Thursday, 17 May 2007

Day 1, one gone

Yesterday in the early evening one of the ducklings was lagging behind and Beaky kept calling and waiting, but it took a wrong turn. I watched it head out towards the main river through the narrow gap between our boats. Just as it turned the corner there was a sudden swirl and a large shape emerged from the water and grabbed it. It was all over in seconds and I was more aware of a large head above the water and a long shape underwater than of the duckling actually being taken. I was quite shocked even though I've seen quite a few ducklings and young coots disappear suddenly this way. However, I've never been so close and also looking down on the action. Beaky took the other nine out the same way and I was holding my breath but they all made it this time.

* * * * * * * *

This morning Beaky arrived with all 9 ducklings and I breathed a sigh of relief but I've been out for most of the day and haven't seen them since. Meanwhile, the duck we call Lonely, because she was the sole survivor of a brood and was virtually ignored by her parents, is now sitting permanently on a nest amongst my lettuces and strawberry plants on the garden deck.

We've recently had our garden redesigned to include a pond and small cascade into the river and it has proved highly popular with the ducks. Perhaps because the garden is more open, it is also attracting an enormous crow and a pair of jays. It's interesting to watch the pecking order in the garden. The mandarin ducks, though smaller than the mallards, are obviously more fierce and get first crack at the wheat I put out, originally for the swans, and only then do the mallards get to eat. This morning, however, the crow came down and took precedence over everything. I've never seen it eat wheat before, but I'm not surprised the ducks were wary of it. It's large and quite fearsome looking.


Bidou the black swan has just been for her supper and a quick wash and brush up before returning to her nest. The mandarin ducks are also arriving and I've just noticed that one of the males has alopecia and is looking far less resplendent than the rest. The parakeets are also lining up in the trees for a final feed on the peanuts. One of them is so tame that my husband was able to touch him yesterday.

I'm learning to reappraise my beliefs around bird behaviour. Recently I saw a blackbird feeding from the hanging peanut feeder and a jay eating from the window feeder while I was standing inside, less than 3 feet from the window. We were also amazed to see the greater spotted woodpecker feeding from the window feeder.

I'm around more tomorrow so there should be more photographs and more wildlife news. Fingers crossed for Beaky and family.

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