Tuesday 6 August 2013

At last we have some more Great Crested Grebe chicks. There are two of them, and they are from an unseen nest behind the baskets on the northwest corner of the island.

Just after I took this picture, the chick in the water scrambled up its mother's back, and the father arrived with a small fish of exactly the right size. I am not showing this picture because all you can see of the chicks is a confused tangle of its mother's wing feathers. Having babies ruins grebes' wings, but they moult their flight feathers soon afterwards and can fly again before there might be frosty weather that would drive them off the lake and on to the Thames.

The other grebes' nest on the island, on the northeast corner, is still going along, and so is the one on the Long Water near the Vista.

There was a drama in the Italian Garden, fortunately with a happy ending. All the Moorhen family -- parents, three teenagers and five small chicks -- were in the same pond as the Mallard with four ducklings. The Moorhens had pushed over a clump of purple loosestrife, which lay over the top of the wire netting to form a bridge, and one of the ducklings had managed to scramble up it, followed by its mother.

Then the duckling jumped off the plants, and was inside the enclosure. This displeased the Moorhens, and an adult attacked it ...

... and so did one of the teenagers. The duckling was now in a panic to get out. But, lacking the big prehensile feet of a Moorhen, it couldn't climb up the wire netting, and it couldn't get through the mesh, although it tried several times. Its mother flew out of the enclosure and tried to call it out, but the Moorhens were now in possession of the bridge and it couldn't get past them.

I was watching this with a man with a young family, and we were all concerned with the duckling's fate. The man managed to hold his little daughter out at arm's length so that she could stamp down the netting at one of the corner posts. But the duckling was now too flustered to find this exit.

Eventually it made a desperate effort to get through the netting on the side towards the shore, and stuck halfway after it had got its wings through, so there was no returning. The man bravely took off his shoes and socks and waded into the slimy pond, and I gave him a pair of wirecutters that I always carry so that he could free the trapped bird. But his approach frightened the duckling into a last struggle, and it got through the mesh and skittered away, to everyone's relief.

The Mandarin with four ducklings is taking them around the Serpentine, and so far they have survived being in this exposed place. She looks after them carefully, but couldn't always shield them from a diving gull. She was at the Lido swimming area standing on one of the white plastic buoys, and somehow one of the ducklings had managed to get inside the swimming area, perhaps by diving under the buoys. The mother duck showed good sense in getting it out. She swam along the line of buoys to the jetty. There is a gap under this, and when she called, sure enough the duckling came racing out and joined the others.

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