Wildlife Wednesday – Early Spring Visitors

A pair of wild ducks have been visiting from early March, the drake does not eat but protectively keeps guard over the female and watches her, my hopes were up that she was nesting in our garden. He seemed to love her, despite her manners.


Protective Drake watching his mate

A few days later, my neighbours with a large pond told me the duck had laid eggs in their garden, under an elderly Sage bush, I have been given visitation rights but felt a little disappointed as I had wanted the chicks to be born here.


The pair continued to visit and the Drake still did not eat, he cannot feed her in the way other male and female birds do, but he can lead her to a source of food. She lays more than half her body weight in eggs, so needs plenty of rest and nutrition. This last week, he has started to eat too, his job is done for this Spring and will be off, their love was brief, they do not pair for life and then if no replacement clutch is needed he joins other groups of males for the summer moult. There is a short period between siring one clutch and the summer moult when groups of males behave in a foul manner towards females, I hope she is spared.


7 spot native Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata)

During the late March tidy up I was delighted to see lots of 7 spot native Ladybirds emerging from dormancy and searching for handy mates. During their year long lives, they can eat 5,000 aphids each, even the larvae eat aphids. The parents die as the new generation emerge and the cycle continues.


Woodlice, possibly Porcellio scaber

Elsewhere, the children’s Wildlife Centre has been taken down. They have left home and I wanted to let more light into the potting shed, the centre was a lean-to tacked onto the side, blocking some of the windows. The wood was rotten with only fond memories holding it up and still home to the inspected and usually nocturnal woodlice. Predated by Toads, woodlice are one of natures recyclers eating rotting vegetation. In its place we now have another small log store with living roof, placed under the shed windows, although we do not need insulation for the wood store, I wanted another growing space for pollinators, hence the living roof. The soil is 3-4″ deep, the spot sunny and sheltered. I’m still dithering over plant choices but to start will experiment with some shallow rooted Phacelia tanacetifolia.


Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) on Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)

Bees have been foraging too, climate change has enabled the European Tree Bumblebee to make its home in the UK and this worker feeding on self seeded Forget-me-nots had mites and was trying to clean them off by combing its legs over the body, I’ve read on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website that some mites are not harmful, but if a heavy infestation, when the weight of the mites would inhibit flight a small childs paintbrush can be used to gently brush them off.

Male Pheasant

Male Pheasant

Amongst the usual bird visitors, a male Pheasant has appeared on a daily basis, they were introduced into the UK for gun sport. Its estimated 40 million Pheasants and 10 million Partridges are raised in battery cages for release during the “season”. Animal Aid’s report on the welfare of these birds make gruelling reading. Animal aid are campaigning for a ban on the use of these cages. Its quite staggering that the shooting lobby claim these shoots are good for our countryside.

In more uplifting news, our Robins have nested and begun to lay eggs but alongside my potting tray behind several stacks of waiting pots, I cannot risk upsetting her, incase she abandons her eggs, I have read she will lay one egg a day usually early morning and a normal clutch is 4-6. They are used to me in and out of the shed but think it will be a step too far to prick out seedlings so close to her. It will be 13 days for her to incubate the eggs, 14 days further for the chicks to fledge and then both adults continue to feed them for a further 3 weeks. So all in all I will be potting on seedlings in the summerhouse this year and hoping to see the chicks in a few weeks time.

My grateful thanks to the lovely Tina for hosting the Wildlife Wednesday meme, please take a look at other wonderful wildlife across the globe.

Happy Wildlife Watching!

75 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday – Early Spring Visitors

  1. What a fabulous post, Julie. Those photos of the ducks, pheasant and woodlice are interesting. Tell me about Robins: who is it that dive-bombs me when I go pass the nest? Male or female?

    • I’m not certain Cynthia, as I’ve not seen that behaviour in a european Robin, thats not to say that they wouldn’t do that to humans though, I expect both both males and females would be protective as they both care for the fledglings. I’ve been dive-bombed by Terns and that really hurt, so sympathies, wearing a hard hat just to go out in your garden is a bit much!

  2. Gorgeous photos, Julie!! Your insect shots, in particular, are stellar! Very interesting about the “sport” birds and the lobby that promotes. We have similar issues here, though here in Texas, there are ranches which promote the hunting of big game. Ugh.

    The bumble is beautiful and such a great capture. Loved your story about the ducks. I didn’t know that the drake doesn’t eat for such a long time. I chuckled at your comment about her manners–I guess there’s someone for everyone, right? πŸ™‚ Glad you’ll have visiting rights and you must post shots of the ducklings, as there is nothing in the world cuter. Except perhaps, owlets. Thanks for participating–always a treat!

    • I can’t begin to understand what the thrill of shooting for fun is, over here ducks are also bred for shooting. There is plenty of illegal shooting and trapping of larger animals and birds such as foxes, stoats, Buzzards and Hen Harriers who are attracted to the commercially bred game birds to predate. But if they did not breed these game birds nature would maintain her own balance and beautiful raptors such as the Hen Harrier would have a better chance of surviving, by 2012 there was only one recorded pair left in the UK. There is a another campaign running to ban Grouse shooting, its highly lucrative but Grouse are natural prey for Hen Harriers, hence these raptors are being illegally killed. Money as always is at the bottom of this this.
      Any news on your Owlets yet?

  3. Lots happening in your garden Julie – how exciting! One of our robins had started to build a nest too – though thankfully in the hedge – but quite low down so a little concerned that it may get predated. Great photos too as always.

    • I can understand why you are worried, you have to wonder at some of the chosen nesting sites. I hope yours fledge successfully. We put up a new Robin nest box in a quiet spot this year, but so far its been ignored. Spring is a lovely time of year. πŸ™‚

  4. Another fascinating wildlife post Julie, thank you very much. Only you would take the time to brush mites off bumble bees. The creatures in your garden are all very lucky.

    • Thanks Annette, glad you liked it, I hope Spring is good for you up in Aberdeen, we have a return to chilly wind and rain down here, just hoping its brief!

      • Quite a bit of rain up here too. I haven’t done the garden for ages and I notice the weeds are starting. However I did get some seeds planted yesterday.

  5. sorry you won’t have duck chicks in your garden but robin chicks sounds good to me, no lodgers in my nest boxes either, years ago I had blackbirds nesting on an old ladder in my shed, I got out what I needed and stayed away until I was sure they had gone,
    I hate the shooting brigade what ever they are shooting, where my brother lives in east Sussex, when they set the birds free they are a danger to motorist, because of how they are raised they don’t know to fly when a vehicle comes along, and they are everywhere, I agree I can’t even begin to imagine how someone can enjoy killing them,
    love the ladybirds, we don’t have any here, too far north, who would have guessed, pleased they are native ladybirds and not harlequins, Frances

    • Hi Frances, Birds do choose some of the oddest places to nest, ladders sound precarious!
      The needless cruelty in raising game birds and using these poor birds for sport and lucrative income is desperately sad. The RSPB have come out in a degree of support for the shooting brigade. I cannot understand their point of view.
      The Animal Aid report, says that of the 40 million bred “only” 18 million are shot the rest escape to the wild competing with our wildlife and as you point out are making an absolute nuisance of themselves for motorists. And of the 18m, 8 million go to game dealers, the other 10 to shoot operators. What a shameful practice this is.

      • thanks for the link Julie, I had no idea the numbers were so incredibly high!, I get sick and tired of this argument that it’s wildlife management and good for the countryside and native wildlife, they put forward the same arguments with the sheep, claiming the grazing helps keep down the grass so native flowers can grow, yellow rattle would do the job in a far more wildlife friendly manner, money, it’s always about money, Frances

  6. I live in the U.S., but a pair of Mallards have also been coming by my yard looking to set up shop. I saw them yesterday and my husband said they were out there again this morning when he was getting ready to leave for work. The female seems to have her eye on a space beneath one of our dwarf Alberta spruces. It’s right next to our driveway though. I hope she finds a more suitable nesting spot!

    • So close to your drive sounds risky but you hear of such odd places for nesting birds. I hope she is careful. I’ve read they cover their eggs when they go to feed, to help prevent predators, maybe the Spruces will help with that. I hope you get to see the chicks.

      • I hope so too. She was on the nest this morning, but when I went out this afternoon she was gone and I didn’t see the eggs. I didn’t want to poke around in the nest so I can only hope she covered them like you said.

  7. I detest shooting any birds or animals for sport, and I knew that pheasants and other game birds were bred for this purpose, but wasn’t aware that they were kept in such terrible conditions. We have a male pheasant and up to eleven of his hens (currently 5 or 6) visiting our garden every day and we feed them. They are a bit of a pain as they take a lot more of the food that we’d rather the smaller birds had and need for their own offspring and their eggs, but now I’ve read this, I’m happier for them to eat what they need (not that I’ve ever tried to stop them!) as the more welcome they feel here, the better. Soon they will all go away as the hens find somewhere else to lay their eggs and look after their broods (some look after themselves in the ‘wilds’, so I hope that some of them do manage to live a few years).
    I do wish, though, that game shooting was banned, but there is always this damned argument from its supporters that it keeps people in work. I expect that people who enjoyed and condoned bear-baiting had the same argument until they came to their senses. I wonder what the heck it’ll take for this to change?

    I have always loved woodlice (and their non-rolling cousins, slaters) and played with them when I was a child, making up stories about them I’m glad your robin’s nesting – we’ve at least two pairs that are, too. πŸ™‚

  8. Wonderful goings-on at your place! Came across a New York Times headline this morning, “The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to allow many birds to be depicted on the annual license stamps, changing a long tradition of depicting only birds that are hunted.” Apparently this is quite controversial.

    • That sounds like it could be a positive step forward Susie, hunting is a deep rooted tradition both here and in the US, we do not need to kill animals in this way or breed them in such dreadful conditions for sport.

  9. It is for sure spring at you place! The ducks are so funny- great pictures! We also had a pair stopping by to beg for food, I don’t know where they went to nest. On the other hand I noticed the robins always nest in inconvenient places (for us) and the American ones are aggressive when the chicks are in the nest. But they are so enjoyable to watch πŸ™‚

    • Our Robins are aggressive to other birds, especially the little brown Dunnocks when they are defending their territories but I’ve not seen them defend their chicks yet, although I’m sure they would be. The Ducks make us laugh a lot, they seem to learn fast where someone will give them food.

  10. Having pheasants roaming wild across my garden and seeing how beautiful they are I dread to think about the conditions for their captive bred cousins. Unfortunately living in the country does expose me to shooting and I hate it so much.

    • There are some really harsh countryside practises, its often a far cry from the image portrayed on Countryfile. A village near by has a lot of problems with people Hare coursing, its desperately sad and there does not seem to be enough legislation or enforcement agencies to deal with this. The shooting lobby is powerful as are the land owners allowing these shoots. But hopefully with campaigners such as Mark Avery, more awareness will be raised.

  11. Hello Julie,
    Fabulous photos, and very interesting background to all the wildlife. Interesting timing too for your nesting robins as well. 5 days ago I spotted a robin nipping beneath ferns on our stone wall looking onto the terrace garden, had a quick peek and saw a clutch of quite well feathered chicks in there already. And frog spawn by the first week of February. But now it’s bitterly cold again….very disruptive weather for much of our wildlife,
    Best wishes

    • Gosh that is early for your Robins Julian, the early burst of Spring weather must have encouraged them. We have had a return to cold too, heavy rain showers and even hail today and another frost due Saturday night. Its very tough on our wildlife but I’ve been reading some US blogs where they now have heavy snow, so no opportunity for ground feeding. I hope your chicks fledge successfully, its very nice to imagine the spot you are talking about having visited.

      • I didn’t think too much about the timing, Julie until I read your post…and then realised it probably was very early. I must see if I can snatch a quick pic of them… I’ll have to see how they go, because it’s been bitterly cold here again too – the grass is only growing very slowly – but at least the daffs are all lasting longer than usual,

  12. Interesting variety of wildlife you’ve got, including the ducks. I sympathise with your disappointment that they have nested elsewhere, I’d have wanted them too. I’ve been getting quite worried about mites on bumblebees this year. There seem to be a lot of them afflicted. I’ve noticed when I’ve looked at the photos on the computer rather than at the time though.

    • Its quite distressing to see the mites, I first noticed them a couple of years ago on a bee with a really heavy infestation, I ended up deleting the photograph from my library as I could not bear to look, the BCT says that some mites are harmless but how would we know the difference with the ones that do cause harm? I share your worry, its hard to work in garden and see bees like this.

  13. Handsome specimen, that pheasant! I love how you are accommodating the robins, making do elsewhere. Great shots of Mrs. Mallard, the first is rather humorous! It would be a good one for a caption contest. πŸ™‚

    • There is so much we have stored in the shed thats suddenly vital to have out, the guttering for the water butt for one, but that will just have to wait, a couple of weeks and I shall hopefully be able to report back. πŸ™‚

  14. Thanks for this lovely, interesting post. It never occurred to me that “game birds” would be reared (particularly in appalling conditions) especially to be shot. It’s mind-boggling.

    • Quite disgusting isn’t it. Only a small percentage of the birds reared this way end up in the human food chain, not that I would ever want to eat them, There are a lot of dodgy countryside practises.

      • I can’t stop thinking about it. It seems to be just another part of the utter contempt with which those with power treat other creatures. Some days I really want to go and live in a cave somewhere.

  15. Great photos and an interesting post, thanks Julie. I love the Drake following along and not eating, but can led the female to food. When I was teaching I often spent my lunch hour rescuing Ladybirds because children love to hold them and keep them, well meaning but…no surer way for a Ladybird to come to a sticky end!
    I cannot understand game shooting, especially as a bird’s instinct is to fly up, and then will be shot. Where is the fun in killing such a beautiful bird as it is in flight. Absolutely dreadful!

    • I did smile at your school children, they are so curious and full of wonder at that age, we all need to keep that in us, maybe then with steadier hands the world would be a better place.
      I do not understand what the point is, there can be no thrill there, the birds are brought to the site and cages opened, the shooters must have very fragile egos.

  16. Maybe you can lure the ducklings to your garden when they’ve hatched! The pheasant is very handsome; does he cause any damage, I know they cause problems in other bloggers’ gardens.

    • Not that I’ve noticed, he is quite forlorn and comes to the bottom of the seed feeder waiting for smaller birds to chuck seed out. If he sees us he goes to hide in the bushes. We are putting in a new pond here, hopefully next year Mrs Duck will choose us, but I’d dearly like to kidnap the chicks this year πŸ˜‰

  17. There is a lot happening in your garden at the moment. I had heard Robins could nest in strange positions but I do not think that ours nest on the premises. I would love to watch them rear their young. Good luck with borrowing some spare pots for your planting! Amelia

    • Haha! I’m already struggling for pots, I’m hoping my mum will lend me some, I have the days marked on my calendar and will be watching as closely as I dare.

  18. What a beautiful post and Mr. Pheasant is stunning in his spring outfit!
    The wildlife in your garden is a good example of how when you build it and lay out a welcome mat they will come. They’re lucky to have you and my best wishes to the duck and robin broods πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, we try to make our garden as welcoming as possible, the interaction between wildlife and the plants I love brings everything to life for me.

  19. Lovely post Julie. I agree wholeheartedly with you about the shooting lobby and I follow a number of anti-shooting and anti -grouse-driven moor sites. I am upset about the RSPB’s stance. Obviously money and support from land-owners is at the bottom of it all. I love your ducks! We have mallards in our garden but have no idea where they are nesting. The Greylag has been sitting on her nest for well over a week now. Good luck with your living roof – a brilliant idea and hope you manage to cope without all your flowerpots!

    • Thanks Clare, I cannot understand their stance, it seems to go against absolutely everything the RSPB stand for or at least what we all perceive they stand for. The living roof is a bit of an experiment with maintaining the right moisture levels and trying to drain the soil. I do not want to grow Sedums there and will try for pollinator friendly plants, so we will see. I’m looking forward to reports of Greylag goose chicks too!

      • I will try to post as soon as we have a sighting of a gosling! I am really interested in your living roof project. Adnams distribution centre has a living roof which has done very well but that is all sedum plants.

      • Sedums would make life easier, I would need less soil and could drain the area freely. But we have only left a small drain hole which I can plug if necessary in case there is a drought. We do not need the insulation of a green roof or a filter of water, but I can create either a place for pollinators to feed or a habitat for invertebrates that would feed others in the food chain. Its all an experiment so far! πŸ™‚

  20. Your detailed photos are great! I have a strong fondness for mallards, having raised quite a few as pets in my grade school years during the spring and summer and releasing them on my uncle’s lake in the fall. Thanks for the info on their courting and breeding habits. And that pheasant is magnificent – such gorgeous colors!

    • Thanks Rebecca, that sounds really lovely to raise the chicks, they are so comical and sweet and to have access to lake for them as they grow sounds a perfect arrangement. My grandparents had a farm where amongst other animals they had domestic white geese, spending time there was always a highlight of the holidays, but sadly we could not bring any home!

    • Thanks Donna, we have more that visit and I haven’t been able to photograph, we’ve finally spotted the fox in our garden after puzzling over tracks, so just as well the duck did not lay her eggs here.

  21. So many lovely photos Julie! I loved the ducks and the very handsome pheasant. What a shame that the ducks didn’t nest in your garden but perhaps the babies will take up residence. It will be wonderful to see them. Aren’t Ladybirds amazing? I just ordered some from a company that delivers natural predatory insects by mail. I do occasionally see them in my garden anyway, but so many people use pesticides around me we have nowhere near the numbers we should. I set the bag out one evening and the next day they were all over my plants which had suffered an aphid attack. After a few days – no more aphids. So wonderful! Good luck with the seedlings – hope the baby robins hatch successfully!
    – Kate xx

    • We noticed a well worn track in the field behind us a few days ago and finally saw the culprit, a fox is visiting, so thankfully the duck did not nest here. Our neighbours have high fences around their garden, so unlikely the fox could get in there but how the chicks will venture out to the river unaided will be another matter. Ladybirds are wonderful at Aphid control, what a shame about your neighbours pesticide use, I have a neighbour who gives me talks about not allowing wildflowers, which I politely ignore and her gardener is regularly marching up and down with a knapsack sprayer. Its sad as we can do lot for wildlife in our gardens, if only folk would lay off the chemicals. I’m looking forward the Robins hatching too! x

      • Oh goodness…that is a little alarming about the fox. Cross fingers for the ducklings. How terrible that your neighbor should give lectures on wildflowers – ugh! Unfortunately mine are only interested in green lawns – they think I’m mad to be planting flowers and gardening. I get strange questions such as “Don’t you have anyone that can do that for you?” Haha! I’ve given up trying to explain that I actually like it!

  22. So I was inspired by your post to do a little internet research on duck mating behavior and now I wish I hadn’t. I’ll just leave it at that. Love the photo of the ladybugs and the bumble on Myosotis.

  23. A brilliant post, Julie thank you. Love the insect pics particularly. i too have a fondness for Mallards -hope you get visits from ducklings. As for pheasants, don’t get me started! I grew up on a country estate where pheasants and partridges were reared for game shooting and witnessed much distressing sacrifice of other wildlife deemed a threat to their eggs or young. Beautiful Jays and Crows were shot and left to hang from tree branches and fences and we lost several pet cats to the gamekeepers gun too.

    • Oh Theresa, thats sounds really appalling. This all goes on legally too with a license plus I assume there are others who do not bother with one. Either way, what an absolute disgrace and desperately sad.

  24. Really enjoyed reading this — not least of all because it was so nice to hear that there are some tender moments in the duck world. Beautiful pictures and lovely stories. ty

    • Thanks Debra, I had only read about the gangs of male ducks before, so at first I was really intrigued by the males care and then like you was really touched to see his tender behaviour.

  25. Wow, Julie, you certainly have some unusual visitors to your garden and a great eye for capturing them too, bravo! Wouldn’t mind having some wild ducks nesting or a pheasant but alas, my snakes and frogs will have to make to! Keep us posted on the eggs, probably a challenge to get them through.

    • Thanks Annette, I have been standing quietly outside of our shed to see if I can hear anything as I dare not go inside, hopefully all will be well, as so far its very quiet but I expect and hope the Robin is still sitting on her eggs.

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