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  • Writer's pictureIan

Autumn ducklings and other regulars

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Autumn is my favourite season. The days are clear and sunny with temperatures in the mid twenties. Everything is green after the summer rain. The streams are still running well. The wetland filled, overflowed and gradually diminished until it stranded thousands of fish and other water creatures.

The days get shorter reminding us of winter approaching and the fireplace once again warms the house.

Usually the coast banksias are in bloom calling a huge range and number of birds but not this year. In the middle of the dry last year they bloomed wonderfully but this year just the occasional blossom on the younger trees. The tall coast banksias here are over 30 years old so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have started to die or simply fall over but I feel the dry has something to do with this.

Where did the birds go though?

Our regulars are still around, a pair of magpies and our regular butcherbird, the kookaburras and the blue cheeked honey eaters that skim across the water in the late afternoon light in our now full pond.

The frogs have calmed down after their initial enthusiasm when the rain came. We now have 22 species identified at Istari through the Australian Museum FrogID app.



Ducklings

Our regular ducks, the plumed whistling ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni), kept coming back each morning from their evening feeding but changed behaviour as they paired off. We got very excited when we saw a dozen little ducklings swimming on the wetland with two parent birds. We saw them a couple of times then nothing.


(Dendrocygna eytoni)
Plumed Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) and ducklings on the wetland

The last time we had newly hatched ducklings they just wondered off and we never saw them again. We think that there must have been a number of clutches of ducklings but we only saw one at first.

We were delighted when three adults and two ducklings turned up one time. We can’t tell if they were the same ducklings we saw weeks before.


(Dendrocygna eytoni)
Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) and two ducklings

(Dendrocygna eytoni)

(Dendrocygna eytoni) ducklings
Plumed Whistling Ducklings

Unfortunately one of the ducklings was taken by a goanna - that is life in the bush - but the surviving duckling has fledged.

Our sadness at losing one duckling was somewhat compensated when another pair of ducks presented eight quite well developed ducklings! One duckling had a broken leg. It was the runt. It was so terrible to see this beautiful little duckling literally dragging a leg along as it hopped on the other good leg. Still it seemed to keep up with the other ducklings even if last in the line. Daily we watched these ducklings grow. They turned up at the house for some grain most mornings and evening. The adults must have been here before and seemed to know us. The adult male is a trumpeter, constantly signalling to the ducklings when danger (i.e. us) came close. They didn’t seem to mind the grain we threw to them though.


(Dendrocygna eytoni)
Plumed Whistling Duck and ducklings

(Dendrocygna eytoni)
Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) with older ducklings about to fledge

We were so happy to see the duckling with the broken leg gradually improve to the point where it is not limping but using the hurt leg. We have seen leg injuries on these ducks before and they can gradually get better. Their ability to heal is amazing.

The ducklings are now learning to fly. They have been doing a little practice runs flying across the pond. The injured duckling wasn't keeping up with the others though. One of the adults stays with this little duckling while the others continue to exercise their wings.

We know that one day soon they will disappear but probably return over the course of the year.

Red-necked Wallabies

Our red-necked wallaby population has become a lot friendlier since we started putting out ‘Macropod Pellets’ for them in the dry last year. They all, at least eight, come up to the house now and it is common to wake up in the morning to find one standing outside the glass door looking in waiting for us to get up!

Red-necked wallaby at the door
King Nick, the alpha male come knocking

We have names for most of them now based on some identifying feature which in the case of wallabies is often a nick in the ear (probably from fighting). We have a couple of Nicks and a Nicki.

Red-necked wallaby with joey
Nicki with her latest joey

Nicki currently has her joey which has just got out of the pouch.


Red-necked wallaby with nick in his ear
Nick with torn ear

Red-necked wallaby with nick in his ear
Another male with tears on the ear

Dry Wetland - Fish and Eels

As the wetland gradually dried up, the pools that formed turned into shimmering masses of life with fish concentrated in the diminishing water along with a number of eels and other creatures. Some of the fish were 50mm long. We have yet to identify them but we think some of the larger ones were perch. There were lots of tadpoles too. The eels, we found about ten, which ranged in size up to 600mm.

We gathered up what we could and transferred them to our pond, which still has plenty of water, and the put more in the creek and another wetland.

The ones that were left in the disappearing pools became feed for water birds and at one point we found a red-bellied black snake eating one of the stranded eels. Amazing.


Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) eating a stranded eel
Red-bellied black snake eating a stranded eel

Undoubtedly this autumn will be remembered for the lockdown and the virus but isolation in the bush is our normal. You live away from people. We normally keep our visits to town to a minimum so little changed for us. The wildlife of course carry on regardless.



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