Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Will Bidou breed this year?

Could this be mating?
Since Bidou's return to our stretch of the river the male mute swan has mostly ignored her and she hasn't been welcomed by the family, especially the cygnets. She's no longer encouraged to tag along with them and seems forlorn. Recently I haven't seen her with them at all except when she turns up for food at the same time. Several weeks ago she managed to flirt with the cob when he was on his own and it was difficult to tell whether they attempted to mate or whether he was attacking her. However, she is now nesting on Duck Ait and sitting on eggs!

Attack or an attempt at mating?

Shortly afterwards Bidou made a show of building a nest on our plank

Snakey returning to her uncoventional nest
Snakey has raised a second brood in this unusual spot. I would occasionally add a little meadow hay to the nest to cover the eggs and protect them from attack by magpies and crows but it seemed to disappear and we wondered whether she ate some of it.

Snakey returning for the final 'sit in'
She spent longer than usual in the pond, washing and grooming and seemed in no hurry to return to the nest. The weather was warm so we assumed the eggs would be fine on their own for a while. When we looked they were covered in her downy feathers. Two eggs looked like they were slightly cracked so we guessed that they were beginning to hatch. The next morning she flew down into the river and called to the ducklings frantically to follow but either they couldn't climb the steep sides or just didn't fancy the long drop. She kept returning to the pot in an effort to urge them to follow her. In the end Dave carried the pot downstairs and helped launch the ducklings into the river close to Snakey. Nine healthy ducklings rushed over to her and for a day stuck like limpets to her sides. That afternoon we watched with amusement as she rounded them all up and led them into the empty riverside nesting box, their little feet slipping on the plank as it got wetter and wetter. Like Golden Eye, who is sitting on eggs in the adjacent box, Snakey has found a safe and dry shelter for the ducklings to return to. By the second day she was down to seven ducklings, then she lost four yesterday and now she's has only one. Meanwhile, some of Golden Eye's ducklings hatched yesterday but, as it's raining hard she can't persuade them to leave their nest! So far we've only seen one of them. In fact, we're a little puzzled because it seemed to us that one of Snakey's two remaining ducklings clambered into the wrong nesting box and wasn't rejected. We'll know eventually because Golden Eye had nine eggs so we'll be able to work out whether this might have happened. It's unlikely, but we know that Golden Eye's partner was 'unfaithful' several times with Snakey so there could be a common 'dad'! If Golden Eye ends up with more than nine ducklings, we'll be able to tell what happened to Snakey's last but one duckling.

The Fab Four photographed through the glass patio door
At least these ducklings are a success. They're the only ones, so far, to survive on this stretch of the river. As you can see they're a reasonable size now and they've already grown since I took this picture of them a week or so ago. In fact, it's getting difficult to tell them apart from the adult ducks.

Neighbours Malcolm & Lyn trying out their new kayak
While we were in Portugal England had its summer and since then the weather's been very changeable, hence the dull light in most of the images.

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