Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Blue-billed Duck at Kelly's Swamp

I had a few minutes to spare in the ACT so took myself to Kelly's Swamp, hoping that a Buff-banded Rail would brave the rather average weather and put in an appearance.

On arrival at Cygnus, my hide (blind, for anyone in the US) of choice, the first thing I found was a pair of reading spectacles.  Rather try to describe them I took a phone-photo of them and posted a message with the photo to the COG chatline.  Within minutes I had a reply complaining commenting that I had not submitted any observations.  I explained that I was delaying as at least one birder would currently be unable to read the post.  (The glasses have now been reunited with their owner.)

The following should assuage any residual concerns.

Members of the Rallidae were well evident.  Unfortunately they were restricted to what a well known local naturalist has in the past referred to as "the eternal 3: Dusky Moorhen; Eurasian Coot and what is known currently as Australasian Swamphen.

Now growing up in England - where weather like today is normal - I always described cool, overcast, showery days as "Lovely weather for ducks."  I have since been told that ducks actually hate weather like this, and certainly there were not many around today.  I stuck to Cygnus hide as i didn't want to walk further in the rain and had only logged 1 Grey Teal and 2 Pacific Black Ducks when an unusual shape caught my eye.

The famous Kelly's Swamp Blue-billed Duck was still around and became Bird of the Day
 This image sort-of shows the stiff-tail which is diagnostic of this genus.
The bird's behaviour was quite interesting as it didn't stodge around on the surface as I have usually seen them do, but after few seconds out in the rain it would dive and swim a fair distance in a few seconds before coming up again.  One of its subaquatic forays was from A to B in this image, taking only a few seconds to do this.
It then vanished from view for several minutes before emerging at C.  I am curious as how it made this traverse.  Did it swim, above the water between the reeds, or did it maintain its preferred modus opernadi of swimming underwater?  Or did it clamber, Bittern-like, through the stems of the reeds? 

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