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.
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.
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.
This did not work.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.