Pond Life Diaries

Welcome to my pond life diaries. The pond outside my window is a living soap opera. I’ve been watching it for three years now. The permanent residents are the ducks, coots and moorhens with many visitors besides – some welcome, some terrible dealing death to my pond life neighbours. I am starting our diary in August, when the pond is at its zenith, functioning at the top of its fertility and all the chicks are reaching maturity.

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There is Clive the coot who with his partner Clara has had two clutches in the last 15 months

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Sandie, one of 25 adult ducks and the most conscientious mother

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The territorial moorhens whose constant squabbles are always entertaining

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and the evil heron, one of three spectacular birds not really welcome during the nesting seasonDSC02975

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The red mist descends

Source: The red mist descends

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The red mist descends

As expected, the change in behaviour has been sudden. I’ve been feeding the ducks as usual but last Sunday several drakes were too aggressive and many refused to get out of the water. Some have even reverted to watching from rooftops. The drakes even

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appear to be magnetic; fighting at my feet and oblivious to me separating them by holding their necks. As soon as I release them they are locked back in combat. I’ve hardly seen the ducks fly in the last 9 months and this scene is not pleasant for a duck. You may have seen

three ducks flying together but it is aggression – the duck is trying to escape the attention of the drakes and will result in further struggles once they land. Poor things

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The coots have returned  – remember Clive and Clara. I know it’s them as they rushed to the window to be fed on their first day back. They have spent the last 6 months three ponds away near the main road so they clearly regard this pond as the best place to raise their young.

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They will be top dog when their chicks arrive but at the moment they are being sociable. They even seem to tolerate the moorhens holding the bank while they pootle around in the water. That will change later

Meanwhile on the lawn, the drakes argue about everything. Sometimes they are goaded by a duck who encourages them to right some wrong and settle a few scores.

More doom and gloom soon with the ducklings and the screeching seagulls. I’ll try and be upbeat and catch the cutesy or funny side 🙂 Until later

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♫ Things can only get brighter ♫

The weather forecast is cold for this week but it will be Spring-like soon, so I thought I’d take some photos if this can be regarded as the turning point of the year.dsc05491

There isn’t much cover about but a coot turned up this morning and has found a resting place

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A movie clip without much movement

The birds continue to amuse and I add voices in the style of Johnnie Morris – you can add your own. Two moorhens chatting on the fence for example.

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Their chick from last last year is still here – slightly lighter in colour than the parents. The chase has now been directed to another couple who want to return to the pond.

dsc05501These are last year’s babies too – one of Sandie’s distinctive ducklings. They still hang around the apartment block hoping for scraps.dsc05505

dsc05506Others keep themselves amused. He doesn’t know whether to follow his male friend or speak to a passing duck. He seems a bit shy. ‘Oh, I should have said hello – too late’

Then it was feeding time – I love their anticipation

 

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but the coot didn’t seem bothered

I’ll watch from here

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in fact, I won’t – you are too noisy

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The ducks take up the same relative positions at feeding time. This one always looks up and says – I’m not eating off the floor. Hand feed me or lower the bucket

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Everyone is in fine fettle with their best possible plumage

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Limpy struggles on land, but he is well fed and very mobile on the water. We have a lot of shooting going on around us but this lot don’t appear to fly very much – I hope it’s because they are well fed. No doubt when the ducks leave to nest, the drakes will get aggressive and take flight

and that’s all folks

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Into the New Year

Well we are now into the New Year and all is well….well nearly all. We’ve had a variety of weather conditions but nothing too drastic.

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A nice sunset to lull the ducks into a restful state before the fireworks at midnight. One of the consequences is that our population of 36 has suddenly increased to 44 so maybe some dsc05448dsc05447

saw me unloading sacks of food from the car and decided to change ponds. Also I am assuming that most of the ducks are pregnant judging by the amorous activities on the pond. There is a bit of argy-bargy with the drakes too, as I’m not sure every one has a mate.

We’re having the occasional frost which reduces the size of the pond but there is still enough space for them all to swim. This is important as we have a poor limpy drake

whose left leg has been getting progressively worse over the last few weeks.He does make it onto the bank to be fed and gets more treats than the others. Just recently he’s been taking food from my hand. He must find it uncomfortable on land so eases the pain in the water. I imagine he damaged it from a heavy or clumsy landing.

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I’m having trouble with the pigeon who is constantly attacking my bird feeder intended for the song birds. But I was amused to see it on the ice this morning, and nearly coming to grief stepping into a hole. Imagine my delight when I got the camera out and it repeated the feat. (I think it is just having a drink and a cold bath).

The other news is that a fourth moorhen has turned up so the 2016 chick who didn’t leave home, and is still being chased by a parent, may have found a mate. I’ll keep an eye out for them, as well as waiting for Clive and Clara the coots to return and also my robin.

 

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December Ducks

We had a cold spell at the beginning of the month and I made sure the ducks and moorhens got plenty of suet and bird seed.

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There was still a non-frozen bit, as you can see in the photo. There is a lame drake who was struggling to get on the bank and one morning when there was heavy frost I saw a drake, head down, frozen stiff. I removed it, rather than encourage predators. None of the ducks seemed bothered by my actions fortunately

I have been feeding them all every afternoon about three pm and I wait until they have all flown in, or struggled onto the bank. The lame one is still here, keen to be fed and I make dsc05379

sure it gets plenty, although it is pecked mercilessly by others. One amazing thing though is that when the 35 odd ducks come for food, they take up the same general positions relative to each other every time. The one looking up on the right is one of the hand fed ducklings and on one occasion when I hesitated as I was looking for the lame one, it flew up and pecked me on the hand as I was not paying her sufficient attention.

Sandie and her nine offspring are still doing well and are easily identifiable. In the bottom dsc05391 centre of this photo is a sandy coloured drake and to his right is a sandy coloured duck.

We’ve had a few duck shoots lately but none of this crowd have taken flight and so I haven’t noticed any losses. There has been a lot of head bobbing on the pond followed by couples mating, ready for the laying season very soon. I’ll then report on the violent conduct of the 15 or so remaining drakes and a couple of non-laying ducks, before the ducklings appear…then more violence! Until then, I’ll keeping feeding them.

I hope you have a pleasant Christmas and thanks for reading this

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November update

It’s been quiet as autumn arrived and there hasn’t been much to report. It’ll be manic again in the spring when the ducklings and their hunters (seagulls & herons) appear. One day recently I heard lots of gun shots so I went out with food to do a headcount and all 36 were there. Sandie’s adult children were all present although I did notice that a light coloured duck was late – not the usual dark one who was  on time. When she did turn up, she had a drake with her, which was pleasing. I’ll look to see if they go around as a happy couple. Also at least 3 of Sandie’s 9 offspring are drakes so I’ll try and separate them out for a photo.

The third moorhen is still around. Most of the time it is the parents looking up to my bedroom window as I open the curtains in the morning but the offspring comes and joins them occasionally. There is no sign of the pond being cleared but the lilypads are starting to crumble, especially after frosty nights. The heron has made a few appearances but not so many. I assume it doesn’t have the extra mouths to feed at this time of year and there other ponds for it to visit.

I’ve been feeding the ducks on the lawn at 3pm every day and I notice they do gather around that time. But they aren’t particularly good time keepers as they also come running over to the car when I go out in the morning. Then I have to crawl away and hope they aren’t getting under the wheels.

There is no sign of my old bald robin. I’ve kept his favourite suet back in case he turns up. Let’s hope he’ll be here as we build up to Christmas.

I haven’t posted any photos this time and it is pretty grim outside. I wonder if this year’s ducklings realise what is going on – when will it be hot again and what is this hail that hurts my head? Don’t worry ducks, I’ve got a plentiful supply of proper food for you

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Autumn arrives

There is an end of season feel at the moment, and I’ve been off to the food store to ensure some treats for the ducks and moorhens on nasty weather days. look-at-me

The drakes are looking splendid after their moult and they do look healthy. They constantly preen to look their best because soon it’ll be the Dating Game

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Meanwhile across the pond, the heron has a rest in the reeds. Surely that’s not a fishing posture?

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Sandie’s ducklings are now in their fourth month and fully grown although if any are drakes, they still have a bit to go.

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They still go round as a team with their mother not far away, but always off to one side, not in their midst. Remember them from July?

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And the moorhens are still a trio. The youngster hasn’t left and shows no

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inclination to leave. ‘Why should I? – I’ll starve’

Here are the whole gang – like an end of term photo – well we made it Guys

I am intrigued about their numbers. Our neighbours have said the most they have seen at the pond ever is 52 and I once counted 46. But this year, since I’ve been doing this blog, we have had a steady 26 not including Sandie and her nine offspring. So there is turnover, either from migration to other ponds or from the shotgun pellets we can hear from less than half a mile away.

Last year we had 18 duckling survive; the 6 Herberts – then the 6 mini-Herberts and when 6 arrived in a box we called them the midi-Herberts. You may recall we then had 5 make it from last April and we know they are in the current gang as they peck your ankles so they can be fed by hand. There are few older ducks from previous years too, I guess, so some of last year’s have definitely moved on.

It is important for their survival that the mature ducks breed as the first timers are inexperienced mothers and don’t seem to raise a single duckling. They are learning from the experience but they are mournful for days, calling out in vain. Sandie has been raising young for at least 3 years and she knows the score.

So, as I say, an end of term feel about the place. A period of calm now before the trials of the winter and the turbulent spring

 

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