Sunday 8 April 2012: Perfect weather for ducks...
It's been a fairly typical Easter Day - cool, grey and occasionally damp - as the cliche says 'perfect weather for ducks'. Not quite so perfect for Easter egg hunts, but ours went ahead anyway. The recent rain has encouraged plenty of lush growth, and I'm afraid a few chocolate eggs were never found! We were joined by Lizzy's three year-old nephew, who had never been on an egg hunt. My favourite photograph of the day is one of him looking solemnly at all the spoils, but I didn't want to post that in a public place.
After the hunt, and a piece of delicious home-made Simnel cake, I took the dogs for a quick walk. It was fairly quiet along the river - I think the damp grey weather had deterred a lot of people. Of course, it was just another day for the ducks and swans...though many of them are quite edgy at the moment. I watched a male mallard dive-bomb a swan, something I've never seen before - and saw plenty of aggressive intent among the many male swans still hanging about on the Rowing Lake.
In this image it's just starting to rain, and you can see the concentric circles of a raindrop in the top part of the image. This won't bother the ducks thanks to the waterproof nature of their feathers, which provides the basis for the widely used phrase 'like water off a duck's back'.
The feathers aren't naturally waterproof, but are made water resistant by the application of waxes from their preen gland, located at the base of the tail. When a duck is preening it will alternately rub its head against the base of its tail and then against the other feathers, depositing the waxy, water-resistant oils found onto the other feathers.
Birds also have dusty powder in their feathers, which comes from special feathers called 'powderdowns', which are constantly disintegrating into waterproof powder. This adds to the water resistand quality of the feathers. Waterbirds and seabirds also have particularly dense feathers which helps to prevent water from reaching the bird's body.