Wednesday February 17th 2021 – On the canal at Walsall Wood, a familiar pair of beaky chancers come towards me hoping for food.
They make out they haven’t eaten for weeks, that they’re starving to death, and also they’ll feed my body to the pike if I don’t cough up a treat.
But unluckily for them, I’m empty handed, my usual small bag of corn left in the garage after filling; fortunately they seem in a rudeness of health that matches their people skills, and despite their menace, only hiss at me and scud off, to browse the canal bottom for tasty green goo.
February 13th – And on the canal further on, the usual characters are regrouping for the spring rituals. Soon, shady aggressive beggars like this lad will be building nests and chasing off any unwelcome visitors.
For now he was grumpy with me because I had no food.
He glared and honked at me from the water, his contempt at my lack of largesse painfully clear.
August 3rd – I’ve always loved how the growing Canada geese clutches move into adulthood and still stay in loose family groups as they mature.
I encountered this particular group of beaky blinders at Ogley Junction, but they hatched near Catshill Junction and have been pottering around the local canals ever since. They are notable for being particularly intimidating, with mum (or dad, I never thought to ask) once leaping on my back as I was riding and pecking my head furiously.
This aggression has been passed to the next generation and one or two always take a lunge and hiss defensively at passers by, whatever their mode of transport.
Now in adult plumage, I’m fascinated by the one that appears to be suffering premature greyness and wonder if I should get it a bottle of Grecian 2000 or maybe just a black sharpie pen…
April 2nd – Since it’s spring, I note that the aggressively begging Canada geese are back on the canal near Clayhanger Bridge. Although they’d both clearly been grazing the freshly mown grass on the towpath, they were both hungry and refused to let me pass until I gave them a treat.
Curiously, this seems to be their permanent state, no matter how much food they have…
Fortunately, I’ve been anticipating their reappearance and had some seed in my pocket ready for these shameless muggers.
March 23rd – On a short late afternoon ride out on a cold, windy afternoon, I noticed the Watermead swan couple were making preparations for another family, just by the canal basin and houses around the canal bend from the canoe centre.
These two birds have raised many cygnets to maturity in recent years and it’s good to see them back.
However, the mail is somewhat formidable and canoeists, kayakers, passing dogs and waterfowl will need to be careful: This lad protects his family aggressively.
January 8th – Off to work on a miserable, grey and cold morning. I hit the canal in Walsall to avoid the morning crush hour and was accosted in Pleck by a very cross character demanding food. Sadly, my supply of corn was in another jacket, and the swan who was so aggressively begging showed it’s displeasure by repeatedly pecking my feet.
Of course, the swan was not starving, but urban swans are very lazy and accustomed to the high life, and when loafing in ice-free swim holes near bridges on cold days, they have little better to do that harass passers by for tidbits. I suspect the policy works best on passing mothers and fathers with children, whose guilt twanged, will come back with food.
The ice itself wasn’t severe. Moorhens and coots skittered about on it, but I doubt it would have supported the portly resplendent girth of your average drake mallard.
April 12th – A horrid, wet commute home on a surprisingly cold day was lightened somewhat by the antics of a familiar pair of avian muggers on the towpath near Clayhanger.
I assume the same pair every year take residence on this stretch of canal, and noisily accost anyone passing for tidbits or sheer goosey devilment – honking, head-bobbing and if sufficiently irritated, pecking.
I carry a small bag of seed to distract them while I make good my escape, but I love them really.