Whenever we camped at or visited Lake Hattah in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in Victoria we always looked forward to seeing the family of Apostlebirds occupying the camping ground. They are gregarious and noisy, often bossing other species out of any food scraps we may drop on the ground.
As we drive over to visit our family in Sydney we start looking for this species along the road between Hay and Narrandera. On most trips we get good views of them crossing the road in front of our car as we speed along.
As a result of these regular sightings we have become rather attracted to these interesting birds. Part of this fascination is that they make a bowl shaped mud nest; very few Australian birds construct their nest with mud. The other fascinating aspect of this species is that they are relatively uncommon here in South Australia.
For some years I have known of a family living around the gardens and grounds of the Peterborough Hospital in the mid-north of the state. My sister-in-law is the cook at the hospital, and she has told me that these bold birds will even come onto the veranda and into through the doors of the wards which open onto the veranda. Over recent years we have visited our relatives a number of times, and despite searching the area I have failed each time to see these birds – except once many years ago.
Many years ago I did manage to record Apostlebirds near the township, but this was in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s. Even earlier than that I saw them during a family picnic at Dawson Gorge, about 30km north-east of Peterborough.
In recent months, however, there have been a growing number of reports of this species in other spots in the mid-north, including Gladstone, Laura, Stone Hut and more recently at Watervale. On a recent visit to my daughter in Clare we went for a drive through this area. As we drove through Gladstone, I was pleased to see two Apostlebirds fly across the road in front of the car.
It seems that this species is expanding its range here in South Australia.
Sydney Trip report June 2011
After leaving Wagga Wagga on the first day of our journey home we headed into the setting sun towards Narrandera where we had a cabin booked in the caravan park. Before it became too dark to see any birds I added a few interesting species to my trip list for the day. Just out of Wagga Wagga I saw a Great Egret feeding in a road side paddock. Several flocks of Galahs flew across the road in front of the car and Australian Magpies still scratched around on the ground looking for a tasty morsel for supper.Now and then I’d see an Australian Raven fly across our path.
One of the real delights of this stretch of road was seeing several small flocks of Apostlebirds feeding on the roadside. For some reason we hadn’t seen many on this trip.
Just on sunset we were approaching a fruit fly exclusion zone. Some parts of Australia have the dreaded fruit fly which destroys some of our finest fruit crops. For many years parts of Victoria and most of South Australia have successfully kept this pest out, and the fruit fly exclusion zones are designed to ensure that continues. As we approached the zone we started eating the little fruit we still had left on board. We decided to be good citizens and stop at the drop off point, a large bin on the roadside where travellers must deposit uneaten fruit. If people continue on with fruit on board and they are subject to a random check, there are severe fines in store.
As we pulled up to the deposit bin, two other cars were there, the occupants standing around chatting – and eating the last of their fruit. As we stopped we recognised the occupants of one of the cars – our local mayor, one of our councillors and their wives. The occupants of the other car were also from our home town.
What are the odds of that happening? Three cars, each independently coming from a different starting point and all stopping at the same spot at the same time with the same purpose and all occupants coming from the same town and all knowing each other. Bizarre.
Last Saturday we were travelling from Murray Bridge to Peterborough in the mid north of South Australia. We were visiting relatives for a Christmas get together. As we were approaching Peterborough on the road from the small township of Terowie, I saw three Apostlebirds on the side of the road. This was near the entrance gate to the only farmhouse along this road.
Apostlebirds are widespread throughout large parts of Australia and are very common in some areas. Here in South Australia however, I only occasionally come across them. This sighting is nearing the south eastern extension of their range. A small population of about twenty are resident within the town of Peterborough, about ten kilometres from my sighting. I’ve also recorded them in the Dawson area, some 20 kilometres to the north east of Peterborough.