An unexpected encounter!


I try to take a short walk around the block fairly early most mornings. Often this doesn’t happen because I need to work. However this morning I decided I needed a walk!

My unexpected encounter

I always carry binoculars on my morning walks because this is a good time for birds and I am doing my best to catalogue the bird species I see on the block. Usually I leave my camera behind because it is just another thing to carry and taking reasonable pics of wild birds (especially as most of them are small) is just not going to happen.

This morning I really wished I had taken my camera! My walk took me up what we call “the pipe run”. This as the name suggests is a route where we have a pipe running from the bore about a hundred metres through the bush to the bore water tanks. The pipe is only about 5 metres into the edge of the bush from the firebreak on the northern edge of the block. As I walked beside the pipe I heard movement so I stopped and saw two of the recently released kangaroos slowly moving deeper into what is a fairly narrow wedge shaped strip of bush. I continued slowly and at the end of the pipe run I turned right onto the track between the bush and the top paddock.

As I walked past the bush towards the paddock gate there were three kangaroos on my right in the edge of the bush. Two of them moved quietly away into the bush but to my great surprise the third one came towards me. I stood still and put out my hand, the kangaroo sniffed at my hand and seemed to decide I was “mostly harmless” and allowed me to stroke it. None of our regular visiting mob would come this close except at the one spot on the block (near to water) where they can sometimes find hay. So this is definitely one of the new release – and obviously one who hasn’t yet lost the “humans are friendly” response from being raised by people.

Where the kangaroo joined me

Kangaroo joined me just outside the fence about 15 metres before the gate

From about 15 metres before the paddock gate the ‘roo accompanied me on the rest of my walk – around 600 metres through the top paddock and back down to the house beside our other patch of bush.

Luckily as I neared the water trough Phil was outside the house so I asked him to bring some green from the garden. The ‘roo ate some of this from my hand and then discovered some nearby food mix (we are still putting out a little transition food). This gave me the opportunity to go inside and pick up a camera so I was able to take some pictures of my companion.



Although I didn’t discourage the ‘roo from keeping me company today I think I will have to do so in future. Kangaroos that hop calmly up to humans are at great risk to their lives as not everyone enjoys having them around. They are regarded by many farmers as a pest. Because of this we have made considerable (successful) efforts not to encourage our regular visitors to become too tame.The only place we are able to approach them is by the water supply we keep full for them. Anywhere else on the block they just disappear into the nearest cover.



As I write this there are fourteen kangaroos outside my window. They are a mixture of some from our regular visitors (2 females with last year’s joeys still in attendance and this year’s young in the pouch) and the newly released group. There is a bit of occasional squabbling but not much. The two mature females are quite assertive about their personal space and also still protective of their joeys. Also there seems to be still some “pecking order” being sorted out with the new group. So thus far it seems that our hope that the groups will mix and the new ones will eventually become part of the mob is more likely to happen than not!

Latest menagerie additions!


We now have quail added to our collection of edible and laying birds! As well as four young quail from a colleague at work we were given a pair of adults by friends living nearby.

Our new arrivals!

The female of the adult pair was still laying although it is a little late in the year. Of course, as is our wont, we couldn’t resist trying to hatch some eggs! As usual we collected a week’s worth of eggs in our cooler at around 15 degrees C. This gave us 10 eggs – quail sometimes lay two in a day.

At the end of the week we transferred the eggs to the incubator and left them to incubate for 15 days before taking them out of the rotator at the “pipping” stage – when they are ready to start making a hole in the shell. Nothing happened at 18 days when they should have hatched. “Ah well!” we thought, try again in the spring. However as we have had slow hatches before we left the eggs in the incubator for a bit longer (just in case). To our great surprise and delight we heard “meepings” from the incubator two days ago! We checked and found one chick well on the way to emerging and four more with small holes in the shells.

Five baby quail in the brooder boxThe next morning there were five tiny quail staggering around the incubator. Once they had dried off we transferred them to a brooder box with a lamp to keep them warm. They are so tiny that we are using a small jar lid for water as they either wouldn’t reach, or would risk drowning in anything bigger.

Two quail chicks in cupped hands show just how tiny they are.

Chicks and ducklings are of course very cute but these minute bundles of feathers definitely win top prize for cuteness!

This morning we had another surprise – I was working peacefully away at my computer and heard a loud and indignant “meep” from the incubator. Investigation revealed another hatchling – this one must still be on daylight saving “grin”.


We are hoping, ultimately, to be able to release quail into our vegetable garden – with a cage and nesting area that they can access but the chooks and ducks cannot. The released quail will then be part of our “pest control” system and will hopefully either breed themselves or lay eggs in their nesting area that we can collect and eat or incubate. We will of course eat any excess birds!

More ‘roos outside our windows!


Time for one of those posts about where I live rather than specifically education related.

This morning we had an exciting visit from members of one of our local wildlife sanctuaries. There are a number of these sanctuaries around the state who rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife. The purpose of this morning’s visit was to re-introduce some orphaned kangaroos into the wild by releasing them on our block! We already have a regular “mob” of kangaroos who break up into smaller groupings at various times of the year. These ‘roos don’t live exclusively on our block but range across several adjacent properties – ours is just one that they visit.

A bit of general “stuff” about kangaroos

Kangaroos are frequent victims of traffic on our roads. When females are killed or injured their young in the pouch (joeys) may well survive unhurt. However unless they are rescued they can’t live long once their mother is dead. Kangaroos are born very tiny and immature and once they reach the pouch they attach to a teat and remain out of sight in the pouch for several months.

Rescued joeys are raised in artificial pouches – often woollen bags – and bottle fed with milk. Eventually they reach a size where they can live outside the pouch and feed on the normal types of food eaten by adult kangaroos. Before release the young kangroos of mixed ages get used to living together as a group in a large pre-release enclosure where they have far less human contact than during the raising phase. Finally a number will be released into the wild – this is what happened here today.

The release

The team had successfully caught 15 young ‘roos from their large enclosure. They arrived in a convoy of cars in mid-morning. All very exciting as we hadn’t really expected quite so many ‘roos or quite so many people!

Picture of 'roos being unloadedThe first step was unloading the young kangaroos from the cars. They had travelled in woven mesh bags and were very mildly sedated so they they wouldn’t panic either in transit or when released.

Kangaroo travel bags lined up for releaseThe next step was to lay the travel bags out in a line, all “facing” in the same direction, and to unfasten them without actually releasing the occupants. A tricky activity this as there were more ‘roos than people.

Releasing the young kangaroos

Releasing (in theory) is simultanous, of course it wasn’t quite like that but very nearly

Kangaroo looking at new surroundings

Once out of their travel bags most of the kangaroos stayed around for at least a few minutes getting used to their new surroundings.








Then it was time to explore as they began to move away from the release spot.






By the time the team had collected the bags unloaded some transition food for us to help tide the ‘roos over steadily to foraging completely for themselves most of them had moved away into the surrounding pockets of bush to investigate their new surroundings.

We expect them to stay mostly hidden during the day and to come out to the release spot for water and some transitional food. We hope they will sort out a pecking order with our regular visiting mob and join in with them to form a larger mob where the new introductions integrate into the structure and eventually breed.

All in all an exciting and satisfying experience!

Ducks (and drakes) in my garden!


Warning  – this is not an e-learning related post :). As some of you know I sometimes digress into posts about the wonderful part of the world where I live and some of the activities on our block. This is one such post. However it was triggered by a tweet to me from a long time Twitter buddy @plangardengal in California who was one of my earliest contacts on Twitter around three years ago. We have talked gardens, food, animals, and education on Twitter so she knows we have ducks and was looking to talk about some “whys and wherefores”.  Most of this post was the email I sent to @plangardengal – it was really just meant to say “ask away if I can help I will” but as always my fingers ran away on the keyboard and I found myself telling the tale of our ducks.

About our ducks

Again a warning – this is not for the really faint-hearted we do have and breed both “chooks” (chickens) and ducks because we like the meat as well as the eggs and because we like to eat birds that have had a happy life! We started with the “chooks” and a couple of years later added the first ducks to the “flock” again for eggs and also to eat. It seems that here ducks are better “natural breeders/incubators” than the chooks. We use the incubator for chooks but ducks sit and manage their own incubation.

Our original ducks are Muscovies – great layers *huge yolked eggs” tho’ the shells are very hard! These ducks are great characters as well as being larger than the average domestic duck. They can crossbreed but produce infertile offspring when crossed with other breeds. Their incubation is stated as 35 days (having said that our main breeding Muscovy duck takes 38-42 days!)

We absolutely love our Muscovies! They are not only good layers, breeders and tasty eating but are also great characters. Their  temperament is also excellent – calm (as birds go), very non-aggressive and totally relaxed in human company except when protecting eggs. Our first drake was a bit confrontational and bullied the chooks a bit so we swapped him for a better natured one though much older one. Some of our Muscovies are great escape artists – they fly over, climb over and wriggle under the internal dividing chook wire we have in the garden and to divide the chook pens up. So ideally they need fully enclosed runs or you need to fence the veg in as they love to eat emerging young veg!

One of our original bought in birds is our main breeding duck – a fantastic character (Pudddleduck – named for Jemima Puddleduck of Beatrix Potter stories – we don’t name the ones we intend to eat!). She scorns the nest boxes, chooses her own spot – lays and hatches very well (11 ducklings – from 12 eggs –

about 3 days ago & this year another 18 previously over 3 hatches). One of her offspring from earlier this year has also just hatched 4 ducklings (she was only sitting on 5 eggs so that is a good hatch too). At the moment we have two drakes – both are Puddleduck’s offspring and both have now proven fertility with these two recent hatches. We plan to stay with two ducks and two drakes though we really only need one drake, having two reduces the risk of being left “drakeless” if (as happens with all poultry) one suddenly dies.

We also now have Khaki Campbells. We were given 8 fledgling “drakes” one of whom was a duck – so kept her & one drake – they have already bred 8 ducklings. Their incubation is supposed to be 28 days, and as I write Mrs Campbell has just hatched 3 more ducklings. This was a great surprise as we had not expected any success from this batch as we believed that the young from the previous hatch had been sleeping in the nest (before we took them away) and had probably started the eggs into growth prematurely before the duck started to sit.

The Campbells are very different characters from the Muscovies – again great eating and good layers but the two we are breeding from are very nervous in temperament. The group of 8 were all like that – stayed together in a tight bunch all the time, rushed around making lots of noise and kept as far away as possible from humans. These two have calmed a little but not much. We separated off the young (who were showing similar characteristics) when they were a few weeks old and put them in a pen with young chooks. This seems to have had a very good effect in that they no longer rush around in a bunch and they are much less scared of humans. All of our home-bred chooks rush around us and walk on our feet if we are anywhere near them and this influence is being passed on the the young ducks.


The ducks and chooks are all wonderful characters and very entertaining to be around. I was picking figs this morning with several chooks hovering hopefully round my feet in case I should drop a fig when I heard flapping of wings from the other side of the tree. I went to look and found one of the chooks jumping (wing assisted 🙂 ) to peck at figs on the tree around a metre (just over 3 feet) from the ground! Now I understand why we don’t get many figs on the lower branches. These and similar antics by both ducks and chooks lighten our days and help us keep perspective in the stressful world of education.