A treetop nest drama

RENOWNED: The magnificent looking square-tailed kite, a rare visitor to the Ballarat area, has a well deserved reputation as a nest predator.

RENOWNED: The magnificent looking square-tailed kite, a rare visitor to the Ballarat area, has a well deserved reputation as a nest predator.

From Invermay comes an unusual report of a nesting duck, a pair of ravens and a rare raptor.

A black duck had its nest in last year’s raven’s nest.

The nest was the typical large stick one made by a raven or a hawk, high in a tree, and the duck had adopted it for its own use. 

The brooding duck was noticed for a week or more until one day a commotion was heard.

A pair of ravens were making a racket, while the duck was flapping and quacking. The duck flew from the nest and perched in a nearby tree.

The ravens also flew from the nest but stayed nearby, noisily voicing their considerable disapproval.

It was then that another bird was noticed. This one appeared to be eating the duck’s eggs.

It was a square-tailed kite. It stayed for a few minutes eating the contents of some eggs, and then flew off, chased immediately by the ravens.

One of the ravens returned to the nest and took an egg, flying away with it, and followed by its mate. A couple of minutes later the duck returned to the nearby tree.  

It perched for a while, then flew to its nest and picked up the shell of an emptied egg and flew off with it in its beak. It returned a second time to collect and remove another.  

This treetop drama happened in mid-November.

The square-tailed kite is a rare visitor to the Ballarat region.

It is very much a treetop feeder. 

It frequently takes the contents of nests, although usually much smaller nests. 

Black ducks can make their nests in many places.

Typical is a ground nest in long grass or rushes.

However, many other sites are also used, including tree hollows, and platforms in shrubs.

Sometimes nests are quite high, with high stick nests of other birds occasionally chosen.

What was the duck intending to do with the eggshells she was removing from her disturbed nest?

Parent birds usually carry off the shells of their newly hatched eggs, but this was a different situation.

NEEDLE GRASS

Another weedy grass is appearing in the Ballarat district.

This is the Texas needle grass, gradually increasing in various places, and now well established around Meredith.

Like the rather similar Chilean needle grass, it can be very difficult to distinguish from the native spear grasses (Austrostipa).

Both are brighter green and leafier than most of the spear-grasses in the Ballarat district, although there is at least one native that is the same bright colour.