Archive for June, 2010

Road Trip: Ouyen to Narrandera

Pied Butcherbird

Pied Butcherbird

Sydney Trip May 2010

On our recent road trip to Sydney to visit family we were very pressed for time on the journey over. Murray Bridge to Sydney is nearly 1400 km and can be achieved in two days of constant driving. My wife and I like to take journeys like this at a leisurely pace, enjoying the towns, national parks and interesting road side vegetation areas. This time we were on a tight schedule so there wasn’t much time for birding, nor photography.

So I had to be content to make lists of birds seen “on the run” as we drove along.

After stopping at Ouyen for lunch on our first day we continued east through Manangatang, Piangil and crossed the River Murray at Tooleybuc. From there we went on towards Balranald where we stopped briefly to refuel. About an hour later we stopped for a toilet break at the Ravensworth Rest Area, then on through Hay to Narrandera where we stayed in a motel for the night.

It was a rushed day but I still managed some interesting bird observations, listed below.

Black-shouldered Kites: these appeared to be in abundance along this stretch of road. I’d heard that some areas were experiencing a mouse plague, along with many locusts. Though we saw few of either of these pests, it could account for so many kites.

Nankeen Kestrels: these were also in abundance along this road.

Black Kites: only a few seen, though I can’t recall seeing them in this area on previous trips.

Wedge-tailed Eagles: only two seen during the whole day, though I’d expect to see more.

Australian Magpies: very common all along this route. It this area it is the Black-backed Magpie subspecies you see.

Australian Ravens: very common everywhere.

Pied Butcherbird: a saw several of these during the afternoon, either sitting in a tree on the side of the road, or flying over the road. (The photo above was taken on a different trip in this area.)

Parrots: small flocks of Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were seen where there was suitable habitat. Major highlight was a small flock of Blue Bonnets. A major disappointment was not seeing any Major Mitchell Cockatoos.

Other species: most of these were seen in large numbers and are quite common where suitable habitat exists:

  • various honeyeaters, with plenty of Noisy Miners
  • Yellow-rumped Thornbills
  • White-winged Choughs – very common
  • Crested Pigeons – very common
Wedge-tailed Eagle

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Review: Field Guide to the Birds of Australia 8th edition

Field Guide to the birds of Australia 8th edition

Field Guide to the birds of Australia 8th edition

Everyone interested in birds needs at least one field guide to help with the identification of the birds being seen.

I have several. Ten, in fact. Six of them are Australian field guides, plus I have one covering the birds of South East Asia, one of the Indian sub-continent and two for the British Isles and Europe.

Now I have another one! This field guide is being published TODAY.

Field Guide to the birds of Australia 8th edition

by Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day

(with Peter Trusler)

Ease of use

Many years ago I was given the first edition of this very popular field guide. It has remained largely on my bookshelf in my office, referred to from time to time but never taken out into the field. This was because of its bulky size and being in hardback couldn’t really be called a “field guide” as it was too big to carry around. Recent editions have been far more portable, and this new edition is excellent: convenient size, portable, and at 826 grams just the right weight.


There are many fine features in this edition. There are so many I can only highlight those I think are worth mentioning.

Colour plates:

There are 132 full page colour plates throughout which illustrate every bird found in Australia. The publisher’s use of the word “comprehensive” on the cover is no idle boast. Each colour plate shows about five or six different species, most shown in typical poses to help identification. Birds most often seen in flight, such as eagles and sea birds like terns, are also shown in flight. The colour rendition of each species appears very good in most cases, especially those I am very familiar with. One page I’d take exception to is the plate showing White-eyes and Silvereyes, as the birds I’ve seen in this group have far more vibrant colours. The ‘red’ robins suffer the same fate, along with some of the fairy-wrens. On the other hand, the rendition of the cuckoos, parrots doves and pigeons are very colourful and well done. The birds of prey (owls, hawks, eagles and kites) are brilliant.

Text pages:

Opposite each colour plate where the birds are illustrated is the text page. Each species has a short description of the bird, including sexual and race variations. The text also includes details of size, juvenile plumage, voice and preferred habitats. Breeding information is included in a separate section. The text is the part of this guide of which I am most critical. For my needs it is too short, too concise. In many cases I will need to go elsewhere in my library to find the information I need. For the casual bird watcher it is quite adequate. I concede that to expand this section to please me would probably add 20-30% more pages to the volume making it less portable in the field. The authors must have had some tough decisions to make along the way.

Next to the text they have included some 900 black and white sketches showing identification features hard to include in the text. This is an excellent feature. The text section is complete with a small map showing normal breeding and non-breeding distribution. Another excellent feature of the maps is to delineate the range of each race of the species, along with extra notes on some species where deemed necessary.

Breeding information:

A separate section details comprehensive breeding information. This includes a brief description of the nest, number and colour of eggs, incubation periods and what the hatchlings look like. It includes fledging periods and some notes about the care of the young until independence. Each species also has a bar graph showing typical breeding seasons.

Vagrant Species:

Special note must be made about the 21 pages of vagrant species included at the end of the colour plates. These pages show sightings of species not normally present in Australia (ie vagrants) but which have been officially accepted on to the Australian list of birds. Some have only been seen the once, others on only a handful of occasions.

Other features: these are too many to review here. All I can do is add a list:

  • A water resistant cover – useful on wet days in the field.
  • Help for beginners on how to observe a bird.
  • Where birds live – a useful, informative section on variations in habitats.
  • Australian island territories checklists
  • Hints for birdwatchers
  • An extensive glossary of  words used by birders.
  • A list of bird-watching organisations.
  • Core library – an extensive list of publications the authors suggest for keen birders to build up their own reference library.


We are so blessed here in Australia with so many excellent birding field guides. Each has strengths and weaknesses, so the choice of which to buy becomes an agonising one. I have no hesitation in recommending this new edition because of the comprehensive coverage of Australian birds in a compact, easy to use volume. An truly incredible amount of information has been packed into its 381 pages. The publisher claims to have sold over 500,000 copies in earlier editions. This new, completely revised 8th edition will continue that trend and sell many more copies in the future.

While I would like more information in the text this is just a personal need; not everyone needs the detail I require. For the vast majority of people with a passing interest in our birds, this is an ideal guide to have on the bookshelf or in the car or rucksack when travelling. At a RRP of $39.95 it is also very affordable.

Disclosure: The publicist of Penguin Books Australia kindly sent me a review copy a few weeks ago. Thanks Leisel.


A page from the field guide

A page from the field guide

Some birds seen in Ouyen, NW Victoria

Peaceful Dove, Cleland Wildlife Park

Peaceful Dove, Cleland Wildlife Park

Road trip to Sydney, May 2010

On the first day of our recent trip to Sydney we reached Ouyen in north-west Victoria in time for lunch. We found a park near the main street and as my wife prepared some rolls for lunch I wandered over the road to buy some treats from the local bakery. It’s an indulgence of ours. Country bakeries in Australia are usually very good, and this one was no disappointment.

While having lunch I tried to make a list of the birds heard and seen. We were a little distracted by the mice (House Mouse) wandering around the shelter shed in the picnic area. They seemed oblivious to our presence less than a metre away. I guess they thrived on the bits of food dropped y happy tourists like ourselves. We were only there for about twenty minutes, and seeing there was little time for an intensive bird search, my list is rather small. The highlight would have to be several Peaceful Doves in the bushes nearby.

Species seen:

Click on the names to go to other articles about each species.

There were no Galahs at Galah

Galahs at nesting hollow

Galahs at nesting hollow

Sydney Road Trip May 2010

Earlier this year we travelled to Sydney to visit family. Along the way I naturally looked for birds as we travelled along. Because we were on a tight time schedule I wasn’t able to do much birding, nor was I able to get many photos.

From home in Murray Bridge we travelled east through Lameroo, Pinnaroo and then over the border into north-west Victoria, heading for Ouyen where we stopped for lunch. Just west of Ouyen there is a locality called Galah. I don’t know the history of this “town”, or even if there ever was a town there.  All you can see today is about 2 farm houses, some mallee scrub and a tall wheat silo for the surrounding farms. The railway line runs past the silo.

Interestingly, on many trips along this road, I cannot ever remember seeing any Galahs in the locality called Galah. I’m sure there are some around; I’ve just never seen any there.  Just so you don’t feel left out, I’ve included a photo of two Galahs I took some time ago. These two were cleaning out a tree hollow ready for nesting – in my garden. Perhaps I should rename my garden “Galah”.

Happy birding


This article last updated in August 2015.

Australasian Grebe, Lake Roberts, Lameroo

Australasian Grebe, Lameroo, South Australia

Australasian Grebe, Lameroo, South Australia

Road trip to Sydney, May 2010

On the first morning of our recent road trip to Sydney we stopped at Lameroo near the eastern border of South Australia, just over an hour’s travel from our home in Murray Bridge. We briefly stopped for morning tea and to change drivers. Our favourite stopping point in this delightful country town is at Lake Roberts on the eastern edge of town. This is an artificial lake and is next to the golf course. The picnic grounds also incorporate a small caravan park.

Over a number of visits here in recent years I have recorded some interesting bird sightings. One can usually record several of the mallee species, such as various honeyeaters. The lake usually contains a reasonable level of water and this attracts a range of water-birds too.  On this occasion there was a solitary Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage (photo above).

This species of grebe can be found throughout Australia, including Tasmania, wherever there are suitable conditions. They can be found on small farm dams, small lakes and ponds, larger bodies of fresh water such as wetlands and sometimes on larger reservoirs and rivers. Although this individual was in breeding plumage, I didn’t have the time to investigate if there was a nest nearby. If there was, it was probably located in the reeds at the southern end of the lake.

Lake Roberts, Lameroo, South Australia

Lake Roberts, Lameroo, South Australia

Species list (each bird listed is linked to another article for further reading):