The birds have flown. Or rather, since this is the moulting season, perhaps they have just shuffled off somewhere downstream. Wherever they have gone and however they got there, the pond seems much too quiet and I am wandering around gloomily counting ducklings and cygnets that are nowhere to be seen. I don’t think it is just empty pond syndrome; I know, I know, all young things have to move on. My fear is that something nasty lurking in the reedbed has had them for lunch.
It’s a hard life being a softy. Ray says mink won’t mess with full grown mallards but the weekend of the wedding Jared saw something black scuttling away with a rabbit in its mouth. That sounds hellish like mink to me and surely a rabbit is no smaller than a mallard?
The first time we saw the pond it was choked with weeds and reeds but there was just enough water for a pair of swans. I think they were put there by the estate agents because we didn’t see any more swans for the next eight years until we had finished building the house and turned our attention to dredging the pond. Next spring two swans appeared out of nowhere (we were so surprised we thought the white splash on the bank was an old poly bag) and produced the first batch of Pond Cottage cygnets.
This spring we saw a record number of tiny mallards scooting across the surface like fluffy pond skaters. They moved so fast it was hard to count them but we reckoned there must have been up to 30 from three or four different broods. By last month there were just two parents with four healthy almost full grown young and they all looked very content, swimming round the pond in one happy family group. The swans had four young too and occasionally they were joined by moorhens and dabchicks. We spent hours watching them and a fortune on sacks of grain.
As always the swans were first to disappear but we have got used to that – each year they seem to prefer to leave before the moulting begins in earnest, travelling downstream to Loch Leven to seek safety in numbers (we know that’s where they go because neighbours have seen ‘our swans’ escorting their cygnets across the road and into the stream going down to the loch). But the ducks always stayed on the pond until this year.
Now they are all gone, except for one drake and his mate who stay in hiding most of the day. The pond is empty most of the day and it doesn’t feel right. Mind you, there are reasons to be cheerful. When Ray was working on his new engineering project in the dam he found two carcases in the pipes leading from the pond which he knows is where they mink hangs out. They were dead rabbits.