Archive for June, 2011

Birds of the Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Eucalyptus erythrocorys (red-capped gum), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

We’ve visited Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia a number of times over the years. We used to go regularly when my brother-in-law lived there. On our recent visit we were pleased to revisit some of our favourite spots. One of these was the Edithburgh Nature Reserve, just across the road where we used to stay just two minutes’ walk from the main street.

This large park near the main shopping street of this coastal town is a wonderful asset to the community and is maintained by local people, though on this visit we noticed that there has been some recent neglect. It is in need of some tidying up and the list of plant species at the entrance has been badly vandalised since our last visit.

On the last day of our recent short holiday in the region we packed up and then spent about an hour in this park. The showers of the previous two days had gone, the sun was shining but the southerly wind was still bitterly cold. I’ve spent some hours birding in this park over the years, usually with some interesting species. I didn’t have high hopes on this occasion, being the start of winter and quite cold.

Grey Shrike-thrush, Edithburgh Nature Reserve

The Grey Shrike-thrush shown above caused some puzzlement at first. I heard it off in the distance and tracked it down. It’s call was distinctly different from the birds I’m familiar with at home. The bird took pity on me and responded to my imitations and came quite close, posing several times for a photo.

Over the next hour I steadily added to a small list of species seen in or near the park. Welcome Swallows swooped low over head and New Holland Honeyeaters flitted from bush to tree and back again, never sitting still enough for photos. Silvereyes flew overhead and I heard several Weebills calling nearby. Several Australian Magpies searched on the ground for a snack while a small flock of Galahs flew quickly overhead. A group of Crested Pigeons rested on the power lines while the Rock Doves settled on the roof of an old church over the road.

Red Wattlebirds gave their harsh calls and chased away the lone Singing Honeyeater trying to feed on the nectar of flowering trees. A Nankeen Kestrel glided overhead, causing alarm calls from the smaller bush birds. I heard a Common Blackbird give its startled alarm call from a nearby garden and Magpie Larks checked out the roadside puddles left by rain showers.

It’s not a big list, but it was an enjoyable hour of birding enhanced by getting several good flower shots. Oh, I nearly forgot the Willie Wagtail which refused to pose facing me.

Willie Wagtail, Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Calothamnus quadrifidus (one-sided bottlebrush), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Eucalyptus erythrocorys (red-capped gum), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Some Blue Bonnets and a Pipit

On the third day of our recent holiday on Yorke Peninsula we drove along the south coast, stopping in various places to look at plants, birds and the general coastal scenery. As the afternoon progressed we visited the small village of Port Moorowie, a collection of nearly a hundred holiday homes and shacks. As far as I could tell there we no shops or other services there but it was still quite a delightful place to spend some time, especially during the summer months.

But not the day we visited. The wild gale force wind from the south west still made it most unpleasant to get out of the car, so we didn’t venture out on this occasion. Add to that the intermittent icy showers and you get a picture of how unpleasant the weather can be. All day the birding had been minimal; most species kept a very low profile.

A few hundred metres after leaving the beach settlement I saw a flock of about 20 parrots fly across in front of the car. I stopped, watching them closely. Several landed about 70 – 80 metres away. The binoculars revealed that they were Blue Bonnets, one of Australia’s colourful smaller parrots. Two landed in a good position for a photo, but unfortunately were too far away for a reasonable shot, even with my good zoom lens. If it hadn’t been raining at the time I might have managed a reasonable photo. I haven’t yet managed a reasonable photo of this species so I can’t show one. Those I took on the day are of such poor quality I don’t want to show them here.

A few hundred metres on I also saw a Richard’s Pipit on the road. It flew off and landed on a farm fence post. Again I was unsuccessful in getting a good photo. You have days like that. I guess if I hadn’t been on a tight time schedule I could have employed a little more patience and just waited for one to land close by, in bright sunshine and posed just right.

Don’t mess with this currawong

Grey Currawong in our garden

Five years ago we would occasionally hear Grey Currawongs in the distance. They rarely ventured down the hill and into our garden. Over the intervening period, however, their visits to our garden and mallee scrub have become more and more frequent to the point where we both see and hear them almost daily.

Along with this change has come a growing boldness. On several occasions they have visited the bird bath and have visited our back veranda. The bird featured in today’s photo had been wandering around on the veranda and flew off to a nearby fence when I came out to take a photo.

When I downloaded the photo I suddenly became aware of the evil looking yellow eye. Is it sending a message: “Don’t mess with me!”

Nankeen Kestrel, Corny Point

Nankeen Kestrel, Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula

One of the most common birds of prey seen while driving in rural Australia is the small kite known as the Nankeen Kestrel. In fact, on a recent trip driving from home in South Australia to Sydney, a distance of just over 1300km, I saw more of this species than any other bird of prey. Although I didn’t keep a count, I seemed to see one every few kilometres.

Despite it being so common I have been frustrated in not being able to get a good photo of this species. I’m still frustrated; the photos on this post are far from perfect because they were taken in poor light late in the day and during fine drizzle which accounts for the haziness, but they are better than no photos at all. I’ll just have to keep trying.

The Nankeen Kestrel is widespread in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and occasionally in New Zealand. It is very easy to identify with the diagnostic brown colouring on its back. It is also very easy to see driving along because of its habit of hovering on the air watching for its prey, perhaps a grasshopper, beetle, small lizard or even a mouse.

The individual shown in these photos posed nicely for on a roadside fence post during a shower of rain just as we were leaving the Corny Point Lighthouse on Yorke Peninsula. He appeared to be quite wet and cold from the terrible weather conditions of the day.

Nankeen Kestrel, Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula


Birding at Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula

Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula

We reached Corny Point on the Yorke Peninsula late on the third day of our holiday. The conditions continued to be wild: gale force wind, freezing cold and light showers skimming across the water. Not at all good for birding!

I parked near the lighthouse as shown in the photo above. The passenger side door was facing the full force of the wind and my wife could hardly open her door! Eventually, with a great effort, she did manage to emerge. Standing erect in the gale was another matter, and holding the camera steady yet another challenge.

It was a very disappointing from a birding point of view; I saw only 5 species:

  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Australian Magpie
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Crested Tern
  • Nankeen Kestrel

The kestrel was the only one I managed to photograph – but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see that. Meanwhile, a few photos to show the wild conditions.

Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula

Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula

Corny Point, Yorke Peninsula