Archive for the 'Gulls and Terns' Category

A short visit to Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Last week I wrote about my visit to Horseshoe Bay at Pt Elliot here in South Australia. This day trip from home here in Murray Bridge was to celebrate our anniversary in a relaxed and enjoyable way.

When we arrived at the picturesque seaside town of Pt Elliot on the south coast, parking at Horseshoe Bay was all taken up. This is not surprising because it was the middle of the school holidays as well as being at the height of the summer holidays here in Australia. The beach was being well used and it was crowded like I had never seen it before. The weather was perfect for swimming and lounging around on the sand, so it was not surprising that it was crowded. The nearby caravan park was also quite full, adding to the crowd on the beach.

When I couldn’t get a park near the beach I decided to try another spot nearby. We are spoilt here in South Australia because we like to park close to the beach and usually that is not a problem. We have many wonderful beaches and ample parking is available at most of them. And, unlike some I have been to in Sydney, for example, there are no parking meters to contend with. Despite this, there was not a single park – except high up on the overlooking cliff well away from the beach where we wanted to have our afternoon tea.

So, I drove the short distance to the local obelisk overlooking the bay. The car park there was almost empty, so I parked where we had a great view of the water, the bay and the nearby rocky islands in the bay. We sat in the car enjoying the vista in front of us, and the cool breeze made life very enjoyable. We enjoyed our cup of tea and home-made biscuits while soaking in the view – see today’s photos to understand what we enjoyed.

I didn’t get a chance to take many bird photos, except for the lovely shots of a Silver Gull I featured on another post here.

Further reading:

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliott, South Australia

Birds of Horseshoe Bay at Pt Elliot

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Last week I wrote about a trip I took with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. We travelled from Murray Bridge to Victor Harbor which is just over an hour’s drive south-west from home. Along the way, we stopped at Milang, then at Goolwa, followed by an exploration of Hindmarsh Island, on to Pt Elliot and ended up having dinner at a favourite restaurant in Victor Harbor. While the day-trip was meant as a day out for relaxation, I had plenty of opportunities to do some casual birding wherever we stopped.

Pt Elliot is a lovely town of around 2000 population which swells in number during our long, hot summers. It is located on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and was established as a port in 1851. It boasts the reputation of having Australia’s first public railway line which extended from Goolwa. This railway line provided a means to carry cargo to and from the riverboat trade on the Murray River to seagoing ships. The mouth of the Murray River was considered too treacherous to navigate. The railway line is still in operation, though now it only carries tourists.

Pt Elliot has a delightful, and quite safe, little beach known as Horseshoe Bay. On our visit, it was very crowded despite the cool breeze. The local lawn bowls club is right next to the beach, and adjacent to the Flying Fish restaurant, known widely for its excellent seafood menu. The local caravan park just around the bay a little is very popular in the summer months.

The birdlife here is a mixture of land birds and coastal birds. Of the coastal birds, I was not able to identify many on this visit. On Pullen Island out in the bay, I could see hundreds of Silver Gulls and several Pacific Gulls. A small group of Little Pied Cormorants rested on the rocks while the occasional Whiskered Tern, Crested Tern or Caspian Tern flew overhead. On the islands, I am sure that there were a few terns as well, though my binoculars were not strong enough for me to be certain.

Away from the water, the Singing Honeyeater is a common bird of the coastal dunes and nearby bushes. Crested Pigeons can be seen throughout the town, often perched on rooftops or television antennae. Small flocks of Galahs and Little Corellas flew overhead. More frequently encountered are the Rainbow Lorikeets, either screeching as they fly low overhead, or noisily feeding on any flowering tree of bush in the gardens nearby. The lawns were attractive to the Australian Magpies, their keen eyes on the lookout for beetles, worms and other tasty morsels.

Further reading:

  • Readers can go to further articles about some of the birds and places mentioned in the text by clicking on the links in blue.
Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Nice pose for a Silver Gull

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Earlier this week my wife and I celebrated another anniversary. My – how the years have flown by. We always try to do something special for our anniversary and agreed that the weather was suitable for a long drive and a picnic, finished by dinner at a favourite restaurant. After an early morning chat on the phone with our grandchildren, we set off towards Milang, which is about 50 kilometres from our home. We stopped at the local bakery to buy our lunch, a Cornish pasty each, and a large lamington to share.

We took our lunch down to the shore of Lake Alexandrina and had a picnic lunch on the lawns there. The largest river system in Australia, The Murray-Darling Basin, flows into this large lake, which in turn empties into the Southern Ocean near Goolwa. While we ate our lunch we watched some children playing with their dogs and on the playground. I took note of the birds I could see or hear, but things were rather quiet on that front – until someone disturbed a large flock of very noisy Little Corellas nearby. I have often thought that I would like to stay in the local caravan park right next to the lake, but I concluded that you would not need an alarm clock; the parrots would see that you woke at dawn, or even at first light.

From Milang we drove on towards Goolwa and explored Hindmarsh Island – but I will write about that part another day. Later in the afternoon, we stopped at Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot. This small town on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula is a popular holiday destination, being just over an hour’s drive from Adelaide. We stopped for a cuppa and some homemade biscuits in the car park at the lookout. I parked so that we had a great view over the bay. In South Australian history, this spot is quite important. Encounter Bay, which stretches for some distance to the south-east, was where English explorer Captain Matthew Flinders and the French explorer Nicolas Baudin met in April 1802.

While we were having our cuppa, a solitary Silver Gull settled on an interpretive sign just in front of our car. It obligingly posed for a series of photos which I am sharing here today. Silver Gulls are the most common gull found all around the coastline of Australia. It can also be seen far inland where suitable bodies of water exist, such as river systems, lakes, reservoirs and swamps. It can be very common in large numbers at rubbish tips, ovals, picnic grounds and beaches.

Further reading:

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gulls behaving oddly

Silver Gull

Silver Gull

This afternoon while watching the cricket on television my wife called to me from the garden. A flock of about 20 birds were circling in the air above our five acre property here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and headed outside.

For the next ten minutes or so the loose flock of Silver Gulls soared on the breeze over head, circling around many times. They kept this up mostly silently with just an occasional soft contact call – nothing like their normal raucous, far reaching cry which is a quite familiar call. The whole time they stayed overhead near the shed, circling constantly over about a fifty metre radius. I am quite puzzled as to what they were up to. Perhaps they were feeding on flying insects but I couldn’t see exactly what they were doing, despite being able to observe individuals as they flew. Strange.

Silver Gulls are widespread throughout Australia and are very common along the entire coastline, along river courses, around lakes, dams, reservoirs, swamps and any suitable habitat and are usually associated with water, but not always. We are about five kilometres from the River Murray but we have some fly over our property every month of so, sometimes in large flocks of 50 to 100, usually quite high in the sky. This is the first time I can recall them coming so close to the ground; the flock stayed about 5-10 metres above the ground at all times.

Silver Gulls

Silver Gulls

Birds of the Parramatta River

Parramatta River ferry

Parramatta River ferry

While in Sydney earlier this year my wife and I took a day out from grandparent duties. One of the children was at school and the other at child care. We took the train into Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney Harbour. We had a short wait of about ten minutes for one of the ferries which operate up and down the Parramatta River, stopping at a dozen or more small jetties along the way and terminating near the heart of Parramatta CBD. We had done this trip some 35 years ago when our own children were little.

While I was more interested in watching and taking photos of the scenery along the way I also kept a watch out for any birds I could see. While I didn’t get a great list of species I really enjoyed the three hour return trip. To give me the best chance of getting good photos we stationed ourselves on the seats at the front of the ferry; sure- it was breezy at times but we had come prepared. The photo above shows another river ferry similar to the boat we were on. You will notice that it has the name “Dawn Frazer”. It was named after one of Australia’s most successful Olympic swimmers. On our cruise we passed the swimming pool where she trained. I believe that she still runs a hotel nearby.

Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney

Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney

As our ferry left Circular Quay (see photo above) the whole vista of Sydney’s CBD opened up for us. Leading up to this point I recorded Rock Doves everywhere, especially in the train stations and even in the underground stations. Around the ferry terminals were many Silver Gulls, Welcome Swallows and even a few Noisy Miners on the jetties, scrounging food dropped by passengers.

Silver Gull

Silver Gull

After only a few minutes in the ferry we passed under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge (see below). It is always great to get a different perspective of this wonderful structure. Usually we cross over it in trains and occasionally by car. Opened in 1932 this bridge still serves the city wonderfully, although it is now assisted by several additional bridges to the west and the Harbour Tunnel under the water.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The bridge is best viewed close up, usually from a boat, ferry or on foot via many access points around the harbour. One can – for a fee – join a Bridge Climb over the arch of the bridge. It’s only for the brave and not for those scared of heights, though to assure climbers they are secured tethered to the railing at all times. I haven’t done the climb and regret not doing it a few years ago when I was fitter and healthier. The view must be truly spectacular from up so high above the water.

Little Black Cormorant and a Pied Cormorant on the river

Little Black Cormorant and a Pied Cormorant on the river

After about an hour of cruising the harbour the ferry heads on up the Parramatta River, subject to favourable tidal conditions. As banks close in on the passage I had good views of the following birds:

  • Australian Pelican
  • Pied Cormorant
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Little Black Cormorant
  • White Ibis
  • Sacred Kingfisher
  • Australian Raven
  • Australian Magpie Lark
  • Welcome Swallow
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Common Myna
  • Grey Butcherbird
  • Rainbow Lorikeet
  • White-faced Heron
  • Pacific Black Duck
  • Variegated Fairy-wren
Little Pied Cormorant

Little Pied Cormorant

Finally, cruising on the river and on the harbour afforded me an excellent platform for observing the many wonderful and interesting buildings along the harbour. These include dirty industrial sites near Parramatta, magnificent apartment buildings, splendid old mansions – and an old and still very useful boat shed (see below).

Tourist hint:

If you are an Australian citizen with a Senior’s Card, Pension or Health Care card, ask for the special fare price when buying your ticket. Being over 60 years of age we both have Senior’s Cards. Instead of the normal fare of about $18 (Australian) each, our P.E.T. (Pensioner Excursion Ticket) cost us $2.50 each. This ticket enabled us to travel on any trains, buses, and ferries for the day.

And it was worth every cent.

Boat shed on Sydney Harbour

Boat shed on Sydney Harbour

Along the Parramatta River

Along the Parramatta River