Saturday, 23 May 2009

Foster Mums!

Homeless with no mother: young Eider chicks in a box


Ready for release, Paul at Seahouses harbour ready to release the ducklings




Foster mums are go! Female Eider with four new chicks to look after


Eider mothers - surely the best. Today's Farne story is a happy story although please note, this shouldn't be tried at home, for reasons explained....

For those unfamiliar with Female Eider ducks, will probably not know that within 24hrs of hatching, the mothers will take the small ducklings straight to the open sea and west towards the mainland, finding relative safety of Seahouses harbour away from predatory Gulls. The first few mothers have departed the islands with young and before venturing onto boats to the Farne Islands, you should keep a close eye on the harbour to see the successes of these great birds.
Anyway, one great feature of mother Eiders (unlike the majority of other birds), is that they will accept other Eider young, regardless of where or when they were hatched. This leads to large creches, where non-breeding females or those which have lost youngsters, team up with mothers to form giant super-nursery's which benefits everyone. At times during the summer months, you can find several hundred chicks with 50+ adults helping to raise the young - its great.
And this is where our story begins. Paul, an Inner Farne warden, discovered a nest of Eiders which were hatching but sadly appeared to be abandoned. As instructed, he waited patiently over a period of 12 hours but sadly the female did not return. Whether the female was inexperienced and had given up just at the wrong time, we're not sure, but these chicks were not going to make it. But wardens being wardens, we decided on this occasion to intervene. We took the hatchlings into a box (because they were Eiders) and next stop Seahouses harbour, where we knew female Eiders would be lingering with young. So on arrival we were pleased to see a few mothers with chicks. So Paul moved closer, got the chicks out of the box, and the female Eiders did what they do best - made a direct bee-line for the ducklings and all ended happily. The four chicks were reunited with their new mothers and what a great success - Eiders at their best.
However I should finish this story with a warning to all: please do not try this at home. If you do find young baby birds from a nest, just leave them where they are, even if the mother is nowhere to be seen. Adult birds are clever and can be nearby (even though you don't notice) and they will return to youngsters over time, so please leave all young chicks. On the Farnes we know what where doing, so please don't get involved, leave it to those who know best - the mothers!

4 comments:

Blyth Birder said...

Great stuff.

And congrats on a great piece on The One Show the other night - were there any rares on when the Beeb were filming?

Ash said...

You can still watch The One Show feature on Arctic Terns on bbc iplayer-go to the episode on 21st May. Another great appearance Steely-I thought you'd be too modest to plug it yourself so I've done it for you!

kezia said...

Just one word on that story aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah and on behalf of the ducklings thank you xxx and thanks for the plug Ash I was away when that was on so I shall go watch .

matushkadonna said...

Bravo! I can imagine how happy Saint Cuthbert must be....