Archive for January, 2014

A visit to the Australian Botanic Gardens part 2

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul

On my recent visit to the Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan in the south east of greater Sydney, I was immediately drawn to the wet fern gully just south of the Visitor Centre. One of my favourite birds, the Rufous Fantail, had been sighted there only a few days before. I hadn’t seen this species for over a decade, mainly because I don’t go birding in the right places, or at the right time. One can only hope.

I could hear birds all around. Most were being very noisy – but also very secretive. Some calls I was not familiar with, being from a different part of Australia. Eventually a solitary Red-whiskered Bulbul showed itself briefly. Not in ideal light conditions, nor close enough for a good photo, but long enough for several shots. The one above is the best of them. Next time, perhaps. Oh, the joys of bird photography. (You can see a better photo I took some time ago here.)

Still, I had much more luck with the flowering Eucalypt tree shown below. At least flowers tend to be in sun – and they generally stand still, though I have known a few flowers which were hard to shoot because of the wild wind.

More tomorrow.

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A visit to the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan

Superb Fairy-wren

Superb Fairy-wren

On our recent trip to visit family in Sydney we were determined to visit the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan at Campbelltown in the south eastern part of greater Sydney. In recent visits to our son it has never worked out to take a day trip to these gardens. In fact, our last – and only visit – was in April 2000. Our memories of that visit were getting very hazy, though I do remember seeing Double-barred finches there – my one and only sighting of this species.

The Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan are part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and are run by the same Trust. The gardens are 416 hectares in size and include hills, fern gullies and creeks, and lakes. One section even boasts a decent mountain bike track. About 4000 Australian plants are on display in these gardens. Unfortunately, very few were flowering at the time of our visit. We could only imagine what it would look like in the spring. (Note to self: organise a visit in spring!)

Despite the lack of flowers I was still pleased to record about 40 bird species during our stay. One of them was a shy Superb Fairy-wren shown above. He was skulking around in the undergrowth in the fern gully, just where the light was too poor for photos. His brief appearance in a lighter spot was not quite long enough for a good photo.

Below I’ve shown one of the plants in flower on show during our visit.

I will write more about the birds I saw in coming days.

Kangaroo Paw flowers

Kangaroo Paw flowers

 

Crested Pigeons nesting in our garden

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Crested Pigeon on its nest

On our return from a recent holiday in Sydney we were having lunch on the back veranda. I was watching a Crested Pigeon fussing about in a tree about twenty metres away. Next thing it settled down as if on a nest. I left my food – actually I think I was at the cuppa stage of the meal – and moved slowly and carefully towards the nest. I’d remembered to go inside to get my camera first.

Sure enough – the pigeon was sitting on a nest. Crested Pigeons are very common around Murray Bridge. At times I have counted up to 50 sitting perched on power lines, often in a row. It’s quite a spectacular sight, though it is not common to see so many at one location. Loose groups of 5 to 15 are quite common, however.

Crested Pigeons are what I call a resident breeding species, meaning, they are resident all the year and that they breed in our garden. The nest shown in today’s photos is quite a substantial nest for a pigeon. Most pigeons and doves are not fastidious or elaborate when it comes to nest building. They seem to think that a dozen or so flimsy sticks placed at random in the fork of any tree or bush will do as a home for their chicks. How the eggs don’t fall through some nests I’ve seen is amazing. Still, they seem to manage; there are a lot of them around!

My writing of this post was interrupted by the load of washing finishing, and I am the one in our household who usually does the washing. The pigeon’s nest is near the clothes line and the bird is sitting tight, even when we walk within a few metres of the nest. She must have eggs, I think. I will keep a watch on proceedings.

UPDATE: January 22nd: over the last week we have had a heatwave with five days over 42C with several over 45C (113F). This was followed by several days of wild wind which broke several branches off our trees. The nest is still there but appears to have been abandoned.

Crested Pigeon on its nest

Crested Pigeon on its nest

Apostlebirds at Taplan in the Murray Mallee

Apostlebird at Taplan, Murray Mallee, South Australia

Apostlebird at Taplan, Murray Mallee, South Australia

Over on Trevor’s Travels I have been writing about the Taplan Railway Centenary celebrations I attended in October last year. Taplan is – or should I say – was a small rural community centred around the railway line running through the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. The town hardly exists and the railway line was removed in 1995. I grew up on a wheat/sheep farm there, went to the local primary school and still have many great memories of the area. I get back there far too infrequently, despite my nephew still working the family farm.

While the ceremonies were in full swing a family of Apostlebirds came hopping around the gathered crowd, including the dignitaries. I wasn’t quick enough with my camera. After the celebrations were over, my brother insisted on taking me to visit the old farmhouse where I grew up. I am pleased I did; a small group of Apostlebirds were fussing around in the chook yard there having a drink from the chickens’ trough.

I have reported these sightings because they are significant. While this species is common to very common much further east, there are only a few populations here in South Australia. This is one of them. My brother tells me that they have always been around the old farmhouse and nearby, but my memory must be failing as I can’t remember them from my childhood. Sigh.

Happy New Year

Male King Parrot Adelaide Zoo

Male King Parrot Adelaide Zoo

Where has the time gone?

I was just getting over Christmas and then WHAM! New Year hits us and now I find that a week – a whole week – of 2014 has gone by without me wishing all my readers a Happy New Year.

Disgraceful.

Someone please slow down the clock – or add another month or two to the calendar. I need an extra few weeks/months in every year to get done the things I plan to do.

Many years ago I had a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon pinned up near my desk at work. The caption read: “God put me on Earth to achieve a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I am going to¬† live forever.” I feel that way right now – and have frequently felt it over recent years.

So with no further ado, let me wish all of my readers a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

One of the hindrances to not sharing anything new here recently has been the peaceful passing of my mother-in-law. It has meant a flurry of activity, including a rushed trip home from Sydney where I’d hoped to have been out birding a little more. Mum’s funeral was a celebration of the great things about her – not the hardships and ill health of recent years. It was also a time of gathering together family and friends to remember the good times with much laughter.

What about the birds?

Good question.

I’d better get around to telling you about the birds I’ve seen recently. One species I longed to see in my son’s garden in Artarmon was a King Parrot. Even my 5 year old grandson can identify that one because it is a frequent visitor to the garden. Sadly none made an appearance while I was playing with the children during our three week stay.

King Parrot

On a brighter note I did see about 4 Australian King Parrots during our day-long visit to Mt Annan Botanic Gardens at Campbelltown in the south of great Sydney. The light conditions were poor – very overcast – when I tried to photograph them, and the photo below is the best of a poor lot. At least you can see that it is, indeed, a male King Parrot.

The photo at the top of this page is one of my favourites and was taken in one of the walk-through aviaries at Adelaide Zoo here in South Australia.

King Parrot at Mt Annan Botanic Gardens Sydney

King Parrot at Mt Annan Botanic Gardens Sydney