Hot, dry summers
We have not had any significant rain here in Murray Bridge, South Australia for the last four months – since mid-December. This is quite typical of our hot, dry summers. We either get nothing for most of summer or torrential downpours over several hours. The previous summer of 2004-05 saw much flooding in many areas of the city. Over the intervening twelve months the local council has been very busy correcting the lack of adequate drainage in some areas.
Overnight and during this morning we have had steady rain amounting to 25mm (1 inch) which amounts to 7% of our annual average rainfall (344mm). The weather forecast is for heavy rain later in the day. A check of the radar on the Bureau of Meteorology website showed heavy rain heading our way. There are currently in place flood warnings in our area.
Birds after the rain
While it was still raining the birds around our garden were quiet and inconspicuous. When it stopped there was much activity. The Grey Shrike Thrushes began singing as did the Spiny Cheeked Honeyeaters. Our resident family of White Winged Choughs came patrolling through the garden and scrub at the front of the house. Flocks of noisy Galahs are wheeling through the trees as I write. White Plumed Honeyeaters and New Holland Honeyeaters are also calling.
While having breakfast this morning a flock of Brown Headed Honeyeaters flew past. This species is a regular visitor to our garden here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. I love hearing their “chip, chip, chip” contact calls as they swarm from tree to tree. They are not often seen alone; usually they come through the garden in waves of anything from 5 or 6 through to 15 or more.
So far I have been unable to get a photo of these rather plain yet delightful little honeyeaters. It is a challenge because they seem to be constantly on the move. My best chance will be when they visit our bird bath. Here they line up on the branch above, or on the edge of the bird bath, ready for their turn to bathe. On occasions I have observed 5 or 6 in the water at one time, water splashing in all directions.
- Great Birding Moments #9 Brown Headed Honeyeaters – with a photo.
UPDATE: I can now add the photo below.
Thursday 23rd March 2006
Today I visited a local wetlands area about one kilometre north west of the CBD of Murray Bridge, South Australia. Rocky Gully Creek drains from the nearby hills into the River Murray at this point. The wetlands area is only a short distance from the river.
When I was still teaching I would often drive pass this lagoon on my way to work and again on my way home to check out what birds were to be seen. Occasionally I would stop and walk around the perimeter for twenty minutes or so. I would also stop in the bird hide for a while.
This morning I spent about 40 minutes in the area. I took my camera with to see what I could photograph. The temperature by late morning had reached about 30 degrees C and the warm breeze from the north was strengthening.
On my way to a meeting the previous evening I thought I had seen some Royal Spoonbills as I drove past. This is a widespread species in this area without being present in large numbers anywhere. Spoonbills are always a delight for me to see as it was a Yellow Billed Spoonbill in outback South Australia many years ago that gave me a life long interest in birds. This time it was the equally delightful Royal Spoonbill present at the lagoon. I managed to get some photos from a distance.
This was the first time I had recorded this species in this location. The bird lists in the bird hide indicate that other observers had also recorded it here too; I just hadn’t seen it when it was present. Both species are widespread throughout the eastern half of Australia as well as large parts of western and northern Australia.
Almost every time I drive past the Rocky Gully Wetlands I see at least 10 Australian Pelicans. Sometimes I estimate there would be about 30 present, usually resting on the artificial island in the middle of the lagoon. There must be a plentiful supply of fish in the lagoon and in the river nearby.
Australian White Ibis
There are hundreds of Ibis resident in the Murray Bridge district. I have observed loose flocks of over 300 flying overhead. Without them the area would have a massive snail problem. It is my observation that the Australian White Ibis is vastly outnumbered by the Straw Necked Ibis in this area. Today however, I saw only the White Ibis. Another relatively common species, the Glossy Ibis, still manages to elude me. I’ve never seen one in the wild.
The other species present included:
White Faced Heron, Great Egret, Little Black Cormorant, Darter, Black Winged Stilt, Grey Teal, Eurasian Coot, Black Fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Silver Gull, Caspian Tern and Whistling Kite.
Today my wife and I needed to go shopping for a new washing machine. While doing the washing yesterday I killed our old twin tub machine. It was 22 years old, so I guess it was a little tired and needed a rest. It obviously needed a long, long rest. Now it will get a permanent rest.
When we were finished it was lunch time so we visited our favourite local bakery. We bought some lunch and headed down to Sturt Reserve and parked in the shade of a tree where we could overlook the River Murray. By then the temperature must have been about 30 degrees so the birding was very quiet.
The following is the small list of species seen:
Masked Lapwing, Australian Magpie, House Sparrow, Magpie Lark, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Welcome Swallow, Silver Gull, Willie Wagtail, Superb Blue Wren, Noisy Miner, Little Black Cormorant and Black Tailed Native Hen.
This morning the sun arose to a beautiful day. Bright sunshine, clear blue sky, gentle cooling breeze and the nearby sea of Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor a brilliant deep blue punctuated by stunning white waves breaking on rocks out in the bay. Perfect. After lunch we sat in front of the caravan and just watched the sea. How relaxing.
More Bird Sightings
Around the caravan park I observed about 30 different species without really trying. There were quite a few Little Ravens around, mostly flying overhead. Spotted Turtledoves and Feral Pigeons are also resident birds, as are Striated Pardalotes. I only saw a few Crested Pigeons nearby.
Galahs were in evidence throughout the park and nearby gardens. In the tree in front of our caravan we watched two juvenile Galahs begging for food from their harried parents. They seemed old enough to fend for themselves; it must be easier to sponge off parents. In previous visits I have seen hundreds of Little Corellas; this year I only saw about three individuals. Adelaide Rosellas are also common in the area but I only heard two flying past the van. I have seen Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos in this area in the past but not this time.
Birds of Prey
The only bird of prey I observed was a Black Shouldered Kite. I saw one several times over the weekend, presumably the same individual. The first time I saw it traversing the banks of the Inman River, occassionally swooping down to catch its prey in the grass of the bank. Later I saw it hovering over the sedge grass on the sand banks along the beach front.
While standing on the beach taking photos of the yachts at anchor and of Granite Island we were suddenly aware of several dolphins in the bay between us and the island, some two hundred metres from the beach. They were too far to positively identify or photograph them but they were probably common Bottle-Nosed Dolphins.