My local zoo is the Monarto Safari Park just fifteen minutes from my home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. This zoo is a part of the Adelaide Zoo which is about an hour’s drive from here. I am a Life Member and try to visit often. One of my recent visits was last year when I went for one of the many walks in the park. On one of these walks, there is a large aviary which has a few captive birds in it, including the Tawny Frogmouths shown above.
Tawny Frogmouths are a widespread nocturnal species in this area and it is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania. From time to time I occasionally hear or see this species in my garden. My family and I love hearing the soft call of this bird and we have fond memories of hearing and seeing them on various camping trips.
Another mostly nocturnal species in the aviary at Monarto is the Bush Stone-curlew, shown in the photos below. Again, this widespread species is found in many parts of Australia except Tasmania. Campers in our more remote areas may have heard its haunting call at night. On the other hand, in some areas, the Bush Stone-curlew has adapted to life in towns and cities, especially in Queensland where it is commonly seen on golf courses and reserves.
Annoyingly, this is one species I have yet to see in its natural environment and I only have photos like those shown below which have been taken in zoos. I must get out and travel more.
As visitors to Monarto Safari Park join the many bus tours through the large park, it is possible to see many of our local native bird species. These include Emus, Australian Magpies, Little Ravens, Brown Falcons, Black Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagles, various parrot species, as well as smaller bush birds like the Willie Wagtail, woodswallows, thornbills, wrens and a variety of water birds when there is water in the creek flowing through the park.
The best way of seeing and photographing these birds is to stroll along the many walking trails through the mallee scrub land. Warning: try not to wander into the African Lion enclosure, or you might find yourself invited to lunch – with you on the menu. By the way: the zoo has four new lion cubs born only recently and they are now on display.
One easily seen species is the White-winged Chough which is about the size of our magpies and ravens. They are often seen in family groups of 10 – 15 and as they fly the white on their wings can easily be seen. On my walk to see the aviary birds I also saw one of their mud nests (see the last photo below).
Last week I travelled from my home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, to Sydney to visit family for a few weeks. On the last day of my trip, I had a few spare hours, so I decided to visit the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mouth Annan. These magnificent gardens are in the south-west edge of the greater metropolitan Sydney area.
My wife and I had previously visited these gardens in December 2013 and we always wanted to make a return visit. Being the beginning of spring here in Australia it was an ideal time to visit. I mainly went to photograph the flowers, but it is also a great place to see and photograph some of our Australian native birds.
Just as I was about to leave, I passed a magnificent Grevillea “Moonlight” which is a cultivar, believed to be a hybrid of two other Grevillea species. This amazing plant was a significant tree some 5-6 metres tall and 6-7 metres wide. It was completely covered by brilliant white flowers. The local Rainbow Lorikeets were having a feast on the nectar.
The individual shown in today’s photographs was a very obliging bird, seemingly posing for my camera. In reality, however, it was either very hungry or totally hooked on the sweet nectar in the flowers. I was able to take a series of close up shots and it was totally oblivious of my presence. I love moments like this when I can take multiple photos of the same bird.
Below I have included a series of the best shots taken on my visit to the garden.
Over recent weeks there has been a family of White-browed Babblers (see photo above) constantly moving around my garden and five-acre block of land. I live on the edge of the rural city of Murray Bridge, an hour’s drive SE of Adelaide, South Australia.
I find that this species is an endearing one, with their constant hopping around on the ground, scratching at the dirt, or prying under the bark of the mallee trees surrounding my home. They move around in small family groups of four to six individuals, sometimes more. As they move around searching for tasty snacks such as beetles and caterpillars and insects, they keep up a regular mewing call, like miniature demented cats.
I suspected that they were nesting somewhere, but a search of the bushes where I had seen them flying to were bare of any nests. I thought that might have been keeping the site of a nest as secret as possible. This was good news because I occasionally see a feral cat moving about the property. I discourage cats from moving about nearby by chasing them off, usually followed by a stone thrown at them. They don’t know that they are really in no danger; my stone-throwing abilities are somewhat deficient.
A few mornings ago I went to get something from the garage. As I opened up the door, I was aware of a frantic fluttering nearby. This was followed by several plaintive cheeps something like the call of the babblers. I looked over the nearby fence. Two recently fledged baby babblers were clinging on to the wire of the fence, flapping their wings and trying not to get blown away by the strong wind.
It was obvious that they had only a short time before left the nest. Their tails had not fully grown and they had trouble balancing on the shaking fence wire. I can’t show you a photo because I didn’t have my camera with me. They only lingered there for a few seconds before launching into a haphazard flight path away from where I stood. I hope that they soon adapt to their new freedom.
On my way to Sydney early in May of this year, I travelled between Lake Cargelligo and the city of Orange in New South Wales. As I approached Orange, I saw a tourist sign pointing to the Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve. I had been looking for a place to pull off the road, have lunch and do a spot of birding while I ate. This reserve seemed to fit the criteria well, so I pulled off onto a rocky dirt track leading down into the valley below. While it was a little bumpy, a non-4WD car can negotiate this track with care. There were no such concerns with my Ford Ranger 4WD.
The picnic ground (photo above) was pleasant with scattered trees and several picnic tables for visitors to use. While I ate my lunch I made a list of the birds seen or heard.
- Australian Magpie (photo below)
- Australian Raven
- Noisy Miner
- Laughing Kookaburra
- Red Wattlebird
- White-plumed Honeyeater
- Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
- Crimson Rosella
- Rufous Whistler
- Striated Pardalote
- Welcome Swallow
It is not a big list, but the wind was chilly and it was just after midday which is generally not a good time for birding. My opinion is that this would be a great place to go birding on a sunny, spring day, preferably early in the morning or just before sunset.
The main attraction of this reserve is the cave next to the picnic ground. In the photos below (and above) you can see some of the rocky landscape which surrounds the picnic grounds. There is a walk visitors can take through one of the caves which I would like to have explored, but my torch was in a hard to get to box in the back of the ute. I really needed to get on the road again, anyway, so I gave the cave exploration a miss. I will be better prepared next time I pass this way.
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.