Archive for the 'Waterbirds' Category

Strange Swamphen Behaviour

Purple Swamphen – Australian Botanic Gardens, Mount Annan

On my visit to the Australian Botanic Gardens in Mount Annan, SW Sydney last week I was surprised by the behaviour of the Purple Swamphen shown in the photo above. It didn’t seem to mind me walking past only a few metres away, nor was it concerned by the lady sitting at a picnic table about ten metres away.

I am not used to seeing Swamphens sitting down in this manner except when they are sitting to hatch their eggs. It almost looked as if it was in the process of actually hatching its eggs. Or was it just having a little rest? Normally, I am used to seeing Purple Swamphens strutting along elegantly on their long legs, rarely hurried and quite at ease with the world.

My error

There are two major flaws in my idea that it was preparing a nest, or sitting on eggs.
1. Swamphens usually make a nest in a stand of reeds, treading on them to make a flat platform on which they make a nest.
2. When I went past this spot some twenty minutes later, the bird had moved on.

I guess it really was just enjoying a quiet rest in a comfortable spot.

Further reading:

Article on the Birdlife Australia site
Article on the Australian Museum site
Purple swamphens at Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge
Preening his feathers

Purple Swamphen

Birding at Lake Cullulleraine in northern Victoria

Lake Cullulleraine, northern Victoria

In recent days I have been on the road again. This is my first major trip since October of 2018. I was on my way to Sydney to stay with family but I decided to take a completely different route this time. Normally I travel almost due east, travelling through Pinneroo, Ouyen, Balranald, Hay, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn. On this trip, I headed north from my home in Murray Bridge to Blanchetown where I crossed the Murray River.

I headed on east past Waikerie, Berri, Renmark and on towards Mildura in north-west Victoria. By the time I reached the small community of Lake Cullulleraine, it was time for a break and for lunch. Whenever I am travelling, I usually look for a good birding spot to add to my list of birds seen. This lake and the area nearby have always proved to be a satisfactory birding spot. In fact, many years ago my wife and I spent a lovely week in our old caravan here.

The lake is filled from the nearby Murray River and the whole river-lake complex is a rewarding birding area. Added to that is the farming area surrounding the lake which adds a different birding environment. Where the land is not used for agriculture, the remnant mallee scrublands provide birding experiences of yet another type.

Darter, Lake Cullulleraine

As soon as I pulled up in the car park I saw a Darter drying its wings though when I took the photo above it had closed its wings for a moment. As I was having my lunch I listed all of the other birds observed around the picnic area or on the nearby lake. The following is a list of the species seen:

  • Darter
  • Australian Raven
  • Purple Swamphen
  • Australian Wood Duck (about 60)
  • Black-tailed Native-hen
  • Noisy Miner
  • Magpie-lark
  • Apostlebird (photo below)
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Little Corella (about 30)
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Australian Pelican (one only flying overhead)
  • Eurasian Coot
  • Australian Magpie
  • Pied Butcherbird
  • Masked Lapwing
  • Red Rumped Parrot

It is not a long list but it was good to get started on listing the birds seen on my trip through South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria over the next few weeks. I will write about the birds I see on my journeys in the coming posts on this site.

Apostlebird, Lake Cullulleraine

As I prepared to leave, a small family of Apostlebirds came meandering around my car enabling me to get some good photos. They were constantly calling to each other while they scratched at the ground seeking out a few items to eat for their lunch.

Good birding,

Trevor

Rocky Gully Wetlands, Murray Bridge

Female Australasian Darter

Female Australasian Darter

Earlier this year I spent a whole afternoon birding at various sites around my hometown of Murray Bridge here in South Australia. One of those sites was the Rocky Gully Wetlands on Mannum Road. I frequently drive past this wetland area, glancing at the lagoons as I drive, but not stopping. I need to change that and linger for a few minutes and take a much more careful note of the birds present. That action is probably safer than birding while driving, anyway.

Bush birds

On this occasion, there were plenty of birds present. Around the lagoons, there were quite a few smaller bush birds in the trees and shrubs that have been planted in the area. This included Red Wattlebirds, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Singing Honeyeaters and New Holland Honeyeaters. I heard a Grey Shrike-thrush calling and several times I heard the resident Superb Fairy-wrens twittering their soft calls to each other. Several Crested Pigeons were present and three Galahs were the only parrots seen at this location. Normally, I would expect to see Little Corellas and several kinds of Lorikeets here. They were absent on this visit.

Waterbirds

On the water of the lagoons or on the several islands I could see quite a few Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal, but interestingly, no Pacific Black Ducks which are very common in this area. A small number of Black-winged Stilts, Eurasian Coots and a solitary Purple Swamphen were seen, along with four Australian Pelicans, a White-necked Heron and a Great Egret. The egret was slowly wading in the shallows looking for a feed. It is a pity I didn’t get a good photo of this bird and its reflections in the water.

Of particular interest were the small group of both Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. I always love seeing these species wherever I go birding. The most interesting sighting, however, was the count of twelve Australasian Darters. While this number is common in many parts of Australia, I have never seen so many in one spot in this region. Probably the most numerous species present were the Silver Gulls, with between 30 and 40 birds around the wetlands.

Further reading:

For each of the species mentioned in this post, I have written one or more articles about them on this site. To read them, go to the search facility in the top right-hand corner and type in the name of the species.

Newsletter: 

I also invite you to subscribe to my occasional newsletter (see below the comments).

Good birding,

Trevor

Australia Pelican, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Masked Lapwing

Australia Pelican (front), Yellow-billed Spoonbill (middle), Masked Lapwing

Rocky Gully wetlands, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Rocky Gully wetlands, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Rocky Gully wetlands, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Rocky Gully wetlands, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Birding along the River Murray

Black Swan, Murray Bridge

Black Swan, Murray Bridge

A few weeks ago I participated in the Global Big Day. This was a special birding day held all over the world. Participants went out birding in their local patch. This could be your own garden, a nearby park, or a little further away. I decided to visit six of my favourite local birding sites, starting with my own garden. It was an interesting and relaxing afternoon. I visited several spots I had not been to in quite a while. Naturally, my camera came with me.

One of my birding sites was Sturt Reserve here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. This reserve, about five kilometres from my home, incorporates large grassed picnic areas along the River Murray. At this point, the river is quite wide and affords good views of quite a range of water birds, including ducks, coots, swamphens, cormorants, darters, pelicans and grebes.

The picnic areas have some old growth gum trees which are favoured spots for a range of parrots, cockatoos, honeyeaters and magpies. To the south of the reserve, there are several shallow lagoons. These generally fill up due to run-off from land nearby during rain. They would also be filled if the river ever flooded. There may even be a way for water to enter these lagoons directly from the river, but I am not aware if this actually happens.

These lagoons also attract a range of water birds. On my special day out birding, I saw Black Swans (see photo above).

As well as the swans I also recorded the following species:

Please note that if you click on any of the above list of birds, it will take you to more articles and photos of those species.

Dusky Moorhen (left) and Eurasian Coot (right)

Dusky Moorhen (left) and Eurasian Coot (right)

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen

Part of the lagoon south of Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge

Part of the lagoon south of Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge

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