When I was little, my school day finished a half hour before my sister’s – and as the school was very close to the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, Mum and I used to go to the duck pond on sunny days. That was where I witnessed sex for the first time. I have read, since, that male ducks can get so carried away when mating, that they drown the female. I can believe this – as recently a usurping cock pheasant (Squeak) chased one of Phil’s hens so hard she went wham into the glass of our patio door, and broke her neck. The blood that spattered on our patio was like letter-box paint, and so thick I needed a scouring pad; her body still warm. This Blog is part of the Urban Birds project. More details here
Bill Oddie, in 2010 did a BBC Four programme called Bill Oddie’s Top Ten Birds – I have a memory that he snuck ducks into that list, even though the Nation had not voted for them – his reasoning being this:
The one thing all ducks have in common, is their sexual promiscuity. They interbreed, with the result that we have an infinite variety. Fluffy, fearless and friendly it’s no wonder that we flock to feed them. Ducks are often the first experience many people have of nature, perhaps their first experience of the outside world is going off to the park to feed the ducks.
Mandarin Ducks were brought to Britain, from Japan, in the mid-eighteenth century; in 1834 a pair at London Zoo bred successfully, but it was almost a further century before the mandarin gained a toehold as a feral bird, here
Bird Britannica: Cocker and Mabey
In my Reader’s Digest Book of British Birds I discovered the following about their diving behaviour:
The shallowest divers are those which plunge from the sky; gulls and terns scoop fish from the top few inches of water, and gannets usually keep to the top 2 or 3 ft. Birds that dive from the surface go deeper… tufted ducks from 6 – 13 ft; eider ducks from 10 – 20 ft,… Perhaps the ‘champion’ divers of all are long-tailed ducks, which take molluscs from the sea-bed, and have been recorded at depths up to 190 ft. No wonder they need waterproofed feathers which of course brought about the saying: water off a duck’s back
Like much plant and animal life – it flourishes in the areas that we have left untidied.
Marieluise Niehus took this photo of a mallard at Lockeyer Quay in Plymouth, June 2015 – on the way back from a poetry evening.
Here is an extract from a poem, simply called DUCKS by F.W.Harvey, written in 1919. You can read the whole poem here
Yes, ducks are valiant things
On nests of twigs and straws,
And ducks are soothy things
And lovely on the lake
When that the sunlight draws
Thereon their pictures dim
In colours cool.
And when beneath the pool
They dabble, and when they swim
And make their rippling rings,
0 ducks are beautiful things!
But ducks are comical things:-
As comical as you.
Here is the start of a funny, but scientifically incorrect poem from the wonderful Edward Lear – and the full poem’s here