Archive for the 'Trip reports' Category

On the road again part 4

Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai

Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai

Some birds around Gundagai

From Narrandera we continued travelling east, going through Wagga Wagga without stopping – except at the traffic lights. From this point on we started climbing into the hilly country and eventually the mountains. The beautiful scenery is constantly changing and is a delight to travel through.

We succeeded in reaching our morning tea destination on time, stopping to refuel both the vehicle and us. Our favourite stopping spot along this stretch of road is the Dog on the Tuckerbox complex a few miles out of Gundagai, a place made famous by the legend surrounding a dog. Another couple having a break struck up a conversation with us; they, too, came from South Australia.

Another reason for stopping in this spot was to visit our favourite road side sales outlet. Farm fresh apples sold here are delicious, and we always stop here and buy a bag or two. Sadly, we can’t do the same on the return trip home due to our home state’s stringent laws about bringing fruit in. This is to protect our extensive fruit growing areas from the dreaded fruit fly pest. As an added bonus this time, we also bought some lovely cherries.

While all this was happening I managed to get quite a respectable bird list.

  • Australian Raven
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Galah
  • Red wattlebird
  • Grey Fantail
  • White-plumed Honeyeater
  • Australian Magpie
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • House Sparrow
  • Common Starling
  • Restless Flycatcher
  • Australian Magpie-lark
  • White-winged chough
Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai

Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai

 

On the road again part 3

Narrandera birding

On our current trip to Sydney we stopped overnight at Narrandera. This is just over half way from home to our son’s place, our destination. I’ve often wished we could stay for more than a night, because the town environs and the broader district offer a great deal for the birder looking for a large range of species. As an added bonus, the countryside is quite beautiful too.

We couldn’t stay at the local caravan park because all of the cabins were booked, so we opted for one of the motels. We settled in just on sunset so I was able to record a few species before it was dark. Early next morning I added more species to the list while I was packing the car.

As we departed the town stopped for about ten minutes at the wetlands on the southern boundary of the town. While the water birds were largely absent I did manage to get quite a list of bush birds.

Bird list

  • Galah
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  • Eastern Rosella
  • Yellow Rosella
  • White-winged Chough
  • Australian Magpie
  • Clamorous Reed-warbler
  • Silvereye
  • Laughing Kookaburra
  • Grey Teal
  • Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Sacred Kingfisher
  • Weebill
  • White-plumed Honeyeater
  • Rock Dove
  • Blue-faced Honeyeater

On the road again part 2

Ouyen to Narrandera

On the afternoon of the first day of our trip to Sydney we travelled from Ouyen in Victoria to Narrandera in NSW.  From Ouyen to Tooleybuc we didn’t see all that many birds, just the occasional Australian Magpie, small groups of White-winged choughs foraging on the roadside, several Willie Wagtails seeking out insects and solitary ravens flying across the road or the adjacent farm paddocks. Usually along here we see various parrot species but on this day we only saw a few Galahs.

If we had stopped at Tooleybuc for a break we might have added quite a few species to my growing list. The River Murray runs through the town and this environment offers much to a wide range of species. The same applies a few minutes later in the afternoon when we cross the Edward River near the township of Kyalite. We also by-pass Balranald and the Murrumbidgee River there.

Between Balranald and Hay we often stop for a break at the Ravensworth Rest Area. I’ve often found a good range of birds at this location. This time, however, we didn’t have the need to stop. Along this stretch of road we saw an Australian Pelican sitting on the bank of a farm dam. I figured that there mush be fish in the dam.

Near the rest area we saw Nankeen Kestrel, Little Eagle and Australian Ravens. A few kilometres back we had seen a small group of Emus. This was in complete contrast with our trip earlier in the year when we saw over 80 Emus on this stretch of road.

Sorry, but I have no photos to show taken during this section of our journey. Perhaps tomorrow?

Good birding.

On the road again

We are on the road again. To be  more precise: we have been on the road and are now in Sydney for about a month staying with family for Christmas. We left just over a week ago and travelled from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, to my son’s home in Artarmon in two days of many hours in the car. Although the distance is just over 1300km we enjoy the journey, taking note of the changing environments as we go.

All the way we are on the lookout for birds. At certain points along the way we stop for meal breaks, or to refuel. On these occasions I usually jot down the birds observed during our break. Additional lists are sometimes made as we drive along, usually when my wife is driving. If either of us sees something special or out of the ordinary I will make a note of that too.

During the morning of the first day we saw many of the usual species seen along the road from Murray Bridge to Ouyen in Victoria. This is predominantly mallee eucalypt country used for wheat and sheep farming. Along the way we saw several family groups of White-winged Choughs.  It always amuses me that they do not merely walk or hop along the ground; it’s more of a swagger. If pressed hard they will fly off, their white wing patches showing up clearly. This easily identifies them from the many Australian Magpies and Little Ravens along this stretch of highway.

Also along this stretch I am also on the lookout for the way the magpies change from the white-backed sub-species to the black-backed. Intermediate hybrids are also worth looking for. As for the ravens it is a harder task. The further east one travels the more Australian Ravens can be found. The only sure way of telling them apart from the Little Ravens is to hear them call, not a practical solution driving at 110kph.

Along this first leg of the journey we also saw a few Grey Currawongs as they glided across the road in front of us, many Willie Wagtails fluttering around in search of breakfast, the occasional Nankeen Kestrel soaring or hovering over the fields, and flocks of Galahs glowing pink in the morning sun. A highlight was several brief sightings of Dusky Woodswallows, always a nice species to see.

Morning tea at Lameroo added Welcome Swallows, Australian Wood Duck, Crested Pigeon and Magpie Lark to the list. I didn’t add the feral domestic ducks which live around the artificial lake.

Coming into Ouyen for lunch I saw the only Brown Falcon sighted on the journey to Sydney. Typically, it was perched on the pole of a telephone line. While having lunch a female House Sparrow cheekily perched on the picnic table about 30cm from my lunch. It was close enough to get a few good shots with my phone (see below).

Female House Sparrow

Female House Sparrow

Other species added to my growing list while we ate lunch included Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, European Blackbird, Common Starling, Yellow-throated Miner, Singing Honeyeater and White-plumed Honeyeater.

Tomorrow: from Ouyen, Victoria to Narrandera, NSW.

Birding at 100kph on the Hay Plains

Emu at Monarto Zoo, South Australia

My wife and I have just returned from a road trip to Sydney to visit family. Grandchildren can be so persuasive; “We insist you come to stay with us,” said Mr Nearly Five Years Old.

We didn’t get to do much birding because of the wet weather, and the fact that I came down with a severe case of bronchitis while there; as I write this I’m still in the throes of that dreaded lurgy. (“Cough! Cough!”)

While we have flown over to Sydney on several occasions – it’s nearly 1400km each way – we prefer to drive because we enjoy the passing scenery, flora and fauna and the birds, of course. Yes, it’s tiring travelling non-stop for two full days, but we take it in turns to drive. When I’m at the wheel my wife records the birds I see and can identify along the road. Identification can be challenging when hurtling along at 100kph on a busy highway. And when it’s my wife’s turn to drive I can give a little more attention to what is flying around, or sitting on the roadside – or even on the road itself.

I usually try to arrange to be the passenger when we are crossing the Hay Plains between the towns of Balranald and Hay in far western New South Wales. This long stretch of road has huge expanses of grassland and saltbush with only the occasional tree until the last 20km just east of Balranald. Usually the birding along the 130km road is excellent with plenty of birds of prey. On this trip however, I saw few birds other than Emus.

Usually I count on seeing perhaps up to ten or a dozen Emus along this road, but on this occasion I estimate there were between 50 and 80. I didn’t count them but one loose flock alone numbered around 20. as for the rest there were numerous groups of two, three or four. It was certainly the most I can ever remember seeing on this stretch of road, one we’ve travelled on many occasions when travelling to Sydney to visit family. (Now that we have grandchildren there as an added incentive, we are travelling over there up to three times annually.)

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Hay Plains, western New South Wales