Sunday, 26 April 2009

Where have all the ducklings gone?

The three rescued ducklings

Thanks to Sue Beck and Peter, these three ducklings have more chance of survival than all the others. They are being kept warm and safe indoors at night, and allowed an element of freedom during the day in a pen that's netted on top to protect them from marauding crows, magpies and herons. There is an unexpected complication, however. A female mallard that is sitting on a nest close by seems to have decided to adopt a ready made family rather than hatch her own eggs. She keeps leaving her nest to spend time with the ducklings and Sue has to 'shoo her away' and encourage her to return to her nest. Her eggs are due to hatch in a few days' time.

Bidou taking a break from her nest

I think the eggs should have hatched by now and I'm not optimistic that Bidou will have any cygnets after all her time and effort! Perhaps, one day, she'll find a male black swan to settle with. So far she hasn't taken to any of the black swans we have seen pass through the area.

Mandarin ducks getting annoyed with a pidgeon

A number of wood pidgeons visit the garden and they are becoming quite aggressive. I'm amazed to see that the ducks seem scared of them and let the pidgeons 'hog' the wheat while they stand back, unsure of themselves. The Mandarin ducks are less inclined to be bullied by a mere pidgeon and fight back . . . and even, sometimes, win!

Deer in Richmond Park

I met up with a friend in nearby Richmond Park during the week and had forgotten just how lovely it is. Unlike Bushy Park, which is across the road from Taggs Island, Richmond Park is vast and hilly and has many interesting aspects.

A stream in Richmond Park

The park has a beautiful garden called The Isabella Plantation and at this time of year it is more stunning than usual, a blaze of colour from the many azaleas and rhododendrums. It's very popular with visitors, but somehow it never feels over-crowded.

Mrs. Speckles looking bedraggled

Poor Mrs. Speckles has had a horrendous time of it since she started to nest. She has lost many feathers and is bald in places where she has been attacked on her nest and dragged from it by various 'rogue' males. Her partner is hopeless and hasn't defended her. As I mentioned in my previous brief blog, her last remaining egg turned up on the table of our motor boat cracked but with a formed duckling inside. We think she must have attempted to carry it from the nest because it was damaged. Either that, or one of the drakes 'stole' it and dropped it on our boat. We have no idea what could have happened to all the straw that lined her nest. She may have eaten some of it when she was sitting on her eggs but surely not all of it? She has been back to the nest several times as if to check and make sure that there's nothing left.

Goldeneye on the day her ducklings hatched

I spoke too soon when I mentioned that Goldeneye appeared to be taking her motherly duties more seriously. By Wednesday only two ducklings remained and they seemed to know that the nest box was safe when their mother wasn't around. However, it was as if Goldeneye got bored with the whole concept of motherhood, and she left the ducklings for hours on their own. By late afternoon on Thursday only one duckling remained and Goldeneye left it swimming around on its own while she and Gobi had a 'nap'. The last I saw of the duckling it was running around our neighbour's garden while a magpie watched with interest!

Goldeneye with the first duckling out of the nest

Goldeneye had problems persuading the ducklings to leave the nest. Several of them waddled or slithered down the plank but the rest were reluctant to emerge so Goldeneye had to keep going back to the box to encourage them out.

Goldeneye checks all around to see whether it's safe to lead the ducklings from the nest box

There are many false starts before all the ducklings emerge from the box. It's great fun to watch but, if her previous form is anything to go by, none survive more than a few days. This year she had lost them all in five days. To see their 'launch' click on the link in the blog entitled "The ducklings are hatching".

On Thursday, the day Goldeneye lost her final duckling, Lonely's brood hatched and she took over Goldeneye's nursery box that evening. Mrs. Speckles' nest was abandoned on Wednesday but became a brief refuge for two ducklings the next day. We think they belonged to Lonely who hatched 10 ducklings but only had five by the following morning.

Since Friday, there have been many comings and goings in the two waterside nest boxes but no takers. The female we call Silverduck has investigated both boxes and has also spent time on our garden deck checking out Goldeneye's nest box and some of my plant pots. Much to our surprise, Goldeneye has also been back to check on her box - it probably won't be long before she starts nesting all over again!

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