Archive for the 'Good Birding Sites' Category

Glen Alice in Capertee Valley

Diamond Firetail finch

Diamond Firetail finch

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

Related reading:

Diamond Firetail finch

Diamond Firetail finch

Diamond Firetail finch

Diamond Firetail finch

My first birding visit to Capertee Valley

 

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

After our trip to stay with family in Sydney last year, I decided to take a different route back home to Murray Bridge. On our previous trip we had travelled from Sydney via Katoomba to Dubbo on the first day on the return trip. North of the town of Lithgow we drove through the village of Capertee. I remember stopping there to change drivers. On that occasion, we continued on to Dubbo where we stayed the night. We planned to visit the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo the following day.

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

On this trip, however, I planned our homeward trip differently. We planned to stop for the night in Mudgee. This was so we could drive through the popular birding area known as Capertee Valley. I had read a great deal about this valley from other birders, so I was looking forward to a good afternoon of great birding. I ended up being somewhat frustrated and a little disappointed. Because of the distances we travelled that day, I underestimated how much birding time I would actually have. Most of the day was taken up travelling. I should have scheduled several days in this area – at least a whole day, anyway.

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Our first stop was just a few kilometres east of Capertee. It was lunchtime, so we stopped at a clearing in the forest on the side of the road.

It was quiet.

Far too quiet. As we sat there eating our picnic lunch, I heard just one bird calling, possibly a treecreeper but I couldn’t be sure which species. I didn’t see a single bird for that whole half hour. Admittedly, around midday is quite often the quietest period for birding here in Australia, especially on hot days. On this occasion, it was pleasantly warm.

As we were having our cup of tea – we always carry a thermos or two of hot water on these trips – a lady pulled up behind our car asking for directions. She, too, was a birder and this was her first venture into this area. Although we knew little of the area, and certainly not how to get to the place she was attempting to visit, we helped her as best we could.

Driving further on along the road travelling east, we eventually came to open country with occasional farmhouses nearby. The vista opened up to spectacular views ahead of us, and to the south. I stopped at one point and took the scenery shots shown above and below. In this area, I saw occasional ravens (probably Australian Ravens), a few Australian Magpies (back-backed sub-species here) and a few Magpie Larks and very little else. At one point I stopped the car, grabbed my camera and zoomed in on a bird quite some distance away. It was sitting on a fence post. I have included the very poor photo below. I think it was an Australasian Pipit.

Australasian Pipit?

Australasian Pipit?

We continued on until we came to an intersection where we turned left and drove north along towards the small community of Glen Alice. The countryside along this road is wonderfully spectacular, with towering sandstone cliffs bordering the valley. This road has a generally good quality dirt or gravel surface, though there was some evidence that recent heavy rain in the district can cause motorists a few problems.

Also along this road, and the road from Glen Alice to Rylestone, there are waypoints labelled “Bird Watching Site” with numbers ranging up to at least 19. While there is a pamphlet guide available for birders giving the location of these sites, I didn’t track one down. I think that they are available in Capertee. They certainly would be handy. Near the public toilets in the roadside park in Capertee there is a detailed map of the area showing all of the birding sites, along with lists of what can be seen at each point. Update: the pamphlet can be downloaded here as a PDF.

While my first visit to the Capertee Valley was somewhat disappointing, I did have some good sightings while we had afternoon tea at Glen Alice, but I will write about that in a few day’s time. This brief four-hour visit has given me the incentive to revisit this area in the near future, but for a much longer time.

Related reading:

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Capertee Valley, New South Wales

Beautiful Bronzewing Pigeons

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing Pigeons are, on first appearance, a reasonably plain bird. It is only when one gets an individual sitting quietly in a sunny position that you get a full appreciation of the subtle and quite beautiful colours in the plumage of this species. This is what happened to me recently on a visit to the Laratinga Wetlands in Mt Barker, South Australia. I seem to recall seeing at least three birds on that visit; there may have been more that I didn’t see.

In my experience Common Bronzewings are very flighty, nervous birds and will fly off rapidly as you approach. This can make them sometimes hard to photograph in the bush. At Laratinga they have obviously become accustomed to the hundreds of local people and tourists who visit this site every day. Walkers, joggers, photographers and cyclists frequently use the many good paths around the dozen or so ponds making up the wetlands, so it is not surprising that the local bronzewings will tolerate a person coming to within a few metres.

The birds in today’s photos were only about three metres from me so I was able to get some close up shots. The early morning sun shining on their feathers shows off some of the beautiful colours.

Further reading:

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Common Bronzewing, Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhens at Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Over recent posts here on my site I have featured some of the birds I saw and photographed on a recent visit to the Laratinga Wetlands in Mt Barker, South Australia. As I have stated before, this is one of my favourite birding places to visit because of the large number and variety of birds present all year on the dozen or so ponds which make up the wetlands. Besides, it is about a half hour drive from my home.

Apart from the ease of getting there, and the good variety of birds, another benefit is being able to access the various ponds via a great network of walking paths. These paths are used daily by hundreds of locals and visitors for walking, running, cycling and birding. From the paths visitors have a great view of the birdlife and this makes photography a delight there. On many occasions the paths themselves afford good photographic opportunities.

A example of this on my most recent visit was a small flock of Red-browed Finches drinking from some puddles on the path. Unfortunately the puddles were in deep shade, and the birds constantly moving, so my shots of them turned out very blurry. You get that.

On the other hand, today’s photos feature several Dusky Moorhens feeding on the grassy verges of one of the paths – and in full sunlight. It made it a little easier to get some photos, but on the downside, they were a little skittish.

Dusky Moorhens are often found near bodies of water like the Laratinga Wetlands and often associate with both Purple Swamphens and Eurasian Coots. They found throughout the eastern half of the Australian mainland as well as SW Western Australia and Tasmania.

Further reading:

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Dusky Moorhen, Laratinga Wetlands

Cruising Grey Teals, Laratinga Wetlands

Grey Teal, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Grey Teal, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

A few days ago I featured a Pacific Black Duck I saw at the Laratinga Wetlands in Mt Barker.

Today it is the turn of another common species, the Grey Teal.

This great birding site is just over half an hour’s drive from my home in Murray Bridge here in South Australia. I don’t get to visit often enough. I know of birders who visit this place almost every day. The birding is usually very good with many opportunities for bird photography.

The ponds making up these wetlands have wide tracks along their edges and many locals and visitors use these tracks on a daily basis for walking, cycling and jogging. The adjacent picnic grounds are also very well set out and maintained.

On a recent visit I took these photos of some Grey Teal cruising along across one of the ponds. Many birders and photographers probably overlook this common species. It can be found in many parts of Australia wherever bodies of water exist.

I have seen lakes where there were thousands of these ducks. Just because they are common does not mean that they cannot be photographic. I like the photo above, but the one below is something special, in my opinion. The photo has only been cropped a little and has not been enhanced in any other way.

For more photos and further reading about the birds of Laratinga, click here.

Good birding.

Trevor

Grey Teal, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Grey Teal, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker