Thursday, 12 April 2018

Australia Part 2B: Jerrabomberra Wetlands

This should have gone before the roadtrip - Ive got a little arse about face but here it is instead. I made a trip to Jerrabomberra Wetlands in Central Canberra just before the roadtrip and saw many new birds. Aside from those here I also caught up with my first White-browed ScrubwrenWhite-necked Heron, White-plumed Honeyeater, Australasian Darter, Australian White Ibis, Australasian Shoveler, Sacred Kingfisher and Pied Cormorant.

Australian Swamphen

Black Swan

Black-fronted Dotterel

Chestnut Teal

Nankeen Kestrel

Magpie Lark

Grey Fantail

Little Eagle

Red-browed Finch

Red-kneed Dotterel

Royal Spoonbill

female Rufous Whistler

White-faced Heron

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Australia Part 3: Road Trip

Murramurrang National Park
After a couple of days Tom and I went for a roadtrip along the New South Wales coastline starting at Bateman's Bay and finishing in Sydney via a couple of nights camping in the ACT coastal territory at Jervis Bay. We pulled out of Canberra and headed 3 hours east to the closest bit of coast. As we nattered city turned to suburb which in turn became ranch and later woodland. Grey Kangaroos were everywhere, plague proportions and this was evidenced by plenty of roadkill. Also evident by abundent grizzly remains were a lot of Foxes. I knew they were a problem but I didnt get a handle on the scale until this journey. I saw little of note really on the way across but arriving at Bateman's Bay saw my first proper Austalian Pelicans on the lamp posts. Silver Gulls were also apparent but alas the only other delight was a very pleasant coffee and the warming sun as the mercury crept up. Upon leaving the cafe it was soon apparent that I was wrong and there were birds here, as loads of Rainbow Lorikeets exploded from tree to tree. This was a new one although very much expected.

Mega Conehead
Just a giant lizard eating kingfisher sat next to a campchair
A walk along the beach in the header at Murramurrang National Park just up from Durras North was certainly spectacular with the sub-tropical rainforest spilling onto the sand. Snake tracks abounded and there were enormous conehead-type crickets in the grass along with standard flavour grasshoppers. In the trees my first New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds were in evidence whilst offshore were a plethora of Australasian Gannets and Crested Terns. We pushed on to Ulladulla after a chill on the beach and filled ourselves with lunch. On this holiday I was fully onboard with the Aussie take on burgers. Guac and Beetroot deserve to feature. Suitably satiated and caffeinated we ambled on to our eventual destination in Jervis Bay, the Booderee National Park. We were camping (and the tent was suitably watertight to prevent encounters with overly venomous trespassers). After setting up a Laughing Kookaburra landed right next to our pitch on a perch. These were so common and when we went to the bottle-o (off-licence) there were 7 on wires above the car together. A walk down the whitest beach in the world was mindblowing, especially as the sand squeaked when you walked on it. It was also amazingly fine like icing sugar which was very pleasant to wander over. Whereas Durras North had been littered with Portuguese Men O'War, here in Jervis Bay there was nothing so we had a little paddle. In the trees were White-cheeked Honeyeaters and the rather more impressive White-bellied Sea Eagle flew overhead before alighting in trees. A Great Cormorant past was my first of the trip.

Home Sweet Home for a few days

The beach at Booderee National Park - Squeaky Sand
White-bellied Sea Eagle
Right over our heads!
 An evening of more food in Huskisson followed by beer and possums shuffling and squaking round the site ensued. As the light was dropping giant Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos glided over majestically. These were a regular feature and flew so slowly it was as if they were on a string.

National Botanical Gardens, Booderee
The second day started with a wander around the National Botanical Gardens - coastal branch. Here there was ample evidence of termites as hollowed logs abounded. Walking through the forest added Brown Gerygone and the rather more exciting looking Eastern Spinebill whilst on the lake were my first Australian Little Grebes. A Lewin's Honeyeater was flitting amongst the trees as we left this planted woodland. We moved onto the drier woodland at Steamer's Beach where there were plenty of Jacky Dragons

Found a friend

Jacky Dragon

Steamer's Beach
The walk at Steamer's Beach was remarkable. It was 31c and the forest was baking. Lizards skittered everywhere and there were some big python tracks across the trail. More Eastern Spinebills and some White-throated Treecreepers abounded. We walked several miles to the beach shown above where we watched a couple of White-bellied Sea Eagles circling. The signs all said no swimming - Great White Sharks! The beach and area is known for breeding Fur Seals which brings in the sharks but I guess we missed the breeding season as there were no seals and no obvious sharks (I asked my brother to bait them in but him rather impolitely declined). More food, more beer and more possums followed along with a Wallaby by our tent.

The Gents. Hmm
Tom communicating with the ferns.
Our final day of the trip was a run up the coast via Kiama to watch the blow hole and Scarborough for a delightful lunch before finally rolling into Sydney to do the tourist thing. Before leaving camp there was a female Leaden Flycatcher in the trees above. We were soon taken aback somewhat as the folks on the next pitch were moved on with concerned looks as 4 rangers surrounded a pile of leaves with a big sac and some litter pickers removing the leaves 1 by 1. We watched for 10 minutes but soon we were bored as the anticipated Red-bellied Black Snake failed to materialise. A little concerning to realise we had been wandering back and forth past it all night! 

Crested Terns

Long-billed Corella

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
The Blow hole was a little underwhelming as the sea was very flat due to drizzle but I did see a few 'blows'. There were some lovely Crested Terns on the rocks and squawking away in the trees were a gang of Long-billed Corellas.

Aside from being beautiful (apart from Wollongong) the drive to Sydney was uneventful aside from my first Eastern Cattle Egrets. The views at Scarborough were amazing and pretty soon we arrived in Bondi Junction. Not the ideal location for site seeing but a compromise due to the pelagic I was taking the next morning. We headed to the harbour getting our photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House before embarking on a jolly pleasant session on the beer. Oh and yes we inadvertently packed matching outfits. Oops.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Australia Trip Report Part 2: Canberra and surrounds

I woke refreshed having been so tired that the small hours didn't get witnessed. A bonus of crashing out early was I was up at 6 for dawn. A revitalising coffee and I watched from Tom's back deck. It was cool, in the early teens (perhaps the coolest time of the whole trip). Australian Magpies and Pied Currawongs sung from all around. Amongst the Crimson Rosellas were a brace of Eastern Rosellas. The raucous calls of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos spread over the neighbourhood as they left roosts. Starlings swirled over the neighbourhood as they left the reedbeds of central Canberra. In the garden a Silvereye moved through - my first whiteeye sp. After breakfast Tom led me along the slopes of Big Monk, the mountain that looks over Banks. We flushed a Blackbird and the whir of wings gave away a pair of Crested Pigeons.

Common Myna from my brothers garden
Crested Pigeons along with a Magpie Lark
One of many Galahs
 After lunch we headed to Tidbinbilla, a forest reserve in the Brindabellas. It is huge and draped over a range of mountains. On the way we were surprised by an Echidna crossing the road! Not something I was expecting to see and my brothers first.

Echidna doing hiding.
On the way in the reintroduced Emus were knocking about the entrance. These were thought killed in forest fires several years ago but persisted and recolonised. We went for a walk around the Sanctuary which has a collection of Black Swan, Brolga, Musk Duck, a Pelican and Magpie Geese. Some of these caught me out initially but I was soon square. More genuine were a couple of Little Pied Cormorant, Australasian Swamphen, some Grey Teal and my first Dusky Moorhen. The latter were pretty much dull Moorhens. In the trees an Eastern Yellow Robin was looking very smart and my first Spotted Pardolote. A White-fronted Treecreeper was like an oversize Certhia in behaviour. A couple of Satin Bowerbirds flew through the canopy - these were much larger than I expected. A couple of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were the first of several through the trip. We looked for Black Snakes and Platypus but struck out. We did find some herp interest with Eastern Long-necked Turtle, Shingleback Skink Yellow-bellied Water Skink and Eastern Water Dragon. Several Kookaburras laughed as they flew between perches. The Sanctuary is a wet area which is managed for a number of species with pools and ponds created through slowing the water. There are also pots of gums and eucalypts plus some rocky areas in a small valley.

Australasian Swamphen
Upon leaving we had a drive round the rest of the reserve. A snake was warming itself on the road over a stream. It was seen late as it was dark backed and white underneath with copper between the back and belly. We stopped just in time but couldnt see it. Tom asked me to hop out to check it wasn't wrapped around the wheels - I was all too keen as I wanted better views of this hyper-venomous super elapid! Sadly when I disembarked the Highland Copperhead was nowhere to be seen - it must have snuck off at the last second. I was understandably a little ginger when looking about as it is one of the most venomous snakes in the world and this gave it the opportunity to slope off.

Eastern Long-necked Turtle

Spotted Pardolote

White-throated Treecreeper

Yellow-bellied Water Skink

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Australia Trip Report: Part 1

The Beast from the East arrived in the UK with ice in its heart and a bag load of snow in its clouds. Apparently. I was in the Valleys in South Wales watching Red Kites and whilst it was freezing cold (-8c most of the time) I was happily avoiding most of the precipitation and getting excited about my imminent trip to Australia. And then bang - red warning of snow for Bristol Airport for when I was flying back to Newcastle. Flights cancelled, new hire car and 500 miles later I am back at home via Newcastle. I'd escaped the South-west before the big fall but I'd seen how much was out East. The Pennines however were shut. The following day and I'm packed and ready to roll on my Australian adventure but still there was no way across the Pennines - M62 shut, A66 shut, Cat & Fiddle shut, A69 shut, Snake pass shut, Woodhead pass shut. In the end I had to make a 100 mile detour south to Uttoxeter round the hills to get to Manchester but I arrived frazzled but ready. All this excitement meant that in the 25 hours of travelling that followed I didn't get a wink of sleep.

A Cold Welsh Hillside. The start of the journey

My sleep addled brain found this to be the most interesting part of Abu Dhabi Airport

A steady flight out to Abu Dhabi contained a couple of superhero films and little else. Arriving at the airport in darkness I waited around the gate after a coffee pep up scanning for birds. Obviously the first ones were Feral Pigeon and then Ring-necked Parakeet commuting from hidden roosts to feeding grounds nearby. Some House Sparrows lived inside the terminal, high above the people milling below. A brace of Laughing Doves were looking for tidbits cleared from the planes by the cleaners in the Etihad team. My first lifer of the trip were a pair of Common Mynas which flitted between the aircraft and that was it. Hardly mindblowing but good to get a lifer, albeit feral under the belt.

Straw-necked Ibis
The flight through to Melbourne was very long and uneventful and soon the sun was coming up in the terminal. Little Raven was my first Australian bird as a few messed about on the tarmac. Before long I was winging my way to Canberra on the last leg of the journey. I was greeted by my nephew who I was meeting for the first time, Patrick. He was far more interested in the planes than me (rightly so). Soon we were headed across town for some lunch. I was flagging after a beer with my burger but a walk round Lake Burley Griffin in central Canberra perked me up. Thousands of Flying Foxes were roosting in the park and the first Wood Ducks and Pacific Ducks were messing about along with Little Pied Cormorant and Silver Gull around the lake. Cockatoos were prevalent and a female Red-rumped Parrot was in a tree. Welcome Swallows were hawking over the lake. My first Straw-necked Ibis was wandering around the grass like a crow and there were plenty of Australian Ravens about. My first honeyeaters were Noisy Miners which shared the place with invasive Common Mynas.

Female Red-rumped Parrot - confused the life out of me to start
We drove back and a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were displaying over Banks, the suburb where my brothers family live. They were seen again from the decking and on and off throughout the trip. After a power nap Tom and myself headed out for a walk for a look over the neighbourhood. Here there were my first Kangaroos. Around the house were Willie Wagtails, Crimson Rosellas and Galahs. A family of Superb Fairy-Wrens chattered away nearby. Pretty soon jetlag got the better of me and I retired. This was the start of one of the best holidays I have ever had.

Ornithological Idiocy

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive