How glad I was to see many ducks enjoying the habitat and safety of Lake Wendouree, now that the duck shooting season has opened.
I wish I had the power to call in all the ducks from the surrounding districts and keep them safe so long as duck season is open.
I have spent years observing the duck species that make Lake Wendouree their home and am extremely fond of them.
Each plays a vital role in the eco system and feed on quite different things. Musk ducks dive deep to find tiny crustaceans, fish and mudeyes. They are rare shy, secretive birds and nest in burrows hidden from public view. I have a gut feeling that they have close genetic links with platypus somewhere in their evolution as they share similar webbed feet, wide bills and wide rudder like tails that give them exceptional propulsion under water. As well, they lay their eggs in burrows. Their size is similar to a platypus and under water they appear much like a platypus. But I will leave my speculation here, in the hope some enterprising geneologist explores my intuition with greater scientific scrutiny than my own extensive observations. They are incredibly rare and we are extraordinarily lucky to have several breeding pairs resident at Lake Wendouree.
The black ducks are shovellers, feeding on micro-organisms and plants close to the surface. They nest on the ground protected by reeds. They are not black, but a speckledy brown. The male has lovely irredescent deep green and mauve plumage on his wing feathers when in full sunlight. These are the commonest of ducks to be seen at Lake Wendouree.
The wood ducks enjoy grazing on green shoots, close to the shores, as well as surface micro-organisms. They roost by night in trees and raise their young in tree hollows. At sunset, you can watch them congregate near the trees adjacent to the lake, then fly up to their roosts as the sun goes down. They are identifiable by their distinctive grey and brown feathers.
The rare and endangered blue billed duck is a diver. Whilst not venturing as deep as the musk duck, it goes for food that the surface water foraging duck will not reach. It nests on the islands in Fairyland. I was thrilled to see several clutches hatched by breeding pairs last spring. The male is a deep chestnut colour, with a distinctive irridescent blue bill. The female is way less showy, with muted brown plumage.
The teal species have been much less abundant of recent times at Lake Wendouree and I wonder about their future. Is it the drought that took its toll on their numbers, or are shooters to blame for the rapid decline of a species I remember being abundant in my childhood?
Every spring I watch with excitement as parent ducks introduce their fledgling ducklings to life in and beside the water. I watch as their down is shed for immature plumage and see them grow into mature specimens of their species. I hope they stay safe within the refuge of their city sanctuary and not fall victim to the mass slaughter of the open duck season.
I can, to some extent, understand that a hunter might seek out one or two ducks to be enjoyed as a meal from abundant species like the black duck.
However, I totally abhor the idea of shooting ducks as a "sport", where the aim is to "bag" as many ducks as possible, during the duck season.
The evidence provided by anti duck shooting activists, who retrieve large numbers of dead endangered duck species annually, demonstrates clearly that duck shooters have trouble identifying endangered species from common ones and shoot indiscriminately.
This is hardly surprising as duck shooters get their thrills from shooting ducks in flight. From a distance and in flight, it is way more difficult to differentiate between species.
Duck shooters that want to eat their prey are most often accompanied by retriever dogs, who bring back the dead duck unharmed to the shooter, who later eats the bird. Without a dog to retrieve the dead bird, in the kind of terrain ducks inhabit, it is often difficult for the human shooter to find, let alone retrieve the duck. The duck then is sacrificed for no other reason than sheer sport of the kill.
If the shooter is not a highly accurate shot, birds get injured rather than killed outright. They die a slow and agonising death, for no more reason than the name of 'sport'.
The reality is that the sport is between the shooters to gun down their bag limit. What human in their right mind could see a small defenceless duck as something to compete with?
The fact that the anti duck shooting activists can pick up so many ducks left for dead, demonstrates how many ducks get shot for sport alone, with no thought for the future of the species or intention of at least eating their unfortunate kill.
Ducks are wonderful eating, but these days duck is readily available from farmed populations. Maybe they are a bit less gamey, but they are not full of lead shot, don't require gutting and plucking at the point of sale and remain a tasty treat if well prepared. The Chinese have valued captive bred ducks for generations, to the point roast Peking duck is a national dish.
If 'sporting shooters' really need to shoot for sport, there are many problem feral animal populations they can "turn their sights" to: rabbits, hares, goats, deer, camels, cats and pigs.These feral animals all wreak havoc in the Australian eco system.
I am not against all forms of shooting, but shooting vulnerable populations of rare duck species is repugnant. I believe duck shooting should be banned.
Yes, those birds enjoying the sanctuary of Lake Wendouree at present, truly are 'lucky ducks'!