27 April, 2014

Newly-hatched mallard chicks

Mallard ducklings

A nestful of newly hatched mallard ducklings at Flatford Wildlife Garden.  Aren’t they sweet?

When I say newly hatched, I mean it. The mother duck was sitting on a nestful of eggs the night before, and when the volunteers came in next morning to open up, the nest was full of ducklings. Ten of them.

Before the garden opened to the public the same morning, the mother duck had chivvied her babies out of the nest and trotted them off to the river. With a bit of help from one of the volunteers who made her a temporary tunnel under the fence to lead the ducklings through.

(Mother ducks never seem to realise that although they can fly over fences and walls their babies can’t, and that picking a nest site in an enclosed area might not be the most inspired choice. Like the duck some years ago who decided to nest in the enclosed central courtyard of a prestigious office complex, so when the eggs hatched the caretaker had to carry the ducklings through the shiny glass atrium in a bucket with the mother duck quacking anxiously alongside. Fortunately the ‘aaah!’ factor of fluffy ducklings means human help is frequently on hand.)

These ducklings are now probably swimming about on the River Stour somewhere in Dedham Vale, delighting the visitors.

Flatford Wildlife Garden also has several nest boxes occupied by blue-tits and great-tits. Some of the nest boxes are fitted with cameras connected to TV screens in the visitor centre, so you can watch the chicks and the parent birds feeding them, without disturbing them.

Update (30 April): one set of great-tit eggs have hatched, so you can watch the chicks on screen, and the blue-tits are expected to hatch within a day or two.

Flatford Wildlife Garden is open every day from April to October, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm, free entry. Details on the website here


Beth said...

So fluffy! I loved the story of the nest in the office courtyard, too. Sounds like something of a bird-brain, that mother duck, but I'm glad everything turned out alright for her and her chicks in the end. :)

Carla said...

Cute, aren't they? It's not often you see mallard chicks in the nest because they don't stay there long; the mother takes them down to the water within hours, presumably as soon as they've dried out and have figured out how their legs work. As soon as they're on the water they can start feeding themselves, which is pretty impressive.

My first thought was that the courtyard duck was a bit dim; but you could argue that she was really very clever, since she got a predator-free space and a free ride to the river for the ducklings. Somehow, though, I doubt that she was really looking that far ahead :-)