Earlier this week I wrote about my first visit to the Capertee Valley late last year. In general, this was a rather disappointing day of birding. I went with such high expectations, but I didn’t realise that I had underestimated the time needed to do this wonderful region justice. The road through the valley is an alternative route from Lithgow (north-west of Sydney) to Mudgee, though some of this section of the road is unsealed.
One really needs a full day to explore this area even superficially. Several days to a week would enable keen birders to really enjoy the delights of this valley. In this way, keen birders would be able to track down many of the wonderful birds of the valley. Along the route I took we noticed at least twenty signs pointing to Birdwatching Sites. Each would be worth stopping at for an hour or two. We only stopped at one, and that was in the small village of Glen Alice. This small settlement has a school, a community hall, an emergency fire station, an old church and several houses. Oh, I forgot – it also has a historic cemetery.
We went for a short drive along the only street before returning to the parking area near the old church. Here we stopped for afternoon tea. While we had our cuppa and some biscuits, I managed to do a little birding. Within seconds of getting out of the car, a solitary Diamond Firetail finch flew in and settled on the ground only a few metres from me. I was able to get a few quickly taken photos before it flew off again. These are the photos I have featured today.
Within the next half hour, I made quite a nice little list of birds seen but didn’t get any more photos – well, not any that are worth showing here. The following species were either seen or heard:
- Grey Butcherbird 1
- Noisy Miner 8
- Diamond Firetail 1
- Australian Raven 4
- Australian Magpie 4
- Red Rumped Parrot 2
- White-plumed Honeyeater 5
- Willie Wagtail 2
- Sacred Kingfisher 1
- Little Black Cormorant 1
- Hooded Robin 1
- Rainbow Bee-eater 2
- Superb Fairywren 2
- Crimson Rosella 2
- Australian Wood Duck 5
- Magpie Lark 2
- Rufous Whistler 1
- Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 1
- Fuscous Honeyeater 1
Several kilometres out of town in the locality known as Bogee, I added the following species:
- Grey-crowned Babbler 3
- Yellow-rumped Thornbill 3
On many occasions here I have written about some of the birds I have seen and photographed while on visits to family in Sydney. One of our favourite places to visit while in Sydney is the Lane Cove National Park, just a short distance west of Chatswood in the northern suburbs, and only a ten-minute drive from my son’s home.
When we visit we usually take a picnic lunch, or if only going in the afternoon, we certainly take the makings for afternoon tea, including a few biscuits, or some fruit. We like to set up our folding chairs and make a cuppa, in a spot where we can see the river, as well as a good view of the trees. Such spots usually provide us with good birding as well.
If you stay in this park for a few hours or visit frequently, the chances of seeing a good range of local and visiting birds are very high. This park protects a large section of remnant scrubland. While there are roads and tracks through the park, as well as clearly defined picnic areas with barbeques, picnic tables and other public facilities, the vegetation left preserved gives the visitor a good impression of the natural environment as it existed before settlement in the late 1790s.
On this particular visit last October, my wife and I had a few hours leave from looking after our grandchildren. We set up our chairs in a good position and proceeded to eat our lunch. We had hardly started eating our sandwiches when we were robbed. Not only were the Laughing Kookaburras cheeky, so were the resident Australian Brush Turkeys, shown in the photos in this post.
Two of them came mooching around while we were having a post-lunch cuppa. They were obviously on the take and came up within a few centimetres of where we sat. We don’t feed birds that are supposedly wild. These individuals were behaving like they often get handouts of human food. Once they realised that we were not going to comply with their wishes, they skulked off elsewhere. They probably tried the same trick on other people enjoying a picnic.
Over recent post I have written about some birding I did while visiting family in Peterborough in early March. Peterborough is in the mid-north of South Australia and is just over three hours drive from home in Murray Bridge which is south-east of Adelaide. We were staying with family and while there my wife attended a quilting seminar.
Early one morning during our stay I headed off to do some birding before the heat of the day. One of the places I often visit while in the town is Victoria Park. This park has an artificial lake and is adjacent to the caravan park and the swimming pool. It is one of several quite reliable places to see Apostlebirds.
Apostlebirds are quite common in some other states, especially New South Wales. In South Australia, however, the species is uncommon. It can only be found in about a dozen or so locations in the whole state. Recent observations could indicate that it is becoming more common and is extending its range.
There appear to be several family groups in and around the town of Peterborough. These groups can be fairly mobile over quite a range covering most of the town and the immediate environs. One of the most reliable spots seems to be around Victoria Park where I took these photos, and in or near the grounds of the hospital.
As we were approaching the town late in the afternoon of the previous day, we encountered a heavy downpour as we drove along. I actually had to reduce the car’s speed to drive safely. The next morning, there were still quite a few puddles left around town, including a few large ones in the park. The Apostlebirds were having a great time paddling in the water, as were several other species. I didn’t stay long enough to see if they took advantage of the puddles to make one of their mud nests. I guess that this group didn’t really need to because they have a constant supply of mud from the edges of the lake only 20 metres from where these shots were taken.
I have written about Peaceful Doves on a number of occasions on this site; check out the articles I have linked to in the ‘Further Reading’ section below. I must admit that I love seeing and hearing this small dove in the Australian bush. They are aptly named and their gentle call is so part of the Australian environment, especially in the drier parts of the country.
Over the 30 plus years, we have lived in our present home, I have recorded this species on quite a few occasions. In the last year or so their visits have become far more regular. In fact, at present, we probably hear or see them on most days of the week. It is still too early to call this a resident species, but it must be close to that. Late last year we are fairly sure that they could also now be added to the list of birds observed breeding on our five-acre block of land. Although we saw them mating, we never found a nest.
More recently – perhaps over the last two months, we have often seen two or three birds come to our bird baths. Then on one occasion we had at least six birds present. I would like to think that this sighting included the successful breeding outcome, and that this little flock is actually one family of birds.
On other occasions, we have only one bird visiting the bird baths for a drink. On one of those occasions I took the bracket of photos shown in today’s post. All of these photos are of the same bird. Although I like this series of shots, the bird in question refused to turn around and face my camera. Some days the birds cooperate, and on other days they just do as they please. That’s the delight – and the frustration – of nature photography.
I love the dry country we have here in Australia. Most of my birding has been done in areas of Australia which have an average annual rainfall of under 250mm (10 inches). Some of this country is marginal farming country, sometimes cereals, and often sheep and cattle. I grew up on such a farm and still cherish my childhood adventures in the mallee bushland near my home.
On the road again
Earlier this week my wife and I travelled from our home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, to Sydney. We are currently staying with my son and his family. The grandchildren love having us stay with them. At ages 7 and 4 they are already showing an interest in the birds they see in their garden, and in the parks they visit. My interest has rubbed off on them.
The car journey from home to Sydney is over 1300km, two long days of driving. In future, we think we might take three or four days to get here, stopping more frequently at the many interesting places along the way. There are many national parks, reserves, botanic gardens and bushland on this route and we just have to drive right on by, often with a groan of despair at what we might be missing.
One of the places we drive through is the large rural town of Hay, located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. The birding along this river can be excellent. But before we get to Hay we have to pass through about 130 kilometres of the Hay Plains, a dry region consisting of few trees, much saltbush and some grassland. I find this drive to be fascinating because it often reveals odd collections of birds. On one trip we saw hundreds of Emus grazing on the low vegetation. On another trip, after heavy rain in that area, we saw thousands of ducks, mostly Australian Wood Duck and Grey Teal. They were taking advantage of the long stretches of water still lying along the edges of the highway.
As we travelled along at 110kph my wife suddenly pointed out an interesting sight. It was a gathering of dozens of waterbirds: Australian Pelicans, White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. Harassing all of them from only several metres overhead was a Swamp Harrier. As we rushed by I didn’t have time to take in the presence of any other birds. I am sure that if we had had the time to stop, I would have recorded several species of ducks, perhaps coots, swamphens, egrets, herons and lapwings, cormorants, and maybe even some crakes and rails.
This was a very surprising collection of birds for what is essentially very dry country. The reason for their presence is explained by the presence of wide irrigation channels. The water is pumped from the nearby Murrumbidgee River into a series of channels, some of which are 5 or more metres wide. The water is then used to either flood irrigate large expanses of land, or pumped through long, overhead sprinkler systems. This area grows large amounts of hay, wheat and cotton, all irrigated from the channels. The fact that this also provides a perfect environment for numerous birds is a pleasant by-product. Further east there are large expanses of fruit orchards as well.
- Australian Pelicans overhead
- White Ibis at Dubbo Zoo
- Straw-necked Ibis Adelaide Zoo
- Yellow-billed Spoonbills and the birth of a birder