Friday, 17 April 2009

The ducklings are hatching

Goldeneye heading for the final vigil

Goldeneye took only minutes today to drink, grab a bite to eat, wash and race back to the nest.
Dave had a quick look in the box during her absence and saw that the eggs were beginning to hatch. Two hours ago I saw three ducklings wriggling around and disturbing her and every now and then we saw a little head next to her wing. The eggs should all hatch today/early tomorrow and, in theory, she'll lead them to the edge for the plunge to the river (via a bounce on our lower deck) tomorrow morning. We think it will be all over by tomorrow lunchtime but it could be anytime from first light. If you'd like to look at the webcam go to

Mrs. Speckles minutes before another attack

Last night was horrendous for the number of times Mrs. Speckles was dragged from her nestbox. This morning she had a restful twenty minutes in the garden, feeding and taking the time to drink from the pond and preen. As you may be able to see her feathers are bedraggled and at close quarters she's almost bald on the right of her neck and back and on one area of her side.

We've finally worked out which duck is to blame for most of the attacks - it's Gobi, Goldeneye's partner! He's always been territorial but now that his ducklings are due to hatch he is doing what Nature intended and seeing off all rivals. Poor Mrs. Speckles must have had very little rest last night - I know we did - and today she was driven from her nest and it was over two hours before she could return. I'll be surprised if the egg finally hatches.

Dave's raised the gang plank to her box a little and we're hoping it may deter Gobi but there's no guarantee. Perhaps, once his ducklings take to the river tomorrow, he'll be too busy to attack Mrs. Speckles. On the other hand, she is nesting in the box Goldeneye used as a nursery last year!

In between sleeping and waking during the many duck attacks we heard the most horrendous shrill calls of panic from somewhere upstream. It wasn't a call either of us recognised but some poor creature met with an untimely end. It was horrible listening to the distress calls . . . and then there was silence.

Mrs. Speckles' ramshackle nest and solitary egg

Unlike Goldeneye, Mrs. Speckles never gets the chance to cover up her egg because she is always being forced off the nest when Gobi attacks her. When she'd been absent for so long today I thought she must have abandoned the egg but, just in case, I added some extra hay for her to protect it a little better.

Mandarins at the pond

Two pairs of Mandarin ducks regularly visit the garden as well as a couple of spare males.
They are amazing to look at and bring extra colour to the garden. Today the female spent some time in the pond after feeding at the plank.

Bidou after bolting down an early supper

Bidou visits most days and by the looks of it is famished when she gets here. She let out such a desperate shriek today but did spend time grooming after her meal. She is still being seen off by the dominant mute swan and we're beginning to wonder whether this might be another ' 'phantom pregnancy' so to speak - in other words, the eggs may well be infertile. I'm still hoping for cygnets, though.

By tomorrow Goldeneye will be a proud mother protecting her ducklings and the webcam will be switched off until she starts her next brood in a few weeks' time - unless a miracle happens with Mrs. Speckles!

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