Most Ingenious ParraDucks.

The word on the street was there were 13 newly-hatched ducklings on the Parramatta River in the area around Buttons Bridge. This we had to check out. After spotting them on the western bank the day before, we returned the next day with camera to find them on the eastern bank. No apologies for the number of photos, but strap in for an epic. It was cuteness overload!

The Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) is a medium-sized grazing duck native to Australia. It is the only living member of the genus Chenonetta (New Zealand’s Finsch’s Duck – Chenonetta finschi – became extinct in the 1870s).
It is widespread throughout Australia, apart from the extreme tropics and the most arid parts of the interior.

Most bird guides state that 9 to 11 eggs are laid, but we have seen figures that suggest 14 to 17 is common. There have been reports of a brood of 30, but it is unclear whether this was due to “Creching”. All 13 of these little ones are in this shot:

The ducklings were achingly cute:

The lesson today seemed to be getting into and out of the water in difficult locations. The female led the ducklings to part of the bank with a stonewall drop of a couple of metres, and they stood around in some trepidation.

Through a tragic fluke of inattention, I missed the mass jump into the water, but all 13 brave ducklings made it without incident!

The handsome couple took their charges on a swim across the river….

The siblings all stuck pretty tightly together…

Then it was an about-face, and a swim back…

Mum led the ducklings downstream under the bridge. She had a test in mind.

She led them a slightly challenging exit point, and left them to it:

One duckling made it fairly quickly and joined Mum on the bank:

A few resolute kids stuck at it for a while, giving it all they had:

Mum called them on….

…and a few more determined kids made it up :

The remainder considered their options, and whether through a flash of inspiration, or from some clue from the mother’s calls, they made their way back upstream to an easier landing place:

Mum guided them the rest of the way:

Further foraging cuteness ensued:

Fed, and tired after their ordeal, the ducklings joined their mother on a warm dry mound of twigs for a sleep:

One by one they squeezed themselves in and around her:

Believe it or not – this is a photo of 14 Australian Wood Ducks!

So wonderful to see these behaviours first-hand in an urban green space like Parramatta Park.


Cook’s Tour.

The Cook’s River Cycleway is one of those underrated Sydney classics: a 30km mostly off-road cycle path (give or take, and depending on where you consider the start and the end), that wends its way between many different landscapes – from industrial wastelands to landscaped parklands and Casuarina groves, mostly hugging one of Australia’s most polluted rivers! At times ugly and smelly, at times beautiful. Very Sydney!

On a strangely cool December day, Bramanda rode about half of it, and saw quite a few birds.

Starting with a mystery: we confess… we don’t know who this is. We would love it if anyone could reply with a identification of this bird.

Australian Pied Cormorants and Australian Pelicans were using the inflatable pollution booms as a lilo:

Magpie-lark Dad was showing his two fledglings how to forage in the mud, but they were noisily more intent on being fed, rather than learning to feed themselves:

A family of Australian Wood Ducks:

This fluffy young Pied Currawong was also being shown the ropes by a parent:

A pair of sleepy, fledgling Noisy Miner siblings hunkered together for warmth in the cool breeze. It made me sleepy just watching them:

At Boat Harbour (a tiny man-made dock that once served the historic sugar-mill) a pair of Tawny Frogmouths were roosting. We had heard that this family of Frogmouths were something of a fixture at Boat Harbour, so we were pleased to spot them on our visit.

At Beaman Park, a flock of Eastern Rosellas was feeding:

In Gough Whitlam Park, a Little Pied Cormorant dried his wings and was none too happy that I had interrupted him:

Also in Gough Whitlam Park, we happened upon this lovely Striated Heron, waiting for passing fish. As is always the way when we encounter Striated Herons, we spent ages here in the hope of him doing his “amazing telescopic neck” thing… sadly no luck this time:

Even though the fish were tiny by his standards – we’ve seen Striateds deal with much bigger catches – he seemed to be catching enough to make it worthwhile:


Pond Life.

On our perfect Autumn day at Memorial Park Blackheath, we lunched near the Duckpond, and we were visited by more than just the parrots. Predictably, some ducks: Australian Native Wood Ducks (Chenonetta jubata).

Some female Superb Fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) seemed braver than usual, perching in full view long enough for even slow photographers to get some close-ups:

And most rewarding of all, the Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) – who is perhaps the most restless bird in Australia, constantly moving, changing position, snatching insects on the wing with fluttering, jerky, looping flight – gave us some very generous poses. These are the first usable photos we have ever got of this guy.