Fwd: More info on the Wonga Beach Spotted Whistling Ducks

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Fwd: More info on the Wonga Beach Spotted Whistling Ducks
From: Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2011 14:57:07 +1000

Richard Nowotny
M: 0438 224 456

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Diana Bryant <>
> Date: 24 September 2011 2:20:40 PM AEST
> To: "" <>
> Subject: More info on the Wonga Beach Spotted Whistling Ducks

> Diana (Bryant) and I happened to be holidaying in Port Douglas (how lucky can 
> you be - Diana only arrived last night) and went down to Wonga Beach for a 
> look at the Spotted Whistling Ducks this morning - along with a number of 
> other local birders (although we missed Keith Fisher whom I note has already 
> confirmed their ongoing presence on this forum today).
> All present were a little surprised (pleasantly so) by the birds' lack of 
> flightiness and tolerance of being observed - obviously no one wanted to be 
> responsible for frightening them off and depriving later visitors of this 
> pleasure. However, there was no sign that they seemed likely to leave and 
> this started to raise some questions about when they might have arrived, how 
> long they've been around, etc.
> I ended up speaking at some length with Judy Terracall, an 8-year Wonga Beach 
> local, who owns the house immediately adjacent to the pond (and which she 
> overlooks from her property). She has a similar pond in her back-yard, only 
> 50 meters from the pond on the vacant land which holds the ducks. She 
> described first seeing them at least 3 weeks ago (maybe 4) and told me that 
> they spent some of their time in her pond as well as in their present 
> location.
> I should add that Judy was knowledgeable (although not a birder she does have 
> a copy of Pizzey & Knight on hand, and her uncle Ted Molesworth was a good 
> friend of Norman Wettenhall), hospitable and interested, and is now well and 
> truly aware that she may have more than a few temporary "neighbours" in the 
> days (weeks?) ahead. [I have copied this email to her by way of thanks.] ***I 
> have since spoken with her again by phone (one of her dogs was bitten by a 
> Red-bellied Black Snake while we were there and had to be taken urgently to 
> the vet - she is recovering after some horrendously expensive anti-venene). 
> Judy has very generously said she would be happy to assist birders with 
> information about the ducks presence if anyone wishes to call her on her 
> mobile (0409 262 462).**
> Equally interesting was a conversation Di and I had with the woman who lives 
> diagonally across from the vacant block with the duck-pond (I understand her 
> name is Michelle Miller - her partner Rod Miller came across and spoke with 
> some of the other observers while I was speaking with Judy). She confirmed 
> Rod's observation that this is not the first year that these ducks have been 
> seen on this pond (although Judy did not report having seen them previously). 
> She is quite certain they were present in early spring last year (2010) in 
> similar numbers and behaving very much the same, ie feeding in the water, 
> loafing on the overhanging bare branches, etc. She seemed less sure about 
> 2009 although I understand Rod expressed the view that they had been present 
> previous year/s as well. Michelle seemed confident that these were different 
> from the usual whistling-type ducks which they see quite commonly.
> What conclusions might be drawn from these observations?
> 1. It seems almost certain that this group of Spotted Whistling Duck has been 
> present at Wonga Beach for several weeks at least, ie they probably didn't 
> arrive in the past few days.
> 2. It seems quite probable that the same birds (or at least the same species) 
> were present at Wonga Beach in 2010, and possibly even earlier (although all 
> of this seems worthy of further enquiry and confirmation if possible - might 
> Chris Dahlberg, who lives in Wonga Beach, be able to do a bit of local 
> sleuthing?)
> 3. For anyone contemplating making a visit to see these birds (particularly 
> if involving significant time and expense) they seem quite settled and have 
> probably been present for some weeks at least, making it more likely that 
> they will remain for some time yet.
> 4. The risk (as always) is that birders in numbers (particularly if they are 
> seeking close views or, perhaps even more particularly, close photos) may 
> press the birds too much and they will decamp for less stressful 
> surroundings. The other risk is that the attention drawn to the birds by the 
> visiting birders may cause locals (kids? dogs?) to explore and inadvertently 
> frighten them off.
> It seems to me that it may be helpful if some local birder could put up a 
> notice and/or some form of perimeter (a string line) that may help reduce the 
> chance of the birds being pushed off - but maybe not?
> Richard Nowotny

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