I mentioned a little while ago that up on the drainage ditch locally there were a new family of ducklings, a lone heron and a pair of swans sitting on a nest.
We saw the ducklings for the first time yesterday. We counted nine of these tiny furballs (we’d been told there were 8) and were amazed at the speed they were capable of keeping up with mum. What was also fascinating was the way she guided them into the bull rushes and reeds should a threat become apparent. This included us, and like Hudini, one second she and her charges were there, and the next they were gone.
Today as we walked along the lane after parking the car, there was no sign of her or her babies, just the two male mallards and a couple of terns hovering in the air above the water. Some breeds are opportunists and it has been known for them to take young ducklings or other birds chicks that have only just taken to the water. We sincerely hope they only had fish today.
We also saw the Grey Heron as he stood on sentry duty at the water’s edge. He probably had his eye on a fish for his supper. Walking up, I tried to take a photo but he flew off before I got close enough, and was shortly followed by a second, so it’s possible he was guarding his mate, not on dinner duty!
Our swans are still on the drain, but it would appear they have abandoned their nest and the eggs.
We noticed a few days ago that it was unattended, but were still a little hopeful when we saw one adult standing over the eggs cleaning its plumage on our return journey. Yesterday, it looked like a second nest had been started a little higher up the bank at the same site, but when we went by today, both adults were gone, the second nest destroyed, and the eggs lay exposed in the other. Perhaps the preening was a way of mourning the unhatched cygnets, and we are really saddened as they had tried so valiantly to keep the nest above water in the bad weather.
What is even more sickening is that the water level could have been dropped manually, but obviously no-one cares enough about a pair of young swans about to start a family and it had been decided by The Powers That Be to deliberately keep the levels high for whatever reason. It is also against the law here in the UK to interfere with a swan’s nest, though if one has been built in an area where say people walk their dogs, you can contact the council and they should come and erect some fencing or similar to protect it.
It’s not the first time this has happened apparently.
Talking to locals recently, this particular drain has always been popular for swans. Many eggs and nests have been lost, but still these beautiful majestic birds come back to breed here. We have seen many families swimming up or down it in various sections before it joins the main river, as well as on the river itself going into town. Two or three years ago we were seeing broods as late as September, and not just one or two cygnets, but five or six!
From what I have read, it is not unusual for a new breeding pair to lose their first clutch to the elements of hide tides or flood waters. They learn from the experience, ready for building their nest on a safer site the following year.
These photos are mine, kindly put together and sized by Hubby as I got in a muddle.
It is possible they are searching out a new site to start again as we saw them much further up the ditch as we were walking back to the car. One seemed to have selected a more sheltered spot considerably higher than the last.
Time will tell.
I just wish there was a way I could warn them (and the ducks) that herons are a predator to young chicks, but sadly that is Nature, and as such, we cannot interfere.