Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, September 08, 2007

First ducklings of Spring

The Southern Highlands of NSW are higher, and hence cooler, than surrounding areas. As such, Spring is slightly later to arrive here, than elsewhere.

In the case of ducklings, I heard from a friend a few days ago that the Wood Duck ducklings in Kangaroo Valley are well advanced ("fat little things"). I replied that I had not seen any yet, here. That changed today - when I saw my first ducklings of spring, 2007.

There is a farm just on the Moss Vale side of the Sheepwash Road and Illawarra Highway crossroads, which has a good sized dam in a paddock near the road. A pair of Wood Ducks (Chenonetta jubata) were out grazing, with their seven ducklings, today. Judging by their small size, these ducklings are just a few days old. Very small babies, indeed. When I stopped the car, the parents went into alert mode. I took one photograph which shows the little ducklings grazing, but the parents no longer grazing, themselves, and showing signs of alertness.
Then I got out of the car. Immediately, the alert parents alerted their babies (by quiet noises) to the fact that there was "danger" about, and they all started to run towards the edge of the dam. You can see that both adults are "running", while the female (particularly) is looking over her right wing (shoulder) keeping an eye on me (literally). (Click on image to enlarge it - you can see the male has only one leg on the ground, as he runs for the water).
Then, just before they entered the water, the male stopped, briefly, and gave a strong call (you can see him calling - neck bent, and beak open).
Then they entered the water, with four of the little ducklings very close to Mum, and three stragglers (especially one).
Safety for a baby wood duck consists of going out into the water, for they can swim and dive perfectly well, as soon as they are able to walk - but they cannot fly until they are nearly fully grown. Hence water is the safest place for a baby Wood Duck - or, in this case, seven of them. I love these little families of Wood Ducks, for they exhibit such stereotypical sex role playing - with the neat male leaving the way, followed by the female, and the babies. But I can tell you that if you approach a family of Wood Ducks (in a situation where they cannot reach the safety of water), it will be the female who will attack you. She will stick her neck out and hiss, (yes, they make hissing noises), and will even peck you on the leg. The male will have run off, and be making signs of distress, at a safe distance. But it is the female you need to watch out for. So much for the "macho male" image.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

There is a Wood Duck family up the road from me in the deer paddock, where the ducklings are not far off being full size. But I have also very recently seen another Wood Duck family with very new chicks. So hopefully there will be more.

The long-lasting puddles and sheets of water resulting from winter rain are encouraging more water birds than is usual to the area. There is even a pair of black swans on a flooded paddock just up from me. And I have seen a pair of Black-winged stilts locally, a bird I haven't noticed in the mid Hunter Valley previously.

And I sometimes have a pair of Wood Ducks wandering around my yard and out to the paddock. I've missed a lot of photographic opportunities over the past fortnight due to being quite ill with some nasty 'bug'.

I enjoyed your Wood Duck observations, Denis.


Denis Wilson said...

I just love seeing these little "lines" of Wood Ducks. At once comical, and yet so important, in an evolutionary sense.

Hope you have got over the flu now.
Now you know how the horses are going to feel.