Archive for June, 2011

An afternoon walk in Monarto Conservation Park

Monarto Conservation Park, South Australia

A few Saturdays ago I took my elderly mother-in-law on a short drive to Monarto Conservation Park. This park is about 20 minutes by car from our home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. The open range Monarto Zoo is just north of the park. This area is one of our favourite places to see native Australian plants.

The park preserves a large parcel of remnant mallee scrub between the lower reaches of the Murray River to the east, and the Mt Lofty Ranges to the west. The park has several mallee forms of eucalypt (eg Eucalyptus dumosa), native pines (Callitris preissii) and a variety of understory plants like correas, native orchids and a many others.

There is one established walking trail through the north eastern corner of the park starting and ending at the car park. This easy 45 minute walk takes the visitor through a range of plant habitats giving a good overview of the vegetation native to this area. When in flower in winter and spring this is a delightful walk with much to interest keen botanists.

In my experience of many visits to this park over the last three decades the birding can be fickle, largely dependent on what is flowering. Many of our honeyeater species, for example, are highly nomadic, moving quickly to areas of abundant food sources. On this recent visit the birding was rather poor.

The following list is a poor representation of the bird life present in this area:

  • Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike: 5 seen, an unusually high number together
  • Grey Currawong: several heard and one seen
  • New Holland Honeyeater: often present in large numbers, perhaps only 4 or 5 seen this time.
  • Red Wattlebird: one seen and several more heard calling
  • Little Raven: heard calling from adjacent farmland
  • Welcome Swallow: several seen swooping low over the treetops
  • Adelaide Rosella: two disturbed from a tree as we walked along the path
  • Australian Magpie: many seen in nearby farmland
  • Weebill: a small flock heard nearby

As we were driving home via a different route we had fabulous views of two Wedge-tailed Eagles gliding low over the scrub in front of us. Nice end to a slow birding day.

This article was updated in July 2015.

Monarto Conservation Park, South Australia

Monarto Conservation Park, South Australia

A cold, almost non-birding experience

White-throated Treecreeper, Hale Conservation Park

On the last leg of our recent holiday to Yorke Peninsula we stopped briefly at the Hale Conservation Park between Williamstown and Mt Pleasant in the Adelaide Hills. It was late afternoon, cloudy, occasional showers and bitterly cold. We stopped for a quick snack and a cup of tea – to warm us up.

As we pulled up and emerged from the car, the surrounding bushland was quiet – too quiet. I not only couldn’t see any birds, there seemed to be a total silence from the resident bird life. I’ve only ever experienced this on one of two occasions before. I’ve found that almost anywhere one stops on rural roads in Australia, there will be at least some birds to be seen and/or heard. One one memorable occasion some years ago when I was gathering data for the Atlas of Australian Birds I had to submit a blank sheet; no birds in a 20 minute period. Mind you, it rained heavily during the period concerned so I was pushing the limits.

After a few frustrating – and cold – minutes waiting for something to call or appear, a small group of White-throated Treecreepers came into the car park and starting searching the bark on surrounding trees in their normal behaviour. Treecreepers and Sittellas always fascinate me with their ability to hop up and down and even underneath the trunks and branches of trees. Why don’t they sometimes fall off??

I had my camera ready, but the poor light conditions so late on a cloudy day meant I was pushing the limits trying to get photos. I would like to have used the flash, but they were too far away for that. The photos are not brilliant; they are the best I could achieve in the conditions.

White-throated Treecreeper, Hale Conservation Park

White-throated Treecreeper, Hale Conservation Park

Birding Port Clinton Conservation Park, Yorke Peninsula

Little Egret, Pt Clinton Conservation Park

On our way home from our recent holiday on Yorke Peninsula we stopped for a lunch break at Port Clinton Conservation Park, just north of Ardrossan.This conservation park stretches along the eastern part of the peninsula, between the main road south and the waterline.

The wind was still cold and we were experiencing occasional showers. Once again we decided to eat our picnic lunch in the car. This was followed by a warming cup of tea. As we sat there, windscreen wipers activated every minute or so, I did a bird list of species present, either on the tidal mudflats, in the nearby mangrove trees or in the bushland nearby.

Many of the birds I saw appeared to be resting in a position where they minimised the wind. Very few of the water birds were actually flying or swimming. Once again the list of species is not great, but you have days like that. Pity, though, I’d had 4 days in a row like that!

  • Little Egret
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Pied Cormorant
  • Crested Tern
  • Caspian Tern
  • Red-capped Plover
  • Silver Gull
  • Pacific Gull
  • Nankeen Kestrel
  • Tree Martin
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Welcome Swallow
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Little Raven
  • Common Starling

Little Pied Cormorants, Silver Gulls, Pt Clinton Conservation Park

Mangroves and tidal flats, Pt Clinton Conservation Park

Review: A field guide to the birds of Colombia

Colombia in South America is every birder’s dream destination. With well over 1800 species – more than any other country – its vast range of wonderful species is an attraction many find irresistible. With the relative stabilisation politically in the last few years, many birders are making this a “must visit” country. I wish I could join them. Maybe one day.

I bought a copy as a gift for a family member with close ties to Colombia. Before giving the guide as a present I must admit I spent quite a few hours browsing – and dreaming. Would I one day be able to afford to travel there and see some of the colourful birds covered by this guide?

Colombia has been without a modern field guide for some decades. This volume fills the void admirably, covering every species ever recorded there. The authors note, however, that the forthcoming Spanish edition may well have a few additions to this, the English version. Species are being added every year as new knowledge of the nation’s natural environment emerges.

The authors have done an amazing job covering every bird species in a country so rich in bird life. This guide, despite covering every species, is lightweight, compact, thin and would travel easily in a backpack – or a large pocket. It is arranged in an easy to use manner with every species illustrated, many with both male and female plumage as well as some juvenile plumages. Where helpful to identification, species are shown in flight. That’s no mean feat with over 1800 species in only 225 smallish pages!

They have achieved this compactness by keeping the illustrations small; most are 3 – 4 cm and are to scale compared with others on the same page. Most pages cover 6 – 8 species on average. In addition to the illustrations, the information is very succinct and basic:

  • Common English name,
  • Taxonomic name,
  • Size from head to tail (centimetres and inches)
  • A short one or two sentence description of its preferred habitat and diagnostic behaviours.
  • A tiny map of known distribution appears in each species’ box, including an altitudinal indicator which is especially helpful in the mountainous regions.
  • Some species descriptions also cover a brief indicator of the song or call.

All that in only 225 pages. Amazing.

I’d recommend this book just for the fun of looking at all the beautiful birds even if you are not planning a trip to Colombia. Warning: looking at this book may have you busily planning your next birding trip – to Colombia.

Authors: Miles McMullan, Thomas D. Donegan, Alonso Quevedo
Title: Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia.
Publication: 2010 by ProAves in Bogota, Colombia.

Birding at Coobowie, Yorke Peninsula

On our short holiday on the Yorke Peninsula a few weeks ago we left Edithburgh mid-morning on the last day of our four day visit. We travelled the short distance to Coobowie, another popular holiday destination on the southern end of the peninsula, especially in the summer months. We found a suitable parking spot overlooking the bay and had a cuppa and a few nibbles.

The wind was still very chilly and so we stayed in the car. Birding from inside a car has its disadvantages, but it was far too cold out. This part of the coast can produce a good variety of birds, especially out in the bay at low tide. On previous visits I’ve timed my birding to coincide with low tide. The exposed sandbars can reveal a good variety of shorebirds, especially when all the summer migrants are in town.

No such luck today.

The tide was high, the strong wind pushing the water even higher. Few wading birds were visible and so I had to look to the bush birds in the roadside vegetation and in the paddocks to bolster my list:

  • Silver Gull
  • Pacific Gull
  • White-faced Heron
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Pied Oystercatcher
  • Australian Shelduck
  • Red-rumped Parrot
  • Australian Magpie
  • Magpie Lark
  • Little Raven
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Red Wattlebird
  • New Holland Honeyeater
  • House Sparrow
  • Common Starling

Not a huge list but satisfying considering the poor weather conditions.

Silver Gulls