In the wetter months of the year near my home a wonderful ephemeral wetland springs to life on the corner of the Painkalac Creek at Butlers Bend.
In the daytime I am entranced by the scores of birds who enjoy its bounty, and in the evening, I am lulled to sleep by the frog chorus. It always amazes me that after the heat and dryness of summer this water-world reappears, chock-full of abundant wildlife. Regulars are several species of ducks which swim in, or doze by, the water. The very handsome Australian Shelducks take the beauty prize with their white collars and gorgeous chestnut chests.
Australian Shelduck (male)
I often see one or more White-faced Herons, mostly standing still watching for prey, and occasionally a shaft of white will indicate the presence of one of the more elusive White-necked Herons.
Masked Lapwings can be seen, and easily heard, with their metallic, grating kekekekekek call. Swallows swoop over and dive to catch insects, and Fairy Wrens twitter. A range of land birds stop briefly for a drink. Lovely big white Great Egrets sometimes make a visit or their smaller relative the Cattle Egret. The iridescent black upper parts of Straw-necked Ibis catch the sunlight as they feed with their long, curved bills.
Recently there have been a number of highlights. Four large white Royal Spoonbills spent a day here. They are so distinctive, with their long, black, flattened spoonbill and, currently, their wonderful flowing white head plumes. And how about their method of feeding … slowly scything the water edges from side to side?
A few days after their visit an elusive Buff-banded Rail was spotted darting into a clump of reeds. And then there appeared, not one, but two, of the very wary and vulnerable Latham Snipe.
Unfortunately, this wetland is unfenced, and shares a paddock with numerous horses which are often seen in and around it. There is a worry this will have an adverse effect on flora and fauna (especially Latham’s Snipe), and eventually destroy this special habitat.
Horses and ducks
There has been big excitement in Aireys inlet due to the arrival of five cygnets at the Allen Noble sanctuary.
Then, a further surprise: two adult swans which were just ‘swanning around’, with no sign of cygnets anywhere. They were actually a different pair and not the parents of the five. We thought that for the first time ever we may have two swan families at the sanctuary. However, the family moved (somehow!) to the Painkalac Creek Estuary which has not happened before. Possible reasons are population pressure—two swan families are one too many—or they have been frightened by off-leash dogs, or a bit of both. Now the courting couple have disappeared, possibly to a hidden nest which could be a remake of the one made by the previous pair. Let’s hope we have a new family in a few weeks!
Photos by Margaret Lacey