Sydney Trip report June 2011
I’ve been really slow getting these trip reports written and posted here; life has been busy and demanding. (I’m supposed to be retired – whatever that means.)
On our return leg from a holiday in Sydney in June of this year we stopped for one night at Narrandera. It’s an area I’d like to stay in for a week or more. The caravan park looks very inviting; we stayed in a cabin but I’d like to take our caravan there and other places along the way. In the caravan park office I gathered together several free brochures on highlights of the area, including three on birding in the region. It has a very rich and interesting range of birds present.
One of the places mentioned on one pamphlet was the wetland area just off the main highway on the southern approach to the town. On our way out we spent about 20 minutes here but the bird life was not very forthcoming. It was very cold, overcast, threatening to rain and windy. The light was also very poor so I didn’t manage much in the way of bird photos. The list of birds was also rather poor:
Little Pied Cormorant
Australasian Grebe (see photo below)
Last night I had a meeting at Wellington in South Australia, about a half hour drive south of home here in Murray Bridge. As we crossed the river on the ferry I commented to my friend who was driving about the number of Australian Pelicans swimming near the ferry. There must have been about 15 of them. I didn’t have my camera and it was almost dark anyway.
Last year I crossed the River Murray on the same ferry during the day and took the photos on this post – but didn’t share them at the time. This is an example of taking birding a little too casually. I thought the birds I had photographed were Little Black Cormorants. When I looked carefully at the photo above I realised that they were in fact Great Cormorants. Observe the yellow facial skin which is missing on the Little Black Cormorants.
Great Cormorants are considerably larger than the Little Blacks: 70-90cm compared with 60-65cm. Their ranges throughout Australia are very similar. Their preferred habitats are also very similar: coastal waters, rivers, lakes, dams, reservoirs, estuaries. Their nests are also very similar: large untidy collections of sticks, weeds and bark, often over and usually near water and often in large colonies. These colonies can also include spoonbills, herons and other species of cormorants.
On the way home from my trip to Pinnaroo in eastern South Australia last Friday I called in on the artificial lake at Lameroo. Lake Roberts is next to the caravan park and golf course on the eastern edge of town. We’ve often stopped there for lunch or morning tea on our way to the eastern states.
This lake is an average birding spot and one of the few places to observe water birds for many miles in every direction. The Murray mallee region has very few places where there is open water. I only stayed for a few minutes but still managed a nice list of birds.
- Australian Wood Duck: about 15-20 feeding on the lawn around the lake
- Little Pied Cormorant: one sitting on an exposed log
- Masked Lapwing: at least 6 feeding on the grass along the water’s edge
- Little Raven: calling from the nearby golf course
- Galah: several flying overhead
- Australian Magpie: several in trees in caravan park
- Red Wattlebird: feeding in trees near picnic tables
- Magpie Lark: 2 seen feeding along the edge of the water
- Welcome Swallow: about 12 sitting on the power lines in the main street
- Rock Dove: many seen flying near the wheat silos (the tall white structures in the photo above)
- Black-tailed Native-hen: 1 feeding on the grass
The most notable species was a solitary Black-tailed Native-hen. This bantam sized bird moves around very readily, and large numbers will suddenly appear in an area after rain or floods or in response to changing seasonal conditions. They can then disappear just as quickly. To find a solitary bird is unusual.
They are found throughout Australia where conditions suit them, usually near water, either permanent or ephemeral bodies of water. They can breed rapidly in response to good conditions and sometimes number in the hundreds (or even thousands) in a small area.
Despite being very common, and I’ve often seen them in large numbers, I don’t yet have a photo of this species. Click here to see photos and more information about them.
Tolderol Game Reserve is something of a mecca for South Australian birders and often attracts interstate birders as well. I must admit that although it is only about an hour’s drive from Murray Bridge I have only been there a handful of occasions, and then only in the last few years.
Being a game reserve it has been set aside for shooters. The game shooting season in this state is restricted to only a few days annually, and on some years shooting is closed all year. In recent years this has been as a result of the extended drought we are experiencing.
Tolderol Game Reserve consists of a series of shallow ponds and connecting channels. Until recently there was usually water in the ponds at all times. At present there is very little water, even in the channels.
A wide variety of water birds can usually be found here: ducks, spoonbills, egrets, herons, ibis, swans, geese, grebes, darters, pelicans, dotterels, plovers, lapwings, crakes, rails, stilts and avocets.
Other species recorded include hawks, harriers, eagles, kites, terns, gulls, sandpipers, stints and other small wading birds.
The game reserve is next to the northern shore of Lake Alexandrina. On my last visit I didn’t take any photos of the reserve; without water and birds it was most uninteresting so I took the photo below of the lake. For those who aren’t familiar with the area, Australia’s largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin drains into this lake which in turn flows into the Coorong and the Southern Ocean.