” as they’re flying, quick wing beats, and they change direction a lot, catching their food in mid air, hoovering up insects like mosquitos for example.

A swallow

They’ve got long thin tail streamers trailing behind them, and a red chin that you’ll spot if they’re close enough.

They can drink in flight as well, quenching their thirst by skimming over the water and opening their beak. Not sure where they do this in our village though, I’ve not seen the technique in action over the pond or anywhere else. Have you?

A swallow’s in flight drinking technique

House martins

Have you noticed the house martins flying around the village as well?

House martins. You’ll have guessed it’s not a real-time photo 🙂

They’ve been nesting up under the eaves of a few lucky houses! We noticed one nest on the side of a house on church road this year for example. We’ve noticed them often in the skies around church meadow, and church road towards the school.

To me, compared to the swallows, they seem less “flappy” when they’re flying, but still fluttery with quick wing beats. They’re a bit more steady, more prone than a swallow to glide on straight wings for short periods, and they’ve got a shorter forked tail with no streamers.

Side shot of a house martin
A house martin’s back while banking left

If they turn their back to you in flight, you may notice they’ve got a distinctive white patch on their bum. And in contrast to the swallows’ red throat they have white instead.


A swallow nest
A house martin nest

You can see from the pictures above, if you see a nest on the side of a house, it’ll likely be a house martin’s, a quarter-sphere shape with a closed top. Apparently swallows don’t nest in eaves, and their nests have an open top instead.

You may have a nest on your property, and depending on your point of view you’ll think that’s lucky or unlucky! Did you know that these birds like to reuse nests that they’ve built? They’ll often find the same nest they built in our village after returning all the way from Africa. And empty nests get reused by different birds. It makes sense, it takes an awful lot of energy to construct one, about a 1000 trips back and forth carrying material.

I guess if I spent each winter abroad and then had to rebuild my house each time I came back home, I’d also try to find the house I built last year!