Monday, 26 October 2015

Blitzing Kowen and nearby places

Each year COG mounts a Blitz to cover as many areas in the ACT as possible, with an emphasis on recording birds undertaking breeding activities.  I have focused on the Kowen pine forest area (although this year I pretty much covered native vegetation patches lurking within the pines).  The following snip shows the places I visited: the red line on the Eastern side is the position of the Whiskers Fault (purely for interest - it doesn't seem to affect the birds).
This image shows the Molonglo at Blue Tiles picnic area.  At this point it is the border between NSW on the left and the ACT.  At one stage this was a popular spot for picnics on the weekend, but as it is now only reachable (without specific official permission to drive in, which I had) by a fairly rugged 3km walk it is rarely visited.  I recorded 14 common species here in 20 minutes.
Very close to Blue Tiles is a peninsula with rather different habitat - mainly a dry rocky ridge.  I recorded 14 species here - some different to the picnic area, including a Sacred Kingfisher.
I also walked along the first half of the rugged hike.  I was somewhat surprised, but pleased, at the number of other folks doing so.  Its known as the Molonglo Gorge and as the next image shows, the name is quite appropriate.  The wider stretches of the watercourse can be good for Platypus but I didn't see any.  In 73 minutes I recorded 23 species of birds: none particularly unusual.
There was a good flow in the Molonglo.
A nice breeding record from the Gorge.  Mr Pacific Black Duck was lagging a tad so just out of shot.
Having a few minutes to spare I swung by the Queanbeyan Sewage Ponds (which are, strangely, in the ACT not the NSW City of Queanbeyan) and got my best bird of the day in the form of a male Musk Duck.  Not a great photo - one duck, about 100m away against the backlit water can be a tad tricky to take - but it clearly shows the diagnostic sac under the bill.
Most of the action here was Eurasian Coots.  I counted 387 of them!  A week earlier I estimated 600, as I'd got over 400 and there were still a lot to count when my attention span died.
Crested Pigeons are far from uncommon but I like the colours, especially the iridescent patches on the shoulders.  (I was also experimenting with the IA setting on my camera and it seemed to do a good job in this and many other circumstances.)
Going back in time there were a lot of flowers around along the Molonglo including these white asters (ie members of the Asteraceae - the family isn't called the Daisiaceae) and Stackhousia.
This small orchid had me bluffed as there is no purple on the labellum on calli (aka teeth).  I have received expert advice that it is an albino form of Caladenia cucculata.

Now, I don't want anyone to get too excited, but here is a Pomaderris betulina (?) flower!
This mass of blossom is on Eucalyptus dives at the peninsula
Here is a snap of the patootie of a hoverfly - which seem to be in vast numbers this year - on the Euc blossom.
A small dipterid sucking on a Craspedia variabilis.
Another hoverfly - about 400m from the euc one so I am pretty sure it is a different individual  - on an aster.
This is a dragonfly and from using an online key have come up with it possibly being a Bronze Needle (Synlestes weyersii).
That was my first go at using the IA function and as the dragonfly was about 4m away and the camera handheld, I reckoned it was a pretty impressive snap.

As I drove out from Blue Tiles this dirty-nosed chap was checking out the termite habitat.
So that is all from the Saturday.  I totaled up to 48 species.

The Sunday started rather early.
 My first site was at the Eastern end of Kowen and is a Commonwealth Geophysics site.  As the place is well decked out with threatening signs about surveillance etc I just walk around the track outside.  (I suspect the surveillance isn't that heavy: some years ago a very large Yellow Box had fallen, taking out the perimeter fence, and when I reported this no-one knew about it.  Apart from the alleged security cameras, I'd have though the falling tree would have registered at about Richter 4 on their seismometers!)

I recorded 23 species here, adding several to the Blitzlist started the previous day.  I scored 3 breeding recording (Cockie (nest hollow), Pied Currawong nest with young and Common Starling nest with young.).

My next stop was the Pound, a sometime Travelling Stock Reserve (plus area for strayed beasts) but now a nice woodland Reserve.  Many nice old trees and a magnificent display of herbs (see below, but most  weren't open as it was still pretty cool).  I recorded 20 species here adding a few more to the list and recording breeding for Pallid Cuckoo (display: call by male and response by female), and Common Starling (nest with noisy young).
The reason for the early start was because I had to attend the Veteran Athletics monthly handicap at Mount Ainslie.  Here are the assembled hordes (obfuscated to defeat face recognition).  Note also the large trees in the background.  After my waddle I recorded 13 species here included Bird of the Day in the shape of a Dollarbird (see below) and Dependent Young Noisy Miner.  The latter will probably be regarded with horror by some readers as it seems to be becoming fashionable to object to this species.  (From my reading, the objections should be to Homo (non)sapiens who has cleared the understorey, rather than the birds that have taken advantage of same.)
My final stop was at the lane down to Newline Quarry, with the objective of riding my bike down the lane.  I made it so and recorded 21 species (a low haul for this trip - it was getting pretty warm and I probably hurried a bit much).  There were few additions to the list and breeding was recorded for Common Starling (nest with young - again!!!) and Crimson Rosella inspecting Hollow.
Here is the Dollarbird.  It seemed to be showing a lot of fidelity to pone dead tree, but I didn't see any overt indications of fecundity.
Some Bulbine lilies at the Pound.
Leucochrysum albicans and Dillwynnia sericea at the Pound.
An Australian Painted Lady at the Pound.
Another, somewhat battered Painted Lady but I like the detail of the head that shows here - image taken about 3m away on hefty zoom.
I totaled 67 species for the event.

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