Winter at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands

Pretty quiet in winter at the Wetlands, but over a few trips have spotted some new and some rare appearances.

The Golden-headed Cisticola, one of the so-called Old World Warblers, is apparently at the edge of its range around here, but the high reeds and water suit it. This was the first time I had seen one, and as best I could tell, there seemed to be only one.

Another rare sighting, although you often hear them here, is the Little Grassbird. Rarer still for it to sit still long enough for a photo opportunity – and true to form this one didn’t quite.

Grassbird, Little

 

The Red-Browed Finches are often around and are fairly unconcerned by human presence. They were certainly hoeing into the late autumn reed seeds.

Similarly, Superb Fairy-Wrens are common and tolerant.

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Rare visitors right in the Wetlands are Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, which normally hang about in huge Casuarina Pine stands a kilometer or so away.

The colourful Red-Rumped Parrots are also common here. The male is much more colourful than the female, she more sedately stylish.

 

Black-Shouldered Kites frequent and nest here. This looks like one of the youngsters checking out his home.

Spotted Doves seem to be another of the birds moving in greater numbers into new territory after the bushfires along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. I have also seen them in my garden in Canberra for the first time, along with huge numbers (70 at a time)  of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and (30 at a time) of Rainbow Lorikeets. Not before this year have they been in this part of Canberra in anything like those numbers.

Also it is the first time in many years coming here I have seen WoodSwallows here. These are Black-Faced Woodswallows, quite cuddly looking and so they are in practice.

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Quite common in the Wetlands are Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, White-faced Herons,  White-Browed Scrubwrens and Straw-necked Ibis.

 

Ibis, Straw-neckedMore first sightings anywhere for me were the Yellow-Rumped Thornbill:

The Brown Thornbill:

Thornbill, Brown

And the Yellow-faced Honeyeater:

Honeyeater, Yellow-faced 2

So with a bit of patience, and time, the Wetlands always go from there’s nothing there to a nice collection.

June 2020

michaelmonaghanphotography.com

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Re-visit 11: West MacDonnell Ranges (west of Alice Springs; visited 2016)

Generally, this is a post where the photos of some of the oldest rocks known on the planet just speak for themselves.

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There are moments, such as this entry into Palm Valley, where you really really hope the rangers who stuck in the guiding posts do know where the underwater boulders are. For the most part, they are well more than wheel height below the water. Good for me, the intrepid driver had been before.

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It was well worth his effort – the scenery inside was sensational.

 

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Another great spot in this area is Simpson’s Gap. Again, the rocks do the talking.

 

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There were plenty of gorgeous gorges in the area, including Jessie Gap, Emily Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Geologists (a very recent profession and knowledge – look up William Smith or read Simon Winchester’s ‘The Map that changed the World’)  say that yesterday, well around 400 million years ago, the top layer of quartzite was about 2 kilometres north of the gorge, and something thrust it south, so now there are the two layers. It was all sand on a shallow sea once upon a time too. Don’t anybody raise that this is just this universe.

There are many highlights including these very ancient paintings:

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and an easy to tread on grasshopper, with magnificent camouflage:

 

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Michael Monaghan

michaelmonaghanphotography.com

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Re-visited June 2020

Re-visit 10: New South Wales/Queensland eastern border ranges.

I was staying in Ballina, on the northern coast of New South Wales, and took a couple of day trips to both sides of the border ranges.

A little known possible, but possibly also not, fact, is that in the Second World War, a proposal was considered at a federal government level, to build a defensive line through this territory. One fact is that such an idea was, in a speech,  labelled by Gen Macarthur as the Brisbane Line. The proposal was said to be, that it might not be possible to prevent the then enemy, the Japanese, from gaining a foothold in the north of Australia; so plan B would be to build stronger defences and turn them back from border country. The proposal, if there was one, was not acted upon, and a subsequent Royal Commission failed to find definitive evidence that the proposal had actually existed.  The Curtin labor wartime Government, probably assisted into power by public unease at the suggestion there was such a proposal, strongly rejected the notion.

Springbrook National Park is on the north of the ranges, with many impressive waterfalls. My favourite was the Natural Bridge Falls. The creek had fallen for millennia onto a sandstone ledge which had also been eroded from beneath by another creek. Over millennia the top creek fall had drilled a now large hole into the ledge, pouring through into the creek below. A some time fairly recently, a large tree trunk had flooded down through the hole, enhancing the display point for the falls.

These are some of my favourite photos, with different effects from different camera settings:IMG_2440

 

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This is what it looks like from above:

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There are many other beautiful waterfalls given the mountainous and wet forests:

At some stage I was right down there.

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Coming in through the south, the forests were equally spectacular. Was a bit flatter, so not the same cliffs and waterfalls, where I was anyway. This is east and just north of Nimbin, of uncertain fame.

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This is looking north to Mount Warning, the subject of a separate trip. Some time ago this whole area was volcanic with the volcanoes about twice the height of this mountain.

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These were my first sightings of the Brown Cuckoo-Dove, and the notorious Australian Brush-Turkey.

Minyon Falls was worth the walk for some shots at different camera settings:

I didn’t take Boggy Creek Trail, with the reason for the name escaping me:

On return, the Park Attendant ensured I stayed off the grass:

Another great area in Australia.

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

Re-visit 9: Gippsland Lakes, Southern Victoria

These re-visits remind me how many great places in Australia I have been privileged to visit. The Gippslands Lakes, down around Paynesville and Metung, were fantastic.

If there was any doubt you should always have your camera, even if you are just going for a wee/jimmy riddle behind a bush, this is it. There are dolphins here which are unique to this spot and only found here (sic). They are the Burranan Dolphins, with quite unusual faces with the “nose” coming over the mouth. I was in fact just idly waiting for the return ferry from Raymond Island, but with my camera in case there was a UFO or similar, and, sure enough, there was similar. Dolphins.

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Tattooists are doing well in the dolphin world, although it must be hard to keep them still, and finish the work before the water washes it away; and one wonders what channel they get that has the Roadrunner:IMG_2939

One quite remarkable experience was to  witness a Pelican nursery at close range. A frequent advantage of travelling in off or shoulder peak times is that you end up being the only person on a tour. Sure, you sometimes  have to pay extra, but the value is in being quiet and flexible.

So I ended up the only person, well, fortunately except for the expert skipper, on a trip out on the Gippsland Lakes.

Late in the afternoon we drifted quietly to a safe legal distance from a breeding colony.

The breeding males were certainly apparent, with the blood enfused beak standing out:

 

There seemed to be lots of lost car key issues: they must be in here somewhere:

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It was astonishing to watch the dynamics. Some parents stayed at home and looked after the kiddies.

And there were flying classes graded to the skill level.

Some kids just flew from one end of the island t’other. Others flew for a few hundred metres;

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and in one of my favourite photographs, the older kids arrived back at sunset after a long day’s adventure.

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As always with coastal lakes, the magnificent White-bellied Sea-eagle was a star. Such clean colours in the adults, effortless gliding, and all-round majesty.

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Mind you, in terms of majesty there is always the serious contender, the Wedgie:

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White-faced herons (really should be white-faced egrets) are required by GHQ to have a presence at every water hole. I am sure each bird gets some sort of GPS location order to ensure they are so dispersed.

Royal Spoonbills are common enough, but nowhere near as well organised as the White-faced Herons.

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One of the great mysteries was the whereabouts of this sea snake. I didn’t see it at the time, but it is evident from my photos that something, or some bird, has moved it:IMG_2878 (3)IMG_2876 (2)IMG_2872 (2)

Raymond Island was a very short cable ferry trip off the mainland, and the star inhabitants on the Island are the Koalas, always hard to spot:

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Lots of other birds were about, given the mix of salt and fresh water, and the forests, so we had Little Pied Cormorants and Crested Terns:

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Pacific Gulls were plentiful, with their pronounced beak, here fascinated by the same feature as the Little Pied Cormorant:

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And every Black Swan is a White Swan wanting to get out. If you watch them flying, you will see the white swan under the black sun guard adaptation:

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There were also a few random locals, like the Grey Butcherbird:

Butcherbird, Grey ssp leucopterus

and the first time spotting of the White-eared Honeyeater:

Honeyeater, White-eared

Being close to the sea, the lakes also have some classic inhabitants:

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Another great day.

Michael Monaghan

RE-visited May 2020

Re-visit 8: Victoria River cruise, Timber Creek NT

Just a quick re-visit to the top western corner of the Northern Territory, because we were close up with some magnificent birds of prey on this river trip. They were being delivered fresh fish to “catch” in the water, but that did give you a chance to see their hunting glory.

Not that one would ever think of swimming up this way even in 38°, but a reminder near by:

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The White-bellied Sea-eagles, being amongst the most photogenic birds, were fantastic to watch. There were three or four, including this juvenile:

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The adults were in full flight (sic):

…generally:

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and enjoyed their “catch”:
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Black Kites were also around, with the concave tail that sets them apart from other kites:

This bird struggled to eat on the wing:

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And then there was a random Blue-faced Honeyeater to round things off:

Honeyeater, blue-faced ssp cyanotis

 

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

Re-visit 7: Karrajini National Park, Kimberleys WA.

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The area around Karrijini National Park in the Kimberley, west of Exmouth, is riddled with georgeous gorges. These include Dales, Knox, Joffre, Weano, and Kalamina. This revisit is in the area from the Nunatarra Roadhouse, on the Ashburton River, to Karrinjini.

 

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The rocks are about 2500 million years old, which is quite old, being nearly as long ago as St Kilda’s last premiership. The seafloor was where the surface is now, compacted, then lifted, by the drift of the continental plates. As is the case with many areas of ancient rock formations, the formations are generally the remnants of what was, eaten away over millions and millions of years by wind and water.

The temperature variation around here is confirmed by the extremes of the engineering:

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Dales Gorge is the dream of any landscape gardener:

 

It is quite a good idea not to suck on the blue asbestos (the infamous Wittenoom is nearby):

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At one point we were at the foot of the Dales Gorge falls, then later, higher; then somewhat later, close to beer time, much higher. The first mouthful felt well deserved.

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The other gorges are equally georgeous.

And of course there was plenty of wildlife, such as this lizard I nearly stepped on:

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And going through the photos, three not seen before birds of which I didn’t realise I had photos, namely:

The Painted Finch (male):

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Then the Yellow-tinted Honeyeater:

And the Western Bowerbird:

Bowerbird, Western

We came across a Wedgie feeding on a kangaroo carcass. They, the wedgies not the kangaroos, have quite inflexible talons, so they take time to extricate them from the carcass. Magnificent in the air, but not so attractive on the ground, methinks.

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This Sacred (Australian) Ibis seemed to be posing for the shot:

Ibis, Sacred

Making the Corella seem inhibited quiet types, are Blue-Winged Kookaburra:

The kites were fairly unconcerned by people, these Black Kites coming in quite close and sitting peaceably nearby. The clue to tell Black Kites from Whistling Kites I developed, is that Whistling Kites have a whole tail, whilst black kites have a bit missing ie concave.

 

Amongst the hardest birds to even see are the Red-winged Parrots, which really blend in with the vegetation (this is a juvenile):

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An indication of the environment is this Little Corella, painted pink by the thousands of millions years’ old dust:

Corrella, Little

A stunning area, but just one small part of astonishing landscapes in the north-west of Australia.

 

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

 

 

Close encounters with a Gang-Gang family

My neighbours were lucky enough to spot a family of five Gang-Gang Cockatoos land in their backyard – parents and three kiddies. They were skilled enough in modern communication to know you can actually use mobile phones to make, what we oldies would call, phone calls. They summonsed me to, with apologies to Monty Python, curtail my literary activities and high tail it, not to a cheese shop, but to their place.

Talk about cute, and most unconcerned about our presence.

There were some berries left on one large tree:

requiring agility and ingenuity:

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There were also a few chickpeas which the youngsters were keen to try:

But it was largely a case of just sitting or hanging and being photogenic:

Wonderful birds. We often see the adult pair, but this is the biggest family we have seen here.

Below the photos are in a slide show:

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Michael Monaghan

May 2020

Wedgie fun

IMG_6026 (2)I was observant enough, driving slowly the long way home, to spot two Wedge-tailed Eagles enjoying the thermals west of Canberra. They looked young, and seemed to be having fun, rather than  hunting.

The photos are not the best you will ever see, given the distance, but hopefully you will appreciate these magnificent birds.

The first sequence is of one of the two coming in to land on their chosen resting spot:

See below as  a slide show:

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As I said, they did really seem to be playing and learning as these shots will demonstrate:

And then some shots of them just sailing around, having a great time:

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I reckon I better go back to that spot.

Michael Monaghan

May 2020

Re-visit 6: Chateau Tahbilk wetlands

At Nagambie, in mid east Victoria ( about 90 minutes north of Melbourne, and just to the west of the Hume Freeway) is a vineyard, Chateau Tahbilk. They have added a great community service to their great community service of great wine. They have built walks along the river, creating a fantastic wetlands.

I first went there in 2016. I re-visited around mid 2019, but like all the Victorian wetlands, there was then no water.

But they should be highly recommended for the infrastructure they are providing for the community and for travellers.

The river provided some of my most memorable river scenes:

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Witnessing the beauty is the purpose-made, in Spain, leather camera bag given to me by my sons:IMG_3097 (2)IMG_3096 (2)

There are some spiders that clearly love it here:

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And lots of birds, such as White-faced Heron (remember all Egrets are Herons, but only some Herons are Egrets):

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The Straw-necked Ibis clearly did well here:

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One of our many brilliant kingfishers, the Azure Kingfisher:

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A great spot to drop in at on the way to Melbourne. Nice cafe too.

Michael Monaghan

RE-visited May 2020

 

Getting back to the Wetlands – An Update

This is an update having been back again, and had two first sightings.

Have been walking around the again wettish Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

As there has been in my own Canberra garden, there is some unusual activity. At home, there have been large numbers of rainbow lorikeets, which is unique in my lengthy experience here, as well as huge flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos – I have over the last fortnight regularly counted over 50 –  and also Pied Currawongs – flocks up to 10. A flock of 7 White-winged Chough flew over skimming the roof line a few days ago, the first time I have ever seen them at my place, although I have, but only rarely, seen them in the pine rich suburbs.  To add to the din, most unusually there have been 4 or 5 Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos frequenting this area, and unusually large numbers of Galahs – I guess they relate well to a fellow galah (overseas readers note: A galah in Australia is a name for a very silly person). Worringly, I have not seen more than 3 or 4 Indian Myna here for some years, but a few days ago saw over 20 all together in the corner of the garden. They dispersed and things seemed to have dropped back to normal number.

The horrendous damage to the littoral and range forests in the summer bushfires is probably the reason there are so many birds up here.

At the wetlands, there is water visible again after the terrible drought. However the heavy late summer rains has seen enthusiastic growth from the rushes so very little of the water is actually visible.

I have not seen Black-faced Woodswallows there before. They are cute the way they cuddle up even during the day.

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Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes were frolicking high up in the trees:

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Another bird I have often seen flying in the tall casuarinas near the wetlands, but not right in at ground level, is the Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoo. This family ,at least, is very scatty, although you wouldn’t think they could hear themselves think over the racket they make (the kiddies seeking food are even more uproarious), let alone hear my delicate footsteps.

IMG_5960 (2)IMG_5962 (2)IMG_5997 (2)More commonly, Red-Rumped Parrots love this area, and there were a few about, as well as large numbers of Superb Fairy-Wren:

It is nice to be walking about in the beautiful Autumn weather. Crisp overnight (well bloody cold actually) but lovely in the sun.

Again lovely in the sun today, with some of the usual suspects, such as the White-necked Heron (which really should be called a white-necked Egret):

I am pretty sure this was a very hard to spot Little Grassbird. It was in the right area. If so it would be my first sighting here, although I did get a much better photo of one at Point Cook in mid-south Victoria.

Grassbird, LittleThe highlight though was my first sighting of a Golden-headed Cisticola (pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable):

Cisticola, Golden-headed ssp exilis nonbr

 

Cisticoloa, Golden-headed ssp exilis nonbr

Michael Monaghan

May 2020