Shepparton News

No ducking feathered friends’ wisdom

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The river came up sharply overnight on Tuesday after the weekend rain and the ducks were in loud conversati­on when we took our morning walk.

The black duck, wood duck and mountain duck were their usual noisy selves, although they have been with us since the environmen­tal flow got under way in mid-July.

The resident pair of mountain ducks were perched high on a red gum branch, honking at us as we wandered past.

The Boss isn’t sure why they call them the mountain duck, since they are rarely seen in the mountains — they are mostly concentrat­ed in south-west Victoria and across to the Coorong.

They are a large bird with bright chestnut breasts; the male has a white neck ring and the female a white eyespot. The males are easy to mimic, too, and The Boss often has the pair flying around in wide circles to see what the interloper looks like.

The wood duck — the most common resident duck around our irrigation district — has a distinctiv­e meow, like a cat, whereas the only duck with what you’d call a “quack” is the female black duck. The male has more of a hiss.

What got The Boss more excited was half-a-dozen grey teals, with the females cheerily cackling away in their soft “laughing” call.

“How do they know the river is up, General?” he asks. We hadn't seen many teal for months.

To my mind, it’s not unlike the way I can tell that gorgeous little Labradoodl­e on the other side of the highway is ready for me but The Boss can see what I’m thinking and urges me to rid my mind of unworthy thoughts.

“Smell might play a part in locating suitable wetlands but the experts think it’s something to do with pressure gradients caused by weather systems, as well as low-frequency sounds like those from distant thunder storms.”

He said researcher­s had discovered grey teals responding to thundersto­rms hundreds of kilometres away. But other research from Charles Sturt University indicates these avian nomads will respond to weather events well over 1000 kilometres away — way out of hearing range.

And there is no doubt they can move quickly: a teal marked at Mangere in Auckland was shot the next day 125 km away.

The Boss reckons migratory birds like those in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere respond more to triggers like daylight hours and temperatur­e before they move, whereas our teals have developed more subtle senses so they can range for opportunit­y, rather than “migrate’’.

Which is why they are turning up now. Woof!

The General is The Boss’s dog. For more yarns, visit sheppnews.com.au/ thegeneral

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 ??  ?? Our avian nomads: The grey teal knows my river is rising before I do.
Our avian nomads: The grey teal knows my river is rising before I do.

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