Croydon Ducks - 2009 Nest

Latest update: 13th April 2009

Another duck nest this year, much earlier than last year, with 11 eggs, eight of which hatched on 11th April 2009. This page has photos
up to the day of hatching,

Ducklings - 2009 has photos from 11th April when the eggs hatched.  Young Ducks - 2009 has photos of the ducklings from four weeks old in early May, until they left in June 2009.

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First visit from the mallards on 10th February 2009, while there still some snow in the garden.  This is about three weeks earlier than last year,
when the female did not arrive until 19th March 2008, so about five weeks earlier this year. Almost certainly the same three mallards from last
spring.  At the time of writing in late March, no other ducks have visited the pond, other than these three.  Somehow, I hoped last year's seven
ducklings would fly back, but they probably have no idea how to find my garden, and may not even have found each other, since they left
separately.

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Second visit on 18th February 2009, in the week since the first visit I've dug a deep nest hole on the island with a small raised bank around
the edge to stop eggs being rolled out. I also put a fence around the most of the island to stop the fox jumping over and to stop other ducks
racing across the nest.  The mesh should be large enough to allow small ducklings free movement on and off the island. Amazingly, the
female immediately inspects the new nest and sits in it, this photo is as she got off looking for food.  The ducks have flown back here for
several hours every day since.

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As last year, the female has two mates, the slightly darker one in the foreground is her main mate, the lighter one regularly gets chased
off and around the pond.

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The female viewing the pond from the tree branch, with her mate wondering what she's doing.  I've now put barley straw and leaves on the
island so she can build a nest.

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The darker male chasing the second mate around the pond, this can go on an hour or more. But I only saw them actually fighting once.

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The three mallards looking for food, shortly after I levelled the ground around the pond, and laid new turf.  It looks good now, but it's
sheltered by a tree so don't know whether I'll be able to keep it alive all summer.

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Another case around the new turf.

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3rd March 2009, female sitting in her new nest on the island.

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6th March 2009, laying her first egg.  She now lays one new egg each day.

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6th March 2009, the first egg in the nest, about six weeks earlier than last year when the first egg was 26th April 2008.

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The three mallards on a pond ledge.

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Getting back into the nest.

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And back on the ledge.

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9th March 2009, now four eggs in the nest.

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Although I dug a hole sufficiently deep that she keep he body below ground level, most the straw and leaves now seem to be in the bottom
of the hole, so she's sitting high. While laying, she only sits on the nest for two or three hours each morning.

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The two males are waiting for her to get off the nest.

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Still laying.

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I've put more straw and leaves on the island, and she tries to cover herself with leaves while nesting.

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The males still patiently waiting.  The fighting starts when it comes time to mate, with both chasing her around the pond.

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13th March 2009, now eight eggs.

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Closer view of the nest.

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Eating the fish floating pond sticks. I'm not using the underwater duck food this year, since the waste poisoned the pond last year.

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Back on their favourite ledge.

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18th March 2009, more straw on the island, and now she is almost hidden. She has started incubating her eggs, staying on the nest 24
hours per day, mostly.  There were 10 eggs two days before. Incubation takes 24 to 28 days, so ducklings should be due from about
9th April 2009.

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21st March 2009, there are now 11 eggs in the nest, laid over 12 days, and you can see the down feathers she has plucked from her belly
so her skin is in contact with the eggs. The two males are still visiting daily, and spending several hours here, coming and going and once
or twice a day she flies off with them for up to an hour, leaving the nest unattended.  Usually she covers the eggs with feathers and leaves,
but not always, which is how this photo got taken. 

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29th March 2009, sitting on her eggs.

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Almost buried under the straw.

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One of the males always seems very hungry, and if he sees me at the kitchen window comes padding down the lawn to wait near the patio
until I come out with some bread.  Some days, all three of them come running across the lawn to be fed.

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9.15am 30th March 2009, the female is off the nest to feed, and flies away for an hour shortly afterwards with her mates.  They now realise
the breeding season is over, and are no longer attempting to mate with her, or fight each other, although the second mate does keep a
distance from her first mate.  At least the males continual visits are keeping her company, and hopefully they will protect her if more
aggressive ducks visit the pond. 

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5th April 2009, still 11 eggs. I could feel heat radiating from the eggs. 

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Her mates keep returning to the pond, but have now stopped attempting to mate with her and wait patiently for her to get off the nest
and spend some time together.

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Quietly incubating her eggs.

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She is still leaving the nest for up to an hour at a time, once or twice a day, and flying away with her mates.

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But she usually carefully covers the eggs with leaves, straw and down feathers to keep them warm.

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Taking some exercise.

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And feeding again. Mostly the males just watch, and let her feed first.

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8th April 2009, 23 days after incubation started. Sitting low in the nest, on the eggs.

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10th April 2009, 25 days after incubation started, the first eggs start to hatch about 7pm in the evening, in the rain.  I only discover this
because a rogue male forces her off the nest by standing on the rock ledge beyond the fence.  Hard to see, but there is a duckling head
between the two eggs at the back of the nest, there seem to be three hatched eggs.  

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Another photo of the ducklings hatching.

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A few minutes later, the duck returns to the nest, to continue incubating the eggs and protecting the new ducklings.

Ducklings - 2009 has photos from 11th April when the eggs hatched. 


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