Some days you really need an aaahhh moment - and my thanks go to the Wallasea Birder for providing just that yesterday afternoon. This lovely picture of Pochard ducklings with their mum, happily smiling for the camera on the Wild Coast yesterday, are one of several broods enjoying the peace , tranquillity and sunshine in the borrow dyke which runs along the inside of the seawalls.
Another picture provided a talking point and a bit of a puzzler. A tufted duck with what looked like imposter Mallard ducklings in the Tufted brood!
Our intrepid researcher found the answer for us: to be so obviously the same age and evidently associated it is likely they were from eggs laid in the Tufted Duck nest and therefore all incubated together (so they hatch out at the same time - important when your youngsters are so independent from day one). Mallard broods previously spotted on the island were already well grown a week ago. It is not that unusual for more than one female Tufted Duck to use the same nest when you can get apparently huge broods of 14 to 19 or more, but we're not sure how common it is to have imposters from another species! The 8 true ducklings are a pretty standard brood size for Tufted Duck. The ducklings are probably not more than a couple of days old, but all busy feeding themselves on little shrimp and insect larvae on the surface water with mum just riding shotgun. Dad meanwhile takes the easy option and leaves home once incubation has started to go off and start his moult. The female incubates for about 23 days and then shepherds the youngsters for 2 or 3 weeks before leaving them to go and moult herself. Incidentally, the Pochard similarly has about 8 young in a clutch, so our 6 is modest. Sadly, for both ducks, only about half will make it to fledging post successful hatching - what with Marsh Harriers, Grey Herons, Stoats, Foxes etc as well as risk of bad weather when they can get chilled. Fortunately on our borrowdykes they don't have to worry about large Pike nor Mink!
Wow, great angle for those shots and a really interesting little tale about the imposters. Thanks WB for sharing them with us.