Yesterday was my wife’s birthday.
To celebrate we went out to lunch with friends, and then drove south to Wellington on the River Murray. After crossing the river on the ferry we drove the short distance to the Pangarinda Botanic Gardens (formerly known as the Pangarinda Arboretum). My wife enjoys exploring places where native Australian plants are the feature. You can check out her site about Australian plants here.
We found a shady spot in the middle of the gardens, complete with a table and seats. The garden all around us was alive with birds, especially dozens of New Holland Honeyeaters. We also saw White-browed Babblers, Red Wattlebirds and Little Wattlebirds, along with dozens of Tree Martins soaring on the breeze hawking for insects (photos to come in a few days’ time).
As we were having a cuppa and some delicious birthday cake, we heard an interesting call nearby. It wasn’t long before we spotted a quail-like bird skulking through the garden about 50 metres away. I checked my bird app on my phone and immediately recognised the call of the Brown Quail. I knew that I didn’t have a photo of this species, so I set off in pursuit. I actually managed only two photos which I have cropped and shown here today. They are not brilliant photos, but they are the best I have.
This is the first time I have seen this species, even though they are relatively widespread in the region where I live. They can be quite shy birds, hiding in grasses and bushy areas. I guess that they have found these gardens to their liking and are getting used to people being around quite often. I was amused when my friend Keith started imitating the call – and both birds answered him from nearby. They also answered the call from the app on my phone. Neither Keith’s call, nor that from my phone made them come closer to investigate. At one point one of them did fly low over the table where we were sitting, but it went straight into a bushy area and out of sight.
As far as I can tell from my memory and records, this sighting is a “lifer“, that is, it is the first time in my life I have seen this species.
Further reading (click on the title):
- Mallee Native Plants – my wife’s site about Australian plants
- Pangarinda Arboretum – some flower photos are featured in this post
- Birds and plants of Pangarinda Arboretum – more photos of the beautiful plants in these gardens
- Spotted Nightjar at Pangarinda
- Red-capped Robin at Pangarinda – featuring possibly my favourite photos of any bird
Below I have included several flower photos taken yesterday.
A few days ago my wife and I took advantage of a lovely sunny winter’s day. We’ve had some very gloomy overcast weather in the last month or so, and some sunshine was an event to celebrate. We went for a drive to Monarto Conservation Park which is about a 15 minute drive from our home in Murray Bridge. Monarto CP is about 60km south east of Adelaide in South Australia.
Mind you, the sun may have been shining, and there were no clouds in the sky, and we were well rugged up, but the breeze was still chilly. Never mind, we packed the folding chairs, a Thermos of hot water, some tea bags and some biscuits for afternoon tea. We were prepared.
Before indulging in our treats we went on the walking trail through the park. This is an easy, almost level sandy track through several different habitats. Despite the recent poor weather we were delighted to see so many native plants in flower. I have included a few photos below. While my wife has a good working knowledge of our native birds, her main interest is in the native plants (you can read about her interest on her site here).
I have found over the years that birding in the Monarto Conservation Park can be rather hit or miss. Sometimes the birds can be singing and busily feeding and flying around. On other occasions the bird life can be quiet and inactive. Much of this is due to two main factors: weather conditions and what is flowering.
On this occasion there seemed to be a great deal of activity but, wouldn’t you know it – the birds were not showing themselves all that much. In fact, I only managed reasonable – certainly not brilliant – photos of one species: the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater as shown in the photo above. I should be pleased; the photos taken were the first I have managed of this species.
This honeyeater is a widespread species of southern Australia, from coastal NSW and Tasmania, much of Victoria, southern South Australia and south-western Western Australia. Its preferred habitats include mallee, heathlands, eucalyptus woodlands and street trees. It can easily be confused with the similar looking Crescent Honeyeater – which initially I did.
- Crescent Honeyeater
- An afternoon walk in Monarto Conservation Park
- Birds of Monarto Conservation Park
- Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
- Red Wattlebird
- Mallee Ringneck parrot
- Grey Shrike-thrush
- Australian Magpie
- Southern Scrub-robin
- Grey Currawong
- Grey Fantail
- New Holland Honeyeater
- Brown-headed Honeyeater
- Grey Butcherbird
- Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
- Little Raven
- Willie Watail
- Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
- Shy heathwren
On my recent visit to the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney a spent a half hour or so slowly walking along one of the roads through the park, trying to find and photograph some of the birds present in the park. It was a rather frustrating time and although I managed to add a few birds to my list, I wasn’t very successful at getting many photos.
The above shot of a White-throated treecreeper – a poor shot at that – was the only one I can use here. So instead of returning to the car without any photos, I turned my attention to some of the flowers.
On my recent visit to the Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan in the south east of greater Sydney, I was immediately drawn to the wet fern gully just south of the Visitor Centre. One of my favourite birds, the Rufous Fantail, had been sighted there only a few days before. I hadn’t seen this species for over a decade, mainly because I don’t go birding in the right places, or at the right time. One can only hope.
I could hear birds all around. Most were being very noisy – but also very secretive. Some calls I was not familiar with, being from a different part of Australia. Eventually a solitary Red-whiskered Bulbul showed itself briefly. Not in ideal light conditions, nor close enough for a good photo, but long enough for several shots. The one above is the best of them. Next time, perhaps. Oh, the joys of bird photography. (You can see a better photo I took some time ago here.)
Still, I had much more luck with the flowering Eucalypt tree shown below. At least flowers tend to be in sun – and they generally stand still, though I have known a few flowers which were hard to shoot because of the wild wind.
On our recent trip to visit family in Sydney we were determined to visit the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan at Campbelltown in the south eastern part of greater Sydney. In recent visits to our son it has never worked out to take a day trip to these gardens. In fact, our last – and only visit – was in April 2000. Our memories of that visit were getting very hazy, though I do remember seeing Double-barred finches there – my one and only sighting of this species.
The Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan are part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and are run by the same Trust. The gardens are 416 hectares in size and include hills, fern gullies and creeks, and lakes. One section even boasts a decent mountain bike track. About 4000 Australian plants are on display in these gardens. Unfortunately, very few were flowering at the time of our visit. We could only imagine what it would look like in the spring. (Note to self: organise a visit in spring!)
Despite the lack of flowers I was still pleased to record about 40 bird species during our stay. One of them was a shy Superb Fairy-wren shown above. He was skulking around in the undergrowth in the fern gully, just where the light was too poor for photos. His brief appearance in a lighter spot was not quite long enough for a good photo.
Below I’ve shown one of the plants in flower on show during our visit.
I will write more about the birds I saw in coming days.