Dear all, many apologies for not updating the blog in recent weeks. I do anticipate however being able to post a little more often throughout May and June. In the meantime, you can follow me for bitesize snippets on Twitter @YoungPhoebe.
This time of year is so exciting. For weeks now we have been up to our elbows in preparations, from painting and varnishing nestboxes and creating shelters, to marking pair formation and stocking breeding pens. The breeding list for 2012 is short, with an estimated 300 birds compared to the 700+ we rearing in 2011. Despite that shockingly high total, we still maintain that each and every bird was requested and out of the ordinary!! As you can imagine, stocking WWT’s 7 bird holding centres can be a hard job as you can never guarantee whether birds will a) pair b) copulate c) nest d) lay e) incubate properly f) rear properly g) survive! The 2012 season looks to be a good one however, with centre specialities being central to our direction. I cannot wait to see whether Arundel deliver Scoter, Longtail, Bronzewing or Harlequin eggs, whether Llanelli do well with Bufflehead and Barrow’s Goldeneye, and how Washington do with their beloved stifftail.
The birds at Slimbridge are so far doing me proud, and we have a number of exciting nests on site at the moment. This white-headed duck is in her traditional spot in the sedge with another in the phragmites. Both have 6 eggs, a healthy average for their species, and began incubation roughly on the 27th April.They join 2 Maccoa and 1 Argentine ruddy duck already on eggs.
Other species are showing promising signs. This Puna teal is showing evidence of being gravid (heavy) (pregnant) with eggs by the gentle bulge behind her legs and nearing her cloaca. Due to her clean and clear rear however I think that this is the first of the season, and as such I shan’t go hunting for her nest in case I put her off the boil… The Puna is a wonderful duckling; sociable, intelligent and companiable. They make excellent surrogate brothers and sisters at the start of the season for diving stifftail and pochard species.
My real love affair however has been occurring in the outside Duckery with our beloved White-winged wood duck. With 30 or so in the UK and 100+ in captivity, these endangered ducks are not only rare in the wild (1000-) but also in zoo collections. We reared 24 in 2009 and 2010, but 2011 evaded me and 1 clutch proved infertile with another clutch going addled. This year 2 stunning girls are holding the fort for the future of the species; aren’t they spirited and gorgeous? Please join me by crossing your fingers for success!