Thursday, 17 July 2014

Ducklings at last

We've been monitoring nest box 1 using an internal camera and were delighted, at the weekend, to see signs of the ducklings starting to hatch. It usually takes about 24 hours before all the ducklings have hatched and are ready to be led to the water by the female mallard. Not all the ducklings are keen to take their first swim and it sometimes takes a fair amount of coaxing by 'mum' to get them to join her.

First one out

When the mother thinks it's time to 'launch' her brood she leaves the nest and quacks loudly at the ducklings in an effort to get them to follow her. Some are keen but others have to be persuaded and the longer the process takes the more fraught the mother duck becomes. With only one duckling prepared to join her our mum headed back to the nest box to persuade the rest of her brood. 

Mother duck tries to persuade her other ducklings to join her

When only some of the ducklings are in the river the mother faces a dilemma.  If she leaves those in the river and returns to the box the ducklings in the river may disperse and be lost.   Meanwhile, because she can hear the babies inside the box emitting their high pitched calls to her, she won't abandon the remaining babies.  While our mallard was still in the river with a single duckling, a tufted duck nesting in box 2, came out to see what all the fuss was about and attacked the duck and her duckling.  The duckling dived and disappeared and the mother got even more distraught so we decided to lend a helping hand and lift the remaining ducklings out of their nest and place them in the river with their mum. 

A reluctant duckling

One of the ducklings was still reluctant to leave its nest and tried to get back inside! We had to turn it around and persuade it to join its mum.

 It's safer on mum's back

We were worried about the duckling that had been attacked but it soon rejoined its mother and decided to jump on her back for safety. I've never seen a duckling on its mother's back before although swans and grebes carry their young on their backs.

 This is fun

The duckling seemed to enjoy the experience of a free ride on mum's back but was soon shrugged off.

The female tufted duck from box 2, the one that attacked the mallard and her duckling, has been having problems of her own. While we've been monitoring her box we were amazed to see another female tufty sneak in while she was away from the nest. When she returned she did her best to force the intruder from the box being careful not to damage the eggs. This has happened several times since then and we're a little confused as to which tufted duck is the original 'tenant'. We have a suspicion that another female has also being laying eggs in the same box, hence the attempt at a 'take over'.

This tufted duck has attitude

We think this must be our nesting tufted duck, the one that attacked the mallard. She is determined to defend her nest box and is aggressive towards any other duck in the vicinity of her home! She had a real go at the mandarin duck (above) when it tried to join her on the plank. They got into a furious fight and eventually the tufted duck drove off the mandarin duck. Usually mandarin ducks are the most aggressive but our tufty is definitely feisty.

Our tufty sees off the mandarin duck

Once the mallard in box 1 hatched her ducklings and led them off upstream I cleared out the nest debris and poured boiling water into the box to kill any mites. When the box had dried out I put fresh straw inside in the hope that our mallard would bring her young ducklings back to the box to use as a night time roosting place. We haven't seen her with any ducklings but this morning another female tufted duck was checking out box 1 and it's possible that we'll have another duck taking advantage of the box 1.  

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