Sunday, 6 May 2012

What a lovely drought!

The weather has been so damp and overcast in this, the wettest drought I've known, that I've taken very few photographs this week but have some updates on the wildlife in my area. With many parts of the UK experiencing floods, the hosepipe ban imposed over much of southern England seems somewhat ironic. However, there has been very little winter rainfall for many years and the authorities are adamant that it will take a good six months of daily rainfall before the hosepipe ban and drought warnings can be lifted.  The River Thames, while not in flood in south west London, is flowing far faster than it should be at this time of year and conditions are not good news for ducklings and other baby waterfowl.  At least the baby grebe has so far battled successfully against the current and was still alive two days ago so I'm hoping it will continue to cope with the flow. Apart from some welcome sunshine on Monday there's been rain almost every day for over a month and the temperature this past week has been distinctly chilly.

Dave and I were sad to discover that our mallard has abandoned her eggs.  We're not sure why because her nest is safe from foxes and mink and her eggs don't seem to have been spotted by the crows or magpies yet.  Let's hope she has more luck with a second brood.  One unlucky mallard brought five newly hatched ducklings for some food on Friday morning and still had at least four later that afternoon.  However, the demon crow spotted them and tried at least seven times to help himself to supper.  As far as I could see they all dived whenever he swooped on them but I haven't seen any of them since.

Two of the male white ducks in our neighbour's garden

Ducks seem to love foraging in ponds and gardens at this time of year and this unruly bunch of hybrid thugs spend every morning stomping around my neighbour's garden.  They are a bunch of  bully boys who have adopted the surviving female Aylesbury duck (one of the two fat ladies that used to hang around).  She's a sight for sore eyes by the time she's rooted around among the flowers and plants looking for slugs and her beak is a disgrace, completely caked in mud.  Most of the mallards like to run around my garden too and I often find mallards part hidden among the ferns in the bog garden or grubbing around in the upper flower beds.  Ducks in particular, love the pond and I  occasionally find a coot or canada goose in the pond.

Bidou, the black swan, appears to have abandoned her nest and spends hours each day preening and kipping on our plank.  Every time she spots a mute swan passing by or flying overhead she calls out mournfully and does her best to flirt with them if she can get close enough.  The dominant mute male swan still attacks her if she gets too close and most of the others completely ignore her.  In her loneliness she's taken to chatting away to Dave and I when she sees us.

The mandarin male also known as Nike

I lose track of the number of mandarin ducks that turn up to feed throughout the day.  We call the one in the photograph above Nike because of the 'tick' in his white plumage.  Earlier this week we thought Alopetia may have died as he didn't turn up to be fed for two days but I'm glad to say he's fine.

Just before dusk yesterday evening I spotted a most unusual duck and only had a few moments to watch it before it flew off.  It looked like a cross between a tufted duck and a red crested pochard and I've since found out that a hybrid duck of this description has been spotted in nearby Bushy Park so I shall be looking out for it in future.

More rain is forecast for most of next week but I hope we get some sunshine to brighten the gloom. The right light is so important when it comes to capturing good images and these very dull conditions and toneless, drab days do little to inspire and lift the spirit.

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