Thursday, 28 April 2011

HB's ducklings are launched . . . with a little help from Dave!

More territorial battles

The dominant swans are somewhat preoccupied while the pen (the female) sits on her eggs so the male is less active on this stretch of the river. His absence has allowed a variety of non-breeding swans to venture into his territory and, when he does catch them out, he does his best to see them off but with a little less determination than previously.

Another day another chase!

HB gasps in the untypical heat of April

It's been so hot and sunny here this month (hotter than many destinations in southern Europe) and HB has been suffering from lack of moisture as she sits all day on her nest. She seemed so distressed recently that we sprayed her with very fine water droplets to cool her slightly and provide her with some moisture.

The ducklings appear

HB was getting very restless last Wednesday evening and we noticed that she was sitting very high in her nest so we guessed the ducklings were hatching. Sure enough we could just make out a couple through the base of the nest and hear their tiny high-pitched calls.

Seven ducklings wait for mum's invitation to jump!

HB was driven off her nest at around 9.30am on Maundy Thursday and was attacked by at least 5 rogue males. We managed to rescue her/chase off her attackers from the middle of the river but she kept being chased and had to fly off for a while. This gave us the opportunity to check on the ducklings which remained calm in their nest.

After a while she was able to return to the nest and spent the best part of 30 minutes preening her feathers and settling down again. She waited until all the males had grown bored and given up waiting for her to come off the nest again and then she sneaked off and called for her ducklings to follow. Unfortunately they seemed reluctant to leave the safety of the nest and she became frantic so Dave lifted down the hanging basket and helped to launch the ducklings.

Proud mum swims off with her seven

Surprisingly, after the morning's difficulties, the randy males left her and the ducklings alone and she was able to join up with her partner and spend a leisurely day swimming around in the area close to us. The next morning she still had seven ducklings and we were hopeful that she might keep at least two or three alive from this batch but it wasn't to be. The following day there were none. We can only assume that they were taken by either pike, heron, a herring gull, a crow or the mink. So far we've seen 21 ducklings and none have survived.

On the subject of the mink, it's been spotted all around the island and Gareth has just called round to say that he and Dan had just seen it. Yesterday we saw it running along Inca's deck before disappearing into their 'hold' again.

Double tulip

I bought some spring bulbs for the garden and had forgotten what varieties I'd planted so I was pleasantly surprised by these soft pink double tulips. The garden looked particularly lovely while they were in flower.

Smudge shows his 'good' side for the camera

We've been visited by an aberrant blue tit for weeks now whose face is normal on one side and disfigured on the other. He also has a large expanse of black feathers on his stomach which should be all yellow. I think he must be blind on the disfigured side because of the strange way in which he feeds.

Smudge's strange disfigurement

What surprised us was how well he seemed to be able to defend himself against other blue tits as we thought he would soon fall prey to more dominant birds. He must have been with us for at least 2 months but I haven't seen him around of late. I have, however, seen a neighbour's cat hiding under our acer tree by the pond on a regular basis!

Mrs. Mandy waits her turn for supper

We must have at least 5 pairs of mandarin ducks and a few spare males calling for supper each day! On this particular occasion two males escorted her and perched on the top deck railings with her. Eventually one got bored with waiting and dozed off in one of my plant troughs instead.

Two pairs of red-crested pochards also drop by every evening. They don't get on at all well with the mandarin ducks. Last night I was upset to see that one of the female pochards had a badly injured leg. I don't know if it was broken but she couldn't stand upright on the plank. She did, however, manage to put up a good fight when a mallard tried to 'share' her food. I'm hoping it was only a bad strain and that she'll be a bit better this evening.