Flare Tail surprised me by appearing with three ducklings yesterday. I wasn't sure when she'd started sitting full time so I couldn't predict the exact day when the 'chicks' would arrive. I probably should have guessed that ducklings were due any moment because she didn't come to be fed at all on Tuesday. The first I knew of it was when she and her mate swam past with three ducklings in tow yesterday afternoon.
She's obviously attractive to other drakes because she has been chased on a regular basis and you can see by the scar on her head that she's received some pretty rough treatment. Last night she was trying to lead her three babies into the empty riverside nest box for the night but was attacked and was forced to leave the ducklings to fend for themselves. I didn't hold out much hope that they'd survive as they tend to swim off downstream when abandoned and I saw no sign of Flare Tail for the rest of the evening so I was delighted to hear three ducklings calling for their mum this morning. They seemed quite happy to feed on their own while they waited for mum to return and at least they weren't chased or pestered by other ducks.
Flare Tail's kids - two real mallards and a hybrid
She tried a number of times to be with her ducklings but was chased by rogue drakes until they got bored or she managed to elude them. Finally she reappeared and was left in peace to join the youngsters. Later this morning she and her mate came to feed with the ducklings in tow but I've seen and heard nothing more of any of them today so I hope they're okay, especially as I've just noticed a herring gull on the hunt for a tasty morsel. Fortunately it was driven off by a crow but then crows are almost as lethal. I've seen a fair few ducklings plucked from the water by our resident crows.
Flare Tail, looking the worse for wear, with her mate
We are sometimes joined by a pair of red-crested male pochards and occasionally a female joins them but I think she must be on a nest as I haven't seen her for at least a week.
Male red crested pochard in bright sunshine
I don't remember whether I mentioned the fact that 'Squeaks' the lovely old Aylesbury duck must have died. She had been visiting less frequently and her feathers were looking very bedraggled plus she seemed to have damaged her leg so I guessed that she was nearing the end. When she appeared a couple of weeks ago looking worse than ever she seemed desperate and confused and I wondered whether to call Swan Rescue but decided that it would be too traumatic for her to be grabbed and removed from the river as she was a very old duck. She would also have missed her male entourage of three suitors. I was really upset to see her like that but I've learned that it's sometimes wiser to let Nature take its course. I never saw her again and hope she didn't suffer. At least she was with her mates and one in particular, a 'stretch-limo' of a hybrid duck, really seemed to look after her and stay by her side. I do miss her and the excitement she always expressed when she came for her wheat treats.