THE mother mallard quacked nervously when she first spotted me by this bend on the River Devon.

Suddenly, the water erupted into life as eight little ducklings scuttled towards her for protection, leaving diminishing ripples in their wake.

She shepherded her young family across to the far bank, where they froze and lay still in among the tangle of alder roots, almost becoming invisible to the eye.

A good mother, she knew all the tactics for keeping her brood safe.

But despite such vigilance and caution, by the end of the same week, she only had three ducklings left, the rest presumably having been pre-dated upon.

There are a wide range of river predators, and a mink was the possible culprit, although crows and ravens are also ever-present threats.

It was a heavy toll, but that’s nature, and the reason why mallards have such large broods, so as to increase the chances of even just one or two reaching adulthood.

The Devon is a wonderful place to be at this time of year, and on my daily dawn exercise walks, there have been stunning sunrises and a multitude of wildlife to observe.

Recent weeks have brought marvellous spells of settled weather with many of the dawns cold and frosty, followed by the sun then brimming over the horizon for the rest of the day, bringing real warmth to the air.

Great-spotted woodpeckers drummed on trees, willow warblers and wrens sang their little hearts out, and rooks busily picked over the recently sown fields by the riverside.

One of the joys has been the courting sandpipers. The male often runs behind the female with fluttering wings, and he will also pursue her in the air, following an erratic course with deliberate and rather stiff wing beats.

Sandpipers are fleeting visitors, only on the Devon for a short period of a few months with the majority having left again by early August as soon as they have raised their chicks.