EARLY HISTORY OF BLACKHEATH DUCK POND
When the Great Western Railway crossed the Blue Mountains in the 1860s a reliable water source was required for the steam engines. In the village of Blackheath a catchment area to the north and east of Gardners Crescent and below Prince Edward Street was reserved for the purpose. Two dams were built, one on the site of what is now the swimming pool complex and a second that became the ornamental duck pond in 1935.
Several years later a request was made to Lithgow Council for some swans or ducks to stock the pond. Apparently none were forthcoming, so the city of Bathurst was approached. This time they had more success (no swans though). Eight mallard ducks were delivered and soon made themselves at home. Unfortunately they began to multiply far more rapidly than anticipated. It was decided that a reduction in numbers was required.
From The Blue Mountains Advertiser, April 30 1943
A BIRD IN THE SHOP IS WORTH TWO IN THE POND
Alderman Wadsen and Haworth on several occasions have brought under the Mayor’s notice the large number of ducks and drakes in the duck pond at Memorial Park. Several years ago Alderman Cripps imported four pair from Bathurst.
Like the guinea pig, these bred rapidly, so much so that they have become an expensive liability. The Town Clerk admits that they eat two bags of wheat every week.
To transfer the ducks from the debit to the credit side of Council’s ledger was a problem of the alderman on Tuesday night. The Town Clerk said he had had an offer and could sell as many as Council wished.
The palatability of the birds was discussed at some length and the value assessed accordingly. Some of the aldermen were of the opinion that they would make tough eating, while others said there was nothing tastier than wild duck.
Finally it was agreed to ask local butchers and smallgoods shops to submit a price ‘on the hoof’. Three pair are to be offered to the Jenolan Caves House Manager to supplement his stock of fauna.
How many businesses in the village made a bid for the birds is unknown, but presumably roast duck was on the menu for many Blackheath residents.
Those original mallard ducks are now almost outnumbered by Australian native wood ducks, which can only be a good thing. There is certainly no necessity to supplement the birds’ diet with wheat, as in the early days. Mind you, they do get wheat in the form of bread, fed to them by small children. This is not encouraged, but………
My Blackheath born friend Larraine Home tells me there were once quite a few Muscovy ducks. However, nobody liked them and they were expelled.
Wood ducks are unusual because they nest in tree hollows, often in my garden, which is just around the corner. The duckling are famous for fledging by dropping many metres to the ground.
The road is a constant hazard for the little ones, hence the warning sign.;
A few weeks later…… they seem to have lost a couple.
The other long term resident is a little pied cormorant.
Autumn is a lovely time to visit the pond;
In winter the pond has been known to freeze over. Here is a YouTube video of the pond and some sliding ducks.
I can’t say I agree with the YouTube commentator about it being colder in our little valley than up in the village, though. It’s freezing up there on the ridge, especially if there’s a wind chill factor.
The pond is only a two minute walk from my house, so it is almost part of my garden. It’s a joy to watch it change through the year, and to see new families of ducks, both native and introduced. I’ve never seen a baby cormorant though, or even a mate for our lone bird come to that. I wonder whether Bathurst might have a spare one?
NOTE – I have been reminded by Mark McGrath that there is a family of Eastern Long-necked Turtles in the pond. I have never spotted one in the water, but recently I came across this one wandering through the grass just across the road.
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