Friday, 20 May 2011

Say who’s an ugly duckling? Not I!

A walk from Sandwich Bird Observatory, along North Stream was just a day too late for the Woodchat Shrike, but I did take the opportunity to get acquainted with the Mute Swan family there.

Although only five cygnets are visible in the picture above they actually had six, which is around the mean size in the UK.

Despite the Danny Kaye song, where duckling mysteriously turn into Swans, cygnets are anything but ugly, especially when they are small and fluffy like this brood. The normal colour of the downy young is pale grey above and white below.

In this group they were quite variable, with various shades of grey and one was exceptionally pale.
Two of them swum of side by side, pecking at the surface of the water as they went. They very quickly learn how to feed themselves, although they are helped out by the adults, that tear of vegetation for them. They also take some insects when they are disturbed.

This was the very pale one, in fact it was more or less white, a colour morph know as "Polish Swan". This morph is caused by a pigment deficiency in one of the chromosomes. Polish swans were given their name when they were imported from the Polish coast on the Baltic sea into London around about 1800. Mistakenly they were thought to be a new species they were given the name ‘Cygnus immutabilis

On the Restharrow Scrape the rather grump drake Shelduck very jealously guarding a piece of the lake, and chasing anything that trespassed, above it is seeing off one of the Tufted Ducks on the scrape.
The Dabchicks have produced their first young, but it was only one that I saw. I followed one of the parents around, and several times I saw it lucky enough to receive a small fish.

I certainly is a time for babies, and this Mallard duck has nine of them. At the moment they are small and well behaved, keeping up with her and not wondering off. That won't last and unfortunately lost ducklings make easy targets for predators. Let's hope she does manage to get a few through to fledging.

The lack of rain and therefore the shortage of mud and and muddy puddles for birds to use in their nest building had been in the news this week, with the RSPB asking people to provide muddy pools in their gardens where possible.

The House Martins from the Sandwich Bay Estate are the lucky ones. A short flight to the scrape and there is a good supply of mud for their nests. I did see a couple of Swallows coming down as well.

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