It has been a while.
It has been far too long since I last posted an article here on this site. It has not been an easy year for me so far (read here to find out why). But now I am back and keen to post many more bird photos here, as well as relate some highlights of my travels and birding experiences.
A special birthday
Last week my family celebrated my grandson’s 10th birthday, so I just had to come over from South Australia to Sydney for the occasion. It’s a 14 hour, two-day drive so it is not a trivial undertaking. This was my first big trip by myself, so I decided to take three days and take it easy. I am pleased that I did because I saw a few birding highlights along the way. More of that in coming posts.
The birthday party was held in a park near my son’s home and it was very successful – despite the rain trying to spoil it. The invited guests were determined to have a good time, and they did not to let the rain spoil their fun. It was a huge success and the food was also great. Love party food.
Lake Roberts, Lameroo
When I left home in Murray Bridge last week, my first stop was at Lake Roberts on the edge of Lameroo, a small farming based community in the eastern part of South Australia. I stopped for a break and a cup of tea. As I was having my morning tea, I made a list of the birds seen and heard. I also grabbed my camera and took a few photos. The photo above is a general shot of the artificial lake. Behind me is a small caravan park and to my left is a picnic area with tables seats covered by a roof.
My bird list for the twenty-minute stay is not long, nor is it exciting – except for one bird.
Australian Magpie (both white-backed and black-backed)
It is the last species which grabbed my attention.
I have visited this spot on many occasions on my trips to and from Sydney. This is the first time I have recorded a Whiskered Tern in this spot, and although it is a widespread species throughout much of Australia, it was an unexpected extra on this occasion. The photos are not great, unfortunately. Many of the photos were taken at extreme zoom, and are therefore not great.
The shot above is the one occasion that the solitary bird came to rest on the small beach along the edge of the lake. For the rest of the time, it kept flying around the perimeter of the small lake, diving into the water every ten seconds or so. I am not sure what it caught to eat, but it was quite persistent in this behaviour for most of the time I watched it. One of the better photos of it flying is shown below.
(Note to self: try to master photographing birds in flight.)
I didn’t have much time to photograph all of the other species present on this visit. I have shown some of them below. One species not listed above is the Muscovy Duck. This is a feral bird found in a few places around Australia, usually near farmhouses, dams and artificial lakes and ponds. It is native to Mexico, Central and South America. Feral populations exist in many countries, mainly as a result of releases by people or escapes from farms and gardens.
Some birds around Gundagai
From Narrandera we continued travelling east, going through Wagga Wagga without stopping – except at the traffic lights. From this point on we started climbing into the hilly country and eventually the mountains. The beautiful scenery is constantly changing and is a delight to travel through.
We succeeded in reaching our morning tea destination on time, stopping to refuel both the vehicle and us. Our favourite stopping spot along this stretch of road is the Dog on the Tuckerbox complex a few miles out of Gundagai, a place made famous by the legend surrounding a dog. Another couple having a break struck up a conversation with us; they, too, came from South Australia.
Another reason for stopping in this spot was to visit our favourite road side sales outlet. Farm fresh apples sold here are delicious, and we always stop here and buy a bag or two. Sadly, we can’t do the same on the return trip home due to our home state’s stringent laws about bringing fruit in. This is to protect our extensive fruit growing areas from the dreaded fruit fly pest. As an added bonus this time, we also bought some lovely cherries.
While all this was happening I managed to get quite a respectable bird list.
- Australian Raven
- Striated Pardalote
- Red wattlebird
- Grey Fantail
- White-plumed Honeyeater
- Australian Magpie
- Grey Shrike-thrush
- House Sparrow
- Common Starling
- Restless Flycatcher
- Australian Magpie-lark
- White-winged chough
We are on the road again. To be more precise: we have been on the road and are now in Sydney for about a month staying with family for Christmas. We left just over a week ago and travelled from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, to my son’s home in Artarmon in two days of many hours in the car. Although the distance is just over 1300km we enjoy the journey, taking note of the changing environments as we go.
All the way we are on the lookout for birds. At certain points along the way we stop for meal breaks, or to refuel. On these occasions I usually jot down the birds observed during our break. Additional lists are sometimes made as we drive along, usually when my wife is driving. If either of us sees something special or out of the ordinary I will make a note of that too.
During the morning of the first day we saw many of the usual species seen along the road from Murray Bridge to Ouyen in Victoria. This is predominantly mallee eucalypt country used for wheat and sheep farming. Along the way we saw several family groups of White-winged Choughs. It always amuses me that they do not merely walk or hop along the ground; it’s more of a swagger. If pressed hard they will fly off, their white wing patches showing up clearly. This easily identifies them from the many Australian Magpies and Little Ravens along this stretch of highway.
Also along this stretch I am also on the lookout for the way the magpies change from the white-backed sub-species to the black-backed. Intermediate hybrids are also worth looking for. As for the ravens it is a harder task. The further east one travels the more Australian Ravens can be found. The only sure way of telling them apart from the Little Ravens is to hear them call, not a practical solution driving at 110kph.
Along this first leg of the journey we also saw a few Grey Currawongs as they glided across the road in front of us, many Willie Wagtails fluttering around in search of breakfast, the occasional Nankeen Kestrel soaring or hovering over the fields, and flocks of Galahs glowing pink in the morning sun. A highlight was several brief sightings of Dusky Woodswallows, always a nice species to see.
Morning tea at Lameroo added Welcome Swallows, Australian Wood Duck, Crested Pigeon and Magpie Lark to the list. I didn’t add the feral domestic ducks which live around the artificial lake.
Coming into Ouyen for lunch I saw the only Brown Falcon sighted on the journey to Sydney. Typically, it was perched on the pole of a telephone line. While having lunch a female House Sparrow cheekily perched on the picnic table about 30cm from my lunch. It was close enough to get a few good shots with my phone (see below).
Other species added to my growing list while we ate lunch included Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, European Blackbird, Common Starling, Yellow-throated Miner, Singing Honeyeater and White-plumed Honeyeater.
Tomorrow: from Ouyen, Victoria to Narrandera, NSW.
Birding is a very cheap and relaxing hobby. You can pursue it almost anywhere . I once made a list of birds seen in church – through a nearby window – go figure. I’ve also made a list of birds heard while still in bed (while camping). I’ve even made lists of birds heard while sitting on the toilet.
You could say I’m a little obsessed.
As for being a cheap hobby, you don’t need any special equipment. Sure – you can buy expensive field guides and handbooks. The Handbook of Aussie birds (7 volumes) will set one back over $3000. Binoculars can cost from $125 to many thousands of dollars. Camera gear and travel can add considerably to costs – I spent over $6000 a few years ago to see and handful of species new to me on the slopes of Mt Everest (read about that on my travel blog).
But birding can be as cheap as looking out of the window to see a beautiful finch or wren hopping around the garden.
The hobby is whatever you want to make it.
If birding appeals to you can I suggest reading my series called How to be a Birder?
Apologies to my regular readers.
I have been a little slow at responding to comments over the last week or so. This is because I was on a road trip with my family and had limited (or no) internet access on some days. Over the next day or so I should catch up with all comments.
We travelled from home in Murray Bridge in South Australia for two days so that we could be in Sydney for Christmas with family. After New Year we travelled to Canberra and then along the south coast of NSW and Victoria, staying with friends for a few days just north of Melbourne. Over the coming weeks I will share my birding experiences while on this trip. You can also read about non-birding experiences on Trevor’s Travels.
Late last week we also had a problem with this blog, with no posts since April 2008 showing. Sorry if this confused you. My son Simon maintains my blogs and was doing an upgrade and inadvertently configured this blog to point to an older database. That’s why you couldn’t read all those recent posts for a few hours.
Sorry if this caused you any inconvenience. All is now fixed, thanks to my son.