You may remember in my past posts this year that my ‘lifer’ quest bird for the year was the Blue-billed Duck ( two pairs of both male and female pictured above). This elusive, extremely shy of humans little duck, which spends almost all of its life on water, in the middle of fresh water lakes, wetlands and lagoons has been the target of my birding outings recently. Possibly one of the reasons for depletion in duck numbers and their extreme shyness of man is the fact that many of these little ducks have been the target of duck hunters and shooters in the past, which conservationists are trying to currently prevent. Click on photo to enlarge it.
Firstly, I went almost three hours north of Sydney on a tip off from a birder I met on a beach down south. My wife and I were delighted to find many Great Crested Grebe with young, and even a pair doing the love dance , but no Blue-billed Duck.
Secondly, we read of a sighting in Eremaea Birdlines about two hours west of Sydney, so one Saturday we spent the day searching, and were delighted to find a close cousin in appearance, the Musk Duck with young, among others, but again, no Blue-billed Duck.
Finally, on returning from our Broome trip, one of my youngest birder post followers, was itching to tell me of his find, which sent me the very next day on my final quest for my 2016 quest lifer, and as you can see I found it, about two hours south of Sydney. It was cloudy and difficult to get clear close pictures, as the birds swam away from me on first sight. My wife came with me the following weekend on a clear day, and we did better, but the small bird kept eluding us for a really good high quality shot, but I was thankful to finally see it. Of course you can guess what my bird of the week is:-)
My Bird of the Week – The Blue-billed Duck
The Blue-billed Duck is mostly found inland in fresh water lakes, swamps and sewerage ponds in south eastern Australia including NSW, SA, Victoria and Tasmania. It may also be found in the far south west tip of WA. The peculiar characteristics (in many ways like the Musk Duck) are that it moves about in close family groups, keeping mainly to center of lakes, and seldom walks on the land. It sleeps on the water, and usually will have its tail stiffly upturned as seen above.
They tend to swim low in the water with their tail down ward. The breeding male has the bright blue bill and the lovely chestnut colored body.
The blue fades when not breeding. The female has the grey body similar to that of the Musk Duck, except for the bill, which is quite different. The juveniles (similar to other birds) look like the female, but have dark eyes, and not the amber of the adult. They lack the white markings on the base of bill and tend to be darker in color.
As you can see it was not easy to get good photos. I am looking forward to taking better ones in the future.
It was interesting to find a single lone Pink-eared Duck and Australasian Shoveler swimming with the Blue-bills, probably for security.
As we positioned ourselves to view the ducks a large flock of Galahs flew over. I featured this bird last week, and is a common flock bird seen inland in Australia. Galahs are also known as Rose-breasted Cockatoos, and are seed eaters, and tend to be in large flocks in the wheat and grain growing regions west of the ranges.
Soon after a beautiful immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over. It looked to be in its third year from its plumage. It will be mature next year. It was such a beautiful site to behold. It’s parent passed over before it, but I missed good pics of it.
There were many Chestnut Teal swimming with the Blue-bills. We have found this duck all over Australia in our travels. The male has the beautiful iridescent green head and chestnut body, the female is patterned brown, similar to the Grey Teal.
The Hardhead was another duck that swam with the Blue-bills. The male has the distinctive white eye and the female the dark eye.
Australasian Grebe were in large number among the Blue-bills, with many young ones. Breeding plumage was seen on several.
Of course, a White-faced Heron had to be present somewhere, as they inhabit most waterways and lakes in Australia.
As we drove to the ponds where the Blue-bills were, we happened upon a huge flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo of around fifty birds, grazing in the native pines beside the road. They were so beautiful in the early morning sunlight where the ambient temperature is -2 °C .
We were very thankful that we finally beheld this elusive duck. Many of our best tip offs are from fellow birders, and this was another good one. After much asking and seeking we finally found our treasure.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11: 9-10