Thursday, 18 January 2007

Ducky luck

I needed to get out of the office this afternoon, so I strolled down to the pond at the other end of campus. Our pond is considered a bit of an eyesore by the people charged with looking after the grounds. I suspect they object to the emergent vegetation, especially the thick beds of cumbungi (Typha), which line the banks. Never mind that the grebes and moorhens regularly raise chicks among the rushes. Or that the shallow water is filled with frogs. All that green stuff is a bloody mess, so every now and then they pump out the water and bulldoze the reeds.

There's always a pair of Australasian grebes on the pond. They usually plunge beneath the surface as soon as a visitor arrives —especially one with a camera. Today they must have had some SCUBA gear secreted on the pond floor because they didn't come back up again. The dusky moorhens (Gallinula tenebrosa) were also a little timid. Not quite so pathologically shy as the grebes but almost as tricky to photograph. As soon as they saw me, they abandoned their lunch of crisp grass and scampered through the cumbungi into the water.

I wasn't surprised by the white ibis (Threskiornis molucca)that had popped in to see whether there was anything to feed on in the exposed mud of the shallow end. The little pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucus) was unexpected. Not because they're rare—cormorants are two a penny around Melbourne—but because our pond isn't packed with juicy fish. Still, when there's not much around, I suppose they'll take what they can get. There's probably enough Gambusia to make it worthwhile. This one fled to the nearest she oak when I brought out the camera. It stayed there until I went.

But the cormorant was trumped by the next bird. As I circled the pond, a duck erupted from the trees and landed in the middle. I thought it would be a black duck (Anas superciliosa). After all, they're everywhere. But it was a lone pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus). And that was a bit of a find. Like the cormorants, they're not scarce but a small pond is not where I'd normally go looking for them.

The grebes would have made the walk worthwhile but the cormorant and the pink-eared duck put a smile on my face for the rest of the paperwork-coated afternoon.

10 comments:

budak said...

what a funny looking duck! :O

sarala said...

How can anyone object to cattails and a bird haven? What dolts.
We have a place near me frequented by wild birds especially migrants called Wooded Island. Apparently some idiot bureaucrat hired someone to clear out underbrush and this years Christmas bird count was at an all time low. They found almost no species of birds.
Not only do we humans destroy habitat but we also don't manage what habitat we permit with any sense.

Trevor said...

Great photo - I always enjoy seeing this species. I love their markings.

Marcus said...

Here in Singapore, the bureaucrats in charge of the waterbodies have this idea that reservoir and shore edges should be clean, tidy and neat, i.e. turned into concrete walls and grassy lawns.

Snail said...

Budak, I think they know when they're being laughed at!

I reckon those dark rings around the eyes give them the same comical look you see in giant pandas!

Snail said...

The people in charge of taking care of the grounds seem to think that unless a feature is 'natural' it has no significance. Never mind that the birds, frogs and invertebrates are doing well in an otherwise parched landscape.

I might take them for a drive around Melbourne and ask them to point out the 'natural' features.

budak said...

Actually, it's the oversized duck, sorry beak!:P

Sherryl said...

Save the pond! Or you could just fill it in and go for the desert look at our campus, complete with giant dead thistles as far as you can see (before you get to the smoke haze)>

Darky said...

My grandy coined "Cyrano de Bergerduck" for the ones she saw on a holiday.

Snail said...

Oh, I like it! That's perfect for them.