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28 May 2015

Eider ducks are one of the first birds that visitors see on their approach into Village Bay.  The male with its white and black colouring is unmistakable.  The female is drab in comparison but her overall size and also the shape of her head makes her recognisable from other duck species that visit the island. Male and female eider ducks


It's not uncommon at this time of year to find eider duck nests dotted in some unlikely places on Hirta.  In the last few years, a female has made a nest scrape just beneath rocks at the bottom of the path leading up to the Mistress Stone. She often gets disturbed and last year abandoned her nest  mid season.Eider duck scrape lined with down


This year I found a nest in a cleit close by which makes me wonder whether 'Mistress Duck' has relocated her nest site.Eider duck nesting inside a cleit


She's still got a great view, but I hope she picks another route down to the sea for her ducklings as this looks a bit treacherous! Route down to the sea for eider ducklings


The female lays up to eight eggs in a shallow scrape lined with feathers. She is a dedicated mother; she incubates alone for 28 days never once leaving her precious clutch.  She survives during this time by living off fat reserves that she accumulated before the  breeding season.  Eider sitting tight on her nest


Once the eggs hatch, females gather together and form crèches to care for their ducklings. But even with several adults keeping an eye on the young, it's a challenging time as there are dangers above and below the water. Eider familyEider duckling creche




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