On our holiday in January earlier this year we travelled down along the south coast of New South Wales. On the second day we travelled from Bateman’s Bay to Mallacoota, stopping at a few places along the way. I was keen to find a few good birding spots and also look at potential good places to stay on future trips along that coast. This time we had our daughter with us and so we were on a limited time line. She had to get back home to start work.
One of the places we visited in the early 1980s which I wanted to revisit was the Mimosa Rocks National Park. It’s funny how you sometimes get an idealised concept of a place and want to return there after many years, only to find that it wasn’t like you remembered. That was the case here. Perhaps we went to a different part of the park that first time. The memory can play tricks at times.
Anyway, we found a nice picnic spot for lunch and I was able to do a little birding during and after lunch.
It was quite warm in the picnic ground as we were surrounded by reasonably dense trees and bushes. Only a few steps away one emerged at the beach and a lovely cooling breeze. It’s amazing how much difference a few steps can make.
A few people were swimming or sitting on the beach. Also using the beach were three Pied Oystercatchers, shown in the photo above. It had been some time since my last sighting of this species, so it was a good addition to my list. A few cormorants flew past as I scanned the beach and the water. I recorded both Great and Little Pied Cormorants.
In the picnic ground I watched a small flock of Striated Thornbills busily feeding in the bushes and trees. They wouldn’t come close enough or sit still enough for a photo. I also observed a Little Wattlebird coming into the picnic ground every few minutes, catching an insect, and then head off into the forest nearby, always going in the same direction. It looked very much like it was feeding young in a nest.
On the drive in and again on the way out we wound down the windows to hear the beautiful tinkling calls of the Bell Miners, another good species I don’t get to see or hear very often.
Mystery Bay is so named because many years ago some men exploring the area in a boat disappeared. Their whereabouts remains a mystery.
On our way south from Bateman’s Bay in NSW in January we stopped briefly at Narooma to buy some bread and some goodies for morning tea. The picnic grounds at Mystery Bay seemed as good as any for a rest and a cuppa. It also looked promising from a birding point of view.
Click on the photos to enlarge the images.
The Eurobodalla National Park started on the edge of the picnic area and looked like it would have some interesting species on the long walking trail leading south. Unfortunately I had no time to investigate and had to be content to stay in the picnic area.
It was interesting to see both the Red Wattlebird and the Little Wattlebird in the trees near the picnic area. A solitary Laughing Kookaburra kept us interested as we had our cuppa. My wife and daughter noticed that this bird seemed to have some sort of injury to one of its legs. It didn’t come close enough for a closer inspection. A family of Superb Blue-wrens could be heard in the nearby undergrowth and soon braved the open lawn area near where we sat.
Four Great Cormorants were sitting on the rocks just out to sea (photo above) while Silver Gulls and Crested Terns were seen on a nearby beach. Back in the picnic area I saw a few Welcome Swallows, a single Grey Fantail and several White-backed Magpies.
We had a very pleasant morning tea but the bird list was not all that impressive.
Whenever my wife and I travel interstate we look for national parks and botanic gardens to visit. Both afford excellent opportunities for us to pursue our interests. My wife is interested in Australian native plants and flowers – she has a small nursery – and I am interested in the birds that frequent such places.
On our trip through the eastern states last Christmas and New Year we visited Canberra for a short while. Our main objective was to visit the National Gallery to see the special Degas art exhibition. As important was a brief visit to the Australian National Botanic Gardens. These gardens are possibly our favourite in all that we have visited so far.
We were able to spend about three hours wandering the gardens on this occasion, not nearly enough time, granted, but we were on a tight schedule. During our stay we were entertained by a jazz group playing a variety of pieces. This, we found out, was a part of their Summer Series of concerts on Sunday evenings. Daylight Saving is ideal for such events and it proved to be very popular with many hundreds of people coming in toÂ the gardens. Fortunately the music did not deter the birds, and I was able to compile a nice list and get some interesting photos.
With so many plants in the gardens, and many of them flowering, it is not surprising to find many honeyeaters present and active. The Red Wattlebird shown in the photo above was quite unafraid of me only a few metres away; they are obviously used to people.
Last year we visited Mt. Boothby Conservation Park in the upper South East of South Australia. This park is about 20km south west of Coonalpyn where we were staying with friends of ours. We had experienced driving through some very interesting country to the east of Coonalpyn during the weekend, including Ngarkat National Park. This park had been severely burnt by a bushfire about six months previously, and the regrowth was amazing.
But I digress.
Mt Boothby Conservation Park is predominently mallee and banksia country. The “mount” is actually just a hill about 200 metres (a guess) above the surrounding wheat and sheep farming country. Two tracks lead to the summit, one from the south east and one from the south.
As I was driving slowly towards the summit – it is a very rocky 4WD track – friend John said, “A perfect ending to a great weekend would be if a Malleefowl were to come out on to the track in front of us.” I had to agree.
Right on cue, a malleefowl came into view and strutted along the track in front of us for some 200 metres before disappearing from view in the dense scrub.
Duck! Duck! Duck! (Goose???)
It was Julie, his wife, who saw it first. “Duck! Duck! Duck!” she shouted in excitement. Of course it wasn’t a duck – but that was the first thing to come into her mind! Now I need to explain several things here.
One, a Malleefowl is nothing like a duck! In fact, it is the size and shape of a small turkey.
Two, Julie had never seen a Malleefowl in the wild before, so she had no reference point for her possible identification.
Three, the Malleefowl is a rather rare, endangered species. In fact, in nearly 30 years of birding I had only ever seen about 6 of these beautiful Australian birds. Anticipation all weekend had been high; sighting one heightened the excitement level to fever pitch!
An Even Better Weekend
After we calmed down – and explained to Julie that it was NOT a duck and that she wasn’t even close with her ID – we stopped at the summit for a few minutes. The view was unspectacular, so we headed of down the south track to the boundary track. This took us along the farming country next door.
John commented, “Wouldn’t it be an even better end to the weekend if we saw another Malleefowl?”
You guessed it. As if responding to a director’s cue, said Malleefowl strolled casually out in front of the car! Whoopee! Two in ten minutes! Wow time!
The Best Ending
I do not to this day know what made me turn away from looking at the second bird and look over the fence into the adjacent paddock. Not thirty metres away, in full view, were another FOUR Malleefowls casually feeding.
Six in ten minutes!
It had taken me 30 years to see the other six – now six in ten minutes!
Wow! Wow! Wow big time!
The only downside was the resulting photos. It was a few minutes after sunset and the shots we took were all rather dark and a little blurry. Never mind! Next time, perhaps.
To see a photo (not mine) of a Malleefowl click here.
Update: Since writing this article I have taken the photo below which shows an active Mallee Fowl nesting mound. This nest is in Ferries McDonald Conservation Park near my home town, Murray Bridge.