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New life

June 30, 2014

Author: James Meikle

Around The Vyne, the reasons for all the earlier sound and frantic activity are beginning to appear. Young Mallard have been on the lakes for a couple of months and the fledglings of other species can be seen and heard.

This is often a time of confusion for novice bird watchers and sometimes for the more experienced! because young birds will often not sound or look like their parents. Young water birds in particular leave the nest when they are much smaller than their parents and have very different plumage but are often able to feed themselves straightaway. Land birds are often the same size as their parents when they fledge but have different plumage and tend to be dependent on their parents for food.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

The Wren and Long-tailed Tit in the pictures are probably easily recognisable although the latter lacks the dark pink colouration seen on the adults. The young Robin is less recognisable. They are sometimes taken for female Robins but the plumage of adult male and female Robins looks identical (to humans at least!) and the young Robin will not get its red breast until it is 6-7 weeks old.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin

One way to identify a fledgling of is to look at the base of the beak. The join between the ‘mandibles’ will often have a downward turn (known as the ‘gape’) giving the bird a rather sad expression.

Ducklings and Goslings are fluffy, charming and neatly proportioned creatures. The pictures are of Greylag Geese – a pair with five goslings turned up on the ornamental lake in early May. Although they must have nested close to the lake the nest site remains a mystery. Sadly, their number reduced to three. The pictures were taken over a period of about one month – in the last picture you can just see the adult feathers emerging.

Mallard chic

Mallard chic

Baby Coots and Moorhens are nowhere near as cute (but at least their mothers love them!). They have nearly bald heads, scruffy down and enormous feet. They also have quite livid red marks on their flanks where their wings will later grow.

For some birds which only have one brood per year, the breeding season is pretty much over. Other species will go on to raise up to three more families. For some migrants such as Swifts and Spotted Flycatchers which only arrive in numbers in early May, breeding has only just begun.

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