Apostlebirds at Lake Cullulleraine
On my way to Sydney to visit family earlier this month, I stopped to have lunch by Lake Cullulleraine in the north-western part of Victoria. This lake is a picturesque spot about a half-hour drive west of Mildura. Many years ago, my wife and I had a wonderful week staying at the nearby caravan park. on this occasion, however, I only had about twenty minutes before heading off.
As I ate my lunch I could see and hear a small family of Apostlebirds feeding on the lawn about 50 metres away. They gradually worked their way along the edge of the lawn towards where I had parked the car. This was only a small family group of five individuals. I am used to seeing much larger groups of 10, 12 or even more.
As I packed up my lunch box and finished my cup of tea, the small group worked along the dirt track towards my car. I didn’t even have to use the zoom lens on my camera to get a series of close-up photos. They were quite content to come right up close to where I was standing. This is quite typical behaviour of this species. Whenever they are present in parks, gardens, caravan parks, picnic grounds and so forth, they become accustomed to people and will approach to within a metre or two. I have even had them jump up onto a picnic table while trying to eat my dinner. On that occasion, one bird came close to snatching my food. They certainly can be cheeky.
While some people might look down on this species as not being very colourful – they certainly are drab looking – they make up for it with their quirky and endearing behaviours. Except when they try to snatch your food.
A new bird for my life list
I saw a new bird for my Life List yesterday.
A Life List is a list of all the birds a birder has seen. A “lifer” is a bird species seen for the very first time. It is easy to add lifers when travelling in a country for the first time. It is much harder to get one in your home country. It has been several years since I added another bird to my life list. I guess I need to get out more, especially in parts of Australia I haven’t been to yet. Say, ALL of Queensland and ALL of the Northern Territory and ALL of Tasmania.
Lane Cove National Park, Sydney
I spent a few hours yesterday in one of my favourite birding spots, Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. This delightful park has many well-kept picnic areas with toilets and barbecue facilities. It is also very accessible, being about ten minutes west of Chatswood and about 20 minutes drive from the Sydney Harbour Bridge (depending on traffic conditions.). I am fortunate that this park is so accessible from my son’s home in Artarmon. It is easy to see why this has become a favourite birding spot for me.
The bird in question, as shown in today’s photos, is the Rose Robin. It is a delightful bird with soft rose-coloured breast feathers. Until I saw it, I didn’t fully appreciate its delicate colouring. The females and juveniles lack the bright colours of the males, though some females may have a faint wash of pink. The birds feed on insects.
The Rose Robin has a widespread distribution, from south-east Queensland, through the eastern ranges of New South Wales, throughout southern Victoria and occasionally into South Australia.
You can read more about the Rose Robin on the Birds in Backyards site here.
Turkeys in the Garden
I am currently in Sydney visiting family. When we speak on the phone, my grandchildren often tell me that they have just seen several Australian Brushturkeys in their garden. They live in Artarmon and they know, however, that I like to know what birds they are seeing. I guess that this is quite a common, unremarkable event for many Sydney residents. For me, however, it is quite an unusual event. I live near Adelaide in South Australia and I never get turkeys visiting my garden. On the other hand, having a kangaroo or two in my garden is not unusual.
Several days ago I was able to see the three visiting turkeys in the back yard. I quietly crept outside with camera in hand and managed a few good shots, some of which I have shown here today. They were quite unconcerned about my presence some ten metres away clicking on my camera.
In that particular part of the garden, there are several large bushes which constantly drop their leaves. There is quite a thick layer of leaf litter underneath the bushes, and the turkeys really enjoy scratching around looking for beetles and other tasty morsels.
While taking the photos I observed one of the birds checking out my grandson’s toy cement truck (see photo above). I am not sure what it thought of the toy but it must not have considered it to be potential food. I never saw it peck at the toy or any other toys lying nearby.
On visits to Sydney, I have frequently seen Australian Brushturkeys. I have often visited the nearby Lane Cove National Park and I have seen the turkeys there strutting around looking for some handouts from picnickers, dropped scraps of food and other tasty items. I can’t ever recall seeing one sitting down like one of the visitors to the garden (see photos above and below). I guess it needed a rest after walking the nearby streets.
I have recently travelled from my home in Murray Bridge, South Australia to Sydney. Along the way I stopped many times to do some birding and, where possible, take some photos of the birds I saw. On the first day of my journey, I stopped for lunch at Lake Cullulleraine which is a small community on the banks of this lovely lake. It is about a half hour drive west of Mildura in the far north-western part of Victoria.
After having my lunch I slowly drove around the area adjacent to the lakeside picnic area. In this part of the small town is a well-kept football oval as well as grass tennis courts. I saw a few Red-rumped Parrots. a small group of Masked Lapwings patrolling the grass and several Australian Magpies and Magpie Larks. On the netting around the tennis courts, I saw perched an adult plumage Pied Butcherbird. This bird is the subject of today’s photos.
Grey Butcherbirds are relatively common and widespread in the area where I live. But for Pied Butcherbirds, I generally have to travel some distance north or east to see this species, though I have recorded it once just south of Murray Bridge. Grey Butcherbirds are regular visitors to my garden but I have never recorded a Pied Butcherbird at home. My records go back over 35 years. On the rest of my journey to Sydney, I saw Pied Butcherbirds frequently as I drove along. On the other hand, where I am staying in Artarmon, Sydney, I have only ever seen Grey Butcherbirds despite both species being present throughout this area. This is probably just a case of not being in the right place at the right time.
For further reading, just click on one of the bird species mentioned in this post.
Birding at Lake Cullulleraine in northern Victoria
In recent days I have been on the road again. This is my first major trip since October of 2018. I was on my way to Sydney to stay with family but I decided to take a completely different route this time. Normally I travel almost due east, travelling through Pinneroo, Ouyen, Balranald, Hay, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn. On this trip, I headed north from my home in Murray Bridge to Blanchetown where I crossed the Murray River.
I headed on east past Waikerie, Berri, Renmark and on towards Mildura in north-west Victoria. By the time I reached the small community of Lake Cullulleraine, it was time for a break and for lunch. Whenever I am travelling, I usually look for a good birding spot to add to my list of birds seen. This lake and the area nearby have always proved to be a satisfactory birding spot. In fact, many years ago my wife and I spent a lovely week in our old caravan here.
The lake is filled from the nearby Murray River and the whole river-lake complex is a rewarding birding area. Added to that is the farming area surrounding the lake which adds a different birding environment. Where the land is not used for agriculture, the remnant mallee scrublands provide birding experiences of yet another type.
As soon as I pulled up in the car park I saw a Darter drying its wings though when I took the photo above it had closed its wings for a moment. As I was having my lunch I listed all of the other birds observed around the picnic area or on the nearby lake. The following is a list of the species seen:
- Australian Raven
- Purple Swamphen
- Australian Wood Duck (about 60)
- Black-tailed Native-hen
- Noisy Miner
- Apostlebird (photo below)
- Willie Wagtail
- Little Corella (about 30)
- Crested Pigeon
- Australian Pelican (one only flying overhead)
- Eurasian Coot
- Australian Magpie
- Pied Butcherbird
- Masked Lapwing
- Red Rumped Parrot
It is not a long list but it was good to get started on listing the birds seen on my trip through South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria over the next few weeks. I will write about the birds I see on my journeys in the coming posts on this site.
As I prepared to leave, a small family of Apostlebirds came meandering around my car enabling me to get some good photos. They were constantly calling to each other while they scratched at the ground seeking out a few items to eat for their lunch.