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.|
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
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.|