There seem to be more and more mandarin ducks on this stretch of water. Over the winter months they put on quite a cabaret for us at feeding time. We had as many as 17 pairs and a spare come to visit us every day and it was fascinating to observe the 'pecking order' when it came to which ones were the dominant ducks. Most of them like to feed from a small bowl on the table on the deck but in theory there is only room for three or four at the most. However, at times 7 or 8 would pile on top of each other, literally standing on each others' backs to get at the wheat. The ducks lower down in the 'pecking order' couldn't even get near the bowl and had to make do with feeding from the deck and even among those ones some were more subservient than others.
They don't get things all their own way, however, as two determined pigeons do their best to get to the wheat first. One of them swoops in and karate kicks the ducks and then bashes them with its wings! It has a powerful beak and generally succeeds in scaring the ducks although there are three or four mandarins that attack back and successfully defend their corner.
A male mandarin duck stretches its wings
Now, during nesting season, the mandarins arrive in the morning at various times, feed and fly back to the nests but in the evening they still turn up 'en masse' and are much more fun to watch than the evening news!
The grebe I saw with two youngsters was around yesterday but only had one with it. It is possible that the second baby grebe was with the other parent but there is a high attrition rate among grebes at this time of year.
The tufted ducks still hang around but none has shown signs of nesting as yet. I'm sure it won't be long before a pair tries out the spare nest box on the water.
A female tufted duck
This particular 'tuftie' has quite a large area of white just above its beak but most of them don't. She's been around for several years now so I recognise her as she has become used to used to us feeding her.
Flare Tail is still sitting on the nest, though she was driven off it the other day, probably by a rogue drake. The coots are also incubating their eggs still but I think there will be baby coots quite soon now.