Sunday, 1 March 2009

Squatters Rights And Territorial Fights

Mute swans mating

The dominant mute swans have been patrolling their territory more regularly in the last few weeks, driving off any rivals with determination. They had just seen off a male intruder (tagged JKC) and were rather pleased with themselves. After displaying for a while with their beautiful synchronised 'wash and groom' routine they mated.

The female growled just like a cat in a fight as they reared up

An exuberant show of mutual affection

Bidou believes she's a mute swan

When the male mute swan, JKC, turned up earlier this week Bidou did her best to flirt with him. Unfortunately for her, he showed no interest and continued to eat his breakfast. She kept calling gently and sidling up to him cautiously, but to no avail.

Whenever swans fly overhead she calls out to them, her neck stretched to its full length, but she still insists in driving off any black swans that might visit. A neighbour downstream sent an image of Bidou mating with the dominant mute swan earlier in the week, so she's still hoping to win him over. I don't think his partner will take to kindly to such behaviour! I was concerned for Bidou on Friday when it appeared that she was being attacked by, rather than mating with, a mute swan. She certainly seemed distressed and was trying to escape. She might be nesting on a tiny island inside the lagoon on Taggs Island. Whether the nest is of her making or has been 'assembled' by optimistic islanders, I'm not sure.

A pintail visited with some mallards for 10 minutes

I managed to grab this shot through the patio doors when I spotted this pintail. We don't normally see them here. Sadly, it didn't stay long and hasn't been back since.

Which duck will claim the nestbox?

In the past nine days the ducks have started staking their claims for nest sites. Golden Eye (emerging from the box) has nested on our garden deck for at least four years and, until now, was 'queen' duck. This year, however, a younger mallard (Mrs. Speckles) and her partner are attempting to usurp her territory, and Gobi (Golden Eye's partner) isn't as young and fit as he used to be. There are regular stand-offs between the four of them, although Golden Eye seems to get on ok with Mrs. Speckles and Gobi with Mr. Speckles. Mrs. Speckles loves to perch on top of the box or on the railing above, while Golden Eye and Gobi prefer to sit side by side next to whichever box Golden Eye favours on the day. It can't be long before she decides on her nest and starts to lay eggs. For the last two days, Golden Eye and Gobi are spending most of the day kipping on our garden deck. Perhaps ducks, too, have squatters rights?! Whatever happens, we can look forward to weeks of ducks thundering along our flat roof doing 'touch and goes' as they chase each other away from their chosen sites.

A triumph of optimism over experience

No doubt she'll learn, but this coot is trying to build a nest on our normally very busy feeding plank. How she is able to lift such a huge stick amazes me. Once coots start to build, the messy nest soon takes shape but this is hopeless as a platform. Every time a boat goes by the twigs are washed away. This pair of coots are taking their territory VERY seriously and are vicious when seeing off intruders. Poor old Thunder Thighs daren't come here any more and is 'confined to barracks' two doors down from us by River Dream. A young male coot had also started to visit regularly but has been driven off completely now.

Taking a chance

This young coot had been risking life and limb to come and feed here but has finally been driven off. It never attacked Thunder Thighs when it came on to the deck, but recognised danger when any other coot appeared and would vanish at the speed of light. I'm pretty sure it survived but has been driven away from the area by the two pairs of rival coots.