The big walnut tree in our field is only just starting to come into leaf. Wisely, it has decided to wait a while rather than risk getting frost bitten like my plum and cherry trees, whose fruit will not be gracing our table this year.

A beneficiary of the heavy downpours we experienced in May, has been the paddock pond. Our ducks and geese spend hours in there. Recently we released a duckling from the small pen where we rear orphans or injured ducklings. The duckling was now so big it was squashing a little lame duckling in its eagerness to make a friend after so many weeks of isolation. This baby duckling had damaged one of its webbed feet when hatching. So John created a small secure area in the gosling hut, and our teenage duckling appears to be beginning to form a tentative friendship with this group.

I had hope it might be adopted by the five older ducks. The small flock that are responsible for the fertile eggs we have set in incubators and under broody hens. From the mating habits of this group it is a small wonder than any of the female ducks survive. Mating seems to consist of virtually drowning the intended mate by both drakes when the fancy takes them. Synchronised ducking. But they have spurned the young duck. Clearly not old enough to rouse the male ducks interest, and seen as an outsider by the females. But the goslings have , after an initial bout of suspicion, tolerated the ducklings company. Although not exactly best mates, they have stopped hissing and snapping whenever the loner attempts to join them, and can be seen disporting in the pond together, with the duckling at a discreet, non unobtrusive distance. The activity on our pond was not mirrored by a walk we took recently around some wetlands that had been created out of ancient fenlands.

We did not see quite the variety of wildfowl that we had hoped for, but I think that that was more due to the timing of our visit than to the lack of birdlife. But a glorious sight of parental devotion was offered up by a pair of swans , closely guarding their seven cygnets . Apparently female swans can lay and hatch up to ten eggs. This pair had clearly done well and it was especially touching to see a couple of cygnets hitching a ride nestled between their father’s wings. Well done Dad