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.

Sunday 4 March 2018


An eventful week with the weather tried to put spanners in the works but they failed! Im in Canberra and there are birds and 'roos and Flying Foxes. Its awesome. Here are a selection from this morning and yesterday.

Common Myna - A pair live in my brothers yard.

Eastern Rosella - common in the neighbourhood

Bands of Galahs roam the area

The first of plenty. A group of Grey Kangaroos live just up the hill.

Female Red-rumped Parrot from central Canberra

Silvereye from the garden

Straw-necked Ibis from Canberra

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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