It has been a very busy late spring/early summer for us this year at Boney Whitefoot from tracking the various birds breeding and bringing up youngsters, to processing and uploading new images to the website for sale. Our upcoming New Year’s project, Powder Puff, which features chicks from a variety of species is almost complete and has been such fun shooting over the past few months.
Many enjoyable hours were spent down at our local pond documenting the birds although interspaced with few horrific moments bringing back the reality of nature’s primal rule….survival of the fittest. The Paradise Ducks (Maori name pūtangitangi), Mallards, pūkeko, and Black Back Seagulls (Maori name karoro) all interact together on the pond with the pūkeko coming out as the top villain. No chick of any species is safe from these birds.
pūkeko, killed and ate all but a few ducklings hatched over 2 months which included 30 plus mallard ducklings and 12 paradise ducklings.
Pukekos devouring a mallard duckling
We even have a resident Rooster who we named Cogburn after the character Rooster Cogburn played first by John Wayne and the later by Jeffrey Bridges in the Coen bros version of the movie True Grit, which just may well be the best western ever made, We dubbed him the Sheriff of the pond but being drunk most of the time he was not a very good sheriff.
Rooster Cogburn always has something to crow about but did little in protecting the citizens.
One day not long ago , I noticed a Spur Wing or Lap Wing Plover skulking around in the horse paddocks next to the pond.
Tammy the horse whisperer
I knew something was up with the Spur Wing when it did not fly away as they tend to do when there is no good reason for it to hang around.
A few weeks later proved that my suspicions were correct when I spied newly hatched chicks close to the other side of the fence.
Never to miss a chance, Tammy and I began our careful approach in the fast dimming light to get shots of the chicks through the long grass, something that proved rather difficult. I had seen them from the other side of the fence but do you think I could find them once I jumped over?
Eventually Tammy spied one in the grass.
I was being given the old dive bomb treatment from mum and dad and I was close to withdrawing but then something strange happened and the birds settled down very close to me and started attending their 3 chicks. I think it had something to do with it being so close to dark.
Basically the parents busied themselves by gathering the chicks up and sitting on them, and that as they say was that for the night for me, they seemed to be saying the shows over.
At first I was dive bombed
2 done, now where’s the other one?
Here it comes
Once gathered mum sat on them and that was that
The light had faded so I went home and made plans to return the next day, and so I did only to find that the birds had shifted two paddocks over to one that had been mowed recently.
This time, time and light were on my side so I moved in and spent 4 hours
photographing and observing the birds. But first I had to find the little ones in a pretty big paddock.
The parents were not giving them away and flew around me chattering (polite word for their insane screeching) and trying to lead me away from the centre of the paddock which gave me a rough idea of the chicks locality.
One tiny step after carefully placed step, I made my grid search by memory until at last I spied a chick lying in the grass trying to be invisible.
a chick trying to be invisible
From there it wasn’t long before I had all three chicks located and I settled down a distance away hoping that the parents would settle down and interact with the chicks. I have found that keeping a low profile, remaining silent and not moving around means that most birds will settle down and continue their normal activities paying little heed to me.
It was awesome watching the parents call their chicks from out of hiding.
The chicks hide so well, even the parents can’t find them, instead they circle the general area and call to the chicks who then pop up and stagger through the grass to their momma.
momma calling to her chicks
I know they are here some where
I got some good photos of the chicks then headed home never to see that family again
the last say goes to the spurwing
So this will be the last entry until after Christmas so I will leave the ending up to Tammy Lynn.
We would like to thank all of our viewers and wish you a very happy and blessed holiday season from Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanza, Yule. May your New Year be bright and prosperous!