Sunday, 17 June 2012

What's yours is mine as well

It's been an unusual couple of weeks.  The upstream swans with five cygnets 'kidnapped' the lone cygnet from the lagoon swans.  There's an obvious difference in size between the 'acquired' cygnet and their own five. Since then there have been custody battles between the rival parents. We now see only four cygnets with no sign of the larger one and one of the five.  Who knows what has happened to them?

Spot the size difference

Here is a picture of the family of five cygnets, taken last week, with the 'kidnapped' larger cygnet (third from left) happily part of its new family.

The other strange occurrence to do with 'sharing' has been the occupation of one of our duck nesting boxes.  I discovered two eggs one morning and started to keep tabs on which duck was using it.  The next morning there were four eggs when I looked, which meant that two ducks were sharing the same box, which can happen occasionally.  What really surprised us though was when we saw a tufted duck go into the box later in the morning and, when we checked it again there were five eggs!  Has anyone heard of three ducks sharing the same nest?  Yesterday only two eggs were added but, when we checked this morning one was broken.  We think the crow has found the nest and is raiding it.  We removed the broken egg and covered the rest with more straw and shortly afterwards a tufted duck went in and there's a new egg.  If the crow keeps raiding, however, there's no hope.

With all the rain the river is not an ideal haven for newly hatched ducklings, what with the strong current and eddies.  HB's ducklings hatched on Thursday . . . see the rest of the blog to find out what happened.

HB takes a quick break

From her nest HB was generally able to check when it was safe to come off the nest for a quick feed, stretch, wash and brush up!  She was smart enough to avoid the busy times when all the 'spare' males were hanging around like a group of bored youths with loads of attitude and nothing better to do than squabble among themselves and make trouble.

 HB's flying skills are amazing

 HB at the pond stretching a wing and leg

We were worried that the nest would be too confined for HB but she seemed to like it and it was a safe location that didn't get too much midday sun (had there been any this year)!

 HB finally leaves the nest

The ducklings hatch over a period of around 24 hours and as they hatch the female duck shifts around a lot and sits higher in the nest.  We saw the signs and, when HB took a quick break we peered over the top deck into the basket. There was one squashed, dead duckling but the other eggs were beginning to break open and, fortunately, the remaining seven eggs hatched successfully as you can see below.

Six of the ducklings rush over to HB

HB was ready to leave the nest with her ducklings but the 'boys' seemed to know something was afoot and hung around all morning.  When she finally attempted to fly down she was immediately attacked and flew off.  We took advantage of the opportunity to check on the ducklings which all looked lively and contented.  As we suspected, though, the nest was a bit deep for them and, when Mum came back to coax them down they showed no signs of obeying!  She became frantic so we gave her a helping hand and took the basket down and held it over the water.  Still no response and so, in the end, Dave lifted them all gently one by one and placed them in the water.  You can see six of the seven above.  After she'd hung around for a quick wheat treat from us she took them off to our neighbour's plot and they stayed there for several hours.  We haven't seen them since!

The garden birds, meanwhile, have also been having a busy time with their youngsters.

Baby blue tit learns to fly

The baby blue tits are everywhere in the garden, fluttering their wings and begging to be fed by their busy parents.  Their plumage is so pristine and their antics are a joy to watch.  The one above hasn't quite got the hang of flying into the bed table instead of on to its roof.


 At times the bird table had four or five youngsters waiting to be fed

Some babies preferred to wait in the cherry tree

 Female blackbird at our pond

Last week a female blackbird spent the whole day on the ground in our garden.  It didn't have any obvious injuries but also didn't appear to be scared of me so I wondered whether it might be a newly fledged bird that couldn't fly.  I tried to coax it to leave in the evening but it still wouldn't fly though it did go and hide in the undergrowth.  I haven't seen it since so I guess it either took off when I wasn't looking or . . . !