A local vineyard held their bi-annual duck race today. Plastic ducks were sold in aid of three cancer charities – pink ducks for breast cancer, blue ducks for prostate cancer and yellow ducks for childhood cancers.Almost 1,200 ducks were put into the pond. They needed a bit of help from the local firemen, a human sized duck and some cheering by spectators, to actually get to the finish line.The resident ducks stayed across the pond or wandered amongst the vines. It was a fun afternoon in a beautiful location, with $12,000 raised for charity.
Here are just some of the birds who come to sit on the fence or on the grass, outside our window. Heron, cormorant, galahs, a family of plovers and some ducks.
The first day of our road trip was as delightful mix of coastal views, beaches, wildlife, benches, a golf course and a lighthouse.
We drove out of Melbourne before dawn and stopped at Torquay for breakfast and a walk around the coastal town. The day started with cloud cover where the sky and sea merged on a blurred horizon.
After watching surfers at Bells Beach we searched out the kangaroos at Anglesea Golf Club. A mob of Eastern Greys live on the fairways, ignoring the golfers.
Split Point Lighthouse at Airey’s Inlet is one of several lighthouses built along this rugged coast in the late 1800’s.
Along the road we noticed areas where bush fires had burnt last Christmas Day. Fortunately no one was injured but 116 homes were destroyed.
At Kennett River the local wildlife came to check us out. Parakeets, cockatoos, kookaburras were all curious about the human visitors. And as I’ve already posted, wild koalas wandered around and sat in the trees.
We stayed overnight at Apollo Bay which has a nice family beach and small harbour. Our motel room looked out over the ocean.
The antics of these birds seems to fit this week’s photo challenge – “weight / weightless” – show us the effect of gravity.
The noise levels have risen over the past few days as Silver Gulls congregate outside our windows. They rest on the fence and beach between impromptu flights, swooping and gliding, back and forth.
There are fledglings in the group. Their plumage is speckled and they are not as sleek as the adult birds. Adults have orange / red bill, legs and eye ring. Apparently, the darker the red, the older the bird.
The group at our place consists of a few young and several adults. It as if a group of “aunties” are keeping watch and shouting instructions to the youngsters as they attempt and master various flight techniques.
As our square building sits alone on this stretch of coastline, the air currents probably provide a good training ground. I have noticed a few emergency landings in the water. Their antics remind me of the dramas and tensions of learning to drive. And there is the ongoing chatter and squabbles with their neighbours, who also have young, learning the ropes. Pacific gulls, oyster catchers, lapwings, heron and ducks.
The Silver Gull is found throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is smaller than the European Herring Gull although similar in appearance.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the following info:
Behaviour – The silver gull has a sharp voice consisting of a variety of calls. The most common call is a harsh, high pitched ‘kwarwh’.
Feeding – The silver gull naturally feeds on worms, fish, insects and crustaceans. It is a successful scavenger, allowing increased numbers near human settlements.
Breeding – Breeding occurs from August to December. The nest is located on the ground and consists of seaweed, roots, and plant stems. The nests may be found in low shrubs, rocks and jetties. Typical clutch size is one to three eggs.
The neighbours that I had befriended moved away.
They didn’t say bye.
They didn’t call.
They just disappeared.
I’d got used to the family of masked lapwings, with their four little chicks. I recognised their tweets and cries. I knew when the parents were cranky with the ever curious chicks.
A human neighbour and I rescued two of the chicks before they were a week old. They explored into a sunken garden and couldn’t get back out. The parent birds have spurs on their wings and they swoop and attack when predators or dangers approach. So we protected our selves with umbrellas. This seem less ridiculous than the other suggestion – cushions tied to our heads.
We picked up the tiny soft fluffy fragile chicks and set them back on the grass where the nest had been. They wandered back to the parents and settled down for the night tucked under the mother’s wings.
The following morning, I was pleased to see the four chicks wandering around as if nothing had happened.
And then they were gone.
Three ducks moved in, occupying the grass space. I’m not sure of the family set up, but visiting males are mating with the lone female. It seems a bit brutal at times, when she is literally flattened beneath a male, with others looking on. But she gives them a good quacking and wriggles her tail with attitude when it is over. Perhaps there will be ducklings.
Then, the lapwing family reappeared. Two parents with only two chicks. Oh!
I know this is nature at it’s core. I’ve watched David Attenborough shows on tv. I remember the unbelievable footage of the barnacle goose chicks as they base jumped off the cliffs before they were fledged. I know I shouldn’t get attached to my neighbours.
This morning, I have again rescued one of the chicks who got stuck in the bottom section of the garden steps. I’ll be glad when they are fledged and can fly themselves out of trouble.
We have Masked Lapwing chicks on a small area of grass outside our windows. A public area than slopes down from the road and footpath, towards the river estuary.
I’ve been watching birds whilst doing the washing up, since we moved into this lovely rental apartment.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a pair of masked lapwings were nesting. Just on the grass, out in the open. The parent birds would call and swoop on any intruders, people, kids, dogs, other birds. I’d hear them getting cranky with sparrows sitting on the fence or when someone inadvertently walked over the grass to look at the view. A neighbour said that they’ve nested here in previous years.
So I’ve been waiting for the chicks to hatch. And this morning, there they were. Three cute little chicks walking around.
A few years ago we had a nest of robins in our garden shed in the UK. Those chicks were scraggy featherless little mites for the first few days, relying on parents to bring them food. The lapwings are fluffy balls on long legs, born with a full covering of down who leave the nest and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching.
At the first sign of danger or a call from the parents, the chicks bob down and are completely camouflaged. Even when you know they are there, they are difficult to spot until they stand up again. They are so adorable.
Here is some information from the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife website.
The Masked Lapwing, also commonly known simply as “plover”, is a conspicuous bird with loud, penetrating calls. It is a bold animal that swoops at intruders – including humans. Its apt scientific name – Vanellus miles – comes from the Latin for soldier and refers to the spurs on the wings, which give an armed appearance.
Masked Lapwings occupy a wide variety of natural and modified habitats, usually near water. In urban areas they frequently occur on roadside verges, playing fields, parks airstrips, golf courses and almost anywhere there is some greenery and water. Adult birds remain in the general area from year to year and chicks rarely move more than 10 km from the nest site.
Breeding occurs in late winter to early spring. Birds pair for life and take up territories in May-July. Only 35% of nests are used in subsequent years. Between 3-4 eggs are laid. The incubation period is 28-30 days.
Young leave the nest almost immediately after hatching, and some young leave before all eggs have hatched. The young are guarded by both parents when small and may scatter over as much as 200 m if disturbed, with each adult guarding the chicks closest to it. The young follow parents but find their own food. Young usually fledge at 6-7 weeks but may vary from 5-8 weeks. Many families stay together after the young can fly. Birds can breed in their first year.
Here are a couple of internet photos of the chicks.
Waterworks Reserve sits in the foot hills of Mount Wellington and gets its name from the two reservoirs that have collected water from the mountain since the 1860’s.
It is a popular spot for days out and family celebrations, with parkland, bush walks, playgrounds and the usual free barbecues.
At Waterworks Reserve there are specific sites, with shelters of various sizes, benches, tables, barbecue, tap water and bins, all with good views, that can be reserved for a set date and time. This is one of the smaller ones.
We left the car park and walked on the northern side of the upper reservoir. In winter some areas of the track don’t see sunlight, hidden in the valley. These sections felt dark and damp, with various types of moss growing on the trees and bushes. There was an abundance of fungi too.
As the track changed direction and ascended we found sunlight and flowers.
We came to the “Pipeline Track”, a path that follows water pipelines that have gathered water for Hobart since 1861. The pipes and technology give their own history – wooden and masonry troughs initially, earthenware pipes from 1871, cast iron pipes from 1901 and concrete pipes from 1917. We only walked part of the track but the pipeline was clearly visible in many places.
The track led uphill alongside the pipe, to a sandstone outcrop and a hand cut channel in the rock. “Gentle Annie Falls” is no longer a waterfall. The channel was created to direct water into the Waterworks Reservoirs but has been dry since water was re-directed in the 1940’s.
Back in the reserve, the “Receiving House”, a sandstone building from 1861, is now an information centre, showing the history of providing Hobart with clean water and also raising questions about water conservation and maintenance for the future.
~ less than 3% of the worlds water is fresh water, most is saline within the oceans
~ 75% of this fresh water is locked in the ice caps.
~ Aborigines had lived on this land for thousands of years. Yet when Europeans arrived, the water supply for the growing settlement, the Hobart Rivulet, was polluted and undrinkable within twenty years.
To end our lovely afternoon walk, koolaburras were flying about, sitting on the ground, in the trees and on posts.
One month ago we moved into our waterfront apartment.
Things that I’d never considered before have grabbed my attention. I have become fascinated with the tides, with the estuary birds that occupy our waterfront, with their habits and antics.
The internet has been invaluable as I’ve researched and learned about the birds. But I’m a book person, so I’ve bought one book on wildlife in Tasmania and have found the local library.
I used to feed the birds in our UK garden, so I’m familiar with the sparrows and starlings that we see in the bushes and trees here. There are some tiny finches and wag tails that I need to research.
I expected to see gallahs, rosellas and sulphur crested cockatoos, the common Australian birds.
The waterbirds have been an education. Little Pied Cormorants sit on the rocks below our window and balcony, each day. They face the wind, sometimes with their heads tucked under their wings. They are lively birds who jostle for positions on the rocks as the tide comes in. They swim around on the water, dive for fish and crustaceans.
After fishing they sit back on the rocks with their wings outstretched to dry as their feathers are not waterproof.
The Little Black Cormorant is more of a social bird. We see them in flocks, swimming and fishing. When one bird takes off, the rest follow, generally flying in V shaped formations. Marine cormorants are commonly known as “shags” here.
At low tide we see Sooty Oystercatches wading in the shallows, foraging in the rocks. As I watch them, I can hear the sound as they bang their quarry on a rock, to get to the meal inside. Along with the Pied Oystercatcher, they move to grass banks when the tide is up. Another foraging bird is the Masked Lapwing. These long legged birds have a specific walk, sedate and precise. Yesterday we saw an egret for the first time. The bird is white. I caught it in shadow as it flew from the beach.
Seagulls are calm and flock on the sand, or swim in the shallows. The Silver Gull is a smaller version of it’s UK cousin and can be just as rowdy or menacing. Kelp Gulls are bigger in size, have darker wings and venture out on the water to fish.
I’ve been told that seals, dolphins and occasionally whales come into the estuary. One way to spot them is by the antics of the birds, who flock over the creatures and the schools of fish that have generally enticed the mammals away from the open ocean. Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to see these creatures one day.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to study the flora and fauna of my new home.
The above were my photos but here are some internet photos of the birds.
Is it just me, or do we all make weird and random connections in our minds? I link Tasmania with ducks.
Our first real interest in Tasmania occurred when the girls bought Aussie Mate a vine for his birthday. Well, the vine was only adopted for a year but it was a great gift and came with a case of wine from the vineyard. Very nice wine!
When we visited Tasmania for the first time, back in 2013, we called in at the vineyard on a grey rainy day. We have now been back on a sunny day.
There are many vineyards here, producing some excellent wines, but my mind will always put Puddleduck Vineyard at the top of the list.
It is a small family run business, outside Richmond and less than half an hour from Hobart. The owner and his wife happily chatted with us on both occasions, as we tasted their wines and this time sat out on their deck. They chose the land because of the natural water supply and duck pond. They have picnic days in the summer and charity duck race days.
One particular duck is hand reared and is part of the family. The kids often have a real duck in their bath.
We were invited to walk through the vineyard, and we found Aussie Mate’s actual vine. We left with several bottles and purchases of other “duck” merchandise. I love their logo and sentiments on their tea towels.
Even in Hobart, ducks are taken seriously and they do just wander down the road.
The first ornament I bought for our home here was a wooden duck. A stall at Salamanca Market was selling them, each one unique and with their own name tag.
I chose this grey duck, his name is Christian.