Summer is almost at an end and the breeding season is now over for much of our wildlife. The mallards here in Aberystwyth however appear to be having a late boom, with several new broods including this adorable bunch I encountered a few days ago. After the disappointment of the mute swans’ breeding failure this year it is reassuring to see that at least the mallards are thriving.
The cutest line up!
These recent ducklings were tiny, and probably only hatched from the nest 24-48 hours ago, as a couple still had an egg tooth visible on the tip of their beaks. This is not actually a tooth but a sharp spike used by the ducklings to break out of their eggshells.
Three out of four…
Despite their diminutive size, the four babies were entirely unconcerned by my presence and the clicking of the camera shutter just a few feet away from them as they explored the muddy slope of the harbour slipway.
Brave little duckling
As the mother fed on a handful of seed I scattered on the ground nearby, the ducklings happily waddled around at my feet, occasionally stopping to investigate and peck at a stone, or perhaps a tiny insect not visible to my eyes.
Ducklings are precocial, meaning that they are fully mobile almost from the moment of hatching, and able to walk and run within just a few hours. These babies had no problems keeping up with their mother, scurrying after her with peeping calls if she strayed too far. This didn’t make photographing them easy though!
At less than 48 hours old the ducklings may be up and running, but they still have little stamina and soon grew tired from navigating the steep gradient. Settling down on their bellies on the sunbaked concrete they took a much needed rest.
The four ducklings sought refuge beside the grassy slope growing alongside the slipway. Here they could rest and conserve energy whilst feeding on the succulent vegetation now just within their reach.
In just a few short weeks, provided they beat the odds and survive, these tiny downy chicks will be unrecognisable, transformed into fully feathered young ducks, able to fly and join the resident flocks out on the open water.
Good luck little ones!
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 © www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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