I first saw baby Darters in the nest on Xmas eve. Since then I have visited the nest a couple of times a week to check on progress. Not long after Xmas I discovered there were three babies. I had initially thought there were only two so it was a wonderful surprise.
To get closer to the nest in the hope of getting some better photographs I mounted an expedition and swam across the river. That was a week ago, last Saturday and there were three little heads, although I did notice that one baby seemed quieter and less robust than the other two chicks.
I visited the nest again on Monday morning and sadly there were only two little heads. D3 had vanished. There was no sign of him on the bank or in the tree and no clue as to what had happened, it seems some lives are only meant to be short. D1 & D2 were more robust and demanding than ever and seemed to have grown significantly in two days. It was as usual early in the morning and I spent about an hour watching. When I first got there Mamma Darter was on the nest but after about half an hour Pappa Darter arrived and fed D1 & D2. This gave Mamma a chance to escape and she jumped into the river and swam around close by. I got a shot of her swimming and it illustrates why Darters are also called snake birds. When they swim you can usually only see their head and long neck, the body is underwater and they look like a snake in the water.
I visited the nest again today and D1 & D2 are nearly too big to fit. There is no room left for their parents who now sit on a nearby branch with a watchful eye on their offspring. At one point D1 & D2 had a cuddle, their long necks intertwined and they sat together like that for a few minutes. Baby Darters can swim at four weeks and fly at seven weeks so I think they will soon be venturing out of the nest and into the water.