After nearly three weeks visiting family in Sydney and playing with our delightful grandchildren, we are on our way home again. We have reached Narrandera in the Riverina region of New South Wales. This is one of our regular stops on our way to and from Sydney.
We treated ourselves to a wonderful meal for dinner at the Hing Wah Chinese Restaurant in the main street. The food was delicious and the service excellent. I highly recommend this eatery. On our way back to our cabin in the caravan park we nearly hit an owl as it crossed the road in front of our car.
I am not sure what species it was but from its colour – mostly brown – and size it was possibly a Tawny Frogmouth or a Boobook Owl. It certainly did not have the lighter colours of a Barn Owl, and it was too big to be an Owlet Nightjar. It made a good ending to a rather poor birding journey today. Between Sydney and here we saw very few birds, except for a half hour stop for afternoon tea at the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens.
UPDATE: at 5:30am the next morning I heard the call of a Southern Boobook Owl just outside our cabin in the caravan park where we were staying for the night. It was good to have my initial identification confirmed.
As I start this update post, I regret to say that I do not have any photos to share. The reason is simple. This article resulted from an experience I had last week while playing cricket with my six and half year old grandson. We were in his backyard here in Artarmon, north Sydney, where we are visiting at present. We were really into our game when our attention was drawn to the sound of many alarmed birds near the garden, in the street and in nearby properties. I did not have time to race inside and collect my camera.
First it was the alarm calls made by at least a dozen or more Noisy Miners. They were really upset about something but we couldn’t tell what it was. Naturally we stopped playing our game and started looking around, trying to determine the cause of their distress. My grandson, despite his youthfulness, is often aware of the birds wherever he goes. My intense interest has rubbed off on him and his father.
Next thing the local Pied Currawongs joined in the chorus, along with four or five Australian Ravens. A few seconds later three Laughing Kookaburras joined in the loud calling, along with several local Australian Magpies going stir crazy as well. The local Rainbow Lorikeets, always here in large numbers and always very noisy, set off flying in all directions, calling madly. Three Crested Pigeons skedaddled off over the roof to an unknown destination while the Noisy Miners kept up their protestations.
Meanwhile, the enormous racket unsettled both the Grey Butcherbirds and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, their raucous calls just adding to the general confusion. The only birds not upset were the softly twittering Welcome Swallows soaring over head. Or perhaps their twitters were in response to the noise below.
My grandson and I never discovered the reason for the commotion. We saw no evidence of a bird of prey, or an owl, or whatever had disturbed the locals. It generated quite a discussion with him about the possible causes.
We will never know. We can only speculate.
One of my favourite Australian birds has to be the Peaceful Dove, shown in today’s photos. I meant to show these shots a few weeks ago when I took then, but somehow life got in the way. The photos shown today are of a solitary bird in our garden one morning. It looked like it was going to visit the nearby bird bath. Instead, it found a sunny spot to settle down for at least ten minutes – enough time for me to go to the other end of the house to collect my camera.
The Peaceful Dove is one of my favourite birds because they are quiet, gentle looking birds which come regularly into our garden. We frequently hear them calling their soft ‘toodle-doo” call, and they make no fuss at all as they flutter from tree to tree. The markings on their plumage shows delightful patterns and soft, pastel colours. Today’s photos show the colours well, lit up by the early morning sunshine.
As an extra comment on this species, I didn’t fully appreciate the beautiful blue skin around the eyes and beak. This shows up really well in today’s shots.
Over recent years we have often visited family in Sydney, a two day drive from home. Whenever we have the chance we visit local bushland, parks and botanic gardens. Today was one such opportunity. For nearly two hours this afternoon my wife and I visited the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens in St Ives. My wife is interested in Australian native plants and areas featuring our native plants also attract a wide range of our native birds as well.
Over the years I have had mixed results birding at these gardens. On some occasions the birdlife is so prolific I have trouble keeping up with identifying what I am seeing, writing down a list of birds seen, and photographing birds as they come into camera range. On other occasions the birdlife seems almost non-existent.
During the eating of our picnic lunch I heard only 4 individual birds: Australian Raven, Noisy Miner, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and a Red Wattlebird. I actually only saw the last two in that list. It was not a good start. Little did I know how our time in the gardens would end.
After lunch we went on one of the walks through the natural bushland near where we had lunch. This walk has proved quite productive birding on a few occasions. During the walk we saw a few native plants in flower and this sustained our interest. I’ve shown several of these flowers on this post.
Other bird species encountered include an immature Grey Butcherbird, several Silvereyes, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and a Little Wattlebird. I think I saw a small flock of Red-browed Firetails fly across the road as we left, but they flew too quickly for a positive identification.
Just moments before we were about to leave, however, I had one of those wonderful experiences I have called Great Birding Moments on this site. I saw a male Scarlet Honeyeater – for the very first time in my life! A “lifer”! This has been one species I have wanted to see for a long time but it has eluded me so far. What is more, I managed several very poor photos. I hesitate to show one here because it is not up the standard I like to show here, so please forgive me. I will try to get a better one someday soon.
I should add that this photo was taken in poor light – it was very overcast – against dark clouds and at full zoom on my camera at a distance of about 40 metres. And the bird was sitting at the top of a 20 metre tree. So, all things considered, I was really pushing the limitations of my camera. The image is slightly cropped as well.
Last week I had a medical procedure in a hospital in North Adelaide. The procedure – an endoscopy and a colonoscopy – went well and nothing nasty was found, though the lead up to it was challenging. Being on a fast for 25 hours was testing, as was the mixture one has to take to purge one’s alimentary canal, but I survived to tell the tale.
On my way to the hospital we had to pass Elder Park on the banks of the Torrens River immediately to the north of the CBD. This wide expanse of lawned area was being occupied by hundreds of Australian Wood Ducks, all grazing on the grass. I was driving so I was not able to get an accurate estimate of the numbers, but it seemed to be at least 200 or more.
And I didn’t have my camera either, so here is a photo of a family of Australian Wood Ducks taken at the Mt Annan Botanic Gardens in Sydney.