Moorhen Magic  At The Meditation lake




Written by Wendy Buss

One of my pleasures  when I was living in Lismore was  to sit and stroll at Sunset near the Southern Cross Uni Meditation lake at sunset .

It’s a beautiful spot at any time of day but at sunset the lake precincts flanked by the tall Eucalypt gums of the wildlife corridor becomes awash with effusive mellow golden light The lake at that time of day is still busy with prolific birdlife .However as evening falls and the bird activity quietens down the water becomes as still as glass reflecting the magical interplay of dark shadows from the surrounding trees and the patches of brilliant blazing sunset so that it becomes a glorious juxtapositioning of light and shadow to form a montage of glittering beauty. Where the weeping willow hangs grazing the water and the ducks and Moorhens circle in its growing shadow in the evening one feels one is looking into a darkening version of an animated Monet painting .

I have had many happy moments at the lake .I’ve sat there reading whilst able to gaze up at Koalas in the wilds their fat white bottoms comically ensconced safely in branches at the top of tall Eucalypts .I once chanced to see a koala actually leap from one tree to another and marvelled at its faith and trust as it landed very high up on the smooth white bark of a gum tree where it seemed like there was nowhere for it to cling onto its claws somehow embedded in the bark and miraculously holding its weight as it scrambled on to a safer spot .

I passed a pleasant Sunday afternoon chilling out sitting in companionable silence with two impressive water dragons who would sit stock still only metres away form me their angular little heads tilted at unwieldy angles like miniature boulders fixing me with their watchful beady little eye and then they would suddenly scamper dangerously close towards me so that I felt like I have suddenly became plunged into an episode of Jurassic Park .Its a freaky feeling that one moment your’e a silent observer and then suddenly the tables are turned and you find your are being stalked by these craggy albeit rather handsome miniature prehistoric creatures .Friends suggested perhaps they had become accustomed to being fed which would make for a plausible explanation for their boldness.

Perhaps my favourite birds are the Moorhens. Moorhens seem to pop up wherever I go in my travels. In Bonville you could see them daily plodding sombrely around in the adjoining blueberry farms .Occasionally they would come over the fence and crash around in an ungainly and very noisy fashion up in the banana trees near the chook house never staying very long .

They are prevalent at the SCU meditation lake too .The other day I watched in great amusement as a group of Moorhens fed on the grassy weed bank near the lake alongside the Ibis .One of the Moorhens suddenly got cranky It must have felt the Ibis were muscling in on their feeding turf and it lowered its head and began running at the Ibis like an angry little bull .It cracked me up to see her bravado because the Ibis with its formidable beak who might easily have taken her down with one fell swipe of that deadly weapon nature has endowed it with instead gave ground to the bolshy little Moorhen and flew off in retreat

Yesterday though I was in for the loveliest treat .As I approached the lake I could see that a new batch of baby Moorhens had arrived .So tiny they must be only days old .Their little forms were barely discernable against the dark glassy water as they free-ranged about the lake under the watchful eye of their mother who fed them at regular intervals with what looked like either tiny pieces of grassy weed or microscopic lake organisms

They are so small and yet look like perfectly formed adults in miniature with their indigo fluffy down and distinctive red combs so cute .I could make out 8 in total.

After sitting by the lake happily soaking up the rays and reading one of my favorite books as the sun started to dip and I prepared make tracks for home the lake had grown quiet and I wondered where mama Moorhen might hide her babies for safety .I knew the location of one Moorhens nest a distinctive stick built bowl hidden in the middle of a weeping willow that grazed the lake so headed to check that out when unexpectedly came upon another nest built on lower ground much closer to the water


Sitting on this nest was a Moorhen looking decidedly plump much plumper than she had on the water I was soon to find out why ………..I had startled her on my approach and disturbed by my presence as she squirmed about uncomfortably on her nest unable to contain her unruly brood to my surprise and delight out popped .8 miniature Moorhens squirming out from beneath her like so many wriggling fluffy indigo coloured spiders .

I could only watch in awe intrigued with what played out next .Mama Moorhen wasted no time in leading her babies away from me and back into the lake and then as if she needed a distraction from all this frenetically stressful mothering business she took off with her mate to eat weed in a deeper part of the lake leaving her babies to frolic and fend for themselves in the shadows

It was starting to get dark though and  as the light faded the baby Moorhens  pitiful little calls for their mama were loud and clear .She ignored them for a  good while and both the babies and I started to get more distressed .Then mercifully  for all of us mama Moorhen  broke ranks with the other adult bird headed back into the bank gathering her babies about her as she swam and leading them deftly up the bank and back into the nest .Then as if he had taken roll call and realized that all of her brood were not present and accounted for she headed back into the water

I hadn’t actually noticed myself but one little chick had wandered off from the group and was actually swimming in the wrong direction  His mama skilfully  and deftly turned him around and shepherded him back to the nest with the others

Then she settled down over her brood for the night .It was such a heartwarming and joyous sight .I figured she was in for along night with 8 squirming little tots to keep warm and safe til morning . I plan to go back and watch their progress .I feel blessed to experience such beauty so close to home .

Wendy Buss                                                  






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