Saturday, 21 July 2007

More ducklings disappear

What a terrible year it's been for ducklings on this stretch of the river. The mother managed to keep three ducklings alive for a week and we were just beginning to hope that they might survive.

Two days ago she turned up with two ducklings and seemed distressed and kept calling out as if she expected the other one to suddenly appear.

Yesterday only one duckling remained and today there are none

It isn't just the ducks that are having a disastrous breeding season. The coots have had yet another nest destroyed and today, with the river in spate, we watched a tiny young coot get washed downstream and away from its parents. They are now trying to build a new nest on the same plank they've used before. Their two previous nests, complete with eggs, were destroyed by the wash from speeding boats and this one is definitely destined for failure.

Bidou continues to visit us daily but she seems so lonely without a mate. The mute swans chase her when they see her and to hear her mournful call is quite upsetting. You can listen to some of her more subdued calls, with a loud one to finish during a preening session. It's not her full repertoire. She sometimes makes an amazingly deep booming sound before the high notes!

A lovely red passion flower in a garden nearby

During recent torrential rain some of the garden birds took refuge in the bird table and we watched a duck in the garden make a dash for shelter under the Acer tree when the heavens opened!

Young greenfinches arrived this week and make such a fuss for their parents to feed them. They're very attractive and I'm hoping to get some images of them. Meanwhile, a baby woodpecker appeared yesterday and fought with a parakeet for its place on the peanuts. It was amazing to watch their spat and the woodpecker seemed to be winning but eventually was driven off by the parakeet.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rain stopped play (and photographic opportunities) last week

Ducklings drawn to decoy

I wonder why this decoy duck is so popular? Previous ducklings have taken a liking to it and these two have had great fun climbing on and off it. Over the last seven days we've watched these two grow and were just beginning to feel optimistic about their survival until one went missing yesterday. So far we've only seen four Taggs Island ducklings survive this season! In fact, most of the water birds have had a bad breeding season. No baby coots have survived on the Molesey side of the river so far, the cygnets are down from five to two, the great crested grebe has only one youngster remaining and there's only one baby moorhen. Most of the deaths are through predation but the wash from boats has wiped out three coots' nests and all the eggs. Once again the Canada geese have proved themselves to be the best survivors!

Bidou taking time out to preen her feathers

Bidou is still with us and is a popular attraction on this stretch of the river. Lovely though she is some of us think that she must be lonely without a mate. She has such a haunting and pathetic call at times, especially when she is being chased by the mute swans with their cygnets. Yesterday, the dominant male mute swan caught Bidou unawares as she grazed for weed with her head underwater. She managed to escape but lost several tail feathers during the encounter.
More colourful than the flowers

A male mandarin duck shows off his magnificent plumage in one of my plant pots. He has taken to grubbing around under the flowers for tasty bugs and regularly vandalizes the plants, tearing off flowers and stems from the main plants with his sharp beak!

I'm a bird too!

This male mandarin duck and his partner have developed a taste for peanuts and are regular visitors to the bird table. The female prefers to feed from the lower tray and sometimes her balancing act makes us laugh out loud.

The parakeets have discovered the fig tree

Last year I had loads of figs and only had to contend with the starlings for the ripe ones but this year the parakeets have come mob handed and are already attacking the unripe fruits.

A beautiful iris to grace my new pond

I bought this iris at the Hampton Court Flower Show two years ago and love its delicate colours and texture. This year I bought a water lily and I'm hoping for some lovely deep pink flowers later in the season.

I wonder who ruffled his feathers?

This blackbird was busy collecting worms and grubs for its young and appeared to be fit enough but his plumage leaves something to be desired!