Lake Wendouree in the centre of ballarat supports a plethora of beautiful and important avian life, great for an every child wins a prize sort of bird watching experience, as there is always plenty to see- as the lake rarely disappoints by beiing devoid of life. It’s always rather the exact opposite- full of life, both creature, and human. (Obsessed joggers and bikers could possibly also be classed as strange creatures also)
Not half bad considering that lake wendouree is a man made lake, which is essentially filled with class A treated water. A.k.a treated sewage.
According to the city of ballarat council website, our favorite lake wendouree is essentially around ~25% genuine sewage pond. Nonetheless, we love it in all its recycled and slightly pongy glory, even though only rowers and unsuspecting birds are the only ones who ware willing to brave swimming in it. (no wonder the acquatic weed grows so fast!!!)
While walking and picnicking on the lakes banks this weekend, we encountered quite an unusual, and distinctly different duck.
Otter like, and greasy in appearance, with a distinctive flap of skin, or wattle beneath its bill, and a spiky, but muscly beaver like tail, was a short billed, banded duck.
I’m quite a fan of ducks in general, and I couldn’t decide if it was the most interesting looking duck i had ever seen.. or.. well.. the ugliest.
Watching it attempt to flop out of the water, and over the shallow lakebank, I don’t think I have ever seen a more awkward and ungainly duck than the musk duck.
It was absolutely and utterly useless on land, and pretty much tripped on its own feet, doing an almighty beakplant into the mud after two ungainly and wobbly steps.
Apparently, these ducks can be quite aggressive, and are shunned by other lakelife.. i didn’t see any real evidence of this, as we followed it about, trying to figure out if it was a strange mutant, or a genuine rare breed.
It’s fat tail, and muscular body did suggest that the musk duck is a rather meaty and tasty bird however.. and we speculated how it would be served in a Chinese restaurant… the reality is its probably as tough as old boots though, like every he native bird that isn’t extinct yet.
Looking on Wikipedia, a few interesting facts about this odd looking and awkward bird are:
That it is an excellent diver and can submerge for 60+ seconds, but is absolutely hopeless on land, so will rarely exit the water (which we saw ample evidence of, both on land, and on the water, where it vanished with a slight ripple, and miraculaously popped up again 20-30 metres away a number of times.
Their name emanates from the fact that the musk duck absolutely reeks of a musky odour during breeding season and are promiscuous, are lone wolfish and antisocial outside of it, eat yabbies, small fish, and the eggs of other birds, and can live and breed for in excess of 20 years.
In confirmation of our thoughts on this duck’s culinary potential, wikipedia also reports that they are bad eating, and are not prized at all for their edibility.
The courier ran a story on the musk duck a couple months ago, describing the male musk duck as a “prowling” scary creature that was shunned by the rest of the bird community on the lake, as it is so aggressive it would even pick a fight with a black swan…. a bit of an exaggeration.
Ian Simsen also showcases some wonderful photos of the musk duck, like the one below on his blog, which is well worth checking out: