Thursday, 5 May 2016

Young at the Heart of birding

One of me mates decided to try to find some additional spots to go birding in the area more or less within a days drive of Canberra.  So he sought interest from readers of The Land - a newspaper read by farmers and pastoralists in NSW.  One of his early replies was from Donald and Julie who have a property not far from the very prosperous town of Young in NSW.  They were very happy for a few of us to come out for a look round their place.  They noted that Donald may be busy on matters agricultural.

As it turned out the property had scored some rain a few days earlier so planting was well due and Donald was going to be wielding the tractor on the day.  However we were still welcome to go and arrangements would be made to show us the birds.

As Young is a bit away from Canberra, to get a decent look around we had to leave Canberra (in fact, the Turner Bowlo) at 7:30, which meant daylight hadn't really got its act together when I set off from Carwoola.
I duly met the rest of the crew at Turner and we headed off in the Pajero.  A few interesting birds were seen en route with Brown Falcon being a contender for Bird of the Day.  On getting to the property we inspected a timbered paddock before meeting our host.  This was noted for large numbers of Eastern Rosellas and Noisy Miners (and a flock of about 20 Red Wattlebirds - possibly migrating).

Some of the eucalypts - sorry, don't know the species, suggestions welcome - were flowering but this didn't seem to be of great interest to the birds.   White-plumed Honeyeaters were present in small groups but didn't seem to be focussing on the blossom.  Ian Fraser has suggested it could be Grey Box - see comments below.
 There were a good collection of rocky outcrops - granite I think - throughout the property.
I suspect that in Summer these would be a herpetological paradise. On meeting Julie the matter of legless reptiles was raised, with Eastern Brown Snake being the only local suspect.

As the property is very good for growing wheat and canola and rain had fallen on the weekend Donald was busy on the tractor getting the crop in.  I marvelled at the array of equipment he was using, and thought back to my youth on an English farm: this kit was about the same surface area as some of the paddocks on that place.
When we got close to the paddock a good flock (~50 birds) of Little Ravens were in the area being cultivated.  Donald told us (over the radio) that they were dining on the larvae of Christmas beetles being disturbed by the work.

We were offered a very welcome cup of tea by Julie, during which time a strange (for Canberra) call was heard.  This turned out to be an immature Blue-faced Honeyeater, which was an early contender for Bird of this Day, despite hiding behind foliage rather than posing for a photo.

Julie showed us around and led us over the rest of the property driving their truck while I followed in the Pajero.  We drove along a watercourse with good numbers of Pacific Black Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks, and Eurasian Coot (20), Dusky Moorhen (2) Australasian Grebes (8), Hoary-headed Grebe (3) and White-faced Heron evident on various dams.

On arrival at the biggest dam  ...
 .. confusion reigned due to my dodgy hearing.  Sue commented about "....xxxlers" which I interpreted as Babblers, while in fact she was saying "Shovelers."  Almost as soon as that was resolved Sandra spotted some Grey-crowned Babblers nearby.  Bingo: not only Bird of the Day but a code 5 as they seem from eBird to be quite uncommon in the area.  They behaved like Babblers -constantly moving and thus not photographed.

After a lunch break we headed back to the homestead and thanked Julie for a great visit.  We scored 40 species in about 3.5 hours, which we thought was pretty good in a dry time.  Spring should be fantastic.

We came home by a slightly different route going down Moppity Rd and thus briefly visiting Red Gate TSR.  We noted 21 species here, with the standouts being calls from Brown Treecreepers (we didn't get the binoculars on the birds but there appeared to be at least 4 birds present) and at least 15 Diamond Firetails which posed brilliantly for a photo..
Many thanks to Donald and Julie for their hospitality.


Denis Wilson said...

Nice report of a good outing, Martin.
I enjoyed the trip vicariously, assisted by my basic familiarity with the countryside and birds you discussed.

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Denis.


Ian Fraser said...

What a brilliant idea for finding new birding spots (and meeting interesting people); I so admire such initiative. From what I can see of the eucs among the rocks they could well be Grey Box E. microcarpa; it's the 'standard' euc of the western slopes.

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Ian. Julie said that Grey Box was certainly one of the species on the place (along with Yellow and White Box, a little Red Box and Blakely's Red Gum). I shall add a reference to your comment in the text of the post.