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Woman's bizarre find in garden stumps Aussies: 'What creature made this?'

An Aussie woman’s unusual discovery in her yard has left people — including some experts — stumped.

The woman said she spotted a bizarre circular clearing in a pile of leaves in her Southeast Queensland garden on Tuesday.

“Any idea what creature might have made this? About 30 centimetres across. It wasn’t there when I tidied the mulch up a week or two ago,” she posted on Reddit alongside two images of the circle, which she says also featured a “darker hole” on one side.

Photos show a circular depression with the mulch neatly stacked to create a small wall. A deeper hole can be seen at the base of the formation.

The circular clearing in the woman's garden, with a close up of the 'darker' hole.
A Queensland woman found a strange circular clearing in her garden earlier this week. Source: Reddit

While some Reddit users were quick to suggest the pattern was the result of a pot plant or a “puddle that formed during a downpour” before draining away, the woman said the strange find was not near a downspout or overhang.

“Garden hose, unless there's something nearby that would cause a decent stream of water to pour into that spot,” one person suggested, while another said a scrub turkey could be responsible.

“It looks similar to a hole left by a visiting echidna we had in our front yard. They dig down a little to rest (to cool down maybe?), then head off when they are ready,” someone else said.

However, one commenter revealed that a buttonquail — a small bird that mainly inhabits eastern tropical forests and woodlands — was most likely the culprit. “I’d say probably a painted or black-breasted buttonquail. The little circles they make are called platelets, and are the best way to identify that they're around because they're small and very shy,” they wrote.

“I’ve occasionally seen painted buttonquails in my garden in the suburbs of Melbourne and circles like that always appear in the mulch at the same time. They're pretty cute birds too.”

A painted buttonquail among sticks.
One Aussie said that a painted buttonquail (pictured) was most likely the culprit. Source: Birdlife Australia

Identifying animal culprit is 'tough', expert says

When approached by Yahoo News Australia, a leading animal expert from Curtin University said identifying what was responsible for the circular depression was “tough”.

“Yes, painted buttonquails do forage by making little circles in the leaf litter, making ‘platelets’ or ‘soup plates’ but this looks almost too perfect for that,” Associate Professor Bill Bateman said.

“If it is made by an animal, then buttonquail would be a contender. I think brush turkeys are much messier and scrape up mounds of litter.”

Photos of painted buttonquail 'platelets' included in the study.
A study published this year highlighted photos of 'platelets' made by painted buttonquails in Queensland. Source: University of Queensland

An extensive study conducted by the University of Queensland's Research and Recovery of Endangered Species and published this year includes photos of the ground-dwelling birds’ “platelets”, which appear to be similar to the depression found in the woman’s yard.

Painted buttonquails have “developed a unique method of uncovering food items”, which involves the bird “scratching with one foot while using the other as a pivot to rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise multiple times, scratching away the top layer of soil, humus or leaf-litter,” the study reads.

“In its wake it leaves behind circular depressions in the substrate known as ‘platelets’. Though many other species of bird similarly scratch the substrate to uncover food items, the circular depressions left by buttonquail are unique.

“Multiple observers have reported the species forming platelets in south-eastern Queensland.”

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