Last Saturday, two days before the release of my new book Flight of a Fledgling, my wife and went on a short road trip down south to make some early book deliveries to Kiki’s in the Grove on the Federal Highway, Collector, one of my best sellers, and The Argyle Emporium Bookstore in Goulburn.

A multiplicity of waterbirds and species.

On our return trip we decided to check out the local sewerage settlement ponds of the area, as experienced birders are aware, these are often some of the best birding sites for waterbirds, and rare ones at that. The fact that these are often overlooked by the public and seen as undesirable places to be, the very shy and elusive water birds are often at peace and undisturbed here and even choose to stay and breed there. As they are settlement ponds there are no unpleasant aromas. As we started making our way around the large ponds the birds began paddling away,  and a large flock of Pink-eared Duck took to the air and relocated to another of the four large ponds.

Pink-eared Ducks in flock

 

A pair of Pink-eared Ducks

Our excitement grew as we looked into the distance to view these birds, constantly escaping our view, as this is one of the very few places we get to find the elusive Blue-billed Duck which spends its entire life on the water well away from humans. Please be aware that these photos are all taken from a great distance and in fact at many stages I could not identify the species due to poor light or back lighting at times, thankfully my wife with her powerful binocs usually identified them for me. I had to wait till post production at home for the most excitement. However our first excitement came when I captured something I had been trying to capture for some time, as I watched this small group of ducks paddle out past the posts. In the photo below three ducks started to move in a large circle.

Beginning to vortex

We soon notice, as the group moved out,  two pairs of the these ducks starting to vortex. This is a peculiar phenomenon to these birds which have these very specialized bills for sifting the water for micro marine organisms.

a pair vortexing

Those of you who have my first books will know this as this bird and the Australasian Shoveler  both have similar beaks and feed in a similar way. The birds swim in a tight circle, can be two to twelve birds. with heads down in the water, beak to bottoms the bird in front stirs up the water with its feet as it paddles and the one behind sifts the water through its beak. Here is some brief action footage.

Sadly as I was holding my very heavy metal and glass L series Canon 100 – 400 mm lens, my thumb started to hurt badly as I tried to steady the device in the strong wind, as 400 mm extension made every movement affect the clarity. My thumb continues to be weak and sore and may cause me to finally sell my camera and lens and look for a lighter combo. I try to avoid a mono-pod as I find it too awkward with my height. 

The flock having settled

Sure enough the Australasian Shovelers were not far away, but only a couple of pair and one juvenile. The male is leading with female following.

They tend to join the like beaked cousins as they forage the same way and can assist each other at times. You can see them here with the Pink-ears, and one Hoary-headed Grebe has joined them for company.

We continued in search of the Blue-bills moving from the front pond to larger far one, which is hundreds of meters from the road, and hidden behind an earthen wall. As we passed the first pond my eye noticed a tiny bird on the bank. It was a Black-fronted Dotterel a small plover. Then we also saw its partner nearby. It was interesting watching it turn its head, similar to a Kingfisher it would bob up and down as it turned.

Our next find was small flock of Hoary-headed Grebe with some juveniles.

We had our next excitement seeing families of Musk Duck, which are very similar in many ways to the Blue-bill but very different looking, usually when you find one the other is likely to be present.  These ducks are difficult to photograph without very good light due to their shiny all black bodies. The male gives off a musk like aroma to attract females during the mating season from a gland on his rear. He has a black pendulous skin under his chin.

 The female Musk Duck looks almost identical to the female Blue-bill, except the beak. In the picture below a female Musk duck in the foreground is next to a female Blue-billed Duck. Both ducks lie low in the water.

We knew then as we saw a small heard of ducks swim out of hiding toward the middle of the pond we were close to finding our Blue-bills, and yes we saw several families of Blue-billed Duck with youngsters and the male bills were still beautiful blue breeding colour. Remember these birds are a long way away from us. Blue bills and Musks have up turned splayed tales and both sleep on the water hardly ever walking on land during their lifetime. It would be difficult to find a photo of these birds walking on land.

Ducks like humans get lonely when on their own and believe their is safety in the flock. This why we see groups of birds with several species all moving together on the water. The Hardhead male and female are seen in small numbers. The male has a distinct white eye while the females is brown. From a distance it is easy to mistaken a Hardhead for a Blue-bill, but it does not lie as low in the water and has the white eye.

The Grey Teal is also present in some numbers, as this is one of the most numerous waterbirds found all over Australia.

The other numerous duck is the Pacific Black Duck which was onlu in very small numbers here.

We usually see small birds in the tall grass around the ponds and we did see a male and female Golden-headed Cisticola.

Some last Pink-eared Duck photos. The pink ear is on the mature adults, more predominant on males and lesser and almost absent on female and immatures.

Who would have thought sewerage ponds would be bird havens, but they are all over the country in each city, though often with restricted access, which is ideal for the rarer birds which have suffered being shot at by hunters in previous generations before conservation orders were placed on them. Some birders are granted access with conditions. Sadly some states still allow shooting at certain times of the year and our rarer ducks, such as Blue-bills are being shot also.  This may explain their deliberate attempts to seclude themselves from humankind.


Have a wonderful week ! As I have already shared, my new book Flight of a Fledgling Growing Up and Leaving Home, is now released and available here online for purchase.


As we approach the time when many remember the suffering and death of the world’s most innocent and righteous man, who was framed and executed because of the selfishness, pride and jealousy of those who should have received and honoured him, my mind goes back to these sewerage ponds.  It is our greed and destructive selfish attitudes, that have driven these beautiful innocent birds to so fear us and become recluse from us. Selfishness is an inherited part of us all by nature and contaminates our true self causing us, even with our best intentions, to make selfish judgments and do hurtful actions from time to time. It separates and breaks relationships. The more we break from relationship with God who made us, the more broken we become as people, and in relationships with others.  This same concept applies in counseling people, which my new book explores, that how we understand who we are affects every aspect of our lives. God the Father reaches out to us all through Jesus, the man who made peace with God for us, offering his life for ours, on our behalf. 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:9-13 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”‘John 3:16-17


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W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).

‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,

So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’

NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed  by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

 

12 Comments »

  1. “Waste Water Wonderland” – an aptly titled post indeed! So happy that you and your wife were blessed with a wonderful birding day. As always I continued to be awed how our avian friends demonstrate creativity, resilience and resourcefulness by utilizing environments that humans would usually stay away from. Their ability to adapt (and make the most of it) is really something, and reminds us by putting different perspectives even in a negative situation, we can find ways to work around it and overcome.

    Many congratulations on the publication of “Flight of a Fledgling”! We will be putting an order for 2 books in the very near future 🙂

    May you and your wife continue to be blessed, and Happy Easter from Japan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Takami for your kind comments and blessings, we have just returned from a weekend away where we celebrated my wife’s birthday and visited her family. I am still recovering from the long drive. Thanks again for sharing your insights into the waterbirds and their adaptation to the sewerage ponds, birds are so adaptive and resilient which is a life skill we can all learn from. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend my friend 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great variety of birds spotted at an out of the way place, it almost makes you not want to tell people about it so the birds can live in peace. Loved the video of the ducks vortex, I have never seen this in action before, quite an amazing sight. Sadly, Tasmania still allows duck hunting, it’s on for 3 months and finishes early June. I hate to think of all the poor birds injured and left to die a horrible death, and even certain species of birds being killed that aren’t supposed to be because they are endangered. Maybe things will change one day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Sue, So sad they continue to allow duck hunting there. I usually keep this spot secret and do not reveal where it is except to known responsible birders. They do not mind people coming in providing they do not cause any trouble. Yes the fact that many rare and endangered species die also and never get listed because the shooters do not want fines is another travesty. They continue to shoot Wedges on some farms and get away with it also. Making laws does not work well, educating an appreciation and presenting facts can help a little, but basically there are a lot of selfish people who do not care as long as they have their fun. Enjoy your weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello Ashley, we are fortunate enough to gain access to one of the great birding spots in Victoria, if not Australia, at the Western Treatment Plant.
    The ponds are interesting to see in action. No longer part of the sewerage disposal, they are feed by the water runoff from the treatment process in a small area.
    The Pinkears in particular are very particular about the ph of the water and will flock to one pond, while the one next door, has nary a duck on it.
    The vortexing is interesting to watch as some birds are welcome to join in, while others are chased away.

    Best wishes for success with the sales of the new book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks David, yes you are well located there in the Western Treatment plant, which we hope to visit possibly this year or next all being well. That is interesting about the pH and Pink-ears as we did notice ponds that had no ducks and ones with large flocks. Thanks for sharing your interesting observations. Enjoy the remainder of the weekend my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Deborah for your best wishes, it has been a busy few days getting orders out. Yes the Pink-ear’ds are a favourite of mine also, they are beautiful bird in full sun, and have a whistle similar to the Whistling Ducks. Enjoy your weekend my friend 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Such a variety, awesome captures, Ashley! I love the shoveler’s beak, we have the similar Northern Shoveler. As I view your photos in this post, I find we have many similar birds (ducks) for once! I’ve birded waste water management ponds too, you never know what you might see.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Donna, yes we do have similar birds. I suppose if different people had not named them, they would share much similar names, and be sub species of the same. Some of our local councils are starting to realise that if they build wetlands for their sewerage ponds and put walks, plant vegetation and picnic areas around them and information signs birds will come and use them and families and birders will be attracted to their towns and spend money there.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I guess the date water ponds are a gold mine for birds. It’s incredible. How easy can it be! It was nice to see so many diverse species. Good work, Ashley. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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