Little Pied Cormorants are common throughout much of Australia, wherever there is suitable habitat. Their preferred habitats include coastal areas, islands, estuaries, rivers, lakes, farm dams, sewage ponds – in fact, almost anywhere there is water. We’ve even had one visit our swimming pool!
I can also remember being fascinated as a child by the occasional visit of a cormorant to our garden tank which was open at the top. My father installed this tank to store water for watering the vegetables because the mains water pressure on our farm was unreliable. Dad had also put a few small fish in the tank to eat any mosquito wrigglers, so I guess a visit was well worthwhile for a little snack. My father had a different opinion!
The birds shown in these photos were in a walk through aviary at the Adelaide Zoo. Below is one of the captive birds shown at a nest.
Late last year I had a brief visit to the Wittunga Botanic Gardens in the Adelaide Hills. I had a medical appointment nearby and when that was out of the way I drove the short distance to the gardens and found a shady spot to have lunch. This was in the spring last year, but it turned out to be quite a warm day.
These gardens used to be a part of a large private collection of plants, mainly exotic with a nice mix of Australian native trees and shrubs. In the spring time to exotics can put on quite a colourful show. After lunch I took the camera and strolled around the gardens trying to get a few bird shots. This is usually an excellent spot for birding but on this occasion the birdlife was a little quiet. Like me, the birds were probably feeling the first heat of the coming summer.
The gardens feature some dense plantings of both native and exotic species. It also boasts some beautiful sweeping grassed areas ideal for picnics as well as several water features. Somehow the usual ducks, coots and swamp hens weren’t to be seen during this visit – except for the two Australian Wood Ducks shown feeding in the photo below.
- Wittunga Botanic Gardens
- Wittunga Botanic Gardens part 1
- Wittunga Botanic Gardens part 2
- Wittunga Botanic Gardens part 3
- Wittunga Botanic Gardens part 4
Last night I had a meeting at Wellington in South Australia, about a half hour drive south of home here in Murray Bridge. As we crossed the river on the ferry I commented to my friend who was driving about the number of Australian Pelicans swimming near the ferry. There must have been about 15 of them. I didn’t have my camera and it was almost dark anyway.
Last year I crossed the River Murray on the same ferry during the day and took the photos on this post – but didn’t share them at the time. This is an example of taking birding a little too casually. I thought the birds I had photographed were Little Black Cormorants. When I looked carefully at the photo above I realised that they were in fact Great Cormorants. Observe the yellow facial skin which is missing on the Little Black Cormorants.
Great Cormorants are considerably larger than the Little Blacks: 70-90cm compared with 60-65cm. Their ranges throughout Australia are very similar. Their preferred habitats are also very similar: coastal waters, rivers, lakes, dams, reservoirs, estuaries. Their nests are also very similar: large untidy collections of sticks, weeds and bark, often over and usually near water and often in large colonies. These colonies can also include spoonbills, herons and other species of cormorants.
Our short stay overnight in Mallacoota was far too brief. Early the next morning we headed back to the main highway on our way to Gisborne north of Melbourne. It was one of the longest days on the road for the entire holiday. On the road leading out of the lovely seaside town of Mallacoota I took the above photo of the type of beautiful country we had to drive through.
Along the coast road from Sydney to Melbourne there are few places where you are very far from forests. Part way through the morning I asked my daughter if she’d seen enough trees. She was almost at the point where some open country would have been a pleasant change.
I didn’t see any birds of note on the way out to the highway, except near the locality called Genoa. Near a creek and its associated wetlands I saw the only Swamp Harrier of the trip. I also heard some Bell Miners in the trees there.
By morning tea time we had reached Orbost on the Snowy River. While having my cup of tea I wandered down to the bank of the river but there was little of interest to be seen. I saw several Purple Swamphens and Little Pied Cormorants. I heard a Clamorous Reedwarbler in the reed beds along the river, and a Laughing Kookaburra was calling nearby. I was surprised to hear some Bell Miners because I always associate them with heavily forested areas which is not correct. Their habitat preferences are much broader than that. It’s a species I’m still learning about.
I saw several Grey Fantails, Australian Magpies, various common honeyeaters and some Silvereyes. The only other species of note was a small flock of European Goldfinches, the only time I recorded this species on the trip.
When I wrote the title of this post I thought I’d seen very little on that day. In actual fact I had quite a nice little list even before lunch time. Birding is like that.
On our visit to Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria in January we went for an after dinner walk along the foreshore and estuary of the river. It was a calm, warm evening and we had a pleasant time exploring this lovely spot for the first time. We decided that this is one place we needed to revisit – and stay four or five days at the very least.
In the quiet estuary we saw many Black Swans, Australian Pelicans, a few Pied Oystercatchers and three Royal Spoonbills.
While on our walk we saw several Great cormorants as well as some Little Pied Cormorants. Two Whistling Kites patrolled the shallows in the company of a lone White-bellied Sea Eagle. I’ve not seen too many sea eagles in all of my birding, so this was something special. I was surprised though that there were not many ducks in the estuary. In fact I only recorded a few Australian Wood Ducks. Perhaps the kites and eagle had scared them off.
The inlet is an ideal haven for fishermen, and this is iluustrated by the large number of boats present in the water and on trailers in the caravan park. There are also boats offering cruises on the river, like the one shown below.