Last weekend my wife and I did a road trip to the country city of Wagga Wagga in south west NSW. Wagga is native Australian for Crow, and when the word is repeated, gives the dimension of intensity or amount. So, Wagga Wagga means ‘place of many crows’, which are correctly known as Australian Ravens. Of the many birds we did see there, crows did not feature greatly.
Our trip from Sydney took us almost 1000 km return. Along the way we stopped at one of our favourite roadside stops, from which we have previously featured our above bird the Eastern Crimson Rosella. This was our first bird seen playing in the past winter leaves.
We found these birds feeding around the rest stop in the same places, and a green juvenile bird as well added more variety of colour. In the cold 5 degrees we poured our coffee and crunched our TimTams as we watched, and sometimes quickly exchanged our cups for camera and binoculars. Click on pics to enlarge.
We were most delighted to see the tiny insectivorous Yellow-rumped Thornbills, which had been nesting in nearby trees. This is a bird we rarely see, so it was a gift for us. Other birds included the Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Red-browed Finch.
As we travel my wife is always on the lookout for raptors, especially in the open fields and plains where there are miles of rich green fields, the product of recent heavy rain. Two raptors caused us to stop along the way both were kites, The Whistling Kite and the Black-shouldered Kite. Surprisingly the Black-shouldered Kite did not feel threatened when I approached close, as all have flown off in the past. This enabled me to get good shots, but I did not get the classic flying shot for this bird as it was determined to stay put. However, you would have seen my beautiful flying shots in past posts.
The heavy rain of the past week had created wetlands in many paddocks and caused rivers and lakes to flood, attracting waterbirds such as Straw-necked Ibis, White-necked Heron and White-faced heron. Flocks of these birds were seen in several places along the way.
It was a wonderful sight to watch how the Straw-necked Ibis flock worked out their flying order before moving up into the thermals and flying off to a new region. They would all break up into groups and circle overhead for a few minutes, not too high up, and as they did some of the ibis would move into different groups. After several or more circles suddenly a leader would ascend to the heights and all the ibis would follow making formation and then fly off, as seen in the last photo above.
Finally we arrived at Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga where my wife’s sister lived overlooking the large man made lake, with walkway and many beautiful eucalypt trees along it’s shores. The lake was still receding from the heavy rains, being over full. We were there to celebrate a family member’s 60th birthday that evening at the Wagga Boat Club on the lake. The statue above did not seem to mind this Laughing Kookaburra resting on her head in the front garden.
Soon after arriving I went down to the lake where the trees were buzzing with passerine birds, flying and calling from tree to tree. We had enjoyed our last visit here last year, and we were not disappointed again. Though, the Starlings were in large number here also, to the dread of the local residents.
The first birds seen were the shrikes which included the Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and the Grey Shrike-thrush.
One of the most prolific birds seen and heard by the lake was the White-plumed Honeyeater which is featured as my Bird of the Week, for those who want more info and photos on this bird. This small nectar and insect eating bird is found in great numbers at present in eastern NSW and Victoria because of the bush spring, when the eaucalypt flowers are blooming. These birds will be pairing off for mating now and building nests as this is their breeding season. These birds are very playful and noisy singers through out the day as they feed, usually high up in the tree tops.
I was surprised to find this juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater (above) alone on the ground chirping away, as you seldom see them stay landed.
Another gift bird was sighting of several Dusky Woodswallows, another small insectivorous bird , beautiful in flight.
The very aggressive and noisy Red-Wattlebird was busy chasing other birds from its territory. Note the red ‘wattle’ hanging on either cheek, hence it’s name.
Another beautiful bird that we had seen here previously and was in good numbers was the Red-rumped Parrot always seen in pairs, as they pair for life, like many of the parrots, cockatoos and lorikeets. The red rump is only seen on the male bird along with its turquoise colours, and is best seen when flying.
The Galah is always seen frequently out west where the grain crops grow, usually in large noisy flocks, however, we only saw a few by the lake.
It sun was starting to set so I walked around to wetlands portion in the far corner of the lake where various waterfowl and ducks presided. I did not take many pictures of these as they are commonly featured in many previous blogs, but I did like the sunset on the water near this pair of Pacific Black Duck. The other reason was my delight in seeing…
this flock of Cattle Egret, not yet in breeding plumage, unlike the coastal ones, coming to roost at sunset on two large trees in the island at the centre of the wetland portion. I stood and watched as they came in and the sun set behind them. I captured the last light on the ones highest in the tree. Here they stayed the night, and I would return in the morning to see them leave again.
There arose a beautiful full moon that evening after a warm winters day, which gave us light late that night as we walked back from the boat club around the lake to our accommodation.
Bright and early, Aussiebirder was out and about, later followed by wife and sister-of-wife, who enjoys coming out birding with us when we visit. It was very cold about 1 degree Celsius and deep thick dark fog covered the lake, which is not uncommon out here after a warm still day before. Everything was clouded in mist, and the lake was gone from sight. This would present another challenge to my photography skills, which can be added to my recent weekly tips on light and positioning for the best bird photo.
I saw the Cattle Egret fly off in small groups, but I failed to get good shots or video, as they disappeared quickly into the fog. This had become a foggy blog, and a challenge to see and photograph the many birds that were active this morning.
One bird that I did get many wonderful shots of was this pair of Australian Pelican that posed for me in the mist.
Other visible waterbirds were the Darter and Cormorants, the other were indistinguishable on the water.
And now the passerines, and I was pleased with what I saw, even in the fog i was able to see this Galah come out of its nesting hole. but my greater prize came unexpectedly in the fog…
The Yellow Rosella, now reclassified as the Southern race of the Crimson Rosella, and the Eastern Rosella all out in the fog. The Southern Crimson is not seen on the coast but is seen inland southern NSW, Victoria and South Australia, so this was a special treat, as the last time we saw this was in Victoria.
We had to leave the lake for breakfast and then our long treck home again. My last photo was of this little Dusky Woodswallow sitting alone in the cold fog, all fluffed up, waiting for the sun and the fog to clear, which took half the day to fully eventuate. How wonderfully warm it is when the sun is out, and the how beautiful everything is when the fog is gone. You will notice when you look at the uncorrected fog photos (above) that the colours are almost black and white, dulled by the fog moisture droplets. Which brought to mind the amazing grace and goodness of our Lord Creator God in sending Jesus his son to put things right for us, when we could not do it for ourselves, lifting the deep fog over our lives…
“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” – Isaiah 44:22
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