North along Sullivans Creek

To: "Canberra Birds" <>
Subject: North along Sullivans Creek
From: "John Layton" <>
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2008 12:58:16 +1100
In the early cool of yesterday, we set off on a hike north along Sullivans Creek from the McPherson Bridge on Ward Road. Sam commandeered the pocket recorder and noted down the birds we saw. Things seemed a bit slow with only a few highlights, namely, some 10 Straw-necked Ibis on high, a vociferous Grey-shrike Thrush that came to within two metres and gobbled up Milkybar crumbs we chucked it and seemed to sing for more.
"I've got hot English mustard on my Spam sandies," I said, "that should add warmth to his song."
"Don't you dare!" Les Petites shrieked, as the object of their concern fled to a quieter ambience.
We saw a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos with an immature male. We could just make out nascent splotches of fiery red on his crest and face, but his chest appeared more strongly barred than that of his ma. The tips of his lower ventral feathers were stridently edged in creamy white giving his tum tum a scalloped veneer. This, we concluded, was a young cockamamie cockatoo.
We saw a male Golden-headed Cisticola, his tiny scone fairly glowing in the bright overcast of early morning. We looked down on a Welcome Swallow sipping the surface as it skimmed the water like a little, blue-black angel leaving wavering halos in its wake.
Stopped off at O'Connor shops and supplemented back-pack provisions with paddle pops. A checkout chick asked about our binoculars and was quite bemused when we explained what we were up to. "I've never seen anyone go out birdwatching before," she said. I asked if she lived in Canberra. "All my life, right here in O'Conner, and I went to Lyneham High," she replied. Hmm. Perhaps that may explain something, I don't know. She was a nice kidio, anyway.
Added another 11 species at O'Connor Wetlands (yes, it is a jolly fair hike from Ward Road)although nothing unusual. Saw five newly-fledged Welcome Swallows perched shoulder to shoulder, their yellow gapes giving the impression they were smirking mischievously. They were so Disney-esque.
On the return trip through ANU we noticed a White-faced Heron jack-hammering at something in the grass. Every few moments it drew back its head and a glistening morsel slid south down Herons Way. We crept forth, zeroed in with our binos, and noticed the heron was feasting on a white rat, which could have been on the lam from a biology lab or, perhaps, a sociology undergraduate's pet, abandoned at the onset of vacation. Without waxing too graphic, we believe the rat hadn't been dead for long – it may have been killed by the heron, rather than being carrion. So, no more carryin' on about that. Anyhow, after a couple of minutes, the heron picked up the carcass and skolled it. Pass the alka-seltzer. Do herons burp? We thought this disgusting oaf did.
Back home, Sam transcribed our sightings and announced we'd seen 37 species. That seemed a bit rich.
"Have you been salting the mine? I inquired.
"I have not!" she shrilled, proffering her bird diary in a fit of pique. I perused the list and declared it all square and above board, which I believe it was, and simmering Sam simmered down.
John K. Layton
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