Sunday, 14 September 2008

Thunderthighs is back

Golden Eye on her eggs as they begin to hatch

I was beginning to wonder whether Golden Eye's eggs would ever hatch. The weather wasn't particularly great and when they started to hatch it poured with rain. None of the ducklings would leave the nest box in spite of her frantic calls to them to take to the water.

A glance inside the box while Golden Eye was grabbing a quick break

At last they all reluctantly emerge

After half a day of doing her best to tempt them out the last duckling finally emerged from the shelter of the box. The weather was so vile I can hardly blame them for wanting to stay warm and dry.

Several days later with one of only two remaining ducklings

Every evening Golden Eye would take the young back into the box for the night but what a palaver that was. Gobi, her partner, was always there but never went inside the box. Every time it seemed like they were all finally inside, one would waddle out again and fall down the plank into the river. It was hilarious to watch and usually took between 30 and 4o minutes for Golden Eye to get them all safely tucked up.

After about 5 days Golden Eye was finally down to one lovely duckling and I so hoped that it would survive but it strayed into nesting coot territory and was pecked to death. I saw it floating downstream on its back and there was nothing I could do to save it. I was SO upset and so was Golden Eye. She spent the next two days calling for it incessantly and she kept returning to the nesting box to check whether it had returned. Every year I promise myself that I shall harden my heart to the natural wastage in Nature but it never works.

Bidou calls round for some wheat

Bidou's nest failed again and after sitting for six weeks she finally abandoned it. However, I subsequently heard that she'd been taken to a sanctuary for several days after she was found cowering following a severe beating, so her eggs would have gone cold if they were fertilised. We shall never know now.

She still follows the mute swans around but is not readily tolerated by them. Bidou chases the cygnets when she gets a chance, which doesn't endear her to the parent mute swans. Mind you, the cygnets are now nearly fully grown and will soon be driven out of the territory by their mum and dad! Recently Bidou has taken to calling forlornly, rushing up and downstream in search of suitable company! We all hope that a male black swan will turn up to keep her company.

Hampton Sailing Club

On one of the few sunny afternoons we've had this summer we grabbed the chance of a boat trip and enjoyed an hour on the river. It's been such a disappointing summer, not just because of the rain but because it's been permanently overcast.

Hampton Church with sailing club in foreground

Astoria and Garrick's temple to Shakespeare
The weir house at Molesey Lock

I've had so little chance to take decent photographs this summer because of the gloomy days and general lack of light and sunshine. Today is fine but hazy so we hope to get out for an hour before sunset. It's hard to believe that the weather has been so dreadfully dull and extremely wet. We've had rain, often torrential, most days for about two months.

We were surprised last week to see a familiar shape stumbling along our deck. Thuderthighs the coot, whom we all thought had been finished off in the Spring by other coots, suddenly turned up again. He still looks really scruffy and is unsteady on his pins, but I'm glad that he's still going strong. When he wants feeding he does his best to limp towards us (he's lost a toe so he's rather unbalanced) and he spends most of his time hiding from the other coots and making one huge mess of our deck! Still, I admire his tenacious hold on life and put up with the fact that I have an incontinent water bird to clean up after.