Friday, 18 June 2010

Mandarin ducks, grebes and damselflies

Mandarin duck enjoying the setting sun

Mandarin duck having an evening preen

The mandarin ducks arrive for their evening feed at around 7.30pm and then use our dinghy for a relaxing preen. This one looked particularly fine in the evening light. Our female mandarin with the four youngsters appears to be a single parent although I suspect that her partner is the male that's in moult and has already lost his fine feathers.

One of the young mandarin ducks at the nest box entrance

It's been a trying time for the mandarin duck family. The mother was using one of the nest boxes at night to keep her young safe but the fox disturbed them one night and now she and the kids only come to the nest boxes during the day as a temporary resting spot. One of the youngsters is slower to learn than its siblings and the mother has had to keep an eye on it while, at the same time, accompanying the other three who always come to the patio doors to be fed. Dave made a little plank for the 'slow' one but it still didn't know how to climb out onto our deck. We've had many a worrying moment when mum has swam off with her three and the other duckling has been nowhere in sight. The less agile duckling would always go to one of the nest boxes and wait for the rest of the family to finish feeding which was sensible, at least. Finally, however, it discovered how to hop up onto our deck and we were relieved that mum no longer had to divide her attention between them all. Two days ago, though, we heard the sound of a distressed mandarin duck and later guessed that one of her youngsters must have been injured. Mum hung around the nest box with all four of them for ages and we didn't see them leave that evening. The next day she appeared with only three ducklings, which was most upsetting.

I half hoped that the fourth one would turn up unexpectedly but mum called round regularly with only three youngsters and we gave up on the fourth one. Last night, however, a lone mandarin duckling turned up to be fed and this morning Mum was back with all four, so we can only assume that the injured one was kept somewhere safe until it had had a chance to recover. Sadly, one of its leg is badly damaged but otherwise it seems to be feeding well and can keep up with the others. We hope that it will eventually heal as we've seen this happen with injured mallards.

Mandarin amongst the flowers

This particular female mandarin loves sitting in my flower pot while she waits for me to put food out. If I don't respond quickly enough she flies onto the garden table right next to the patio doors and stares in at me to make me feel guilty.

Mum resting on the deck in the sunlight

Mum with three of the kids after feeding

Great crested grebe stretching

The other morning the grebes started courting, growling to each other, raising their crests, while the male presented the female with muddy weed. The pair of them rose out of the water and almost rubbing chests together in a courtship dance. Unfortunately it was very early in the morning and the light was dull and grey so it wasn't possible to get good images of their behaviour but it was wonderful to watch. After about an hour, they suddenly turned aggressive because another grebe was in 'their' territory. Several vicious battles ensued but most of the chasing was done underwater.

Grebe attacking an intruder

The fighting was intermittent but lasted about half an hour until territories had been established. At one point they were beating their wings against each other but then they would slide beneath the water and surface over on the far side of the river.

Grebe displaying aggression

Every so often one of the grebes would flare its wings and make itself look large and threatening to the intruder. It was superb to watch and proved quite effective at making the intruder think twice before advancing into enemy territory.

Grebe searching for fleeing intruder

Damselfly at pond

I'm not sure whether this is a damselfly or a dragonfly but I think it's the former. If anyone knows otherwise please let me know. We've noticed a number of damselflies in the garden and one regularly rests on this stem in our pond.

Damselflies mating on fruit tree in garden

Damselflies mating

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