Archive for August, 2011

A short stay in Narrandera, New South Wales

Lake Talbot Tourist Park, Narrandera, NSW

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

On our trip to Sydney earlier this year we stopped for the night at the Lake Talbot Tourist Park on the edge of Narrandera in the mid west of New South Wales. It’s a lovely town with beautiful country all around, the kind that makes you decide to make a return visit some day. We had a cabin booked for the night and this was very comfortable and we had a good night’s sleep. I’d recommend this park to any visitors.

Next morning I took out a few minutes to get some photos of the park and the lake. I could hear plenty of birds calling and saw a few in the park but didn’t have time to take any photos of them. Instead, I’ll just list the birds heard or seen as I packed the car.

  • Galah
  • Australian Raven
  • Common Blackbird
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  • Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
  • Weebill
  • Australian Magpie
  • Noisy Miner
  • Laughing Kookaburra
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Black Swan
  • Grey Fantail
  • White-winged Chough
  • Magpie Lark

This area is obviously very good for birding and I’d like to explore the region in more depth someday. When we paid for our stay, the park office had several brochures available about birding places in the district. These pamphlets listed about 6 or 7 good birding spots near the town plus a little further off. It’s good to see that birders are being catered for in this way. It’s certainly a good birding are because this part of the state is a transition zone between birds of the highlands to the east and the much drier plains to the west.

Someday I’ll spend a week or so there.

Good birding.

Lake Talbot, Narrandera, NSW

Lake Talbot, Narrandera, NSW

Australasian Pipit, Hay Plains, New South Wales

Hay Plains, western New South Wales

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

When we travel to Sydney to stay with family we usually have to drive over the Hay Plains. This very flat region is in western New South Wales. I guess most people find this drive boring and try to complete this leg of the journey as quickly as speed limits allow. The road is very good and you can maintain 110kph for several hours without having to slow down – unless you get behind a slow moving car towing a caravan.

My wife and I don’t find this drive at all boring. In fact I look forward to it. The region has very few trees; the photo above is a typical view. Trees are usually only found around the few farmhouses and along water courses. The Murrumbidgee River to the north and the Murray River to the south are some distance from the highway, so trees are few.

Despite this limitation, the birding is often wonderfully good, especially as far as raptors are concerned. On our most recent crossing of the plains earlier this year I recorded the following birds of prey:

  • Wedge-tailed Eagle (two only)
  • Nankeen Kestrel (common)
  • Black-shouldered Kite (common)
  • Black Kite (common)
  • Little Eagle (one only)

Other species seen include:

  • Australian Raven (common)
  • Australian Magpie (common)
  • Australian Magpie Lark (common)

Probably the most outstanding sighting was of the Australasian Pipit (see photo below). I’ve never seen so many in one day before. I’m used to seeing the odd one or two on the road or on the roadside verges. I didn’t do a count but there must have been several hundred present over about a 50km stretch of road. All of them were on the road, not the edges, and would only just fly out of the way of approaching vehicles.

Interesting behaviour; I’m guessing that they were feeding on road kill. This area is rich in insect life and fast moving vehicles account for many insect deaths. This area had recently experienced a locust plague with some remnants of that time still around. It must have been a veritable smorgasbord for them.

By way of contrast, on our return trip over the same route two weeks later, I didn’t see any pipits at all.


Australasian Pipit, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

There were no galahs at Galah

Galah, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

When we take the most direct route from home in Murray Bridge to Sydney, we travel through a small locality known as Galah. There is no town there; only a few farm houses, a railway siding and a grain silo. I suspect it was originally called Galah because the parrot is common in the area.

There is a certain irony then in the fact that in all our drives through this area I have never seen a galah flying or perching in a tree or feeding on the grass. Mind you, one can maintain a speed of 100kph through the locality and that only gives me a minute of two to observe any birds that are present.

On this trip I only recorded 3 species:

  • Nankeen Kestrel
  • Little Raven
  • Crested Pigeon

I’m sure if you spent an hour or two scouring the trees and farmland that list would grow considerably, but on most occasions we are on a tight schedule so we can either spend time with family in Sydney, or we are tired on our return and want to get home.

Spring is on the way – and so are the cuckoos

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo

Earlier this week I was sitting on our back veranda doing some reading – and enjoying the lovely sunshine. After many weeks of gloomy, drizzling weather it was wonderful to soak up some warmth.

My reading was suddenly interrupted by the distinctive call of a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo. I looked up and saw this bird perched near the top of a nearby mallee tree. (The branches are dead because they have been ring-barked and subsequently killed by two Galahs chewing the bark.)

I raced inside for the camera and managed a few reasonable photos before it flew off, probably looking for an unsuspecting host to care for its eggs and young. Like most cuckoos in Australia (and elsewhere), this species is parasitic, meaning that they lay their eggs in the nests of other species. Around our garden this probably means the nest of a thornbill.

The unsuspecting host pair hatch the cuckoo’s egg and then feed the young cuckoo. The young cuckoo will even tip the other young birds out of the nest – and thus get all of the food.

Since hearing this bird I’ve heard others in the district, so the spring/summer breeding season is definitely on the way.

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Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo

A bush picnic – but few birds

Bushland nature trail near Walpeup, NW Victoria

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

On the first day of our trip to Sydney earlier this year we stopped for a picnic lunch at a roadside picnic area near the small township of Walpeup. This farming community is between Ouyen in NW Victoria and the South Australian border. This picnic area came with a short nature trail through the native scrub next to the road. Some of the plants were of particular interest to my wife who is an avid grower of Australian native plants.

Despite the day being quite sunny, the weather was most unpleasant. A stiff breeze blew from the south bringing bitterly cold air all the way from the Antarctic – or that’s what it felt like. The birding was very poor and I only heard a handful of individual birds calling. I didn’t actually see anything.

The following is a very short list of birds heard over the 20 minute period we were there:

  • Singing Honeyeater
  • White-browed Babbler
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Little Raven

Oh well – you get days like that.

Good birding – and I hope you get a better list than that!