Hard times for wildfowl
It appears the breeding season hasn’t yet come to an end for at least one of our local mallard females as she surprised me last week by turning up with four fluffy ducklings in her wake.
The youngsters could not have hatched more than a day or so ago as most, if not all still had a visible egg tooth, a sharp point on the end of the beak used for breaking out of their eggs.
The pointed egg tooth at the end of the beak
I spent a lovely hour or so sitting in the warm sunshine watching the family go about their foraging. The mother duck decided that I was no threat and allowed her ducklings to swim right up close to the water’s edge where they would peck at tiny insects and vegetation allowing me to get some wonderful close up views.
The peace and tranquillity however was abruptly ruined by the arrival of a mother and rowdy young child armed with bread which soon attracted many other mallards from upriver and hungry sharp beaked gulls.
It was quite distressing watching the tiny ducklings scatter in panic trying to avoid the beating wings as the mallards scrapped over the food and the hungry gulls swooped overhead. Thankfully the bread proved a more tempting meal than the fat and fluffy ducklings.
The brave mother bravely pecked at the gulls when they got too close and quickly gathered up her young with frantic calls and moved them out of harms way, taking shelter beneath a nearby moored boat. I swiftly left the chaotic seen and hoped that the ducklings would remain safe.
Sadly this story is another without a happy ending. A few days later and all the mallard ducklings have gone. The herring gulls are the most likely culprits, after all they have their own young to feed. Although I did found one poor dead youngster yesterday at the water’s edge, it obviously hadn’t been eaten so perhaps this one was drowned or was trampled by a larger bird.
— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2016 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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