Four Banded Lapwings and another road trip

Banded Lapwings in Murray-Sunset National Park, NW Victoria

It has been far too long since my last post here on my birding site. Over the last two months my energy levels have been very low due to a prolonged illness but I’m almost over that now, thankfully. I’ve also been overwhelmed by my workload with my lecturing job, but I’m now getting on top of that too.

Late last week we had a quick road trip to Sydney to help out family. Along the way I always enjoy watching out for any birds, seeing if something unusual pops into view. On the road from Tooleybuc to Balranald in far western NSW our approaching car disturbed 4 Banded Lapwings feeding on the edge of the road. Travelling at around 110kph is not ideal for taking a photo; the camera was inaccessible anyway. So instead, I’ve posted a photo I took several years ago in the Murray-Sunset National Park in far north-west Victoria.

As I commented on that posting, this species is something of a bogey bird for me. I’ve only seen it on a handful of occasions in the last 40 years. I must get out birding more often to increase my chances of seeing this delightful species.

A chance meeting

Sydney Trip report June 2011

After leaving Wagga Wagga on the first day of our journey home we headed into the setting sun towards Narrandera where we had a cabin booked in the caravan park. Before it became too dark to see any birds I added a few interesting species to my trip list for the day. Just out of Wagga Wagga I saw a Great Egret feeding in a road side paddock. Several flocks of Galahs flew across the road in front of the car and Australian Magpies still scratched around on the ground looking for a tasty morsel for supper.Now and then I’d see an Australian Raven fly across our path.

One of the real delights of this stretch of road was seeing several small flocks of Apostlebirds feeding on the roadside. For some reason we hadn’t seen many on this trip.


Just on sunset we were approaching a fruit fly exclusion zone. Some parts of Australia have the dreaded fruit fly which destroys some of our finest fruit crops. For many years parts of Victoria and most of South Australia have successfully kept this pest out, and the fruit fly exclusion zones are designed to ensure that continues. As we approached the zone we started eating the little fruit we still had left on board. We decided to be good citizens and stop at the drop off point, a large bin on the roadside where travellers must deposit uneaten fruit. If people continue on with fruit on board and they are subject to a random check, there are severe fines in store.

As we pulled up to the deposit bin, two other cars were there, the occupants standing around chatting – and eating the last of their fruit. As we stopped we recognised the occupants of one of the cars – our local mayor, one of our councillors and their wives. The occupants of the other car were also from our home town.

What are the odds of that happening? Three cars, each independently coming from a different starting point and all stopping at the same spot at the same time with the same purpose and all occupants coming from the same town and all knowing each other. Bizarre.

A short stopover at Pheasant’s Nest, NSW

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

After a cold and wet stay with family in Sydney earlier this year we headed back home. We were planning to travel home via Bathurst but the roads that way were closed due to a heavy snow fall. We decided to head home the way we had come.

After negotiating the Sydney traffic – the Lane Cove Tunnel is a quick way to get out of Artarmon where my son lives – we headed SW towards Wagga Wagga. Mid morning we stopped at a roadside rest area and service centre at Pheasant’s Nest. No – we didn’t see any pheasants. In fact, I saw very few birds.

A few Noisy Miners scratched around on the grassed areas near the car park, and several Australian Ravens flew overhead while we were having our cuppa and morning tea. A few minutes later a flock of about 20 Pied Currawongs flew out of the nearby forest and began foraging in and around several rubbish bins in the car park.

And that was it.

Oh… I nearly forgot. The wind chill factor felt like it was going to snow at any moment, except for the lack of clouds and bright sunshine I guess it would have snowed. I found our later that it had snowed that morning a little further north. It was a most unpleasant break in our journey. I didn’t even bother to get the camera out, so I’ve included a photo I’d prepared earlier.

Pied Currawong

There were no galahs at Galah

Galah, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

When we take the most direct route from home in Murray Bridge to Sydney, we travel through a small locality known as Galah. There is no town there; only a few farm houses, a railway siding and a grain silo. I suspect it was originally called Galah because the parrot is common in the area.

There is a certain irony then in the fact that in all our drives through this area I have never seen a galah flying or perching in a tree or feeding on the grass. Mind you, one can maintain a speed of 100kph through the locality and that only gives me a minute of two to observe any birds that are present.

On this trip I only recorded 3 species:

  • Nankeen Kestrel
  • Little Raven
  • Crested Pigeon

I’m sure if you spent an hour or two scouring the trees and farmland that list would grow considerably, but on most occasions we are on a tight schedule so we can either spend time with family in Sydney, or we are tired on our return and want to get home.

Interesting Magpies at Lameroo

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

The various races of Australian Magpies make a fascinating – albeit confusing – study. Here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, the magpies are almost all of the White-backed variety. The further one drives east, the Black-backed magpies become the dominant race until over in Victoria and into NSW they are all Black-backed Magpies. Travelling north into Queensland or south into Victoria and the races (and amounts of black v. white change). Travel to Western Australia and the races change again. It can be quite confusing , especially when the races interbreed. Layer upon this the colour variations of juveniles and you have a recipe for a headache trying to identify which race you are seeing.

On our trip to Sydney earlier this year we stopped for morning tea at Lameroo in eastern South Australia. In the picnic grounds of Lake Roberts I took the photos on this post of a nicely coloured male Black-backed Magpie (see above and below). Interestingly, it was accompanying a White-backed female (see photo below). They were feeding together. I wish I was visiting Lameroo in the coming weeks to see if these two individuals breed together, or are just being sociable (as magpies are known to do).

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Male Black-backed Magpie (left) with female White-backed Magpie (right)

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia