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.

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

Fan-tailed cuckoo, Balranald

Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Balranald

Sydney Trip June 2011

While having lunch on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in Balranald last June, I saw a Fan-tailed Cuckoo quietly feeding in a nearby group of trees. I crept as close as I dared, trying not to scare it away. Eventually I was able to get this somewhat fuzzy photo – it’s not brilliant, but it’s the best of a bad lot. That’s what happens when one pushes one’s camera to it’s limit.

The Fan-tailed Cuckoo is a species I haven’t seen all that many times, so any any sighting is a good one. One day I shall also get a good photo.

Birds along the Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Darter, Balranald, NSW

Sydney Trip June 2011

On our journey home from visiting family in Sydney earlier this year we stopped for a lunch break at Balranald in far western NSW. After a few minutes in the local tourist information centre we drove down to the picnic area on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River (see photo below). While having lunch I made a modest list of birds seen and managed several interesting photos.

The Darter (shown above) was drying its wings after swimming in the river. This species is widespread along our waterways in Australia without being in large numbers anywhere. White-faced Herons, like the one shown below, are both widespread and common. This one looked like it wasn’t enjoying the cold weather. It seemed to be huddling up and trying to warm up in the weak sunshine.

White-faced Heron, Balranald, NSW

Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Great Crested Grebe at Balranald

Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Sydney Trip June 2011

I written a number of times recently about our trip earlier this year to visit family in Sydney. On our way home we took a little extra time to stop off and do a little birding at key spots, usually lunch times or when we stopped to have a cuppa. Instead of taking only 2 days to come home we took an extra day. I’ll be sharing some of my sightings and photos of the birds seen in the coming days.

On the second day coming home we stopped at Balranald, NSW to have lunch. We drove down to the picnic area on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River (see photo above). One of the birds seen was a solitary Great Crested Grebe, shown in the photo below.

Australasian Grebes are very common on lakes, rivers and wetlands in Australia, as are Hoary Headed Grebes. Great Crested Grebes – in my experience – are nowhere near as common and therefore any sighting is exciting. They are also spectacular birds to see, especially during courtship displays. Sadly, this one was a long way away from my camera, and because I’ve not yet learned to walk on water, the resulting photo is way below my usually high standards. Sigh.

Never mind; one day I will capture a great photo of this great species.


Very poor photo of a Great Crested Grebe, Balranald