Archive for the 'Plants' Category

Wattlebirds and grevilleas

Grevillea flowers, Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

A few days ago I wrote about our short visit to the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens in southern NSW. We were on our way home from holidaying in Sydney with family. These gardens are small but hold a nice range of Australian and exotic plants. It’s also a good spot to get right off the highway, relax with a picnic or a cuppa, and enjoy the range of birds resident in the area.

On this visit I managed to photograph several of the Grevillea species in flower, and while doing so I also captured a Red Wattlebird feeding on one of the bushes (see photo below). It must have been hungry, for the bird almost completely ignored me and my camera only a short distance away. I guess it also needed to stock up on energy for the cold night which was quickly closing in. It had been a bitterly cold day, quite unpleasant for being out and about.

While my prime objective is to photograph our wonderful Australian birds and showcase them here in this site, I also enjoy getting great shots of our native flowers like the Grevilleas. (You can see more photos of flowers, both native and exotic, on my other site, Trevor’s Travels. Click on the Parks and Gardens category or click here.

Red Wattlebird feeding on Grevillea flowers

Grevillea flowers, Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens

Birds of the Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Eucalyptus erythrocorys (red-capped gum), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

We’ve visited Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia a number of times over the years. We used to go regularly when my brother-in-law lived there. On our recent visit we were pleased to revisit some of our favourite spots. One of these was the Edithburgh Nature Reserve, just across the road where we used to stay just two minutes’ walk from the main street.

This large park near the main shopping street of this coastal town is a wonderful asset to the community and is maintained by local people, though on this visit we noticed that there has been some recent neglect. It is in need of some tidying up and the list of plant species at the entrance has been badly vandalised since our last visit.

On the last day of our recent short holiday in the region we packed up and then spent about an hour in this park. The showers of the previous two days had gone, the sun was shining but the southerly wind was still bitterly cold. I’ve spent some hours birding in this park over the years, usually with some interesting species. I didn’t have high hopes on this occasion, being the start of winter and quite cold.

Grey Shrike-thrush, Edithburgh Nature Reserve

The Grey Shrike-thrush shown above caused some puzzlement at first. I heard it off in the distance and tracked it down. It’s call was distinctly different from the birds I’m familiar with at home. The bird took pity on me and responded to my imitations and came quite close, posing several times for a photo.

Over the next hour I steadily added to a small list of species seen in or near the park. Welcome Swallows swooped low over head and New Holland Honeyeaters flitted from bush to tree and back again, never sitting still enough for photos. Silvereyes flew overhead and I heard several Weebills calling nearby. Several Australian Magpies searched on the ground for a snack while a small flock of Galahs flew quickly overhead. A group of Crested Pigeons rested on the power lines while the Rock Doves settled on the roof of an old church over the road.

Red Wattlebirds gave their harsh calls and chased away the lone Singing Honeyeater trying to feed on the nectar of flowering trees. A Nankeen Kestrel glided overhead, causing alarm calls from the smaller bush birds. I heard a Common Blackbird give its startled alarm call from a nearby garden and Magpie Larks checked out the roadside puddles left by rain showers.

It’s not a big list, but it was an enjoyable hour of birding enhanced by getting several good flower shots. Oh, I nearly forgot the Willie Wagtail which refused to pose facing me.

Willie Wagtail, Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Calothamnus quadrifidus (one-sided bottlebrush), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Eucalyptus erythrocorys (red-capped gum), Edithburgh Nature Reserve

Roadside birding, Yorke Peninsula

Native apricot (Pittosporum phylliraeoides) on Yorke Peninsula

After leaving Mulbura Park reserve near Pt Vincent on the Yorke Peninsula we drove on along a dirt road towards a nearby conservation park. I’ll write about that visit tomorrow. At one point my wife asked me to stop to take a photo of the native apricot trees growing on the side of the road.

The native apricot (Pittosporum phylliraeoides) is a widespread tree throughout South Australia but in most areas is not present in large numbers. The road we were on was an exception with many such trees on the roadside verge. Most were in fruit and the bright orange fruit looked spectacular in the late afternoon sun. Every time I see the fruit I’m reminded of that terrible day when I had a brain snap – I tried to eat the fruit. The juice squirted down my throat and I spent the next half hour coughing and spitting trying to rid myself of the astrigent, bitter taste. Don’t try it – the fruit is not edible, I assure you. In fact, a little research has found at least one reference to the seeds being poisonous.

I can’t recall ever seeing any birds eating the fruit, though the flowers do attract a range of nectar loving birds such as honeyeaters. The trees also provide suitable nesting and shelter for a range of species. The birds observed within a short distance of this clump of trees include:

  • White-browed Babblers
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Crested pigeons
  • Weebills
  • Spiny-cheeked honeyeater
  • Silvereyes
  • Yellow-rumped Pardalotes

Mind you, we only stopped for a few minutes before driving on, so the list of birds frequenting these trees would be much larger.


Native apricot (Pittosporum phylliraeoides) on Yorke Peninsula

Mulbura Park, Yorke Peninsula

Mulbura Park plant reserve, Pt Vincent, South Australia

On our holiday to Yorke Peninsula last week we took a short detour off the main road. We always seem to be doing this. It gives my wife a chance to look at the local flora (see her site about plants here) and it gives me more opportunities to go birding, and perhaps get some photos. As an aside, when our children were young they would always make sure they had at least one book to read whenever we went for a drive.

Near Pt Vincent on the east coast of the peninsula there is a small plant reserve we had visited many years ago. We couldn’t even remember many of the details of what was there, and we had the time to check it out. Mulbura Park – we’d even forgotten the name – is a remnant block of native plants set aside as an example of the vegetation of the area. This part of the peninsula has very little in the way of bushland like this, so it is rather precious – and a good habitat for the local fauna, including birds.

We didn’t wander far into the reserve but near the entrance gate we saw a good variety of local vegetation present in this area, including casuarina, goodenias, dampiera, daisies, pea bushes, pimelia and correas.

Being mid afternoon – and quite windy – the birds were not very forthcoming. When various plants were in flower, and when conditions are right, and when one had a few hours to wander right through the patch of scrub, I’d anticipate seeing at least 30 or more species here. Not so on our short 15 minute visit. I did record Singing Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Australian Magpie and Little Raven.

The highlight however was hearing a Crested Bellbird, always a nice species to record. It was some distance off and I couldn’t get close enough for a photo. Some other time I’ll capture this species on my camera.

Other species I’d expect to see here include Galah, Blue Bonnet, Mulga and Red Rumped parrots, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Weebills, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Bronzewing pigeons, Crested Pigeon, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, White-browed Babblers, Grey Shrike-thrush, several species of cuckoos, owls and nightjars and even perhaps Variegated Fairy-wrens.

Mulbura Park plant reserve, Pt Vincent, South Australia


Reflections on the Barossa Reservoir, South Australia

While doing a spot of birding at the Barossa Reservoir last week I captured this rather interesting reflection of a tree. While there are no birds evident in the photo there were many all around, including Welcome Swallows swooping over the water, a large number of Eurasian Coot just to the left of the tree and a range of honeyeaters and other bush birds in the trees and surrounding scrubland. A Grey Fantail was heard nearby as well as Little Ravens calling in the distance.