March 2016 Field Visit – Exciting birds!

March has been a hectic month, and I’ve worked every weekend, so I decided to take advantage of the Easter Monday public holiday and head out to Galore Hill – more-or-less halfway between Wagga Wagga and Narrandera, and located in Lockhart Shire.

Galore Hill
Galore Hill as seen from Galore Road.

Like The Rock, Galore Hill is one of those well-known landmarks, a big hill in a flat landscape, that’s always been on the horizon my whole life, but I’ve not been there since I was a child. So I donned my new Star Wars hat, jumped into my car, and headed off to spend a few hours exploring Galore Hill.

Me in my hat
New Star Wars hat

I was well into my journey before it occurred to me that knowing where something is is not the same as knowing how to get there. I decided that instead of heading home and trying again, I would follow the seemingly logical plan of driving down likely-looking roads that headed toward the hill, and hoping that I hit upon some useful signage or something.

DSCF3439

This did not work.

Galore Hill
I got this close

However, driving at semi-random down a bunch of back roads in the middle of sprawling farmland is clearly the secret to stumbling across exciting birds.

First I saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax), which quickly turned out to be two Wedge-tailed Eagles, who wheeled near me for a few minutes before heading out of sight.

DSCF3450

DSCF3452

DSCF3456

(Sorry, I couldn’t get them both in shot at the same time, but trust me, there were two)

Wedgies are Australia’s largest eagle species, and are listed as endangered at the federal level, although they’re listed as ‘secure’ here in New South Wales. According to Birds in Backyards, they form monogamous pairs that maintain a specific territory for several years, so presumably the two I saw were the local breeding pair.

I saw a nest in a tree nearby, but I’m not sure if it was theirs. I don’t think it looks big enough, or accessible enough for a pair of big eagles. ‘Learn more about identifying bird nests’ is now on my list of things to do.

DSCF3446

DSCF3448

After seeing the eagles I decided to retrace my path, lest I become hopelessly lost in the wilds of Lockhart Shire, and was just hoping I’d see something else blog-worthy on the way home, when I spotted a flurry of pretty white-tipped tail-feathers and pulled over in a big hurry. Sure enough, there was a little group of Grey-crowned Babblers (Pomatostomus temporalis) playing in a very narrow stand of trees beside the road.

Grey-crowned Babblers
Grey-crowned Babblers
Grey-crowned Babblers
Grey-crowned Babblers
Grey-crowned Babbler
Grey-crowned Babbler closer view

Just to change things up a bit, Grey-crowned Babblers are listed as ‘secure’ federally, but vulnerable in New South Wales, so that’s two threatened bird species within the space of an hour or less.

babblers-5

I had a lot of fun watching the babblers investigate their surroundings and pop up and down trees, and tried to get close enough for some decent photos without scaring them off. They seemed more wary than spooked; they wouldn’t let me very close, but didn’t fly too far away either, so I was able to watch them for a good while.

hoppity-hoverbird

babblers-3

babblers-4
They seemed really interested in this hollow for a while

 

hollow branch
But there was nothing much of interest there when I looked, so I assume they were catching insects

Two threatened species that I rarely see was a pretty good consolation prize for not making it to my intended destination, but I’ll find out how to get to Galore Hill properly and try again sometime later this year.

 

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “March 2016 Field Visit – Exciting birds!

  1. A.M. Valenza March 30, 2016 / 1:58 am

    That wedge-tailed eagle looked pretty damn cool! I only know what crow and raven nests look like, because they’re everywhere around here and they’re easy to spot. *flaps hands* Anyway, those babblers look super cute! I like their eye markings ❤ Wow, they let you get close! None of the birds around here let me get very close, except for *wait for it* the crows and ravens. Well, the Maryland black vultures let you get kind of close, but then they start chuffing, so I always back off. But the Virginia vulture (the ones I see are turkey vultures, I believe) are super ornery and predatory. If they're high up (I usually see them on top of street lamps), you can get a little close but they'll spread their wings and start shifting, so it's always kind of ehhhhhh. All the little birds–cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, black birds, robins–tend to shoot off before I even realize they're there, though the sparrows sometimes hang around.

    You know, speaking of growing up near landmarks, I grew up in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I've visited over in the Shenandoah region. I plan to go back sometime in the summer, so I'll def take a nature walk and show you what it's like! And I can't wait to see what that Galore Hill place looks like!

    (Also, side note – I just saw your comment on my snow-swamp post, omg! It didn't even tell me it was there, I'm so mad! I changed the settings on my blog so it won't happen again, but I'm glad I was able to show you a landscape you're not used to! ❤ It's funny, but the area in the pictures today looks like what I used to see driving down in Texas and New Mexico, the Southern deserts of the United States. New Mexico has more mountains, though, whereas Texas was just kind of flat)

    P.S. That HAT! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • riverinawildlife March 30, 2016 / 7:11 pm

      Wedgies are always exciting to see,especially up close, and they’re beautiful in person. You can’t really see in the photos, but in person there’s really noticeable colour variation in the plumage. They move with deceptive speed too, these two were just gliding in slow loops but still managed to get a long way away surprisingly quickly.

      I am so bad at nests. I need to find out if there’s a bird nest field guide or something, so I can teach myself what different species’ nests look like.

      I love babblers! They’re so pretty, and fun to watch, and I very rarely see them, although they exist in small pockets across the region. Their tails are black with white tips, and fan out when they’re flying or fussing about, which I just think is so pretty and distinctive, and so is the eye-stripe. There are a few species of babblers, although I think only two around here (I need to look that up and check), and they’ve all got some sort of pretty eye-stripe. I was worried I’d spook them into shooting off, but they seemed fairly unconcerned about my presence. They moved away from me, but their demeanor was very much “we know you’re there, but we were totally going to move further down the road here anyway”. I followed them for a little ways, and then headed back to my car.

      Vultures sound cool, we don’t have any in Australia, so they’re one of those iconic birds that I only know from books. I’d love to see a photo of one, if you’ve taken any. Having big, predatory birds adopt threatening postures every time you go near sounds unfun though.

      Yay! I’ve heard of those mountains, that will be exciting, to see your photos of a natural area I’ve heard about. I mean, I can look up photos on Google, but that’s not the same as a personal visit by someone I know. I’m not sure Galore Hill will be in quite the same league, but who knows? 😉

      I was wondering at the time if you’d seen my comment on your blog post, I should’ve asked. I’m glad you’ve seen it now though. 🙂

      Also, if you want flat, you just wait until I go to Hay. The rangelands west of Hay are referred to as ‘Big Sky Country’, because the sky is literally the biggest thing you can see, all the way to the horizon, which is an awfully long way when there’s no hills, trees, or buildings getting in the way. It’s like standing on the earth and being immersed in the sky. I’d love to go camp out in the middle of the rangelands sometime, well away from the town lights, you’d just be surrounded by stars. Photos don’t really do it justice, but I’ll try. We can have a flat-off and compare it with Texas. These photos are from my local-local patch, so this sort of country is what I’m most used to. East of Wagga you get into rolling hills (and then south-east heads into the Snowy Mountains), but west it’s mostly just flat, with occasional big lumps of hill, and then further west there’s not even those. I love how diverse the landscape is around here, within only a few hours drive in any direction.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s