Apostlebirds at Taplan in the Murray Mallee
Over on Trevor’s Travels I have been writing about the Taplan Railway Centenary celebrations I attended in October last year. Taplan is – or should I say – was a small rural community centred around the railway line running through the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. The town hardly exists and the railway line was removed in 1995. I grew up on a wheat/sheep farm there, went to the local primary school and still have many great memories of the area. I get back there far too infrequently, despite my nephew still working the family farm.
While the ceremonies were in full swing a family of Apostlebirds came hopping around the gathered crowd, including the dignitaries. I wasn’t quick enough with my camera. After the celebrations were over, my brother insisted on taking me to visit the old farmhouse where I grew up. I am pleased I did; a small group of Apostlebirds were fussing around in the chook yard there having a drink from the chickens’ trough.
I have reported these sightings because they are significant. While this species is common to very common much further east, there are only a few populations here in South Australia. This is one of them. My brother tells me that they have always been around the old farmhouse and nearby, but my memory must be failing as I can’t remember them from my childhood. Sigh.
Yesterday I was asked to drive from Murray Bridge to Pinnaroo via Karoonda in the Murray mallee region of South Australia. A local courier company needed some parcels urgently delivered in the morning and I was available. I used to do relief driving for this company.
I enjoy doing driving jobs like this because it gets me out of my office and away from my computer for some fresh air. It also enables me to look at the birds along the way. After I’d delivered all the parcels I took a leisurely pace on the way home, stopping a number of times to actually get out and stretch my legs and do some birding.
One of the things that impressed me on the outward journey was the number of White-winged Choughs in the region. It seemed that I was seeing a flock every kilometre or so along the way. It is my guess that this species tends to be found along the country roads in this region for several reasons.
- The roadside vegetation allows foraging opportunities for the birds, more so than many of the open farm paddocks nearby.
- The roadside vegetation provides excellent nesting sites in the many trees lining the route.
- The rain run-off from the roads gathers in puddles and gutters long enough for the birds to build their mud nests.
At the point where I stopped for lunch on a dirt side road I found a family of choughs, some of them posing for my camera nicely (see photo above).
In recent posts I have mentioned the word “mallee”. This is a particularly Australian word derived from the Aboriginal people of Australia. It specifically relates to a group of eucalypt tree species collectively known as “mallee trees.”
Some areas of Australia are referred colloquially as “The Mallee“. These are areas where the mallee tree is the dominant species. The area where we live in Murray Bridge South Australia and areas to the east of here to the Victorian border are often referred to as the “Murray Mallee” because here the Murray River flows through the region where mallee trees are common. We have many mallee trees in our garden and the Murray River is but 5km from here.
There are many bird and animal species whose preferred habitat is the mallee and its associations. Some species even have the word “mallee” as a part of their name eg Mallee Ringneck Parrot, Mallee Emu Wren and the Malleefowl.
For more information about the word mallee check out the Wikipedia entry here.
UPDATE October 2006: since writing this article I have added the photos that now appear on this page. Both were taken on our property and show typical mallee trees.
UPDATE March 2010: Further photos have been added below.
The following photos were taken elsewhere and show typical examples of mallee trees.