I have been so busy this month that I nearly didn’t manage a field visit, but with today being the last day of the month, the weather being nice, and my having no hugely urgent work that desperately needed to be done today, I decided to take a day off and go for a walk/drive out bush somewhere.
I further decided that ‘somewhere’ would be MIA1 – a former state forest reserve that is now part of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park, and is located between Narrandera and Leeton. MIA1 is one of the sadly numerous reserves in the Riverina that I have spent my life driving past, but never actually visiting. I fixed that today.
There are two entries to MIA1 off of the main road between Narrandera and Leeton, one closer to each town. I entered via the Graham’s Grave entrance at the Narrandera end. Graham’s Grave is allegedly named for a local murder victim from way back, but it seems to be one of those names whose origins have been lost in the mists of vague local legend and people not really caring one way or another.
The actual entrance to the reserve is a bit of a drive from the turn-off, to the point where I was wondering for a while if I’d gone the wrong way somehow.
I did stop on the way in to photograph this Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).
And this nest.
And these tree hollows.
I did get to the actual reserve entrance eventually though.
There was a nice info sign up about the site.
Which someone had apparently taken issue with.
(I’m guessing that’s a bullet hole? Firearms are prohibited in the National Park, dude)
I headed down Forest Drive, which also seemed to continue quite a ways before it actually involved any forest. But eventually I was in amongst the trees, and parked my car and got out for a bit of a wander. It smelled lovely.
There were a lot of nice-looking tree hollows around, although it’s not really possible to judge from the outside how extensive a hollow is. If these ones extend into the branches they’re in they’re probably pretty good parrot/cockatoo homes. I did see a lot of cockatoos and other parrots in the area, so that’s a pretty good indication I think.
And speaking of cockatoos. There was a small group of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (also called White Cockatoos, Cacatua galerita) which I decided to try to photograph. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are up there with Galahs and Australian Magpies as very prominent birds I’ve seen in large number all my life, and which I therefore tend to ignore when I’m looking for ‘interesting’ birds to photograph, which is entirely unfair, as they’re pretty darn cool birds, even if they are a common sight for me.
While I was photographing the cockies I heard another bird noise above my head, and looked up to find a group of three Superb Parrots (Polytelis swainsonii), two males and a female. Superb Parrots are a) gorgeous, and b) not a species I see often; they’re also a threatened species, listed as Vulnerable at a federal level, and either vulnerable or endangered in every state they’re found in. So it’s always a bit of a thrill to see them.
The males are brilliant green with yellow faces and red bands across their chests. The females are a slightly duller green, and lack the bright faces, but they’ve got pink edges to their tail feathers, which you can see in the picture below.
I also saw an identified tiny bird of tininess flittering about (possibly a weebill? Maybe a finch?) I was trying to find it with my binoculars and located a Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) instead. Contrary to legend the Miner was alone and basically minding its own business. Noisy Miners are a native species of Honeyeater, and smaller than some Honeyeaters, but they form extremely aggressive, extremely territorial colonies, and are actually a Key Threatening Process for several threatened small bird species, as they will attack other birds and hunt them out of their territories. This one was minding its own business, however, and not bothering anyone.
I was also struck, as always, by the fact that River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) look like they’ve been painted. I don’t know how I never noticed this as a kid, they were always one of my least favourite tree species growing up, because I thought they looked ‘boring’. How exactly I thought this looked boring I cannot say:
I got back in my car and drove in a bit further, until I came to this:
Ordinarily, I will drive my car through and over just about anything, even though it is a Camry not a 4WD, an approach which will probably one day land me in expensive trouble, so on this occasion I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and went back the way I’d come.
Having cut my visit to MIA1 shorter than intended, and wanting to actually walk around some more, I headed to Narrandera Common next. I drove in, found a spot, parked my car, got out, and looked up to see that I was being watched.
I headed up the canal bank beside the lake, and found me some fluffy, fluffy grebes.
I thought at the time that they were Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus), but on closer examination of my photos, and cross-referencing with some other information and pictures I’ve found online, they might be Australasian Grebes (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) in their non-breeding plumage. I’ve only seen each species in their breeding finery before, which is distinct in both cases, so I’m a bit stuck on this one.
A little further along I watched this Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) skimming over the water catching insects. I don’t seem to see Willie Wagtails as often as I did as a child, I hope that’s a not a sign that they’re declining.
Then I saw my third Kookaburra of the afternoon (the second was on a powerline I passed while driving back to town on the main road). I took a whole pile of photos while creeping ever closer, but I will spare you the visual spam and just post the closest ones.
This is the pose Kookaburras are most often seen in, often perched on powerlines or branches. They’re sit-and-wait predators, and will sit for ages staring intently at the ground, then suddenly swoop down to snatch up some unsuspecting mammal, lizard, frog, insect or worm.
I didn’t want to disturb the Kookaburra, so I eventually gave up on the creeping closer and headed back to my car. Whereupon I was ambushed by a couple of wrens.
Crappy photos are crappy, but I’m pretty sure those are Variegated Fairy-wrens (Malurus lamberti), one male and one female. I have some even worse photos that I’m not going to post which show the male’s colouring a bit more, so I’m pretty sure my ID is correct, he has the blue head and reddish-brown shoulders. Better photos of the species in question can be viewed here.
On my way out of the reserve I drove through the middle of a kangaroo mob with a whole lot of advanced pouch young in evidence. Look at all those heavy pouches.
Random fact for you: kangaroos can have one advanced joey still suckling, one pinky joey on the teat, and be pregnant all at the same time. Which I guess humans probably can too, but would generally choose not to.
On which slightly awkward note, I will sign off. See you next month.