Saturday, 10 June 2017

Freckled Duck Lake Guyatt, Sale

For a number of years now good numbers of the rare and threatened Freckled Duck (Sticktonetta naevosa) have been using Lake Guyatt at Sale as a day time roost.  They are mostly nocturnal feeders, and assuming they do not breed in East Gippsland, Lake Guyatt seems to be a seasonal refuge from their stronghold range in the Murray Darling Basin. They certainly come and go and will be absent for a long period and then turn up again.

Lake Guyatt, which adjoins Lake Guthridge, is a popular park on the edge of Sale City with many people enjoying the area.  This has given the Freckled Ducks confidence in the presence of people in a lake that is not open to duck shooting – consequently this is a good location to see and photograph Freckled Ducks when they are resident.

The following photos were taken on a cold morning in early June 2017.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Section of Lake Guyatt with some Freckled Ducks resting on the submerged log in the foreground and a large number just visible around the island out in the lake.
A few of the ducks found rushes to sleep in.
Many of the Freckled Ducks were sleeping out in open water but close to the shore.
This adult male, still showing some red on the bill from the last breeding event, was enjoying the limited space on a small log in the early morning winter sun.
A quick scratch.
There was limited room on the log for wing flapping.

About eight birds were perching on a log where room was at a premium judging by the fights to occupy the space.

At a distance, Freckled Duck look a non-descript dark or light grey duck depending on the light, though in profile their distinctive head and deeply dished bill shape is distinctive. However up close their speckled/freckled subtly coloured plumage is very attractive.

This is a female or perhaps a non-breeding plumage male?

A male still showing a lot of waxy red at the base of the bill – there were two Hardhead sleeping among the Freckled Ducks.
The distinctive angular head shape is due to a small crest clearly visible here. The plumage colours show well in the photo.
Dozens of the Freckled Ducks slept with their bills tucked into back feathers and one eye open now and again to check for danger.

Both in habits and looks they are a handsome and unique duck.

Some Pacific Black Ducks and Northern Mallards were also present on Lake Guyatt.

Pacific Black Duck with the green speculum, often not visible, showing well in the early morning light.
The feral/introduced Northern Mallard - this is a male. 

Unfortunately, there is a growing flock of about 20 introduced Northern Mallards resident on the lake. They are regularly fed by locals and no doubt visitors. While I was there a man turned up with a loaf of bread to feed them – a regular event as they came running when they saw him and long before the bread was pulled out of his bag.

There has been speculation that the Mallard could be a threat to the Pacific Black duck due to inter-breeding with them and in time wiping out the genetics of the local Black Duck.

Something spooked the Royal Spoonbills resting on the island and they flew to a new perch at the end of the island.
They were the grubbiest Royals I have seen – they are normally a pristine white.
The Spoonbills disturbed the Freckled Ducks resting, mostly hidden, within the fringing vegetation of the island – about 140 birds emerged and swam out into open water. Adding these to the birds on the lake near me gave a total of at least 200 Freckled Ducks.

No comments:

Post a Comment