On our recent visit to the Australian Wildlife Park near Gosford north of Sydney, I was pleased that a part of their collection of animals included birds. In fact, some of the birds were in walk-through aviaries. Such cages are good opportunities to get good photos of species it would be hard to obtain with animals in the wild.
One of the aviaries featured owls and frogmouths. I’ll show the owls in another post in a few days’ time.
Tawny Frogmouths, as shown in today’s post (above and below) are one of my favourite birds. Ever since a family Easter camp in the 1986 at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north-west Victoria we have loved these birds. On that occasion one decided to roost on a branch above our tent and call for quite a while during the night. Once we worked out what it was, the constant oom-oom-oom call soothingly put us to sleep.
We have occasionally heard and seen this species in our garden at home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. Because of its soft call we do not hear it if the television is going in the evening. Perhaps that is a good reason for occasionally switching it off.
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 June 2011
After lunch on the last day of our trip home from Sydney we drove around the Nature Drive in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. This drive follows the shore of Lake Hattah and several other lakes. Part way along I spotted a flock of about 20 Red-rumped Parrots. They flew from the grass where they had been feeding and perched in one of the trees near the road.
While it is not a brilliant photo it does illustrate the beautiful green and yellow colours of the male birds.
Quite frequently I come across birds doing something interesting or unusual or even bizarre. While having lunch at Lake Hattah in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park earlier this year I noticed and photographed these two Galahs in a very private moment.
I almost feel like I was intruding, so I’ll say no more.
Sydney Trip June 2011
One of the delights of the last day of our trip home from Sydney earlier this year was a very clear sighting of a Crested Bellbird. It was perched in clear view and bright sunshine within easy camera range. What more could I ask? It proceeded to give its penetrating call at this close quarter. In between calls it took out time to preen its feathers.
All this gave me ample opportunity to get these photos, the first time I’ve been able to get good shots of this species despite many sightings over the years. In reality, when I think about it, I’ve probably heard this species more often than seen it. Its far reaching call ensures that it is recorded in my notebook more frequently than actual sightings.
These photos were taken in the mallee and spinifex habitat in the north western section of Hattah-Kulkyne National Park between Mildura and Ouyen in north western Victoria. The species is widespread throughout mainland Australia except in the eastern ranges, southern Victoria and the tropical north. It is more of a dryland species, preferring dry eucalypt woodlands, mulga, mallee, spinifex and saltbush areas.
The bird shown in these photos appears to be an immature male; the black throat patch is more grey than in the mature male.