A quick look out of the Visitor Centre windows this week and you’re guaranteed to see large numbers of ducklings zipping around on the water or clumsily waddling over the mud. Large crèches of Eider ducklings and much smaller family groups of Mallards can be both be seen from the Visitor Centre, on the Basin and in the salt pans respectively. The way that the mothers of the two species look after their young is quite different, with both methods having its advantages and disadvantages. Eider ducklings form large crèches, here sometimes as large as 70 ducklings, that will be looked after by a small group of adult females, usually a mixture of mothers and aunties. This method of babysitting provides safety in numbers and allows the adults to work together to surround and protect the ducklings when predators are near. However, large crèches are still vulnerable and will attract attention from predators such as large gulls. Using the crèche system also allows the females time away from the babysitting duties to carry out other tasks. Females Mallards, in contrast, usually look after only their own brood of 9-13 ducklings. This means that they’re less of an attraction to predators, however, when they are spotted the ducklings are much easier to pick off. When you watch a female Mallard trying to control over 10 ducklings you realise what a difficult job it can be, as they shoot across the pond in all directions out of sight of their mother.
Other sightings on the reserve over the past week have included an Ospreys on the 1st, 3rd and 6th, a Marsh Harrier over The Lurgies today, and 3 Reed Buntings and 2 Sedge Warblers at the Bank of Scotland Hide on the 3rd.
Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.