Here’s a little competition about bird species (for non-birder people, so butt out if you are an expert). If you can identify please add via “comment”. I am in the Northern Territory, Australia, so they may be a bit different from what you are used to. All the photos taken by me over the last 3 weeks. I have an interest in just how much we know about our own Australian species. Most of these are fairly common. I will add some more unusual species in a later post. Please share, and kids welcome!
Werribee Gorge State Park would have to be the most underated and under-appreciated piece of wildlife realestate within one hour of Melbourne. My guess it’s partly because its on the arse-end (western) side of the city, just past all those factories and thistle paddocks. For bell-birds, tall mountain-ash forests and fern glades, go east. We western suburbs boys and girls prefer a landscape with guts, no namby pamby waterfall walks with carpark kiosk here.
But if you love ‘Rugged mountain ranges and droughts with flooding rains’ and ‘Her beauty and her terror’ the you’ll appreciate this place.
The gorge sits on the fault line which demarcates the sinking basin on which Melbourne lies, and the upland plateau of Ballarat etc. It’s the reason Port Phillip Bay exists. The river, which is really only a stream, has over millions of years cut through the rocks and exposed the underlying sandstone which has been compressed and forced into a serpentine buckle by continental plate action in the ancient past. The power which created this feature must have been unimaginable.
The gorge also is the only place I know which shows signs of glaciation, unusual for Australia.
The ‘plum-pudding’ deposits of mixed striated rocks show they have been transported in ice and dropped into an ancient sea at time of melt.
Striated parrallel gouging is proof of ice embedded rock erosion. Its likely that from where I took the photographs there where icebergs melting above my head! But that was in the times of Gondwana.
Werribee gorge is great place for city people to escape for an hour or two of quiet and a chance to see wild species.
Its a place where superb fairy wren families visit your picnic table if you move quietly, grey fantails and whiteplumed honeyeaters abound.
and yellow robins heal your soul by looking into your eyes.
Silver eyes work the eucalypt flowers
and stiated thornbills call from nearby bushes.
I also saw a group of red-browed finches
and white-faced honeyeaters visiting from Queensland for summer.
fat lacewings provide food for thes birds and by their presence tell us the water quality is clean.
Atriplex, in flower, attracted these very large flies which like huge bumble-bees zoomed through the bushes.
The significance of the gorge was understood over 100 years ago when it was declared a “site for a Public Park” in 1907, but no-one has yet found a way to remove the goats (photographed Feb 2016) which destroy the fragile plants growing in inaccessable places, pity. Goats are also rampant in nearby Lerderderg Gorge.
Photo: Richard Daintree, 1859 (State Library of Vic)
1896 Working Men’s College Photographic Club camp
“Taking a Boobook Owls Nest”, 1890 A.J. Campbell featured in “Nests and Birds of Australia”. The nest was quickly chopped out and three eggs taken therefrom. We may feel shocked by this portrayal of whitefella history, but we have learned nothing, people STILL burn hollows for ‘pleasure’ see https://open.abc.net.au/explore/57124
Dr John Read and I entered APY Lands in early November 2015. This was a routine trip for him but was a first for me. Very few people in Australia will have been to this part of the country, a permit is required on entry.It didn’t take me long to realize was in a different country from the one I was used to. John allowed me to spend some free time wandering across huge ancient boulders of the Musgrave Range.
As I neared the top of the range the silence and remoteness seemed almost palpable. The danger of losing direction in unfamiliar country was both clear and frightening.
Yet the rugged beauty was enticing, I wanted to see a little more of what lay beyond, but had only two hours and we had work to do.
Dragon lizards are always present,
Crested bellbird glimpse, a bird of arid mulga and…
Splendid Fairy-wren, turquoise form…
Western bower-bird, a fig eater with habitat in north-western SouthAustralia.
Ubiquitious white-plumed honeyeater, the inland bird seems finer to me and has more yellow on face.
Rufous whistler and..
Singing honeyeater made their presence known with song.
Desert oak (note the bottle-brush shaped young trees behind)
and even ferns!
and lichen! Enormous lichen.This was something I hadn’t expected. It seemed that at every turn I was seeing something new.
This native with succulent leaves
turns the plain purple, but I have lost its name. So if you recognize it please inform me.
Hakea shedding seeds
Figs which grow on bare hot rock, roots not touching the ground, a bonsai in a desert with no water. All a bit astounding.
John was more interested in the termites which ate this patch of grass to the ground. More about this shortly.
I don’t really see myself as a ‘twitcher’ but I admit to spending time observing birds with camera in hand. My recordings are logged to the Atlas of Living Australia at http://www.ala.org.au/ ALA records all Australian species and is used for research etc.
Birds can be viewed as the canary in the coalmine, they readily indicate how habitat is being altered or alternately, conserved for future generations.
Travelling north in South Australia means moving into arid country, a landscape type called Mallee. 100 kms north of Port Augusta I made camp but soon had my camera operational. In the following hour I photographed what I think was a mixed species flock. Small bush birds in Australia sometimes travel this way maybe as a protection strategy.
Sitella (male) Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata is now listed as threatened in NSW due to habitat loss. This widespread but not often seen species is a very active tree trunk forager so tree loss means no food.
The female Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata with a black cap seems a more striking bird to me, but I don’t see the world in ultraviolet as birds do, their colour receptors are much more advanced than our mammal eyesight.
Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti (female)
This LBJ (little brown job) is the Inland Thornbill Acanthiza (Acanthiza) apicalis but I could be mistaken. This thornbill was feeding on the ground and in low bushes, behaviour which together with light eye-colour, helps in identification.
If you look hard you will see a crested bellbird running across the sand, this was my first sighting of this inland bird hence the poor quality photo. According to Birdlife Australia ” Sometimes they occur in mixed feeding flocks with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Red-capped Robins.” So it seems I was right. This species is listed as now endangered in Victoria where it should inhabit the Big Desert.
The Mulga Parrot Psephotus (Psephotus) varius also made its presence known.
I was heading to Coober, so soon I was to enter true arid Australia.
From here on its a good idea to carry extra water!
November is nesting season in the southern Flinders Ranges, so almost all the following observations included adults and juveniles in various stages of fledging.
Rainbow bee-eater Merops (Merops) ornatus , a most beautiful bird
Brown tree-creeper Climacteris (Climacteris) picumnus
Adelaide or western rosella Platycercus adelaidae up there with the most beautiful parrots…. and young below
White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus (Morganornis) superciliosus…. and teaching feeding to young below
Dusky Woodswallow Artamus (Angroyan) cyanopterus…… and young below
Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys…… and nestlings below
From the Flinders I travelled up to Coober Pedy where I was to meet Dr John Read.
North of the gulf and Port Augusta the weather was unusually wet and stormy, and the vegetation reduced to treeless arid. The normally dry salt lakes contained water!
To be continued..
I don’t see myself as a photographer, but as a follow up to my Warru experience I have decided to post photos of species I observed and recorded to the Atlas of Living Australia http://www.ala.org.au/
Mating dragonflies, Hattah
Great crested grebes
Hattah lake November 2015 with its water allocation
Not a Murray cod but very large…..you guess
Regent parrots, currently listed as endangered
maybe just a cabbage moth.
Little corella, thousands of these on the return trip following the wheat harvest
Weebill, not sure which one
Eastern rosella at hollow.
Hattah lakes is a favourite over night stop heading north, its amazing what can be seen in an hour or two. Next camp is in South Australia, back soon with another batch of photos.
Wivenhoe dam in Queensland has a shoreline of many hundreds of kilometers, but it’s clear some birds prefered to remain close to the small camping area. The following shots were taken within and close to designated camping sites. The frogmouths were actually roosting within the smoke zone of camp fires!
Campers were totally unaware of the two birds above their heads
The Brahminy kite was possibly a chick hatched in a nest in clear site of human camping visitors.
A Darter chose a poly pipe within 30 meters of the camp to dry out and..
a red-backed wren family used nearby reeds and bushes as their chosen home base.
In addition to the above, a flock of many hundreds of black cormorants choose to roost in the trees directly ajacent to the camp-ground. The question is, why do these species choose the camping area given the enormous space available to them at Wivenhoe?
Continuing the question that some unlikely species are finding refuge and food in areas close to human habitation, this post includes photos of a species “choosing?” an unusual site to reside and display. The following photos were taken over the last week in Queensland.
Male satin bowerbird, photographed within 2 meters of a bitumen road. Truck road use started at 7am. The evolutionary process continues….
Female of the species enticed by a bower made in a roadside culvert.
View of the bower which contains mainly blue clothes pegs, I guess the locals learn to use alternative peg colours to hang out washing.
If you know of a researcher who is looking at how some species are choosing living space ajacent to urbanization, please advise by replying in comments or email.
I photographed this sequence last week at Carnarvon gorge National Park Qld, patience and a lucky break. Words are not really necessary, but standing in the creek with camera the bird flew to within 1.5 meters, an experience of a lifetime. This bird hovers with a whirr of wings just like the hummingbird of the Americas, prior to dropping vertically when fishing
This winter I have been busily shooting this video…which is really a question I cannot answer. Why do these birds persist occupying this fragment of polluted creek estuary, only 10km from Melbournes’s CBD? Are they attracted in some way to urban space? Is winter warmer in the city? How do they withstand the relentless noise and noxious odours eminating from the refinery, the continual train passage, car traffic and heavy metals in the water, the dogs? Or is this a last refuge for them, a place where they can find food and shelter of sorts? Is there no place else to go?
I spent a couple of hours today with my camera in the hope of shooting something extra, but the gagging fumes dove me away and I can still taste acrid refinery fumes.
Why is it some native species move to cities with people, rats and sparrows (possums, bats, parakeets and now even powerful owls)? Are our rural landscapes now so unfriendly to wild species? Is”biodiversity” moving to the world of people, or is this just an abboration?