Country diary: a nocturnal predator cuts life short | Birds


My canine slunk throughout the garden, crunching guiltily. She had been sniffing across the backyard pond and located one thing tasty. I shut her in the home and went to analyze.

Hidden beneath a clump of pendulous sedge, I found an untidy, scrabbled-together heap of damaged reeds containing 9 giant eggs. 5 have been pale blue, three have been greeny-brown and one was an indeterminate gentle color.

They have been duck eggs, from a wild mallard. The blue ones have been barely greater and far grubbier than the remaining, indicating maybe that they have been laid first and had been rolled round extra.

Mallards lay as soon as each couple of days and don’t begin incubating till the clutch is full, normally at round 12 eggs. With 10 eggs in complete, together with the one the canine filched, the feminine and sometimes her mate should have been lively outdoors my kitchen window for about two weeks. My pleasure in being an observant nation diarist was bruised. How might I’ve missed them?

With the canine banned from that a part of the backyard, I went again later to examine if the duck had returned. She was there, sitting tight, neck snaked flat, astonishingly nicely camouflaged. Her brown and buff-striped plumage mimicked the vegetation, solely a watch stood out, unblinking orange ringed with black.

A feminine mallard on her nest, camouflaged within the reeds. {Photograph}: Sara Hudston

She laid yet one more egg after which started to brood. The drake was absent through the day however roosted close to her each night time, flying in at nightfall, punctuating the melodious night songs of blackbirds and robins with loud, repetitive quacks.

Every week into incubation she rearranged her nest, including feathers pulled from her breast and rags of moss. When she was away feeding, I observed there have been now solely eight eggs, all blue. There needed to be a nocturnal predator, probably rats however most probably a fox.

One morning about 10 days earlier than hatching was due, I discovered the duck and drake collectively on the water, paddling in agitated circles. The nest was scuffled out and the entire clutch gone. I feel a vixen took the eggs, carrying them off to feed her cubs. The geese flew away and haven’t returned.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here