Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nest box wars

There's a housing shortage in London . . . for waterfowl! We've been watching in amazement as the mallard's chosen nest box is also a female tufted duck's preferred home and is attracting the attention of a pair of mandarin ducks, too.

Yesterday we saw the female 'tuftie' sit at the entrance to the nest while the mallard was inside incubating her eggs - she now has 9.  The 'tuftie' lay down flat on the plank with her head looking inside the box which upset the mallard who suddenly leant forward and pecked at the tufted duck.  The 'tuftie' fell off the plank into the river but made several more attempts to enter the preferred nest. Eventually she gave up and, reluctantly it seems, made use of the other nest box (box 2) to lay an egg. There are now three eggs in that box but we're not sure whether they all belong to the tufted duck. Yesterday a mandarin duck was eyeing up both boxes and her mate has been showing an interest in them both too!

Female mandarin duck on mallard's plank

We can't tell whether this is the same female that entered the mallard's nest box a couple of days ago and rolled all her eggs around before leaving.  Yesterday evening, as we were returning from a trip out on our boat, we saw a female mandarin duck coming out of box 2.  I should have checked to see whether another egg had been laid but I think it unlikely.  However. I was surprised to see a male mandarin standing guard over the entrance to the box for several hours yesterday morning which prevented the 'tuftie' from using the box.  When she (the female tufted duck) finally gave up on the mallard's box she had to wait until the male mandarin vacated the plank to her box. 

 Mrs. Mandy enjoying the evening sun on the mallard's ramp

 Male mandarin duck in moult

Most of the male mandarin ducks are now in moult and looking rather sorry for themselves.  Even the few males that still have their striking plumage have lost their magnificent russet 'sail' feathers although they still have their crests.

 Our hybrid 'tuftard'

Our hybrid duck, a cross between a tufted duck and a red crested pochard, has been around for several years now and is more at home with us. He even comes to feed at the front of the house with the others and, for the first time, climbed on to the large floating platform outside our patio windows yesterday. Unfortunately some canada geese chased him off before I could take a picture of him grooming.

 The grebe family

Our family of great crested grebes is growing and the youngsters seem too big to climb onto their parents' backs now.  It's lovely to watch mum and dad feed them small fish.  Apart from two cygnets and a few goslings on this stretch of the river, we've as yet seen no ducklings and no baby coots here. However, we saw several herring gulls further upstream and between them, the crows, the heron and the pike most young waterfowl don't stand a chance.

 Girl in a kayak

It was a beautiful evening after the torrential downpours of the morning and river users made the most of the chance to get out in the warm sunlight.  This is a view of Molesey Lock, where work to replace the weir sluices continues, hence the large red crane.

A view of Hampton village yesterday evening

It was such a lovely evening yesterday and we couldn't resist a boat trip.  We never tire of the riverscape and all the lovely wildlife the area supports.  Further upstream we saw four cygnets, more young grebes and a mature heron as well as the herring gulls.

And finally a comment on the behaviour of a young starling in the garden yesterday.  While two adults were on the regular peanut feeders the youngster found that it could just get its head inside the opening to an alternative peanut feeder and extract whole peanuts.  As we watched it successfully took out 6 or 7 peanuts with its beak but was then unable to eat them whole and so dropped every one of them.  It didn't appear to have learned from its parents to peck at the regular feeders and take smaller portions.  It might have finally succeeded, given time, but a parakeet flew onto the feeder and chased the young starling away.

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