Abu Antar and Friends

Sitting on our riverside terrace on those long summer evenings watching the world go by is one of the pleasures that my wife and I most enjoy after spending busy working lives in the Middle East. The nervous antics of rental boat captains frantically trying to find overnight mooring places before it gets dark, tired passengers arriving at Riverside station after their daily commutes to London, the increased air traffic approaching Heathrow from all parts of the world and, most interestingly, the river birds preparing for their overnight sojourns.

There is one particular old cob swan,recognisable by his raised wings and the exaggerated curve of his neck

together with a jerky swimming motion and a very arrogant demeanour that cannot be missed.

We have named him ‘Abu Antar’ after a Syrian TV comedy villain. He has a lecherous character and is forever chasing the young lady pens with limited success as it seems that he is well known and they usually try to give him a wide berth. After exhausting himself in this futile pursuit he usually just drifts with the current until he gets his breath back and then repeats his overtures to any young lady swan that he thinks may be in range.

It is difficult to distinguish between the goose sexes but the male Mallard ducks are somewhat clown like with green orange and yellow highlights while their lifelong wives are a dowdy brown. In true Oriental fashion the female ducks follow their husbands at a respectable distance. Trying to guess where a diving cormorant or grebe will surface after a dive to try for a fish meal is usually futile, they have a surprising ability to remain under water for a long time and to swim for a considerable distance. We have only once seen a cormorant surface with a fish. Their usual home is on top of the red warning sign before the Romney weir.

The late evening procession of the three main species of large, medium and smaller aquatics heading to their dormitory on Romney Island is interesting as each totally ignores the other and strenuous efforts are made to avoid any fraternisation. The same applies to the morning return upstream above the bridge. There is often a lone Goldeneye duck that attempt to integrate itself into the Mallard fleet but he too is treated with disdain and is forced to live a life on the periphery, picking up the crumbs left by the river life that considers itself superior.

The increasingly frequent swarms of gulls cause much unease to the regular river life as they are noisy with raucous cries and shrieks, they are also daring in their pursuit of any food that is being offered to the other species and they do not shy away from any confrontation that they think may be to their advantage. Fortunately for everyone these flocks of Gulls only appear infrequently and remain for only a couple of days.