Tuesday, 31 January 2017

It's hard to get good Kingfisher

A friend reported that she had seen two Azure Kingfishers on the Queanbeyan Escarpment on 29 January.  On being (politely) questioned she was certain that is what she had seen and noted the site wasn't too far from Wanna Wanna Creek.  I commented that this was quite extraordinary as the birds are rated as rare in the ACT, usually only being reported from Jerrabomberra Wetlands and the Molonglo.  They are also reported from other rivers in the hinterland however, as shown in this map from the COG Bird Info facility.
The approximate location of this sighting is given by the green dot.  As shown on this topographic map, by the red box,was on the right track  it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  My first thought was get in from a nearby road near point a (but just North of the boundary of this map).
Unfortunately I couldn't get on to the recommended landholders.  So plan B was implemented as I had a memory of accessing the area through the tracks at point b.  That went down like a Trump executive order as the tracks are now clearly marked Private Property.  Thus Plan C was fired up: go to the main entrance to Cuumbeun NR and walk about 4km passing through point c.  (Fortunately I didn't have to resort to Plan D - which is to quickly develop Plans E through G!)

It wasn't too hot and I found that my friends horse had left a marker on the trail, so I
I had thought about taking my mountain bike but my friend had advised that it was pretty hilly. What an understatement!  This image gives no idea of how steep this gully was.  Not only would I have had to walk up the far side (due to lack of fitness) but down this side (due to lack of skill and presence of much fear).
There were two others this size, and about three others just as steep but not so deep.  All the bike would have done for the second half of the trip would have been to add to the amount of weight to schlep.  Getting to the edge of the boxed area I found the Creek was very dry.  No trace of a Kingfisher.
 As I scaled the far side of the gully I noticed a side track and noticed a bit of water.  This is the blue square marked on the topo map: presumably a water supply for fire-fighting.  This was good Kingfisher habitat but not today, Josephine.
After a small amount of ferreting around I became aware that as a result of having to change plans my schedule was getting a bit tight.  Having told Frances I'd be back home at noon I didn't want to be too late as she might get concerned about me wandering about at 30oC in a snake enhanced area (I didn't see any snakes, but I'm sure they were there).

On the return trip the clouds broke up and the hills got longer and steeper than they had been on the way out.  I was pleased I had a bottle of water and wondering why I didn't take two when I nearly stepped on this person.
 Here is a close up of his back claws.  No wonder they can dig well.
 He could dig down into the fire trail but scuttled off letting me get a fleeting snap of his face.  I didn't want to spend too long getting a great shot - remember the schedule.
I actually got home at 1209 - not too bad considering the number of variables.!

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