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!
Small mammals in this country under the 5kg weight range are being decimated by introduced cats and foxes, but how many of us understand this is a part of a global extinction event that is underway?
Yellow-footed antechinus, recently photographed on Goulburn river bank amongst fallen logs and flood debris. This species is one of the few small marsupials still seen in the wild in Victoria (and can be active in daylight hours). Each year ALL the males die after mating.
Squirrel gliders are rarely seen however. This little chap was found in a bad way on a road and brought to the Bohollow Wildlife Centre, Kotupna Vic and was my first chance to see one close up….a truly beautiful creature. These gliders are capable of a 90meter ‘flight’ and are mainly found in non-fragmented dry sclerophyll forest on inland slopes of the great divide. We have all but destroyed such places, hence Petaurus norfolcensis’s increasing rarity.
A human devised technologically based system has replaced the natural system. This pie chart shows how humanity and our domestic animals now dominate the planet’s biomass.
Fossilized carbon has been used to make this change and has heated our planet.
Carnaby black cockatoo’s dead from heat stress. This bird has decreased 50% in 45 years! I went to school in Albany WA and these birds were a daily part of my world, I walked through a pine forest on my way to school, they love pine trees.
Red-tailed black cockatoos in WA (race Naso) are now classed as ‘near threatened’ and only 500-1000 Vic birds (race graptogyne) still exist, and are listed as endangered.
It is likely your children and their children will be living in a much reduced biome. So don’t teach your kids about fluffy rabbits and cats, Aussie kids need to know about Aussie warm and fluffies.
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.
Coober Pedy has to be the most devastated but fascinating of towns in Australia.
Having driven for hours over the gibber I was not expecting to see wildlife, but the first bird I noticed seemed totally out of place. A tern, miles from the sea!
I have put this one down as a Whiskered Tern, non-breeding Chlidonias hybrida .
Then a kingfisher! Miles from water. I was too far away for species ID, but it was probably a red-backed which does follow inland water courses.
Zebra finches and….
galahs were easy to see
especially early in the day.
A day drive to the Breakaways, due east of Coober was not to be missed.
Views from the top of the escarpment looks down to Moon Plain, a place where Woma pythons hunt Gile’s Planigales in the clay cracks. Woma, a beautiful creature, have deceased in population by 50% in the last 10 years and now on the IUCN red list as critically endangered.
Nankeen Kestrel however were in large numbers, they use dis-used mine shafts for roosting and breeding.
This one was riding the updaught with his mates for hours while I walked the clifftop.
Only a few hundred more kilometers and I would be in APY Lands.
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!
A recent trip to Barmah National Park saw me swagging it on the banks of the Goulburn river for a couple of nights on Philippa and Ian’s property, a tiny remnant of original red-gum forest. Sugar glider sounds woke me in the middle of both nights, eerie but satisfying to my ears. Waking on the second dawn I watched a very active yellow-footed antechinus hunting for prey.
Yellow-footed are the only antechinus I know which is active by day (diurnal) and I have seen them climb huge eucalypts to take blossom nectar at 9.30 am. How they manage to avoid crows and other predators amazes me.
I was in the area to establish details for a 2 week visual arts workshop, talk and exhibition with The Grain Store for April 2015 centered on species loss. Opportunities to meet Yorta Yorta representative Sharon Atkinson and other shakers and movers who work in the Nathalia area was appreciated. Time was spent immersing myself in the locality and I was lucky to see a superb parrot feeding in roadside box forest.
These beautiful 40cm long birds which formerly nested in Victoria have suffered habitat loss for decades and nesting in this state is now very limited and still declining. They require extensive hollows in mature large eucalypts near to or over water courses, located 5 -7km or less from box trees for forage. Most box forest has been cleared and is now irrigated agricultural land.
From Barmah I travelled to Bendigo where I am in contact with other people intent on changing humanity’s current environmental impacts. I took a couple of hours off in wet weather to walk a small part of Crusoe reserve and was rewarded with close up sightings of what I think were….
Rufous whistler female adult going by the call…
Yellow robin, probably a fledgling
a colony of yellow-tufted honeyeaters .
Superb fairy wrens were everywhere. On close inspection I chanced to see a cuckoo which at first I thought was looking for suitable host nests surrounded by wrens, but soon realized I was looking at a fledgling totally intent on filling itself with caterpillars which were feeding on the surrounding Common Woodruff.
most likely a fan-tailed cukoo Cacomantis flabelliformis
Cuckoos, including the ‘cuckoo clock’ European bird are actually birds of the tropics and I’m betting this little specimen was gorging itself in preparation for a long flight to New Guinea or Indonesia