Sunday, 12 April 2009

Only one egg remains

Mrs. Speckles after a night of disturbances

Mrs. Speckles must be the Marilyn Monroe or Liz Taylor of the duck world. The drakes never leave her alone. All through the night she is regularly attacked on her nest by a number of 'thugs'. We hear her fly from the nest in distress and it sometimes takes her three attempts to get back to it without being 'jumped'. The other morning we found an egg yolk on the front deck quite some way from her nest box, and when I checked on her eggs during one of her many forced absences she had just one egg left. We can't work out whether she is removing the damaged eggs or whether the rival male ducks are raiding her nest.

One egg left and no attempt to return to the nest

Following a further eventful night Mr. & Mrs. Speckles spent a long time in the garden feeding, drinking and resting. She, at least was attempting to rest; he's partly to blame for her problems as he hangs out with the bully boys that attack her and seldom tries to defend her. She was away from the nest for so long that we thought she'd decided to give up on it, but then she returned and she's still defending her one and only egg. During the day we do our best to drive off the drakes but there's little we can do at night to protect her. Twice I've managed to save her from drowning during a frenzied attack by as many as seven males and now she's careful to avoid being caught in the river. She has taken to using our walkway to approach her nest box, jumping from the deck onto her gang plank and up into the nest. Unfortunately, with all the rain, the plank has been slippery of late and she slithered off it into the river yesterday. Fortunately she got back before the drakes were able to grab her. She prefers to be fed on dry land so that if she does get jumped on she won't drown, and today she appeared reluctant to even wash in the pond. She spent no more than a few moments at a time having a wash, immersing herself for as little time as possible.

Goldeneye, meanwhile, has become wiser with age and now is very secretive when leaving the nest. She opts for very early in the morning and just before dark and makes no sound. Her eggs must be due to hatch within the next few days so Dave has set up a camera on the deck to capture images of the ducklings waddling down the gangplank.

Song thrush

It's been lovely to have the song thrush visiting the garden on a daily basis. It's surprisingly tame as it hops around looking for snails, worms and slugs. I never use pesticides or poisonous slug pellets and it really upsets me to think that so many beautiful song birds die because people unwittingly poison them by putting down the toxic type of chemical slug pellets. Between the ducks, thrushes and blackbirds my slug and snail population is being kept to a reasonable level at present.

A quick foray in the herb bed

I've 'dressed' some of the garden soil with the contents of my compost heap and the birds love to see what they can find to eat. The compost is full of worms and some, I'm sure, go to feed the robins, thrushes and blackbirds.

Bidou the black swan is still sitting on eggs and we're not sure how much longer she will do so. The eggs may well be infertile, in which case she's been wasting something like a month of her time. She turns up most days desperate to be fed and if we aren't aware of her arrival she soon lets out a massive high pitched call to let us know.

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