Monday, 26 April 2010

Here today . . .

Coot on Lonely's ramp

I doubt whether Lonely liked the coot using her plank as a place to preen when it came off its nest, but the coot's presence was advantageous in one way. While it 'stood guard' on the plank no other ducks dared attack Lonely. However, I saw a most unusual sight one evening while Lonely was off her nest and the coot was absent. I noticed a male mandarin duck standing on the plank and then, to my amazement, saw its mate come out from inside Lonely's box. What on earth she was doing entering another duck's nest is beyond my comprehension.

When Lonely's mate wasn't around she was sometimes dragged off her nest by one of the 'waiters'. Below you can see her swimming back to her nest with her mate.

On the days immediately preceding the hatching of the ducklings, Lonely's mate stood guard on the plank most of the time. While she and her mate were away feeding on Thursday evening, we peeked inside her box and counted five ducklings and some eggs still to hatch, so we knew the ducklings would emerge on the following day. Lonely had been excellent at protecting her nest so we had high hopes that she would be a good mother. How wrong can one be? At around lunchtime on Friday, after many failed attempts to lure her ducklings from the safety of their nest box, Lonely eventually coaxed one out.

Duckling at nest entrance

The duckling swam around with Mum for a few moments and then Lonely left it to go back into the nest and urge the others to make a break for it. Fortunately the baby found its way back up the plank and waited.

Lonely with two ducklings

There were nine ducklings in all but only one other emerged from the box. The rest refused to budge and, after about 10 minutes of calling to them Lonely seemed to get bored. She and her mate swam upstream with the two ducklings, leaving the rest in the box.

Lonely with four

About three hours later Lonely returned minus the ducklings and coaxed out four more ducklings. We hoped that she had left the other two in a safe place but she showed no signs of going back upstream. She then swam off with the four, leaving three more in the box. While she was hanging around she was attacked by four 'waiters' and I had to chase them off. By this time the ducklings were scattered and I feared that the coot would attack them. Lonely did return and collect them and that was the last we saw of them!

By late afternoon, I heard a duckling in distress and Dave managed to catch it in a net so that we could return it to the box. Just as we were about to do so, Lonely returned and we just had time to put back the duckling before she went into the nest box. She now had just three ducklings and when they finally emerged and swam round to the back with her we weren't hopeful that they would survive. I think Lonely was attacked again and flew off and we never saw the ducklings again. She returned to her nest to check whether there were any left but, basically, all nine had disappeared in the space of a day and a half. Ironically, Lonely has started inspecting the neighbouring nest box, no doubt for a second attempt at rearing young!

Our duck in a basket however, is getting more used to us being around. Below you can see her preparing to head back to her nest in the hanging basket.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Fox claims another victim

HB insists on nesting in the hanging basket

A fox climbed the narrow steps onto Wotnot's top deck and killed a mallard in the small hours of Thursday morning. The duck had been sitting on eggs for more than two weeks. Claudia was woken up by unusual sounds and went to investigate. To her amazement the fox had managed to lift the lid on the nesting box and, sadly, Claudia was just too late to save the duck. Caught in the act, the fox jumped from the top deck when Claudia went to see what was causing the disturbance.

Dave undertook the distressing task of dealing with the aftermath as both Claudia and I were too upset. It would seem that the fox or several foxes had been busy that night as a Canada goose had also been killed in Linda & Lisa's garden and we heard that a female mallard's body was removed from inside another islander's dinghy. This was worrying news, especially when HB failed to show up all morning. Usually, we would see her with her mate on the other side of the river and she would turn up for a quick feed around 11.00am, but there was no sign of either of them all morning. Dave and I assumed the worst and were feeling quite down, but she surprised us both by turning up at 2.30pm for a late start. Perhaps, because of the warmer weather, she didn't feel the need to start sitting so early?

As you can see from the picture of HB (above) she has chosen an unusual spot for a nest. In spite of the fact that this hanging basket is just outside our patio doors which are in frequent use, HB obviously knows a thing or two about keeping out of harm's way. I think she'll be pretty safe from the fox, even if it climbs on to the garden deck, and she's also less prone to attack from rogue drakes. From our viewpoint she makes it difficult for us to use our boat without disturbing her but at least she is getting used to our opening and closing the door right next to her. We'll just have to learn to live with each other. When we thought she'd been another victim of marauding drakes and had drowned, we were really sad.

Lonely heads back to her nest box

Every morning at around 4.15am one of 'the waiters' tries to attack Lonely in her nest box and we hear the sound of her taking flight from the box. Fortunately, this doesn't happen much during the day so she is able to sit on her eggs undisturbed for hours at a time. Yesterday, though, she was attacked at around 9am and she took the opportunity to feed and have a 'wash and brush up' before returning to the nest.

An unusual symbiotic relationship has evolved between her and the coots. They frequently used her plank to 'haul out' on for a preen after coming off their nest and stand guard at the base of her 'gangplank '. I watched with amusement last night as one of the coots saw off three rogue males which were attempting to attack Lonely in her box. It just stood its ground and 'swore' at the three drakes until they gave up and swam away!

Male tufted duck takes a drink

Most of the tufted ducks have gone their separate ways for the breeding season but several pairs still visit us every day. This one, and its mate (pictured below) have both shown signs of interest in the second nesting box on the river.

Female tufted duck

I was surprised to see this female emerging from the second nesting box by the river the other day. The box seems to intrigue quite a few of the waterfowl including the Mandarin ducks, the coots and the tufted ducks. The only ones not to have investigated it are the Pochards.

Bumble bee collecting pollen

On the first really warm day this month I watched a bee making the most of the sunshine as it flew around gathering pollen. We've had quite a few of these beautiful creatures in the garden recently.

Blackbird waits his turn to bathe in the pond

The other day we watched a Blackbird try to use his favourite spot in the pond for a bath. Unfortunately for him a drake had other ideas and wouldn't let the Blackbird anywhere near the cascade. After several attempts, the bird flew to one side and waited patiently for the drake to go. He then flew straight to his 'safe' place and had a wonderful bath.

Worth the wait

It was worth the wait for all of us. The Blackbird had a good long bath and we spent an enjoyable few minutes watching events unfold.

The chases continue

There seem to be three pairs of mute swans around at the moment. This would suggest to me that the dominant pair are losing 'respect'. UPH and her partner are gentle swans and don't really pose a threat but the other pair are quite fierce and may well challenge our resident swans for the territory next year.

Bidou's nest was raided last week, presumably by a fox. One of her eggs was found on the road, some way from the island in the lagoon where she has been nesting and another eggs had rolled down to the water's edge. As her eggs are much larger than a duck's eggs we assume the egg must have been carried away by a fox. Certainly a Magpie would not have been able to carry off such a large egg.

Chrissy phoned to ask what to do as she was worried that a fox would kill Bidou. She was thinking of netting off the area to try and protect the black swan but in the end the decision was taken away from her by Bidou herself who decided to abandon the nest. We're sad that, yet again, Bidou is without both a mate and a nest, but at least she's safe. I've missed having her around so it's nice to see her here on a regular basis.

Male Pochard arriving for a quick snack

The male Pochard visits us quite frequently but we only see the female for breakfast, lunch (sometimes) and dinner. She is nesting somewhere on Garrick's Ait and is very secretive. Last year she was seen with ducklings but they only survived a few days before predators took them.

Magnolia in bloom

On the first warm day last week my magnolia finally opened its buds and is now in full bloom. It looks so lovely next to the pond and is sweet scented, too.