Monday, 17 January 2022

Mixed up ducks and fleeing dunnocks

AN angler lifted out a beautiful young pike, silver and iridescent blue, with pointed snout and

AN angler lifted out a beautiful young pike, silver and iridescent blue, with pointed snout and jutting lower jaw, only about 30cm long, caught on a spinner.

He cradled it gently on the surface, deftly detached the hook and let the fish slide back into the water. It was all over in seconds.

I had gone down to the promenade at Henley to look at the ducks, having read that mallard and tufted duck were interbreeding.

There were several strange-shaped ducks here but all farmyard escapees, larger than mallards.

However, in the moat at Phyllis Court was a dark brown duck with some lighter brown feathers, creamy breast patch, of intermediate size, slightly upturned bill like a tufty, shepherding three tiny ducklings, one dark with a creamy breast patch like the mother’s and two classic mallard ducklings, brown and yellow.

Returning two weeks later to check on their progress, there were no ducks but two young nervous moorhens that skittered out of sight, one cygnet with parent patrolling on the river nearby, one fat coot, one jay and three grey wagtails flying up into the holly but no ducks — perhaps they had been eaten by a pike.

So ducks are interbreeding but not very successfully on the River Thames.

While talking on the telephone at home just after breakfast, I saw a ginger cat chasing a fluffy little dunnock.

I leapt up, tore open the patio door, rushed out and the cat fled over the fence.

I could not see where the bird went and, returning to my conversation, closed the door behind me and went out.

Only at suppertime did my husband report that there was a bird in the sitting room, where it must have been imprisoned all day without food or water.

By following the trail of tiny white droppings we could see that he had two perches — under the circular table on one of the splayed legs and then on the corner of the desk, in each case looking out through the glazed door at the bushes where he had been raised.

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