I was at a loss as to where to visit for my final field trip of 2016, when a friend on Twitter unwittingly provided inspiration:
So off to Griffith I went to visit Campbell’s Swamp.
Of course, I managed to pick the only cloudy day in December to do so, although it didn’t actually rain until much later in the day, so at least I got my visit in without undue risk to my camera, even if the light wasn’t so good for photos.
Campbell’s Swamp has several lovely signs up alongside the path and boardwalk, identifying some of the species present, so I didn’t even have to resort to my field guide to determine that this was Miljee (Acacia oswaldii).
My thanks to the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists for the signs.
I do have to admit, I was a little daunted when I saw where the boardwalk led – I prefer seeing where I’m going, particularly in snake season, and I hate walking through spider webs, not least because I feel bad if I wreck some poor spider’s carefully-constructed home/snare.
I paused on my way in to stalk this little spider until I managed to get some clear photos. Said spider was not amused at my antics.
I then proceeded to crash through the reeds overhanging the boardwalk like an apologetic Godzilla in spider-town. This, incidentally, turned out to be a great way to accidentally collect tiny caterpillars.
I then emerged into the open and could take a proper look around.
Matt mentioned bitterns in his tweet, and I can confirm that there are definitely at least two Australasian Bitterns (Botaurus poiciloptilus) at Campbell’s Swamp, at least one of which is a male. As I made my way in I could hear him booming, and he sounded off periodically the whole time I was there. I was sitting to have a drink at one point, with Mister Bittern sounding to my right, when another Australasian Bittern lifted of from the cumbungi to my left and flew past, heading for another part of the wetland. It was a fantastic sight, very close up, but alas my hands were occupied with my water bottle and I had no time to grab my camera, so no photo for you.
I did get this photo later of a bird at a distance, which might be a bittern. It looks Australasian Bittern-ish to me.
Also exciting was my first ever Nankeen Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus). I either saw the same bird three times, or three different birds, although I suspect the former scenario is the most likely. (Also present: a pair of Galahs)
Likewise surveying the landscape from a high perch was this Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis) with straw-like neck plumage proudly displayed. That’s a White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) passing overhead in the second photo.
Black Swan – I see you!
Purple Swamphen – I see you as well!
Unidentified parrot – I had thought at the time it might be a female Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), given the long tail, but I’m really not sure. Edit: Thanks to Carol Probets for the ID in the comments: it’s a male red-rumped parrot (Psephotus haematonotus).
2016 has truly been the year of Magpie Goose sightings. (I think these may be the worst photos I’ve uploaded to this blog to date; this is how excited I get about seeing magpie geese, I’ll upload even the worst pictures of them)
The entrance to the birdhide was as overgrown as the path in, but I headed through anyway, to discover that the hide has no benches to sit on, which makes for some uncomfortable long-term watching. Someone had left some makeshift stepstools behind to stand on though, allowing more people to get a better height when looking through the window slits, which I thought was very thoughtful of whomever it was.
The view from inside the hide.
My greatest impression on this visit was that the site presented an amazing, complex soundscape, far surpassing the visual aspects. So much so that I attempted to capture it several times using the video function on my camera, in order to share it with you. My video producing skills are lacking, and the footage itself isn’t great, but I have cobbled together a few of my snippets of footage so you can have a listen. You can hear the bittern booming at around the 2.07 mark. I’ve also linked to a few pages below that have recordings of the calls of individual species.
In addition to the Australasian Bittern, species whose calls I recognised included: Barking Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes fletcheri), Spotted Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), and Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), along with the calls of the Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) and Magpie Geese (Anseranas semipalmata) at times, and the constant twittering of assorted little brown, fast-moving things that I am determined to learn to identify one day.
Speaking of fast-moving little brown twittery things: I’m fairly sure this is an Australian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus australis).
On the way out I decided it was fitting to photograph the mistletoe in the tree I was parked under, what with it being Christmas time and all.
Mistletoes are so fascinating, and they get such a bad (and undeserved) rap. Doctor Dave Watson gives a nice simple overview of mistletoe awesomeness in this video by the Murray Darling Basin Authority and their project partners:
And that brings us to the end of 2016. Happy New Year everyone, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017 holds.