Archive for March, 2009

Almost a non birding day

On the road leaving Mallacoota, Victoria

On the road leaving Mallacoota, Victoria

Our short stay overnight in Mallacoota was far too brief. Early the next morning we headed back to the main highway on our way to Gisborne north of Melbourne. It was one of the longest days on the road for the entire holiday. On the road leading out of the lovely seaside town of Mallacoota I took the above photo of the type of beautiful country we had to drive through.

Along the coast road from Sydney to Melbourne there are few places where you are very far from forests. Part way through the morning I asked my daughter if she’d seen enough trees. She was almost at the point where some open country would have been a pleasant change.

I didn’t see any birds of note on the way out to the highway, except near the locality called Genoa. Near a creek and its associated wetlands I saw the only Swamp Harrier of the trip. I also heard some Bell Miners in the trees there.

By morning tea time we had reached Orbost on the Snowy River. While having my cup of tea I wandered down to the bank of the river but there was little of interest to be seen. I saw several Purple Swamphens and Little Pied Cormorants. I heard a Clamorous Reedwarbler in the reed beds along the river, and a Laughing Kookaburra was calling nearby. I was surprised to hear some Bell Miners because I always associate them with heavily forested areas which is not correct. Their habitat preferences are much broader than that. It’s a species I’m still learning about.

I saw several Grey Fantails, Australian Magpies, various common honeyeaters and some Silvereyes. The only other species of note was a small flock of European Goldfinches, the only time I recorded this species on the trip.

When I wrote the title of this post I thought I’d seen very little on that day. In actual fact I had quite a nice little list even before lunch time. Birding is like that.

Picnic grounds in Orbost on the Snowy River, Victoria

Picnic grounds in Orbost on the Snowy River, Victoria

White-bellied Sea-eagle, Mallacoota, Victoria

Mallacoota in the evening light

Mallacoota in the evening light

During our only evening in Mallacoota in January it was warm and calm, ideal for a walk after a lovely dinner in the bistro of the local hotel where we were staying. The inlet was relatively quiet despite the large numbers of people – and their boats – staying in the seaside town for the Christmas holidays.

We found a comfortable seat on a headland overlooking the inlet. It was a good vantage point for some late evening birding, though the fading light made photography a challenge. In the estuary we saw several White-faced Herons, Whimbrels, Common Greenshanks, Pied Oystercatchers and Pacific Gulls, all too far away to get good shots.

Earlier we had seen a White-bellied Sea-eagle cruising overhead, sending some of the local birds into a mild panic. While we were relaxing it flew past again and landed on a tree across the water some two metres away. It was a long shot, even with the camera on the full 12x zoom. I haven’t seen this species all that often and never in a position for a close up photo, so this is the best I could do. The eagle is in the middle of the photo and it looks like it is eating something it had caught.

White-bellied Sea-eagle, Mallacoota

White-bellied Sea-eagle, Mallacoota

Pelicans at Mallacoota

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

On our walk around Mallacoota in eastern Victoria in January we were pleased to get up close to a group of Australian Pelicans in the harbour. I was pleased to get some interesting close up shots of these lovely birds. Click on the photos to enlarge the images.

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Australian Pelicans, Mallacoota, Victoria

Birding at Mallacoota

Black Swans at Mallacoota, eastern Victoria

Black Swans at Mallacoota, eastern Victoria

On our visit to Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria in January we went for an after dinner walk along the foreshore and estuary of the river. It was a calm, warm evening and we had a pleasant time exploring this lovely spot for the first time. We decided that this is one place we needed to revisit – and stay four or five days at the very least.

In the quiet estuary we saw many Black Swans, Australian Pelicans, a few Pied Oystercatchers and three Royal Spoonbills.

Pelicans, Spoonbills and Cormorants at Mallacoota.

Pelicans, Spoonbills and Cormorants at Mallacoota.

While on our walk we saw several Great cormorants as well as some Little Pied Cormorants. Two Whistling Kites patrolled the shallows in the company of a lone White-bellied Sea Eagle. I’ve not seen too many sea eagles in all of my birding, so this was something special. I was surprised though that there were not many ducks in the estuary. In fact I only recorded a few Australian Wood Ducks. Perhaps the kites and eagle had scared them off.

The inlet is an ideal haven for fishermen, and this is iluustrated by the large number of boats present in the water and on trailers in the caravan park. There are also boats offering cruises on the river, like the one shown below.

Mallacoota, far eastern Victoria.

Mallacoota, far eastern Victoria.

Curry the Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Every now and then a reader makes a comment or sends me an email with an amazing or amusing story about a relationship with a bird. Today Cath from the Adelaide Hills sent me the following story about her pet currawong.

Hello there,

I have a currawong here with me at Littlehampton in the Adelaide Hills. Curry came to me via a circuitous route – he was stuck upside down for some hours high in a tree in Crafers last September, rescued by a neighbour of a workmate and finally came to me as they didn’t know what to do. I had never raised a currawong before and I can say it has been a very rewarding experience. I adore the bird.

The bird hadn’t fledged, only had downy feathers and could not stand for about a week. This is back in September. It was just a huge beak surrounded by down.

Plenty of boiled egg, meal worms (with heads squashed), strawberries, blueberres and mulberries. Shards of apple each day. Small lump of cheese for calcium. And mice and rats. At least now Curry is big (voice has broken, eyes now yellow instead of gray-brown) I don’t have to scissor the rodents into pieces for him. He eats them whole. Fresh corn kernels are a favourite. Bits of steak rolled in Wombaroo insectivor mix, too. As a baby I fed him every two hours, now it’s 3 or 4 times a day.

The bird rides on my dog’s back, he just loves the dog. This happened by accident really as once the bird fledged he spent a couple of months free ranging in a big room in my house for part of the day and overnight – outside for most of each day in a big cage for sun and to acclimatise to sounds of the wild. The dog would go into the room and sleep on the couch. So I guess the bird knew very early the dog was no threat. They nestle up to each other and Curry pulls out dog fur and swallows it to use for digestion. They chuck up casts like owls do.

Curry presents me with the wiper blades of my car, steals my lighter, lies on its back at my feet, peeping and squeaking like a chicken, flies onto my shoulder, sits inside the ute on the dashboard if I leave the window down (beware leaving bills and paperwork on dash, they get stolen or shredded).

The bird has teamed up with a magpie of last spring so they are the same age. The magpie comes when I call “Curry chicken” at the top of my voice. They eat together but Curry is jealous and chases the magpie away eventually. He won’t let me carry around my galah, which I have had 4 years and has only 1 wing. Curry flies up and grabs the galah’s tail while she is perched on my shoulder, all the while screaming.

Curry also loves teasing the bantam chooks and has them completely bluffed. All in all, an amazing character and part of my extended animal-only family.

So what to do now? I am moving back east to NSW, to a farm in the middle of the state, and plan on taking the bird with me. It has been in the ute plenty of times and has travelled to the vet’s twice in a small cage and was not worried with his doggy mate sitting right there next to him.

This is how I plan to undertake the big trip east. I feel he will die here as he does not know he is a currawong. Although he responds to the calls of the odd currawong that passes through, I have caught him chasing another juvenile, and hiding from older birds.

The magpies, and there are dozens here, have accepted him finally and he and his magpie mate fly around together and play chasies a lot. But 3 or 4 times a day he wants food from me. He finds his own slaters and earwigs, I know that, and uses his beaks to fish out bugs in the trees overhanging the house. The only neighbours have  cats and I fear he would hang around them if I left him here alone.

I’d like to know what you think. Should I transport the birds in the day or overnight? The trip will be a nightmare with the dog, bantams, galah and cockatiel all in the car too. They all know each other though, although I reckon Curry sees the cockatiel as lunch.

Since the bird came from Crafers, I guess he is a grey currawong? Are there any pied currawongs here in SA? It’s bit hard to tell from the photos on the web but he looks like the bird at the top of this site. He has a definite white patch under the tail, white tail tips and white wing tips on the longest wing feathers.
Regards,
Cath

That is an amazing story Cath. Thanks for sharing this with my readers.

You are correct in thinking it is a Grey Currawong. The Pied Currawong is only found in the extreme SE of South Australia. Animals can be quite resilient and I’m sure they will all cope with the journey. I’d be inclined to travel in the cooler hours of the day unless you have reliable airconditioning in your vehicle.¬† All the best with the trip.

Depending on where you are going to live in NSW, you may be in an area that has both Pied and Grey Currawongs.

Pied Currawong

Pied Currawong