After the long cold winter…………..spring has finally arrived at the farm, and as usual it is the Avian guests that are producing most of the fun and frolics………..

The Cuckoo (arrives in May sings six weeks and flies away) actually arrived on April 16th and when I say Cuckoo, I actually mean Cuckoos, we have had the pleasure of hearing their plaintive cry both to the east and west of BGF……….Given that this rare bird increasingly struggles to make it back to the UK, it is a treat to listen to them every year, long may it continue.

Earlier this week, Mrs M spotted a brand new visitor to the Farm: The picture above (identified as Teal by Mrs M!!) are actually Mandarin Ducks. These beautiful birds must surely rank as one of the most spectacularly coloured of all ‘British’ birds. Descended from escapees from Victorian collections of wild fowl, Mandarin ducks now have a firm foothold in the UK.

We were very hopeful that we would get the pleasure of long term residency…as you can see, the girly duck checked out the expensive (and as yet unused) duck house on our front pond, but alas…it was not to be. Something about the neighbourhood did not meet her satisfaction and off they flew. Hopefully they will tell their friends, and we might see these lovely birds again.

Our most common duck The Mallard has been proving again that evolution does not always get it right. We keep a welcome pack of mixed corn in the garden 365 days a year. As a result we get regular visiting ducks coming in for a refuel, our payback is that every year so far, at least one of our visitors has brought back a brood of ducklings for us to admire and watch grow into adult hood.

I was therefore thrilled when I returned from a business trip early yesterday morning, tired, disheveled and in desperate need of a shower……….only to find a Mrs Duck with 9 newly hatched ducklings buzzing around the front pond like whirling dervishes……They were immediately treated to some of Mrs M’s home baked farmhouse bread……and all was good with the world.

Until evolution intervened………Some Ducks are just born stupid, evolution has not yet found a method of removing the stupid gene………..at around 1.30 pm she decided that she would take her newly hatched babies for a walk, the abundant food and safe environment were ignored and off she trundled, down the drive, under the gate, turned left and marched up the lane.

Our working assumption was that she had decided that Little Biddenden Green  Farm, which is around 150 yds up the lane, and well serviced with two ponds, was a more attractive residence for her and her brood, than our lowly abode………we waved her goodbye, and hoped that one of the other winter visitors would turn up in the next week or so, with her brood of ducklings.  Our working assumption was wrong……..at around 7pm we heard the soft quack quack quack of a female mallard calling to her brood………. The binoculars came in handy as we spied Mrs D, at the far end of the garden, walking to be back pond…..but with only 2 little ones.

In the 5 1/2 hours she had been gone………….she had managed to lose 7 of her offspring.

Mrs M was spitting mad at her stupidity, and promptly called the RSPCA!!! I wont bore you with the details of that conversation…………….but suffice to say, the RSPCA were is no mood to come and take the babies into care.

This morning as I write this piece, we have two little ducklings on the pond, but the mother is nowhere to be seen, we hope she returns soon…crows, jackdaws, magpies and grass snakes are all partial to a corn fed duckling, they will not last long on their own.

And finally……….regular readers will know that at around this time last year, I disowned all of the swallows in Christendom……..I cut them out of my will, and vowed never to speak to them again… For the first time in 8 years, the farm was without a pair of nesting swallows as they took umbrage that a robin had stolen their nest, and they buggered off to find somewhere else to bring up their brood.

Well, today, earlier than last year, the swallows have returned to BGF…………despite all my promises, it still gives me enourmous pleasure to see them swooping for insects, and listen to them as they chatter incessantly swapping gossip amongst themselves.

We can but hope, that they will return the their nesting site this year……I will keep you informed.

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