One of our coots taking over nest duty
Coots share the duty of sitting on eggs and guarding the nest and have regular shift changes. If the one that's guarding the nest becomes alarmed for any reason it calls out with a shrill, metallic and staccato burst of notes and its partner replies and comes rushing back to its defence. If only ducks behaved in the same way.
Our female mallard, Flare Tail, is still being driven from her nest by randy drakes and her partner does little to defend her most of the time. One particular drake is a serial offender and yet he appears to be her partner's best mate! Sometimes the hybrid drake will drive off rivals and at other times he just seems to let them drive Flare Tail away her nest.
Flare Tail's partner (brown) with his best mate
Over the last few days there have been half a dozen drakes lurking around Flare Tail's nest box and making trouble. They behave like bored teenagers with nothing better to do than hang out together looking for something to alleviate the monotony of their lives now that the female mallards are (nearly) all sitting on nests and out of sight. This lot spell trouble for Flare Tail as their hormones are rampaging and they can't resist trying to mate with her. She has become very good at exiting her box at speed before they can grab her but it must be taking its toll of her energy and of the amount of time needed to incubate the eggs. Sometimes she gets back and settles for only a couple of minutes before she is attacked again.
The pochards come round several times a day for their wheat and add colour to the feeding station. A few days back an additional male red crested pochard turned up and started to attack the female and, for a while, we thought she'd been drowned but she turned up the next day and the 'rogue' male pochard has disappeared. Now we're back to a pair and one spare male which is how it has been for the past three years.
An old boy
In some ways it's rather sad to see this old mandarin duck looking less than magnificent. His crowning glory of a crest is gradually growing back but it is nowhere near as magnificent as those of the younger males. Female mandarin ducks ignore him, choosing the showiest of the males when they strut their stuff. Ageism exists in the duck world, too!