Sunday, 21 July 2013

Headless ducklings!


It’s been a traumatic time recently for the ducks and ducklings.  A female mallard nested in the box that the coots had vacated but her chosen nest box was also favoured by a tufted duck.  We can’t be sure but we think the 'tuftie' laid some eggs in the mallard’s box.  After what seemed like a very long incubation period, so long, in fact, that we thought the eggs might be infertile, our nest box camera showed signs of some ducklings hatching and we had the pleasure of watching some of the ducklings emerge from their shells.  Watch a very brief clip (below) from our nest cam and spot the baby mallards towards the end of the video.

video


Twenty four hours later, the mallard we had nicknamed ‘Punk’ because of the rather cropped appearance of her head feathers was still waiting for one duckling to hatch but the others had already hit the water!  Fortunately most of them remained very close to the nest box but one drifted off and was never seen again.

When eventually Punk led her ducklings away from the nest box there were only two pure mallards and the rest looked suspiciously like tufted ducks as they had no tell tale yellow chests and were too brown to have been fathered by one of the hybrid males that had been hanging around.


Punk swims away with six ducklings

One of the brown ducklings headed back on its own and, although I tried to catch it and return it to Punk it disappeared before I could do so.  The following day Punk returned with only five ducklings and took them into the neighbouring nest box that was clean and lined with fresh straw.  We were relieved to know that they were pretty safe there, or so we thought. When we didn’t see them the following day we were concerned and something prompted me to look inside the box. I was deeply upset to see three headless ducklings, all turned over in the straw and one with its foot dismembered too.  There was no sign of Punk and the remaining two ducklings.  To our knowledge only a mink would have done this.  A fox would have taken the mother or grabbed the ducklings as a convenient ‘take-away’ and would not have beheaded the babies, whereas mink always seem to go for the throats of water birds.



The gruesome discovery


We had to assume that Punk and the other ducklings had died too but we looked out for her upstream, just in case, when we were out on our boat.  We didn’t really expect to find her so, to our amazement the following day Punk turned up with the two surviving ducklings, one a mallard and the other (possibly) a tufted duckling.  After grabbing a quick snack of wheat she took them upstream but then returned and spent ages quacking urgently in the vicinity of the nest boxes and I wondered whether she had lost the remaining two or was calling in the hope of finding the other three.  We saw her with two the next day so we’re hoping that she’ll keep them safe



Close up of the headless ducklings


Punk came for a spot of lunch today and seemed in a hurry so we think she still has at least one duckling somewhere safer than here.  It does seem that ducklings disappear far too quickly on this stretch whereas they fare better up around Platts Eyot and beyond.  The Herring Gull has been patrolling the river again and I’ve also seen a heron on the hunt for tasty young ducklings.  No doubt the pike, too, are adding to the high mortality rate of ducklings here.  Every ‘mum’ I’ve seen on this stretch has lost all her ducklings and that includes tufted ducks and a Pochard.  The only survivor so far has been one baby mandarin duck – the Bengal cat killed at least two of the other three mandarin ducklings.


We’re hoping that Punk will keep her two safe and that, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see whether the brown duckling was a mallard after all or whether Punk unwittingly hatched a young tufted duck.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Strange happenings in the duck and coot world

 Before we went on holiday in May a mallard was sitting on 11 eggs in one of our riverside nesting boxes.  When we returned there were only 7 eggs in the box and eggs continued to disappear, one by one.  Eventually she was down to three eggs which were due to hatch two days later.  A fox would have had difficulty removing any eggs, a mink would probably have taken the eggs and the mallard, and there was no sign of any breakages so we wondered whether a grass snake might be raiding the box.  Matters took a turn for the worse for our mallard when another mallard with two ducklings took over the box.  Our female was forced to sit on our boat and wait for the intruders to leave the box for short feeding forays.

Our mallard drinking at the pond 

She only managed to sit on the remaining eggs for short periods of time and it became obvious that the eggs weren't going to hatch.  On the day the ducklings should have been due she abandoned the nest.  We felt so sorry for her.  She had invested almost a month of her time and energy with no results.  During that time she had been regularly attacked by a rogue drake, at least four or five times a day and, although her partner had been great at driving off the male he wasn't always around to do so.  

We had installed a camera in the box so I was able to monitor what was happening and I would suddenly notice on our TV screen that the rogue drake was marching up the plank and entering the box to attack our female.  I managed to drag him out a couple of times but, on one occasion, I didn't reach the box in time and the struggle was so robust that the drake actually knocked the lid (complete with camera) off the box.  I just had time to rescue both as they floated downstream and then disconnect the leads.  At long last the camera has dried out and is working again!

A very hacked off mallard waiting to get back on her eggs

While all this was happening a female tufted duck was also showing signs of wanting to nest in the same box and she would often waddle up the plank and stand at the entrance to the box looking at the sitting mallard.  There is another box close by so we weren't sure why the tufted duck didn't just use that box.  

The sorry ending to this tale is that the intruder mallard lost one of her ducklings the next day and the other one two days later so she, too, abandoned the box.  This particular box seems to be jinxed!

The partner of our mallard on the rill of the pond

We thought all this was unusual but what happened next was stranger still.  Coots don't nest in boxes, they normally build big untidy open nests with twigs, flowers, iris leaves, sweet paper wrappings and whatever else floats by and takes their fancy.  Every year a pair of coots tries to nest on our wooden feeding raft, which is doomed to failure as the wash from passing boats always removes everything from the surface of the raft. This year, after several failed attempts on the raft, I noticed a coot at the entrance to the other riverside nest box and it was behaving oddly.  The box in question has a plastic mallard on its lid put there by my husband for fun, and the coot was attacking the decoy duck with its beak.  It was very funny to watch but I didn't think anything more of it until the same thing happened on the following day.  I started to take notice and saw the coot attack the decoy and then enter the nest box.  Later, when the coot had left the box, I looked inside and discovered two eggs so I put some more straw in the box to cover the eggs.  We had decided that the mallard's eggs must have been taken by a cheeky magpie so I put plenty of straw in the box so that the coot could cover its eggs.

Coots take it in turns to sit on their eggs and while one sits, the other tirelessly brings more and more nesting material.  A typical nest gets bigger and higher every day but the box limited any grand designs the coots may have had for their nest.  As the entrance is narrow the coots were unable to drag large twigs up the plank, in spite of many heroic efforts.  What amazed me was that they soon learned to only bring smaller leaves and contented themselves with my offerings of additional straw.  

They are usually excellent parents and fierce in the defense of their territory so there was always one of them in the vicinity of the nest and none of the eggs disappeared as a consequence.  They now have five healthy kids and no longer use the box.  When I emptied it out there were three unhatched eggs inside that had been abandoned once the five youngsters had hatched.  I put them on the deck, intending to throw them in the river, but someone came to the door and when I returned to deal with the eggs I was just in time to see the crow making off with the last one!

 Coot on the defensive

Since then the same nest box has attracted renewed interest from a pair of mallards and a pair of tufted ducks so I filled it with fresh straw.  The mallard started laying almost a week ago and when she had four eggs I noticed that the box seemed to have been raided as there was straw down the plank and floating off downstream.  The next day I caught the culprit in the act, a large crow at the nest entrance, tearing at the surface straw to get at the eggs!  Fortunately it didn't succeed but we didn't know what to do to stop it another time until Dave remembered that we had been given a mini scarecrow.  He placed it next to the nest entrance and we waited with baited breath to see whether it would also scare off the mallard.  She did hesitate and turn away several times but finally went into the nest and now totally ignores the scarecrow even though it sometimes flaps in the breeze right next to her.  It seems to be doing its job though because no eggs have been stolen and I haven't seen the crow attempting to approach the box.  The only problem now is that the rogue male that attacked our original female mallard in the other box is now up to his old tricks again.  Also, a female tufted duck seems to want to use the same box!  There's no peace for nesting mallards.

Sadly, we've seen no surviving ducklings near us but there were 7 'teenage' ducklings further downstream so a few have beaten the odds!  A tufted duck, that had eight youngsters, is now down to two, and the swans have four remaining cygnets after two disappeared.  The herring gulls have been patrolling the river in search of food for their youngsters, and the herons and crows have been swooping down on unsuspecting baby water birds so the attrition rate is disappointingly high.  I watched a heron attempt to take a duckling three times but its mother spotted the heron in time, spread out her wings and almost rose out of the river in defense of her young.  She succeeded in forcing it to swerve and saved the youngsters that time but lost them several days later.

 
Peacock butterfly on garden flowers

It's been another deeply disappointing Spring (and early summer) but during the week that we had fine weather the bees and butterflies made the most of the sunshine and the plant pollen and nectar.

Shaggy peacock butterfly on our marsh marigolds

Flaretail in the garden

Flaretail is a fine looking mallard and she knows it.  She has a habit of flaring her tail, far more than the other mallards, hence the nickname.  Her partner is a brown hybrid duck, one of the 'waiters' as we call them because of their white chests.  Flaretail always flies onto my therapy room roof and waits for me to put food in a container in the garden near the pond.  Unlike the other ducks she rarely feeds from the plank in the river.  For a while she seemed to be looking for a nest on the top deck but, again this year, the two nest boxes up there have been ignored.  Gone are the days when 'Golden Eye' and her mate used to take over the garden deck and hatch three families of ducklings from one of the boxes each year.  The upper deck nest boxes are no longer in demand and our hanging basket duck has also deserted us this year.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Hyperactive duck



Magnolia in a friend's garden

We were at a lovely party yesterday, just upstream from Taggs Island, and no-one could resist the lure of our host's wonderful garden. The magnificent light showcased the beauty of one of his glorious magnolias trees.  It's Springtime at last!


Mandarin duck in the pond

A pair of mandarin ducks are regular visitors to our pond now Spring is here.  If you look carefully you can see a reflection of the male in the water.  The female spends a lot of time grubbing around in our bog garden, too, but has also found where I throw mealworms for the garden birds and helps herself to a few.

Today the mandies were again standing on the ramp of the nest box where our mallard is 'sitting' and the female mandarin spent ages gazing into the nest box at the mallard but our girl didn't seem at all bothered.  She started sitting on her (10) eggs full time yesterday so we can expect the ducklings to hatch in a month's time. Dave wanted to see when she came off the nest so that he could put in place a safety barrier, without disturbing her, to deter the fox from helping himself to a 'take-away' so we had the camera switched on all day. It meant that we were also able to keep an eye on her and we only saw the rival drake attack her once.   This morning the drake managed to drive her from the nest again and it took her some time before she returned but she's had an undisturbed afternoon.  I was about to write 'relaxing' rather than 'undisturbed' but that is far from the truth.  I had no idea just how hyper mums on nests are.  She spends much of the time rearranging the straw and rolling her eggs.  When she gets bored she stretches her neck so that she can lean out from the box to watch the world go by and enjoy the fresh air!  Her relaxation periods are incredibly brief.



Lovely evening light on the river

The sunsets have been impressive the last couple of days and it's a joy to have sunshine all day after such a grey and overcast winter.  This is the view looking upstream from our living room and part of the kitchen and, on an evening like this, with no river traffic, it's so tranquil.  I hope our mallard enjoys the view, too, as she is facing this way.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Seven eggs and counting

What a difference some sunshine makes.  It's as though Nature is making up for lost time by going into overdrive.  The magnolia tree, which was still in bud five days ago is almost in full bloom today and my garden is suddenly filled with colour.  In April last year temperatures soared and most of Britain was officially in drought.  The following day the heavens opened and soon we were on flood alert. After a very long, bleak, cold winter it is so wonderful to enjoy some warmth and sunshine again and to watch the garden being dramatically transformed by colourful, scented plants. Judging by the number of visiting bumble bees and butterflies I'm not the only one to be grateful for the late arrival of Spring.

 A burst of spring colour in the garden

The female mallard nesting in our duck box now has seven eggs, possibly eight after this morning's visit to the nest.  She is being attacked every day inside the box by a rival drake and it's hard to believe that no eggs have been broken.  The drake takes advantage of the fact that she is, literally, a sitting duck and mates with her inside the box.  I've been doing my best to drive him off if I catch him and yesterday I managed to get hold of him and that dampened his ardour for a couple of hours but her returned later on and attacked her again.

Between attacks yesterday a pair of mandarins flew over to her nest box and stood on the plank as if guarding her from the drake.  Of course it was probably just a coincidence but they did prevent the drake from approaching the mallard for about an hour.

Later on, following a further attempt by the drake to mate with our mallard, she fled the nest and he returned with his own partner. I was amazed to watch as she went inside the nest and starting covering up her rival's eggs.  Perhaps it's instinctive?  She's been checking out both nest boxes for several weeks now which is probably one reason as to why her drake is attacking our mallard, other than the obvious one!  We're surprised our girl hasn't given up on her nest but she returns after each attack, sits for a while and then covers up the eggs.


Mandarin ducks on guard!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Some sunshine at last


At last we have had some sunshine over the weekend. When the sun did shine it was pleasantly warm and it has worked its magic on the trees and flowers.  The magnolia tree in our island's communal garden would normally have finished flowering by now but its buds are just opening now.  Two days ago the marsh marigold in my pond had tightly closed buds but in two days has flowered.  There were bees and butterflies enjoying the nectar from tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and the divinely scented daphne odora in my garden.  What a difference sunshine makes.

 Marsh marigold in my pond

The spring weather has brought islanders out from a long hibernation.  Gardening has been on the minds of some.  Unfortunately, rather than work with nature they choose April to aggressively cut back tons of foliage and hedging, inevitably disturbing nesting birds in their desire to tidy everything up.  At our end of the island there will be one less brood of songbirds and probably a number of smaller nesting birds made homeless.  How apposite!

Thin sunshine on the river this morning

Our  nesting duck is being attacked in the nestbox every morning by a randy drake.  So far the eggs haven't been broken, which is amazing considering the struggle she puts up.  Today she's been driven off twice but has returned a third time and I just hope she is left in peace this time.  I spoke too soon - she has just been driven off again.  Perhaps she will have to abandon the nest which is sad but, now that the drake has discovered her lair he will attack her every day and there's nothing we can do to protect her. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Hidden camera shows duck in her nest box


We have a camera in the nest box which links with our television so that we are able to watch what is going on inside the nest.  This morning when I turned on 'duck TV' madam was already in the box and resting comfortably. Today she wasn't attacked by a rival male mallard so she had time to make herself comfortable although there was a fair amount of shifting around and rolling of the eggs.


Our mallard viewed through the TV 

Over the years we have seen quite a few ducks nest in our boxes and helped them, when necessary, to launch their ducklings when they nest on the garden deck.  Normally we only see what goes on from the outside looking in so it is fascinating to watch the duck from the inside of the nest.  I was surprised at how restless she was for the hour that I watched her this morning, stretching her neck outside the box on a regular basis.



One of the eggs is exposed for a while



The girl prepares to leave the box 

After carefully covering all 5 eggs our girl starts to head out of the box.  She came round to the plank for a quick breakfast of wheat and then was joined by her drake.

Today was partly sunny in the morning but has clouded over now and the breeze is picking up.  Apparently gale force winds are forecast for tonight and possibly part of tomorrow in the south.  Fortunately, though, it has only drizzled a little and we haven't had the monsoon like downpours of yesterday.







Friday, 12 April 2013

Four eggs

Because the weather has been so grey and drab for much of the year, which means that the light is not ideal for well lit, attractive images of wildlife, it has meant that I have updated my blog infrequently.  By trying to maintain a 'photo led' blog, however, I am restricting myself from recording what has been happening on the Thames more regularly and so I have decided to write more often and add images when I have suitable ones.

It's another wet and grey morning here and it has rained very heavily during the night. The river is so much quieter at the moment, no doubt because most female water birds are nest building or laying eggs first thing. There aren't even many male partners hanging around which is unusual.  No doubt, as the season progresses, things will change.



Another egg laid today

This morning, when I turned on 'duck TV' our female mallard was sitting quietly in the nestbox and seemed quite relaxed.  When I next glanced at the screen I noticed that her breathing had changed and that her muscles were contracting and relaxing rather rapidly.  After a couple of minutes she seemed to relax fully again but her rest was soon disturbed by a rival drake.  He climbed into the box and attacked her and she was forced to fly off, exposing four eggs.  She hasn't been back but he has twice inspected the box and seems to be trying to persuade his own female mallard, a much paler duck, to use one of the two nest boxes.  We shall have to see what happens tomorrow morning and, if possible, I shall keep  watch but, in the end, Nature has to take its course and the current female will be attacked on a regular basis I fear.



A sunset in early April

We have been lucky enough to see some sunshine recently but once again the skies are overcast and today it has been raining hard with a few periods of dry but overcast skies.  The April showers seem to be less of the showers and more of persistent rain.  Will the weather ever improve?





Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Never Ending Winter

 Little Grebe

It has been one of the coldest Spring seasons on record and Easter Sunday was, over most of the UK, the coldest for many years with snow falling across much of Britain.  The sun seems to have deserted these shores so Spring plants and flowers are reluctant to brighten up the landscape.  One of the few benefits is that I have seen more of the secretive water bird, the little grebe.  Because of all the rain that has fallen since May last year, the river has been in spate for many months and has only recently returned to normal flow.  River traffic has been limited to essential journeys only and the water birds, including the more powerful swans, have struggled against the flow to swim upstream.  Consequently, a little grebe (pictured above) took refuge from the flow in front of our home and spent several hours fishing and then grooming.  It was a pleasure to watch such a beautiful, delicate, duckling size bird at such close quarters.

 Cormorant on the hunt

Fewer cormorants have been about over the winter period, perhaps because it is more difficult for them to fish when there is such a strong current? No doubt they have found less turbulent parts of the river to dive for fish.

The "exotics" fight

In spite of the persistently cold weather the ducks know that Spring is in the air.  Every morning we have had up to ten pairs of mandarin ducks and one pair of wood ducks turn up for breakfast.  In the evening the same exotic birds put on an amazing performance before finally dining on the wheat they seem to love.  For about an hour they show off and posture, displaying their feathers to advantage and trying to impress the rather indifferent females.  This behaviour continued for several weeks but then it all changed when many of the female mandarins had chosen their partners and there was just one female being courted by at least seven mandarins and the wood duck.  Because the female wood duck looks so similar to a female mandarin duck I have been unable to tell whether the mandarins were after the female wood duck or whether the wood duck just fancied his chances with a female mandarin.  My instinct is that the mandarins were after the only female wood duck. The aerial displays were amazing and the ducks were more focused on flirting than on food but it has all suddenly stopped and since the weekend only a few pairs of mandarins are regular visitors.
 

Wood duck warns off a determined mandarin

The wood duck was less swift on the wing than the mandarins but he was more than a match when it came to seeing off his rivals on water.  His strange vocal call, which sounds a little like static electricity, could be heard above all the burping and whistling sounds made by the male mandarins.


 Mandarin displaying his fine feathers

Most of the displaying and flirting was performed on a neighbour's boat with up to 11 exotics lined up along the rim of the boat while most of the females ignored them.  The one above was wiser and used our plank to show off to his 'intended'.


 Poor old boy

For months we have watched this once proud mandarin deteriorate in health and mobility and we think he may have died during the most recent cold spell.  He became so tame in his need for food that he would stand on the table and wait for me to put food out for him without flying off when I approached.  He chose not to go too far away from the source of regular food and spent a lot of time resting on the boat next door.  He found it difficult to walk because he would stand on one of his own feet and then stumble and he was bullied and chased off by other mandarins but I like to think that we looked after him as much as possible.


 Long-tailed tit on feeder

There have been long-tailed tits on the island for some years though they have rarely visited our garden before now but at last we have at least five turning up regularly to enjoy the fatballs and peanuts.  During December and January we also enjoyed the company of a grey wagtail which spent hours in the garden each day, especially once it discovered the mealworms we were putting down for the blackbirds, robins and dunnocks.  The wagtail would eat its fill and then stand by the stash of mealworms as if to guard them from other birds.  Now, all of a sudden, some starlings have discovered them too and, as they are greedy birds, not many mealworms are left for the wagtail and the other ground feeding birds.


 Nest hunt

Two eggs were laid in one of our duck nest boxes in February and then there was no more activity for two months but, in the last week the ducks are searching for nest sites and one box in particular, the one with the eggs,  has been visited by various female (and male) mallards, several pairs of mandarins, a moorhen and some tufted ducks.  The other box is also checked out but this one seems to appeal to the ducks more.  Dave put a camera inside yesterday and this morning we were amazed to see a female mallard sitting quietly inside the box with two eggs until she was chased off by a rival's drake.  'Duck TV' should be fun if a female is able to make the nest her own without being attacked by rival drakes.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

After all the rain, the snow!



 Snowfall on Taggs Island

Yesterday we had our first significant snowfall of the winter and it certainly transformed the landscape.  After what seems like non-stop rainfall last year and early into 2013 we have at last seen some sunny days and then, I'm delighted to say, snow!  I just love it.

Something really strange happened this morning.  One of an islander's Bengal cats was crouched by our patio door ready to pounce on any ducks or birds foolish enough to fly onto the deck where I normally feed them.  I ignored it for a few minutes as there was no food out to attract any ducks and went to feed the ducks on a plank by the front door where they were safe from the cat. Because the deck was so cold and icy it made a loud cracking sound as I walked on it which, presumably, startled the cat.  I think it must have tried to jump from our deck to next door's but slipped on the ice.  I heard a splash and rushed round the corner to see what had happened.  The cat was in the river, yowling and looking shocked, but it was unable to climb out onto either deck because the hulls are fibre glass and too steep.  I tried to lean down and help it out but it was panicking.  I ran for the net but fortunately it managed to swim towards our garden and got its claws into the wooden beam that caps our camp shedding. A bedraggled and mortified moggy slunk off in a hurry and I though I tried to check whether it was okay it high-tailed it back to the other end of the island.

  Mandarin duck in the snow

The snowflakes were quite small at the start of the day but became larger and more impressive later on when I was in a meeting and unable to take photographs.  The sky was overcast and laden with snow so the male mandarin duck brightened up the scene.

 Mr. & Mrs. wood duck

A pair of wood ducks have been flying over from Bushy Park twice a day with a group of eight or so mandarin ducks. I think there may be a lone wood duck too on occasions but I can't be sure. I had a virus over Christmas and New Year and wasn't feeding the ducks regularly and most of the exotic ones stopped visiting.  There's gratitude for you!  One elderly female mandarin duck remained and hung around most days and eventually a male returned but it was only when the temperatures plummeted that the Bushy Park brigade returned to brighten up the feeding station.

  The male wood duck in all its glory

If you click on this image to enlarge it you will see just how fabulous the wood duck's plumage is in all its subtle and not so subtle colours.  His partner looks very similar to any of the female mandarins that I find it almost impossible to tell them apart.  She appears to be a fraction smaller when you see her next to a female mandarin.

When the mornings were really cold and frosty I was surprised to see that the wood duck took to feeding close to our front door as well as on the riverside deck where he normally goes.

It's been interesting to observe the behaviour of the exotic ducks.  A pair of mandarins have taken a particular dislike to a pair of mallards and behave aggressively towards them, bullying them so that they end up skulking beside the hull of the neighbour's dinghy.  If the drake tries to attack the mandarins the wood ducks join forces with the mandarins to give them support!  I've seen that happen twice in the past few days.  The wood duck is very vocal and mutters a lot of the time when he isn't displaying.  He makes a strange rasping sound which isn't at all melodic.  Mandarin males make deep grunting noises when they are displaying which sound almost hollow.

  A welcome visitor

I love little grebes and they never cease to amaze me when I see just how small they are.  They are  secretive most of the time, certainly on this stretch of the Thames, so it's been lovely to watch one, sometimes a pair of them, flitting from one side of the river to the other and heading both up and downstream.  They were around for about a week but I haven't spotted any since.

What I have had the pleasure of glimpsing from time to time is a kingfisher.  One rested on the handrails of our walkway for several minutes a few weeks ago and I've seen one three times in the last five days crossing either from our side to the far bank or vice versa.  On Sunday one flew straight out from our garden, heading downstream, and I haven't seen any of our fish in the pond since!  As three of them are very pale gold and small I'm wondering whether they are now history.  Time will tell.

  Male red-crested pochard

As soon as the weather turned cold he returned after months of absence.  He hung around a lot last summer with a pair of pochards and is recognizable by the damaged upper beak that has a chunk out of it.  He, too, adds a welcome splash of colour to the uniform grey skies of overcast days.


 Mr. Pochard on the feeding plank

Now that he's back the pochard spends most of the day here.  I wonder whether the pair that also turn up with him during the spring and summer months will be back later this year.


 Frost on the towpath

After so much rain the frosty mornings were a welcome change and finally the snow came.  The forecast is for more snow tomorrow but I think the temperatures improve after that during the week.  What a shame. 

 Similar view taken at sunset

  Early sun on trees

When the skies are clear at sunrise the colour of first light on the trees upstream is fabulous.  Here you can see the white duck contingent making their way downstream for breakfast here.  The big fat white female duck now 'favours' a large white male duck as her main escort but has at least two other white male ducks and a 'stretch limo' grey duck in tow.  I've nicknamed the team 'gobble and go' as she arrives with the boys, quacks to get my attention, they all 'hoover up' as much wheat as they can get and then head straight back upstream.