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Moorhens at Martinmere
A study
By: psilo 
Page: 2 of 3

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Moorhen clutches can be large as shown in the photograph left, laying up to 16 eggs. On the whole though clutches tend to be much smaller, with only 3-6 eggs being laid. Incubation of the eggs does not begin until all the eggs are laid. This ensures that all the chicks hatch and grow together. Both birds incubate the eggs, continually swapping duties so that the other can go off and feed. Incubation lasts for around 21 days. Sometimes, as seen on page 1 they even share the duty. At Martinmere the moorhens often nest in the most unsuitable places and people often have to be careful where they tread. Despite this the birds are very tolerant and abandoned nests are quite rare. The nest in the photo was made in a raised bed of reeds and was an an amazing piece of woven art.
Whilst people are tolerated close to the nest, other Moorhens are not. The photo right shows a classic example of how moorhens also behave in the wild. Here a pair of Moorhens, nesting in a nearby holly bush left their nest to see off another moorhen that had wandered into their territory. Both birds, with heads down slowly closed in on the bird. Then when he showed no sign of leaving one bird (probably the male) attacked him. Here their large feet become lethal weapons and they become very aggressive. The conflict, fortunately was very brief and no harm was done and the other bird left. The other bird, presumably the female watched on the whole time and made her way back to the nest as soon as the fight was over.
This was a nest that I found in an old tree stump. These two chicks are only hours old but already look quite alert. When I went back to the nest about two hours later the third egg had also started to hatch. Sadly I did not see the chick emerge as it can take quite a few hours for the chick to break free.
This is one of the chicks from the nest in the holly bush. This pair laid 4 eggs in total. This was one of the more bizarre nesting sites at Martinmere. It was situated about 5 feet up in a holly bush. In order to get into the nest the Moorhen had to climb up onto the back of a bench. As this was a popular bench on which people liked to sit this was perhaps not the best place in which to nest.

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