Hybrid flies over for some food
I spotted an unusual hybrid mingling with my regulars recently but thought I might have been seeing things as it was getting dark and the duck flew off almost as soon as I noticed it. It looked quite unusual, so I did some research on the internet and found that red-crested pochards and tufted ducks have been known to inter-breed. I also saw on the internet an image of the hybrid I'd spotted, or one just like it, that had been photographed in Busy Park over a year ago. Earlier this week the hybrid was outside the house again and was more than happy to mingle with the other ducks while I was feeding them.
Close up of hybrid photographed by John Inglis
John Inglis of Garrick's Ait sent me the above image of the hybrid and very kindly offered to let me use it in my blog. He, too, had noticed the unusual bird and, knowing of my interest in local wildlife, had contacted me with a picture of the duck in case I hadn't seen it.
Red-crested pochard and hybrid tufted duck together
While the birds were feeding I was able to observe the similarities between the two ducks. The tufted hybrid has a red head similar to that of the pochard but only on the top of the head. Its face is a dark metallic green and it's body is that of a normal tufted duck. Its bill has a red line around the tip.
HB leaves her nest
HB is back and has opted for a hanging basket again as her chosen nest site. She wasn't happy with the state of her hanging basket earlier in the season and opted to nest in a duck box on the top deck. For some reason her eggs didn't hatch and she has now decided to try a hanging basket again for her second attempt. As the original basket wasn't fit for purpose I bought a new one but, when she flew into it we thought it would be too cramped for her and all the eggs. Dave decided to line her old basket for her and we put the old one back in its original spot and placed the new facing the garden. What do we know about ducks preferences! She rejected the renovated basket and opted for the new one and the new location and now has seven eggs.
Watch the video of HB
HB leaves the nest
She seems very happy in her new location and is able to see when it's safe for her to come down for a quick drink, snack and a wash. We've decided that it's actually safer for her where she is as her comings and goings are less obvious to many of the rogue males hanging around on the river with nothing better to do than chase any female that is unwary enough to get caught.
HB heads back to the nest after a quick breakfast
Another advantage to HB's new nest site is the fact that it's not right next to our day boat. Whenever we wanted to go out on deck or use the boat we had to remember that she was just above our heads and do our best not to distress her by making too much noise or by getting too close to her. Now, she gets more peace and quiet but keeps an eye on us when we're near the kitchen window close to her nest. It's funny to watch her bob down in the nest if she thinks we're looking at her and then poke her head back up above the basket when she thinks she's not being watched.
Mallard with ducklings finds a few moments of peace
Last Sunday a mallard wandered through the island gardens with five newly hatched ducklings and eventually led them to the river. She brought them down to see us that day and still had four out of the five the next morning but I've seen none since. So far this year no ducklings have survived on this stretch of the main river.
Limpy stands on his own foot
Our sad old mandarin duck with the damaged foot has been getting more feeble recently. He often stands on our outboard engine but is foolish enough to try and stand on his bad leg while scratching with his other foot. If a boat is going past and the boat rocks then the inevitable happens and limpy topples over into the river. He doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes!