Hello everyone, and welcome to 2016.
I started last year with a field visit to Fivebough Swamp in Leeton, and I hadn’t intended to do the same this year, but I was in Leeton and awake at 6:30am the morning after it had rained, so what else could I do but go for a walk at Fivebough?
Pro-tip – when heading into a wetland first thing in the morning to take photos of birds, keep your camera in hand right from the get-go, and don’t go striding about at a fast clip, no matter how lovely of a morning it is.
After flushing a small group of Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) on the way in I was determined to get a photo of them for you. I’ve posted pictures of White and Straw-necked Ibises before, but Glossies are seasonal visitors and less commonly seen. I was confident I’d find some feeding further in, and if I was cautious enough in my approach, I’d manage to avoid flushing them this time and could get some pics.
The Glossy Ibises had a different idea. I saw plenty flying past, but none on the ground, and the only time I managed to track where one landed the vegetation was too high to see the bird after it had touched down. So here is the only photo I managed to take of a Glossy Ibis.
Glossy Ibises are smaller than both White and Straw-necked Ibises, and have almost purplish-brown plumage that often looks black from a distance, and an iridescent greenish sheen on their wings. They’re very elegant, and are less likely than other ibises to be seen in human-dominated spaces. If I get another chance to visit Fivebough while they’re there I will try again to get photos.
Other birds I saw included:
What I think was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata), but I’m not sure. If it was, then it will have flown here from Siberia late last year, and will be heading back there in the next few months to breed.
Fivebough serves as an important over-wintering ground (or well, over-summering once they get here) for a lot of international migratory shorebirds. The site’s importance for Sandpipers and other migratory species is one of the reasons it was listed as a Wetland of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention.
Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) and Masked Lapwings (Vanellus miles).
(Morning sun shining through the mist is pretty, but it makes for some hazy photos)
Lots of Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio).
What I believe is a juvenile Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) – not far from where I saw an adult last year.
And my personal highlight of the day – a group of Magpie Geese! I love Magpie Geese (Anseranas semipalmata), and have never seen them out at Fivebough before, although I’ve seen them listed as having been spotted there in the past. Magpie Geese are one of those species with misleading names, being neither magpies (clearly), nor true geese. I learned only recently that Magpie Geese actually have their own distinct taxonomic family, the Anseranatidae, of which they are the only extant species.
On the less positive side of things, I saw a lot of evidence of fox activity, including this pawprint.
And several of the track-side signs (which I take a personal interest in, being one of the people who developed them in the first place) were rather mangled, which I suspect was caused by machinery being utilised for last-year’s trail maintenance. I hope the current site managers are able to replace them, or at the very least they remove the damaged ones, because this is a bad look.
But foxes and damaged signs aside, Fivebough is a lovely, if very smelly, place to go for an early morning walk in summer.
In related news: A friend of mine in the US also recently went for a walk in a very different kind of local swamp, and blogged about it here, if you’d like to contrast two very different January wetland environments.