Friday, 18 May 2007

The missing ducklings

I haven't seen any ducklings today so I hope they're o.k. If Beaky has any sense she'll keep them away as too many randy male ducks hang around here waiting to ambush the females when they come to feed.

If the weather stays fine we'll go out in our motor boat and look for Beaky and the kids. We'd also like to check on a pretty white duck with 5 ducklings at the last count. She's been here for breakfast and lunch on her own but she may have decided to leave the ducklings somewhere safe. Perhaps the mothers are aware of the pike's presence as the water is quite shallow close to the houseboats?

Below is a picture of one of Beaky's babies. Young grebes and cygnets climb on the backs of their parents for warmth and to hitch a ride but I've not seen a duckling do it. Perhaps it's just curious about the plastic decoy.

I couldn't resist including the picture below, of a vertically challenged duckling (one of Beaky's) getting it's first taste of freedom. How they don't harm themselves is a mystery, especially when you see how far they fall and hear the thud as they hit the deck.

As I sit here typing I'm watching one of the male Mandarin ducks sunbathing on a neighbour's deck. Just beyond are two coots, building a nest. A floating plank with nails has been attached to the boat and the pair are weaving twigs and greenery around the nails to hold the foundation in place. Much as I admire their nest building skills I do wish they wouldn't keep stealing my water irises!

Manadarin Duck on the bird table

I often wonder how the Mandarin ducks discovered our garden. They spend most of their time in the nearby woodland gardens of Bushey Park which form part of the Hampton Court Palace estate. I used to have a stone birdbath in the garden (in the days before the pond and cascade) and one day I was astonished to see a magnificent Mandarin duck making itself at home. The bath had a raised central section, on which I placed a bowl of wheat, and all manner of birds frequented it for a nosh, wash and brush up. It was so popular, in fact, that I had to refill it regularly, especially after a mob or raucous starlings came for a communal bath.

The Mandarin became a regular visitor and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if he brought his mate. The very next day he did. Soon word got out and we had seven males and three females visiting the garden three or four times a day. Some years they bring their ducklings which are similar in size and colour to Mallard ducklings.

Bidou the Black Swan

Bidou rarely leaves the nest these days and when she does she wolfs down her food and rarely stops to preen her feathers. We're so curious as to whether her eggs have been fertilized and if so, who's the father? It can only be a matter of 8 to 10 days now, that's if they hatch.

The breeze has piped up and it's unlikely I'll have time to get out in the boat after all so we'll have to wait till tomorrow to go looking for the ducklings. Until then . . .

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