Last weekend we helped the mallard in nest box 1 launch her ducklings. She led them upstream and that's the last we saw of them. Once I'd cleaned out her box and placed fresh straw inside, a tufted duck, probably the one that has already laid some eggs in box 2, showed signs of interest in the box. We've seen her enter the box a few times now and on Friday an obvious nest scrape appeared. By Saturday, however, it had been flattened out and yesterday we were amazed to see Lonely, the black hybrid duck, lead 7 ducklings out of the box! She's been using it as a creche for her babies.
Four of Lonely's seven ducklings
We don't know where Lonely nested but she has been hanging around all day with her newly hatched ducklings. Originally she had been looking at one of our top deck boxes but obviously found somewhere that suited her secretive ways better.
It was amusing to watch her various attempts to lead her ducklings up box 1's plank during the day yesterday. She'd succeed in leading three into the box and the others would swim under the box and call out to her. Sometimes she even managed to persuade all seven up the plank but some would fall off and she'd have to come out of the nest box to encourage them to join her. As soon as she left the box to collect the recalcitrant ducklings those in the box would follow her out and the whole farce would start again. Eventually persistence paid off and all seven followed her into the box.
Lonely with her seven
She spent much of yesterday travelling up and down our stretch of the river and giving the ducklings regular rest breaks on either our large plank or inside the nest box. I hoped that she would use the box as a creche last night and we were delighted to see her lead all seven ducklings out of box 1 this morning.
A couple of minutes ago Dave heard a lot of splashing and quacking outside box 1 and saw Lonely attacking a female tufted duck. It would seem that Lonely and her ducklings were resting in the nest box and a female tufted duck tried to enter. She was soon seen off but is now hanging around again after Lonely decided to take her ducklings upstream. In fact, Dave's just told me that the tufty has just gone into box 1. We think she must be the tufted duck that has spent over an hour this morning sitting outside the entrance to box 2 staring at the occupant tufted duck. We're pretty sure that both tufted ducks have laid eggs in the same box, hence the appearance of two ducks in the same box on occasions.
Meanwhile, Flaretail surprised us by appearing with several ducklings out of the top deck nest box. When she felt it was time to launch the ducklings some of them refused to leave and she became very distressed. Eventually we placed the reluctant ducklings in a net and carried them down from upstairs to place them in the river. Flaretail headed off with all twelve ducklings and that's the last we saw of them, too! Only Lonely seems to have kept her ducklings in the area and, so far, kept all seven of them safe from predators.
The two young coots are growing apace and spend most of their time with us. I couldn't resist this image of one of the youngsters tucked into the empty feed box.