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Leaf of the Day: Can Moorhens Count?

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Leaf of the Day: Can Moorhens Count?

This is rather a belated post but wanted to let you know that I left Orlando on Monday with a clear conscience having rescued a tiny little moorhen chick from a certain early death. On Sunday we saw a little black smudge of fluff wandering lost and alone by the lake, cheeping loudly and plaintively.

I am no bird expert but remember being told it is best to leave baby birds to be found by their parents, but it's hard to hear that pitiful little cheeping and do nothing. So after half an hour, as the ospreys were circling overhead and the great white egrets had turned their steady gaze in its direction and were sharpening their rapier bills, I went off to look for the family.

They were pottering about, much further down the shore, quite oblivious to this missing baby so I gathered it up and took it along to join them. It was all feet and fluff, wriggling its huge feet in my hands, weighing nothing and pecking so ineffectually at this its most benign captor.

The reunion was predictably sweet and affectionate (thank goodness). The mother did a double take, was she counting up the others? ... then rushed over to reclaim this odd little thing which chirped, splashed and waved its skinny little red featherless wings in sheer delight would melt the very hardest heart.

She immediately started looking for some food for the prodigal ....
This I think is a snail being offered.

Then a fish, which 2 chicks tugged at for a while until she reclaimed it and fed it whole to one chick. I thought it was a bit like us having to swallow a whole cod.

So the question is, can moorhens count? Do they even notice if one chick is missing? Do they normally go searching or is this moorhen just a feckless and inattentive mother. Last year we watched 6 goslings reduced to just 2 over about a month. I hope these 7 will still be together when I return.

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Blogger Sandra said...

Beautiful show! I looked at the pdf catalog and see that you're doing very nicely in your sales. Congratulations!
And these pictures of the rescue are precious. Nice to be able to do a good deed, isn't it.
For some reason I couldn't post the show comments in the right place so they're here instead.

7 May 2009 at 22:27  
Blogger Gary said...

Well done. The moorhens here in the village had a very early brood this year. I am not sure if they can count, in a way I hope not as the survival rate is so low it would be so sad being the mother.

8 May 2009 at 09:41  
Blogger Rhiannon said...

Great pictures and story, I'm glad you intervened with nature

8 May 2009 at 19:43  
Blogger My Mother's Garden said...

Hi Val~

Just wanted to stop by and hi! I'll be visiting Leu Gardens this week and am really looking forward to seeing your exhibition!
Happy day~

9 May 2009 at 16:54  
Blogger Vickie said...

Lovely story, with a happy ending for the moment. Loved the images and your description of mom's reaction to recognizing the missing chick. He was lucky to have you stumble upon him. Look forward to your next update.

16 May 2009 at 05:04  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thankyou all for your comments. just logging in briefly.. no time to blog at the moment..In rainy cold Uk.. sigh....
S ... thanks very much, exhib going quite well...
G... have seen a few moorhen chicks here..yes much bigger!!
R... not somehting I really like to do but sometimes you just have to!
K... really sorry not to have been able to meet you there.. hope you enjoyed the Gardens
V... thanks for your comment lovely to find your nature sketchers blog too! Will be back.

16 May 2009 at 10:39  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

lovely story, sometimes it is best to 'interfere' with nature.

7 June 2009 at 14:05  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Yes I agree... How could I possibly leave this bundle of fluff to the mercy of the predators. I have yet to check how they are getting on since I came back... numbers do dwindle sadly..

8 June 2009 at 12:02  

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