In my last post, I wrote about the quiet day of birding I had at Round Hill Nature Reserve north-west of Lake Cargelligo. I was on my way to Sydney to visit family and made a little detour on the way. The birding was not up to my expectations but I enjoyed the visit anyway. It is certainly a better place to visit in the Spring and early Summer when more of the vegetation is in flower.
After my visit to the reserve, I continued on towards Mount Hope, a small community of a few houses and a hotel. I stopped here for a few minutes to check out what birds were around but only managed to see seven species. I then drove south towards Hillston, stopping briefly at a roadside rest area. At that point, I had good views of Mallee Ringneck parrots and Blue Bonnet parrots as they flew across the road in front of my car.
Lachlan Valley Way
A little further along in the locality known as Wallenthery I turned east and took the Lachlan Valley Way back towards Lake Cargelligo. This road follows the Lachlan River. At one point I had good views of a Little Eagle and four Yellow-billed Spoonbills flying overhead. Nearby were several hundred Galahs (with a handful of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos keeping them company), a family of six White-winged Choughs and a Wedge-tail Eagle flying low. I also saw a solitary Emu, plenty of Apostlebirds and several small flocks of Blue Bonnet parrots.
At this point, the sun was setting quickly and the clouds were moving in making photography tricky. I only wished that I had more time to spend in this area to capture photos of some of the species mentioned and to seek out others that I may have missed.
When I returned to my cabin in the lovely caravan park, I was able to get a few shots of the resident Pied Butcherbird shown in the photos above and below. If you look closely at these photos, you will see that the bird has a brown throat and chest meaning that this is an immature bird. It hasn’t yet developed the black throat of the adult bird. If you click on this link, you will see a photo of an adult bird taken earlier in my trip.
This young bird was perched on the gutter of the cabin next door before it swooped down to catch a tasty dinner from the ground. The lawn in that part of the park had been disturbed earlier by one of the park gardeners weeding it. It was a fitting end to a good day’s birding despite some minor disappointments.
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.
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.
It is my impression that the people of Sydney, and Lane Cove in particular, as heartily sick of the Australian Brush Turkeys which invade their gardens. Granted – I will accept that this species of bird can create a mess with their scratchings in garden beds though I have not experienced that myself. I do not live in Sydney but I do visit my son and his family in Artarmon once or twice a year. While this bird occasionally comes into my son’s backyard, it never causes any harm. That is probably because there is nothing much for them to destroy; it’s mostly trees or bushes and the few garden beds in the front yard are very bushy too.
Usually, while I am visiting I like to spend some time in the Lane Cove National Park where the species is usually seen, sometimes in numbers. On my most recent visit last month I spent about four hours birding in the park. In total, I think I saw 5 different turkeys during my stay. I always like seeing them and taking photos of them. While they may be commonplace, ordinary and a nuisance to local people, I find them fascinating. This is because we do not have this species where I live in Murray Bridge, South Australia (an hour east of Adelaide). There are several introduced populations on Kangaroo Island just off the south coast of South Australia.
To be quite honest, however, there have been a few occasions where I have felt annoyance with this species. You can read about that incident here. Or in the further reading articles listed below.
Last month I had the delight of spending a few weeks in Sydney with my son and his family. During this time I had the delight of attending my grandson’s 10th birthday party. These are special times indeed. Once the children had returned to school, I was free during the day to do some exploring on my own. On one of those days, I spent about four hours in the nearby Lane Cove National Park, a wonderful spot just ten minutes’ drive away. It was a mild, sunny day with a delightful breeze.
During my stay, I explored a few of the many picnic grounds and walking trails along the main road through the park, Riverside Drive. I made a pleasing list of the birds seen and heard, taking photos of those which came within camera range. I also found a lovely spot to have a picnic lunch and a cup of tea, overlooking one section of the Lane Cove River which runs through the park.
After lunch I still had about an hour to spare, so I drove over to the other side of the river and slowly drove along the Max Allen Drive, parking at the end of this road. I still had some hot water in my thermos so I made another cuppa. While I was enjoying my afternoon tea, I heard the calls of a bird I did not immediately recognise. One of the two birds landed where I could see it. I immediately recognised it as a Dollarbird. This was only my second ever sighting of this species – the other sighting being last year at the same time of year and in the same national park.
The two birds flew around a little while calling to each other. One landed within range of my camera so I took the photos shown above and below. Despite waiting for quite a long time, neither of the birds landed in a sunny position but stayed with the sun behind. I could have walked to the other side of the tree, but that would involve walking on the river. This means that my readers cannot see the lovely colours on the feathers. You can see a much better photo and more information about this species on the Birdlife Australia site here.
The Dollarbird is so-called because of the round, white spots underneath each wing when flying. Early observers thought that these looked like silver dollar coins. They are very prominent underneath a flying bird. They are widespread in eastern and northern parts of Australia but are absent in my home state of South Australia. (There are occasional sightings but these are vagrant individuals and are not resident in my state.) This species is a member of the Roller family of birds, with 11 other species in the family worldwide. The family name “roller” comes from their courtship display while airborne.
Next time I am in Sydney, I hope that I can get better photos of this species. I have also included below some of the wildflowers in bloom in the national park during my visit.