Now for a personal rant

Black Swan with cygnets, Canberra

WARNING: personal rant ahead.

Featured in our television news last night, and in our daily newspaper this morning, was news of a 19 year old jet ski rider on the Gold Coast in Queensland who deliberately ran over a Black Swan. Onlookers actually filmed him doing it and he has now been charged. He allegedly made three attempts before actually running over the bird. Although he didn’t kill the swan, it is feared that it might not survive.

My Opinion: ban all personal water craft

Personal water craft – often known by the brand name “Jet Ski” ® – should be banned in my opinion. Sure, most riders of these craft are responsible in the way in which they use them, and this one person’s actions are extreme and certainly not the norm.

I object to them on three environmental grounds:

  1. The noise pollution is unbearable. Not only does this highly annoy people, it has to be most distressing to wildlife, including birds.
  2. Water pollution: the machines are well known for their water polluting characteristics. The water ways of the world are polluted enough; to add to this pollution in the name of fun and recreation cannot be justified.
  3. Air pollution: it is a fact that two hours of operation of an early model personal water craft creates MORE air pollution than a late model car does driving over 200,000km. Granted, later model craft have seen some improvements in the amount of pollution created but the figures are still alarming.

I just can’t see why they are allowed at all.

My rant is over.

Now back to birding.

This post was updated on 5th November 2013.

What is a baby pelican called?

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking about Australian Birds, and showing some of my bird photos, at our local Mobilong Ladies Probus Club. There were just over 100 attentive women at the meeting, they all appeared to enjoy my presentation and they even laughed at my jokes!

One of them asked me a very difficult question, one I couldn’t answer: What is a baby pelican called?

Many birds and animals have specific names for their young, eg cygnets for swans, cubs for bears and kittens for cats. It seems however that no-one has got around to giving a special name to baby pelicans. So be it.

An extensive search online has revealed that one person calls them “toddlers”, an entirely appropriate name reflecting their waddling gait when quite young. This could also be just a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, and the site where it appeared is not at all authoritative in any way.

So I guess we’ll just have to make do with “chicks” or “nestlings” like the vast majority of birds.

Happy birding.

Don’t try this at home

Black Swan with cygnets, Canberra

Black Swans are a familiar sight throughout much of Australia. They can be found on artificial lakes and ponds, rivers and swamps, wetlands and reservoirs and estuarine waters. These graceful birds are delightful to see when accompanied by a small family of cygnets, as in the photo above.

Recently however, my wife was reading through a very old recipe book handed down to her from my mother. There was no publication date but could well have been bought in the 1930s. It has many tried, tested and recommended recipes from the rural communities of Australia in that era.

My wife was amused to read in this book that one native swan egg was considered the equivalent of three hen eggs.

Mmmm – don’t try that at home – or anywhere else for that matter. The early settlers and pioneers – as well as the indigenous people of Australia would have used swan eggs for survival. These days, of course, all native birds, their nests and eggs are highly protected by law. Taking swan eggs from a nest risks a hefty fine, so don’t even think about it.

Birding at Mallacoota

Black Swans at Mallacoota, eastern Victoria

Black Swans at Mallacoota, eastern Victoria

On our visit to Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria in January we went for an after dinner walk along the foreshore and estuary of the river. It was a calm, warm evening and we had a pleasant time exploring this lovely spot for the first time. We decided that this is one place we needed to revisit – and stay four or five days at the very least.

In the quiet estuary we saw many Black Swans, Australian Pelicans, a few Pied Oystercatchers and three Royal Spoonbills.

Pelicans, Spoonbills and Cormorants at Mallacoota.

Pelicans, Spoonbills and Cormorants at Mallacoota.

While on our walk we saw several Great cormorants as well as some Little Pied Cormorants. Two Whistling Kites patrolled the shallows in the company of a lone White-bellied Sea Eagle. I’ve not seen too many sea eagles in all of my birding, so this was something special. I was surprised though that there were not many ducks in the estuary. In fact I only recorded a few Australian Wood Ducks. Perhaps the kites and eagle had scared them off.

The inlet is an ideal haven for fishermen, and this is iluustrated by the large number of boats present in the water and on trailers in the caravan park. There are also boats offering cruises on the river, like the one shown below.

Mallacoota, far eastern Victoria.

Mallacoota, far eastern Victoria.

Black Swans in an unusual place

My wife and I join a friend on a morning walk every weekday. On our way home we pass a small dam about half a kilometre from our home. This dam was constructed on a vacant block of land by our local council several years ago. It stores storm water from the nearby streets. Some areas near here have a flood mitigation problem only discovered about five years ago during an extremely heavy downpour one afternoon. The council workers pump water from this dam to use in watering street trees and to dampen road works where necessary.

I’ve kept an eye on this small reservoir ever since it first contained water. Generally all I see is a few Pacific Black Ducks, Straw-necked Ibis and a collection a Masked Lapwings (which have been seen breeding there). Welcome Swallows are also regular visitors, and I am sure the local population of White-winged Choughs use the wet mud on the edge of the water to construction their mud nests. One one occasion I also saw several Black-tailed Native-hens.

A few mornings ago I was surprised to see several Black Swans gracing the water. This species is not all that common around here, though I have seen several recently at the nearby Rocky Gully Wetlands, about three kilometres to the east.

One day I will get around to making a list of all the species I’ve seen in this dam.

And then I will need to find a way of encouraging the swans to fly over our land so I can count them on my garden list.

Black Swan with cygnets, Canberra

Black Swan with cygnets, Canberra