Sunday, 12 July 2015

New kid on the block

We thought that the nest with 21 eggs would be abandoned as happened last year when two tufted ducks kept laying eggs on top of each others' and none of them hatched. To our amazement I spotted some ducklings inside the nest box 10 days ago and later in the day their mum persuaded them to take to the water.  Only five ducklings hatched and one dived the moment it 'hit' the river.  We think one may have been injured as it didn't join the other four with their mum so, with a little help from a neighbour, we reunited them all within five minutes but the mum rejected the rescued duckling. Shortly afterwards she and four ducklings returned and we never saw the fifth one again.

Five 'tuftie' ducklings shortly after hatching

The mother soon brought her four ducklings back to the nest box for a rest and for several days they used the old nest, still with 16 unhatched eggs, for resting and sleeping.  

 The four stayed close to their mum at first

Mum, with some of her brood, stretches her wing 

After several days the ducklings became more independent and headed off in all directions, with a tendency to follow any duck or goose that swam by!  It therefore didn't come as a surprise when first one, then a second baby disappeared.

By day five only one baby remained and it raced after any passing waterfowl regardless of size or breed.  Sometimes its mum would be with it for a while and then she'd fly off a short distance and the little one would do its best to 'scoot' across the water to keep up with her. It appeared to get quite distressed and would call pathetically for its mum but she would abandon it for long periods and suddenly turn up again and stay with it for a little while. The pair would sometimes attempt to go into the neighbouring nest box, which was occupied, but ignored their old nest even though it was now clean and with fresh straw.  Scooter, the nickname soon given to the little tuftie, is still with us and adapting well to life with and without his mum.  They are together on a regular basis so Scooter hasn't been completely abandoned.

A sickly looking baby coot 

We don't know what the coots have been up to this year but assume that their first batch of eggs was either sterile or stolen by the magpies and crows.  The coots occupied their nest box for several months and I'd given up on them ever hatching any young. The surprise of hearing the winging tones of a young coot alerted me to a new arrival but it really didn't look healthy. One of the parents tried its best to encourage it back towards its nest but it drifted downstream and really struggled to swim back. As I was watching my concern turned to alarm when a herring gull suddenly spotted an easy meal and began to circle and swoop on the defenceless baby coot.  The adult did its best to defend the youngster and I tried to frighten the gull but it was determined to dine on a baby coot and, with a final swoop, plucked the baby from the water and flew off with it.  I felt really sad for both parents but the next day another sickly youngster appeared then was gone within five minutes.  I didn't see what happened to it.

The determined adult coots started laying yet more eggs and I spotted two before a magpie also noticed the eggs and began stealing them.  Finally, with no eggs to show for their efforts the coots gave up and abandoned the nest.  

 Eight days later . . . 

For several days I checked just in case the coots had come back but there was no sign of them. I gave it a few more days and then removed the lid of the nest box to clean it out only to discover a neatly formed nest with six eggs!  I kept an eye on the ramp up to the nest box and spotted a female tufted duck entering and leaving the box.  It hadn't taken her long to avail herself of the unoccupied nest. We think she may be sitting full time now because Scooter and mum aren't able to go inside the box. We don't want to spook the duck so we shall just have to be patient and see what happens.