A short visit to Royal National Park

Picnic area in Royal National Park, Sydney

After my visit to my son and family in Sydney in May of last year, I travelled south and followed the south coast of New South Wales and Victoria on my way home. As you might have gathered from my opening sentence, I am over a year behind in sharing my bird and travel photos here.

On my way south I took a detour into the Royal National Park, Australia’s first declared national park and the second oldest national park in the world. Over the many trips we have made to Sydney we have visited this park on a number of occasions. Because of its size and many and various attractions, visitors could spend many days exploring its beauties. I am sure that nearby residents have spent a lifetime enjoying its wild beauty.

Along Lady Carrington Drive, Royal National Park, Sydney

After enjoying a cuppa for morning tea I went exploring along Lady Carrington Drive. I distinctly remember my very first walk along this walking/cycle track many years ago. I was told that this was a reliable site to see Lyrebirds. Indeed, I did see a Lyrebird on the occasion, casually following me along the track. That was my very first ever sighting of the species. I was so shocked that I forgot to take a photo. On this most recent visit, I was disappointed not to have that early experience repeated.

Dusky Moorhen, Royal National Park, Sydney
Australian Magpie (juvenile black-backed), Royal National Park, Sydney

The picnic areas and walking track in this part of the park are adjacent to the Hacking River. While I was able to get a reasonable list of birds seen and heard in the area, not many of the individuals present were generous enough to come out and pose for my camera. That is why I also like to take shots of our native plants as well. They tend not to fly away while I focus my camera.

Royal National Park
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Royal National Park, Sydney
Eurasian Coot, Royal National Park, Sydney

Monarto Safari Park South Australia

Tawny Frogmouths, Monarto Safari Park

Captive birds

My local zoo is the Monarto Safari Park just fifteen minutes from my home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. This zoo is a part of the Adelaide Zoo which is about an hour’s drive from here. I am a Life Member and try to visit often. One of my recent visits was last year when I went for one of the many walks in the park. On one of these walks, there is a large aviary which has a few captive birds in it, including the Tawny Frogmouths shown above.

Tawny Frogmouths are a widespread nocturnal species in this area and it is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania. From time to time I occasionally hear or see this species in my garden. My family and I love hearing the soft call of this bird and we have fond memories of hearing and seeing them on various camping trips.

Bush Stone-curlew

Another mostly nocturnal species in the aviary at Monarto is the Bush Stone-curlew, shown in the photos below. Again, this widespread species is found in many parts of Australia except Tasmania. Campers in our more remote areas may have heard its haunting call at night. On the other hand, in some areas, the Bush Stone-curlew has adapted to life in towns and cities, especially in Queensland where it is commonly seen on golf courses and reserves.

Annoyingly, this is one species I have yet to see in its natural environment and I only have photos like those shown below which have been taken in zoos. I must get out and travel more.

Non-captive birds

As visitors to Monarto Safari Park join the many bus tours through the large park, it is possible to see many of our local native bird species. These include Emus, Australian Magpies, Little Ravens, Brown Falcons, Black Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagles, various parrot species, as well as smaller bush birds like the Willie Wagtail, woodswallows, thornbills, wrens and a variety of water birds when there is water in the creek flowing through the park.

The best way of seeing and photographing these birds is to stroll along the many walking trails through the mallee scrub land. Warning: try not to wander into the African Lion enclosure, or you might find yourself invited to lunch – with you on the menu. By the way: the zoo has four new lion cubs born only recently and they are now on display.

One easily seen species is the White-winged Chough which is about the size of our magpies and ravens. They are often seen in family groups of 10 – 15 and as they fly the white on their wings can easily be seen. On my walk to see the aviary birds I also saw one of their mud nests (see the last photo below).

Captive Bush Stone-curlew, Monarto Safari Park
Captive Bush Stone-curlew, Monarto Safari Park
Captive Bush Stone-curlew, Monarto Safari Park
Captive Bush Stone-curlew, Monarto Safari Park
Mud nest of the White-winged Chough, Monarto Safari Park

An early morning surprise

Australian Wood Ducks – female (L) and male (R)

I had a pleasant surprise this morning. As I opened the curtains in my bedroom I saw two Australian Wood Ducks feeding on the grass in my garden. I quickly grabbed my camera and moved outside and a little closer to them, hoping to get some good photos. They were very cooperative and stayed grazing on the grass for a few minutes before flying off. I have included below a selection of the photos I took while they lingered there nearby.

New sighting

Australian Wood Ducks are quite common in the Murray Bridge area in South Australia. They can often be seen along and near the banks of the Murray River here, as well as in pastures some distance from water. In the Adelaide Hills to the west, and in other parts of the state, this species can often be observed in grassy pastures and around farm dams.

What is unusual about my sighting this morning is that I haven’t recorded Australian Wood Ducks on my property for the last 15 years. In fact, I cannot recall ever seeing them here on my 5-acre block in over 35 years that I have lived here. My database of records only goes back to sightings since 2005. I still have many sightings from earlier years to enter on my database so I am trusting my memory on this one. And my memory is not as good as it used to be. (Sigh.)

From time to time I see Pacific Black Ducks flying overhead. Over ten years ago I also took photos of a mother Pacific Black Duck with her ducklings swimming in my swimming pool. This happened a number of times but now that I have a cover over the pool, they don’t seem to be interested in coming down for a swim.

Australian Wood Ducks
Australian Wood Duck (male)
Australian Wood Duck (male)
Australian Wood Duck (female)
Australian Wood Ducks
Australian Wood Ducks

Peaceful Doves in my garden

Peaceful Dove, Murray Bridge

One bird species that I love seeing and hearing in my garden here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, is the Peaceful Dove as shown in today’s photos. I live on the western edge of the rural city of Murray Bridge on a five-acre (two-hectare) block of land.

As well as a large variety of Australian native plants and trees, I have a small orchard and some remnant mallee scrub. My property adjoins several other mallee scrub areas, including Kinchina Conservation Park about a kilometre to the west.

Because there is so much native vegetation remaining in this area, the bird life can be prolific. I have lived here for over 35 years and have kept monthly lists of birds observed over that period, except for a few periods when I was away. This includes many holidays interstate and several trips overseas.

Peaceful Dove at one of my bird baths.

Doves and Pigeons

The most common species in this family of birds is the Crested Pigeon. They are a resident breeding species, meaning that they are seen every day and have been recorded breeding on my land.

For many years I have recorded Spotted Turtledoves (Spotted Doves) almost every day as well, but in the last few years, I have only seen this species here occasionally. The same applies the Rock Doves (Feral Pigeons) which are now only recorded occasionally. One other species, the Common Bronzewing, has only been sighted here on a handful of occasions.

In the first 20 years living here I only occasionally sighted Peaceful Doves. Then an individual would sometimes move down the hills to the west and visit my garden for an hour or two. On checking my database of records, I started seeing them regularly from late 2009. Over the next decade, they have become resident and I hear and see one or more every day.

At first I only saw one of two until more recently when I have recorded up to six in close proximity to each other. Only a few days ago I looked out the window to see four of them sunning themselves all within a square metre. It has become one of my favourite birds and I feel so privileged to see and hear them regularly here at home.

Peaceful Dove at one of my bird baths.
Peaceful Dove.

Being watched by Little Ravens

Little Raven, Murray Bridge, South Australia

They are watching me

Ever had the feeling that someone is watching you?

I guess that feeling is common to most people. Have you ever had the feeling that an animal or bird is watching you? That is a very common feeling, I’d say. Dogs, in particular, have an uncanny way of watching people eat, for example. They always seem to know when there is food around.

Ravens nesting

Last month I was aware that the resident Little Ravens in my garden and five-acre block have been nesting. I observed them carrying sticks to a tall tree near my driveway, a spot which gives them a good lookout over the surrounding land. I had just taken some photos of the flowers of some native Australian plants in my garden when I spotted the Little Raven shown in today’s photos (above and below).

Keeping an eye on me

The photos almost look like the raven is watching me carefully, making sure that I go nowhere near the nest. Over the few weeks, before these photos were taken, I walked past the nest tree many times. At no point did the ravens call out a warning, or swoop me or anything. I just went about my business, and they continued with their nest building.

I have been away from home travelling for the last two weeks so I don’t know whether their eggs have hatched. I will still be away for a while so I expect to get home to find several young ravens begging for food.

Good birding,

Trevor

Further reading:

Little Ravens feeding young

Little Ravens caught thieving

Little Raven, Murray Bridge, South Australia
Little Raven, Murray Bridge, South Australia