Tag Archives: Mallard


Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

It’s only me 🙂

European Robin
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

Those are lines written by the poet Robert Burns in 1785. Okay he wrote that poem To a Mouse but my bird is just as tim’rous.

I am really startled that in 1785, without the benefits of social media, a man could be so aware.

Robert Burns was way ahead of his time.

European RobinMy tim’rous beastie has been obsessing me. I am so close to fixing nature’s social union, so close but not quite there yet.

I noticed that the bird was following my hand. What happens now is that he sits outside my door singing and his song is very clear, so I go to the door. I say hello and I put out a worm or two and the bird is watching my hand because almost before I can withdraw, it swoops down and takes the worm.

So I reasoned that if it knows the hand provides the food then let me offer the food on the hand.

I am doing a lot of this. The neighbour’s think I’m nuts, we’ll see 😉

FeedingIt is still dark outside as I start this post. The Robins started singing at six thirty this morning. I know what I will be doing as soon as it gets light. I have put off writing this post just because I keep thinking, any time now, I will get the pictures that I want but no, this is just going to be an update.

European RobinI need a name for my soon to be tamed European Robin.

In my mind I am making the association with Robin Goodfellow. The bird is cheeky and mischievous but also capable of meanness. Puck just doesn’t sound right (Something that you might play ice-hockey with) but there is a name there somewhere. I am open to suggestions.

European RobinThere is more than one bird and I may need more than one name. I have seen four Robins together outside of my door. That is a bit odd. I have just mentioned that the Robin is capable of meanness, a male Robin will not tolerate another male in his territory and while many animals settle such disputes with a good display of bluster, a Robin will kill an intruding male.

So how come, four birds? The only thing that I can think of is that these are last years chicks and they haven’t dispersed yet. They will have to go soon, the breeding season is starting.

European Robin

Ducks on the Pond!

Mind your language now.

MallardsAs predicted our solitary male has been joined by another male and a female.

MallardThe two males are quite easy to tell apart.

MallardSo the Ducks can have names too, if you like 🙂

MallardsThe trail camera is out watching the Ducks. I would like to make a “sex tape.” The breeding habits of Mallards are quite interesting and deserve some explaining but we can talk about that when I get the video.

I think that this one is my favourite, he is the underdog duck.


MallardIs Fizz being neglected while I play with my birds?

If I ever do a post called, “Interesting things you can do with a Dog,” it will involve mud.




FizzThe Sheep are meant to be having their toenails painted today but it is raining. Apparently you do not want to handle wet sheep, the fleece holds quite a bit of water. Well that is something that I have learned today.

SheepOn with the flowers.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Mercurialis perennis, The Dog’s Mercury

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Dog’s Mercury is a green woodland plant that does best in partial shade. It appears very early in the year (January) and forms dense mats on the woodland floor.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)A member of the Spurge family,  (Euphorbiaceae) it spreads from it’s rhizomes (rootstalks) to form a large mass of plants that can shade others out.

Dog’s Mercury is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants.

The male plant carries spikes of flowers that open to reveal between eight and fifteen, pollen producing, stamens.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The flower has no petals, it has three, lime green, tepals (a term used when sepals and petals are indistinguishable from each other)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The female plant is much less conspicuous and most easily recognised by the lack of a flower spike.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Female flowers are carried singly on a long stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The female flower consists of a two lobed stigma above the ovary. The also have the three lime green tepals, soon hidden by the growing seeds.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The leaves of Dog’s Mercury are spear like (narrowly elliptic-ovate) and grow in opposite pairs. Most of the leaves are at the top of the stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)They are finely haired and have a toothed margin.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The stem is unbranched and by this I mean that the leaves and flowers grow directly from the central stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Similar species: The leaves and flowers of Annual Mercury (Mercurialis annua) look very similar to Dog’s Mercury, the big difference between the species is that Annual Mercury grows on branched stems, by this I mean that they grow on stems which branch off the main stem.

I don’t have pictures of Annual Mercury because in the UK, it only grows in the South East of England but if you are unsure of your identification then just Google for images of Annual Mercury and look at the stem.


Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)(Dog’s Mercury growing amongst Wild Garlic)

Dog’s Mercury is extremely poisonous. The first recorded case of fatality comes from 1693 when a family of five ate it and one child subsequently died. They had boiled the plant before eating it. The most recent case of poisoning comes from the 1980’s and was reported in The British Medical Journal. A couple boiled and ate the plant, mistaking it for an edible. They were hospitalised for two days but recovered without any serious ill effects. Their recovery was put down to the fact that they had boiled the plant before eating it.

Serious cases of poisoning in Humans are rare because there is little reason why anyone would eat this plant, most cases must arise from mistaken identity, or just not noticing the leaves when you pick your Wild Garlic.

Poisoning is more common in animals with several cases of Sheep poisoning being reported. I have also read a lot of reports of Dogs being drawn to eat it and subsequent vomiting. The plant has an unpleasant smell that repels us but may attract Dogs.

Dog’s Mercury in January:

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)   Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)   Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Genus: Mercurialis

Species: Mercurialis perennis

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Wildflowers in winter.



The Beautiful Game (Part Three)

Okay strictly speaking the Mallard or Wild Duck is not a game bird but I am on a theme, it is a wildfowl and it suffers the same fate.

MallardIn Gloucestershire you can buy a day’s duck shooting for £70 and that allows you a bag of sixty birds and includes hospitality. (you have to pay £20 extra for each bird you shoot)

Surprisingly for an animal lover I am not against hunting. I don’t really see anything wrong in a man catching his dinner from the wild. It is a very natural thing to do and puts us closer to the animals that must make a kill to survive. I don’t hunt myself because I find it easier to go to Tesco’s and they have lots of choice but I am okay with it. Hunting requires skill and an understanding of nature.

The Mallard is a particularly plump bird and one will make a good meal for a family of four.

(Don’t worry we are not going to eat this one)Alectoris rufaI see quite a lot wrong with setting out on a shoot with the intention of killing every living thing that you see for pleasure. That requires a serious lack of empathy and understanding of the world about you.

They say that a fox kills for pleasure, it doesn’t. A fox is programmed to kill food and to bury anything that it can’t eat for later, it is a tactic of survival and he doesn’t have any choice in this matter. When a fox enters a chicken coop he is going into a very unnatural situation that doesn’t exist in the wild and he is not programmed for. He must kill all the available food and bury it, of course he can’t accomplish this task and so he leaves a mess. It is man’s fault, he built a trap that the birds could not escape from. When the fox appeared they tried to flee, the massacre should never have happened and there was no pleasure involved just a lot of confused, frightened animals including the fox.

There is no such thing as a bad animal.

I know that this is a post about ducks but just remember that “There are no bad animals.”

Now the good news is that I don’t have to walk to Cannop Ponds to see ducks. They live at the bottom of the garden.


MallardThere is a quite large pond in the garden and the ducks can often be seen wandering around the garden in the early morning.

MallardThere is a much larger pond behind that which is quite wild and there is a stream that feeds this pond.

I have just been out to look for the ducks.

I couldn’t find any ducks on the garden pond.

5I couldn’t find any ducks on the larger pond.

6I couldn’t find any ducks on the stream.

7So a really good result all round because I would absolutely love to have ducklings on the pond.

There are two important things that you need to know about Mallards.


MallardThe male is only interested in sex (No bad animals) as soon as the female starts to lay he will leave and join a flock of males. I was hoping to find him gone.

The female will find somewhere very safe and hidden to lay her eggs. She will actually lay more than half of her own bodyweight in eggs. It is a difficult time for her and she needs to be somewhere safe. I didn’t expect to see her, the ponds are very overgrown and there is plenty of cover for her. It  is all looking very promising.

MallardI actually witnessed the mating on one occasion and that was April 9th, so I have good reason to be hoping for ducklings.

Duck sex can seem distressing if you don’t understand what is going on. It is often likened to gang rape. A group of males appear to attack the female and take it in turns to copulate and there is much splashing and ducking of the poor female. but remember that there is no such thing as a bad animal. This is how Mallards breed, they can’t do it any other way and it is perfectly right and natural.

Ducks don’t commit rape and Foxes don’t kill for pleasure. That is called anthropomorphism, when we attribute human behaviours to non human species.

So when I saw what was going on I naturally grabbed my camera and headed for the pond with the intention of making an interesting and informative nature video.

MallardUnfortunately they were on the pond at the bottom of the garden and before I could get anywhere near Fizz came racing past me. Shouting at the top of her voice, “I’ll save you fair lady duck!” She chased them all away. Stupid dog!

12So no nature video. I expect that they tried again later, the males can be quite persistent.

Let’s just have another look at the male. I am not expecting to see much more of him if everything else has gone to plan.

Male Mallard (Mmm, yum, yum)

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Male MallardHere is our lady. I hope to see a lot more of her.

Female Mallard

Female Mallard

Female MallardIt is maybe a little bit sad that we can’t keep both animals but this is the way that it happens and we will get to see the ducklings grow.

I hope.