Nice Weather for Ducks

March is now done but not without more wet and horrible weather this week – what a month it has been. The ponds are as full as we have seen them and it is lovely to see ducks here this spring:

The dog was as surprised as we were to see a pair of mallards on the hide pond

Mallards start nesting in March – the nest is made from grass and leaves and the female then lines it with down plucked from her own breast. She lays her eggs at one or two day intervals until there are about twelve – this is more than half her body weight laid in eggs in just a fortnight. This process weakens her and the male escorts her everywhere during this time as protection. Between each egg, the female needs to rest and recuperate and, after disguising the nest with leaves, they head for quiet spots such as our ponds to spend some relaxing time.

Ducks on the hide pond

The pair have also been on the wild pond, where unfortunately the dog barked at them and set them up – so much for their quiet rest time:

But we are trying very hard not to disturb them and hope they will continue to visit for the whole of the fortnight that their eggs are being laid.

Two stock dove were also having a peaceful time pecking around the feeding cages one afternoon this week:

But then look what happened just one minute later:

In this high drama shot, a sparrowhawk swoops in at them

However, there are no signs of a sparrowhawk kill up there and I think this story had a happy ending for the doves this time.

I like this action photo up at the feeding cages as a stock dove arrives at a really awkward angle:

…and the sparrow flock decides to return to the safety of the hedgerow:

Herring gulls have a very distinctive drinking style where they get their head down parallel to the water surface and scoop the water up:

This vole is reaching down to the water to drink:

But a wood mouse decided that it’s much easier to go swimming instead:

There has been more rabbit action than normal in the meadows this year. The rabbit on the right has a distinctive tear in its left ear:

This is that same rabbit again:

I don’t want to get too emotionally attached to these rabbits because I am sure I am going to be seeing them dangling out of the mouths of foxes once the cubs are born and the parent foxes need to find food for their young.

Despite the awful weather, the first cowslip is out in the meadows:

We have been spending hours working our way along the edges of the meadows digging up alexanders. Possibly introduced to the country by the Romans as a food plant, this plant is scarily successful at reproducing itself here and for the last few years we have given ourselves the target to let no alexander set seed in the meadows. Even so, the plant is particularly rampant this year and we have hundreds of metres to remove it from:

A backdrop of alexanders

It is particularly pleasing if the whole of the carrot-like root comes up like this, but I usually find that I have sliced through it.

A successful removal of an entire alexander plant
By now I am so tuned in to seeking out and removing flowering alexanders that this section that we haven’t got to yet gives me sensory overload and is painful to walk through

Over in the wood, the deep, dark pools of this owl’s eyes mesmerise me:

These nocturnal birds have big eyes with enormous light-gathering pupils

Unfortunately squirrels do continue to be seen at the owl box:

Perhaps this buzzard can sort our squirrel problem out – squirrels form part of their diet:

This spring there are two extra roving cameras in the wood. One is on a tripod to look at nest boxes:

A great tit is making a nest in this box and the bird is probably cowering in there as this squirrel gnaws outside

The other camera is on short little legs and is looking at holes in the ground:

A fox patrolling rabbit burrows

This vixen is heavily pregnant..

I think this is also her checking out the burrow that was used as a fox den last year:

I am still putting up woodcock as I walk round the wood and here is one on the cameras this week:

A jay at the new pond:

John, one of the bird ringers, has just returned from a trip to southern Morocco and the Sahara. He has sent a selection of his always-wonderful photographs of some of the birds that he saw there:

Woodchat shrike
Spotted sandgrouse – aren’t they lovely?
Serin – a bird that can occasionally be seen in the UK
Moussier’s redstart
House bunting
Horned lark
Crimson-winged finch
Bald ibis

I have been to Marrakesh but don’t actually remember seeing any birds at all whilst I was there – although I did come home with some lovely scarves and lots of saffron. Having seen John’s photos of Moroccan birds, I would now like to go and try again.

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