Picture a typical country cottage built just before the “Great War”. Its
roof is red corrugated iron and the walls are thick unpainted weatherboards,
hand-split with a broad-axe from the surrounding forests. From the veranda,
short grass flows out to the huge gum trees that first rose above the ground
before the house was built. Beyond these trees the lake is calm in the
evening light. Six kangaroos feed gently on the grass.
It is late in the day. The sky is blue, softened with a lacy shawl of thin
white clouds. The hills in the Nadgee Nature Reserve rise from the far bank
of the lake and are muted by a mist that by morning will coat the ground in
dew. Apart from some insects calling in the warm evening air and the tiny
contact cheeps from the Superb Fairy-wrens in the ferns, all is silent. This
was the setting last week for a few days of late summer birding.
Each morning the dawn chorus was loud and varied. Lyrebirds and whipbirds
called. Fantails, whistlers, wrens, kookaburras and many more joined them.
The day I arrived it was raining but the next morning was fine and calm. The
trees were still wet and puddles littered the gravel roads. Birds bathed in
the leaves and puddles, and were very obvious as they darted about calling
loudly. The day warmed and the puddles and leaves dried. From the second
day, once the dawn chorus was over, the birds were silent and hard to find.
This was an interesting change because I knew the birds were all there, I
had seen them the day before, but now they were silent and skulking. Where
Large-billed Scrub-wrens and Scarlet Honeyeaters had cavorted with Leaden
Flycatchers and King Parrots there was now silent bush. I was intrigued by
what a little bit of rain could do to make birds appear en-masse and then
disappear from view when it dried off.
Patience paid off though, as it usually does. By sitting quietly and waiting
Satin Bowerbirds could be seen along with Eastern Whipbirds, Red-browed
Treecreepers, Wonga Pigeons, Common Bronzewing, Superb Lyrebird, Eastern
Spinebill, a family of four Crested Shrike-tits, a small flock of Varied
Sittella and many more little bush birds. An evening drive down the road
came up with 2 Spotted Nightjars. Over four days my count reached 55
species, including one Eastern Curlew on a sandbank at the river’s mouth.
But the parrots were mainly missing. I heard a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
in the distance, and there was one immature King Parrot but no Crimson
Rosellas or Glossy Black Cockatoos. Rainbow Lorikeets were there but usually
the King Parrots are very common, as are the Yellow-tailed Blacks.
But birding with a cup of tree on the veranda was as special as ever. The
resident Sea-eagles paraded back and forth with their juvenile offspring,
two Wedge-tailed Eagles cruised slowly over, and a speeding pair of Hobby
had a very vocal dispute over nothing I could see, right above my head. High
pitched screams shattered the morning and then all went quiet as they
resumed their flight westward. A family of Kookaburras serenaded from the
gum tree that held the Sea-eagle nest and Red-browed Firetails canoodled in
the sun. And the Red-brows weren’t actually allopreening, one was just
repeatedly, gently touching the other above the eye; definitely canoodling.
Picking a “bird of the trip” is always hard but this time it was either the
Red-browed Treecreepers or the Shrike-tits. However, reptile of the trip was
easy; it wasn’t the black lizards that sunned outside the kitchen door, nor
was it the Brown Snake that shot across the track a few inched in front of
my feet – it was the largest Lace Monitor I have ever seen. This gorgeous
monster was well over 2 metres in length and its girth was larger than a
grown man’s thigh. When it raised itself on its fore-legs to look around its
eyes would have been knee-high on me. It was the sort of sighting where you
realise that not all of Australia’s giant reptiles have been hunted out. It
was the sort of sighting where you can give a big sigh and truly say; “now I
can go home happy”.
On the way back I failed to find Masked Owls where they were guaranteed to
be (big smile), but I did find some Southern Emu-wrens at the Yeerung River
Bridge near Marlo and lots of wonderful birds at Cabbage Tree Palms Reserve.
Cheers, and some photos will go onto the BOCA gallery today and tomorrow.
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