A few weeks ago we had a day out with friends of ours. It was my wife’s birthday and after a wonderful lunch in one of the local hotels, we drove from Murray Bridge down south to Wellington. We had a twenty-minute wait to cross the River Murray on the local ferry; for some reason, we struck a very busy time. Driving off the ferry and heading east towards Tailem Bend for about a kilometre we turned off to the left. Several hundred metres on we came to the Pangarinda Botanic Gardens, one of our favourite places to visit near where we live.
These gardens, formerly known as an arboretum, are extensive plantings over 12 hectares of Australian native plants. This is always of particular interest to my wife – you can visit her site Mallee Native Plant Nursery here. While our visit coincided with the latter part of a very hot and dry summer, there was still a good variety of plants flowering. Late winter and early spring are certainly the best times to visit.
I have also found that wherever one finds extensive stands of Australian plants, there is also a good chance of a pleasing variety of birds. We found a newly installed picnic table to enjoy an afternoon cuppa and some birthday cake. While we sat there enjoying the bright, sunny day and gentle breeze, I was able to make a good list of birds seen and heard.
One of the bird species I quickly saw was the Tree Martin. A loose flock of about 50 or 60 martins were swooping and soaring overhead and over one particular group of eucalyptus trees about 50 metres away. After enjoying our cuppa my friend Keith and I wandered over to get a closer look. We could see that many of the martins were perching on several trees. Now I immediately thought that this was a good opportunity to get some close-up photos of this species. Usually, I only get to see this species on the wing, usually high overhead, not a good way of getting photos of this small species. They also fly very quickly.
I was able to approach to within about 10 metres of the tree and I managed to take a series of lovely photos as shown in today’s post (see above and below). While I have seen individuals and even a small group landing near to each other in a tree or on electricity wires, this is the first time I have seen such large numbers all settling near to one another. I am not sure why they were doing this. Then after a minute or so they would all take off again for a minute or two, before settling in the trees again. Perhaps they were just letting their food settle; there were plenty of insects on the wing that day so it was a feast for them, I guess.
In our extensive travels in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales in recent years I have often observed Welcome Swallows. They are a widespread and very common species throughout their range in eastern, southern and parts of western Australia. In recent months I have often seen a dozen or more flying above our garden, indeed, more often than in many previous years.
Not often, however, have I had the opportunity to photograph them up close. They don’t sit still very often, preferring to keep flying and feeding on any flying insects there might be around. More than once I have hoped for a pair to set up home under our veranda where it would be easier to get photos. They had different ideas, of course.
It was with delight then, during our visit to the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo a few weeks ago, that one of many swallows flying around decided to settle for a few moments on the edge of the African Wild Dog enclosure. Just a few metres from me. Well within easy camera range. Too easy.
After a few minutes it flew off and another one came in to rest, this time a little lower on the fence. This one decided that the early morning sunshine on such a cold morning was just what it needed to be doing a little feather preening.
By the way, the fence formed the enclosure for the African Wild Dogs (see photo below).
Over recent days I have written about some of the birds I saw on a visit to the Portuguese Bridge area (near Debre Libanos) which is about 110km north of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. There is some controversy over the old bridge (shown above). Local guides claim it was built by the Portuguese about 400 years ago. Other authorities claim that it was built more recently.
We were visiting the area last December. Geologically it is a very interesting place. We had wonderful views over the valley and down into the Blue Nile Gorge about 1000 metres below us. I’ve included no bird photos today – only scenery shots of this amazing place.
I saw a good number of birds and if you look through recent posts here you will see photos of some of them. Instead of bird photos I have compiled an annotated list of some of the birds seen:
- Pied Crow – numerous
- Fan-tailed Raven – 3 flying overhead
- Lammergeier – 1 soaring on thermals overhead
- Yellow-billed Kites – numerous – about 20 – 30 swooping low over people eating lunch. One took food from my fingers!
- Dusky Turtledove – about 5 seen
- Speckled Pigeon – only 1 seen
- Tacazza Sunbird – 2
- Rock Martin – about 10 swooping around the cliff edges
- Blue-breasted Bee-eater – 2 seen swooping for insects and then sitting on a branch
- Augur Buzzard – one seen only briefly, flying overhead
I saw and heard a number of other species but either didn’t get good views of them or no views at all. One of the more frustrating sightings was that of the Rock Martins swooping around the cliff edges. They came quite close – close enough for good identification – but none settled down to perch so I could get a photo. On the wing they were too swift to focus on. [Sigh]
So – you’ll have to be content with some lovely scenery shots instead. But stay tuned for more photos taken elsewhere in the coming days.
A few weeks ago we had a family reunion barbecue at our home for the occasion of my grandson’s 3rd birthday. He was over here from Sydney. Family also came down from the mid north of South Australia for the get together.
Later in the afternoon we had a picnic at Sturt Reserve near the banks of the Murray River here in Murray Bridge. With four children under the age of 9 we thought it good for them to burn off some energy on the playground before they undertook the long journey home.
I took my young nephew on a walk along the river bank. At one point we stopped to watch the local Bunyip – the only specimen of this fearsome mythological creature in captivity. It’s well trained; on inserting a dollar coin in the slot it will rise up out of its watery bed and roar in a frightening way.
While we were watching the monster strut its stuff I was aware of some Welcome Swallows flying in and out of the cage. One swallow was not flying much and I realised it was a recently fledged bird. It posed obligingly for my camera, and watched me from about a metre away.
Bird photography doesn’t get any better than that.
Warning: Don’t get frightened as you scroll down through the photos below because there is a photo of the dreaded Bunyip.
Every few days the local Welcome Swallows come swooping in under our back veranda. I find it very pleasing that they are prepared to come up so close to the house, even when we are sitting outside having a meal, chatting with friends or cooking a BBQ.
On a few occasions they have even landed and I was hoping they would think the area a safe and suitable place to make one of their mud nests and to raise a family. I’d even be prepared to put up with cleaning the mess they often make under the nest with their droppings and so on. So far they haven’t stopped more than a few seconds.
A few days ago, however, one of them decided to check out the time on the clock we have outside. The top of that would certainly make an interesting site for a nest!
I’m sorry that the photo is not brilliant; it was taken at a sharp angle from the lounge room through the sliding glass door that gives access to the back veranda.