September 2016 Field Visit – Narrandera Common under flood

I believe I have previously mentioned that this has been an unusually wet year – well it’s gotten wetter. All the creeks across the region are over-top, as is the river in several places, and there is so much standing water in paddocks just from rainfall that it’s impossible to tell if you’re looking at flooding from a waterway or not.

I was tempted to just drive around and take photos of all the water everywhere for this month’s field trip, but in the end I decided to head to Narrandera Common, so you can compare this month’s photos with ones I’ve taken there on previous visits.

With both Bundidgerry Creek and the Murrumbidgee River to contend with, Narrandera Common currently looks like this:

Narrandera Common under flood
Little bit wet underfoot

A marked contrast to the irrigation canal just below the regulator beside the entrance:

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I guess the irrigators downstream probably don’t need the extra water right now.

Access to the Common is of course closed, but the levee bank separating the canal and lake from the main river floodplain (aka the Common/wildlife reserve itself) is perfectly passable, and as popular as ever with walkers and the occasional cyclist, so I headed down that way.

Before I started, I noticed the local Council had put some important notices on the gate:

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Soooo… nothing to worry about then.

I did hear some trees making ominous noises as I walked, but I saw only one magpie, which was completely uninterested in me. I suspect most of the magpies and other ground-feeding birds that usually inhabit the Common have moved to more accommodating locations until the flood water recedes. I certainly encountered more than one group of choughs that had been forced to the edges to forage.

(I would also like to take this moment to speak up in defense of swooping magpies – they’re scary, but if you’re sensible that’s all they are. Wear a hat and sunglasses, keep your face averted and your hands to yourself and everyone will get home uninjured. Sure, you get the occasional very aggressive magpie that’s willing to go further than just swooping at your head and snapping its beak loudly, but that’s what the hat is for – they’re trying to scare you, and they’re good at it, but that’s all. People go flailing around to ‘defend’ themselves and that’s when injuries happen, and birds learn that humans are dangerous and need to be dealt with more aggressively. I have seen cyclists waving great huge sticks around to ‘fend off’ magpies, and go weaving across the road, which is a million times more dangerous than any swooping bird.)

Not far into my walk I spotted a kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), presumably looking for prey in the narrow grassy zone between the path and the water.

Laughing kookaburra

A little farther on I was taken by the reflection of water playing in the hollow of this tree, it didn’t photograph well but you can sort of see it.

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For contrast, here is a picture of the same tree that I took in June last year:

River Red Gum
Looks a bit different when not flooded

It was a lovely sunny day after having rained the previous evening, which really brought out the colours in the bark of the River Red Gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), making them look like they’d been painted.

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I kept stopping as I walked to admire new trees.

I also spent a lot of time taking photos of this little group of White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos), who were foraging for insects in the grassy strip beside the path, and were preceding me along the path itself for a ways.

White-winged choughs
Not a photography quirk – they really do have red eyes. I think those with brown eyes are juveniles.

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White-winged chough in flight
Blurry picture of a chough in flight showing why they’re called ‘white-winged’

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I love watching choughs, they live in large, complex, social groups, get into territorial squabbles with neighbouring families, and the young birds stay with the parents and help with assorted social duties including feeding their younger siblings and helping with nest-building. Earlier this year, when I read ‘Where Song Began’ by Tim Low, I learned that they apparently also kidnap and ‘enslave’ the young of other groups during their territorial battles, which is not the sort of behaviour I generally expect of birds, and is a bit less charming than the notion that the young birds stick around and help by choice.

On the other side of the path, in the section of canal leading from the lake to the regulator, there were patches of azolla, looking somewhat like miniature islands and putting me in mind of maps of island nations in fantasy novels.

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In addition to my blurry photo of the flying chough, I took some blurry photos of other birds in flight:

A Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

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Some White Ibises (Threskiornis molucca)

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And a raptor of some sort, which Google suggests might be a Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus). Incidentally, bird identification sites that say the underwing pattern is distinctive and then only show pictures of the bird from above or with wings folded are not super helpful.

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I also found this pair of yellow rosellas (yellow-green colour morph of the Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans)

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At one side of the path I came across a very busy ant nest and took some photos, although as it turns out you can’t really see the ants very well.

ant nest
Ant nest!
ants
Big red ants – they’re there, I promise

And another shot of the floodwater through the trees:

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Around about here I heard the water making rushing sounds, and noticed it was moving a lot faster than it had been back the way I’d come. Whether this was because it was being forced into narrower channels just here or due to some other reason, I don’t know. I tried to take some photos to show how fast the water was moving, but that’s naturally rather difficult to do with a still photo.

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While I was watching the rushing water, I found a koala!

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koala hand
I really like this photo, despite it being a little blurry – you can see the two ‘thumbs’ opposed to the other fingers on the koala’s hand/forepaw, excellent for climbing and grasping

 

On my way back to the gate I saw two Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) land and disappear inside a hollow, where they must have had a nest. They didn’t re-emerge while I was watching, but one did poke its head out to keep an eye on things.

Galah entering nest
Heading inside
Tree hollow with galah nest inside
No sign of anyone home
Galah looking out of tree hollow
Keeping an eye on the neighbourhood

 

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2 thoughts on “September 2016 Field Visit – Narrandera Common under flood

  1. John Beattie September 29, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    The swooping magpie warnings are a good idea. Exciting to find a koala when you weren’t expecting one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • riverinawildlife September 29, 2016 / 7:16 pm

      I especially like the sign that explains why the magpies are swooping and how to respond appropriately. I always try to keep an eye out for koalas along there, because they’re quite frequently along the canal bank, but of course that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll find one. On my way back I mentioned it to some other people who were out walking and they said they’d seen about four the previous day, so I might have found more if I’d continued further, but one was pretty good. 🙂

      Like

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