I occasionally mention places to look for rare birds, and one such find recently was around farm dams in small country towns. My wife and I were quite surprised with what we found, from a tip off by one of my birder friends. This farm attracted many species of birds to its paddocks and ponds, including this ‘Cockatoo Tree’ here. Sometimes the birds would be spooked and fly in a frenzy about before landing again.
Winter means less passerines around our way, and most of the migratory waders have left and will not be back till next spring, so fresh-water birds are one of your best chances, if you know where to find them. Eremaea Birdlines NSW gives good bird sighting to many such ponds and dams from time to time by keen birders. On the bank of the farm dam among the cattle was this small flock of Plumed Whistling-Duck, which is always an exciting find, as we seldom see them in our area, as we lack the fresh water lakes. Click on photos to enlarge them.
This fresh water duck is usually in small close knit flocks, which move around areas where the conditions are most favourable. They eat grasses, especially liking tropical grasses, and weeds and insects from the water. They are found throughout the eastern half of mainland Australia and far northern Australia. Males have larger plumes than the females, and both sexes incubate and care for the young.
One of the greatest delights was to watch them fly circuits over the farm and then land back in the same place. They did cause a chuckle as they put down their landing gear to land. They would always keep tight flock formation in an amazing aerial display, it is difficult to know who is leading the flock.
It was also a delight to hear them whistle as they flew. We could not hear their whistle on the ground because of all the noise of the other birds. Listen carefully to the last segment of the movie clip below and you will hear their whistle.
Along with the noisy Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, the Galahs joined the throng in their dashing colour.
Walking among the cattle was this beautiful pair of Australian Shelduck, male and female. The male kept his eye on me most of the time, but was not too troubled by our presence.
Below shows which is which.
A couple of kilometers away was another, much larger farm dam with many water birds. But the bird gave us the most excitement was the Freckled Duck a rare and endangered bird. Surprising there were several pairs sharing the ponds with many Pink-eared Duck and Australian Shoveler. Unfortunately these birds are shy and the photos are taken from quite a distance away.
It was lovely to watch these various species of waterbird, having similar feeding beaks, peacefully feeding and sunning themselves together as one community.
The Pink-eared Duck lined the shoreline by the dozens, catching the warm winter sun as they slept and preened, or just watched the activity in the water. The males have the larger pink spot on their ears and the females much smaller. The juveniles have no spot or a very small one like female.
The Pink-eared Duck and the Australasian Shoveler both use their unusually shaped bills to sweep the water, filtering out small marine organisms which they thrive on. The bill lets the water pass through while capturing the organisms. The male Shoveler is the colourful one on the right and the female partner the grey motley one, looking similar to the female Musk Duck.
The Pink-eared Duck, when in pairs or small flock swimming, often use a team effort to extract food. The flock or one of the birds will swim, kicking its legs, and stirring up the water (soil and plants beneath them) while one or more will swim behind shoveling or sweeping the water.
To my surprise running around right in front of me, without drawing my attention for some time was this lovely little Black-fronted Dotterel. I loved the reflection shots I managed to get as he stood by the water.
The dottering of the Dotterel is always a delight to watch.
What a delightful find from just a couple of farm dams. These common House Sparrows simply watched on from a tree they fully occupied, as we left for our destination. Like Forrest Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ you really don’t know what surprises you will find when out birding, which makes birding a very enjoyable and sometimes exciting experience.
To close this post I considered this Superb Fairy-wren eclipsing, morphing from breeding plumage to non-breeding as winter sets in. Soon he will look like his female partner, however his blue tail will remain blue and identify him as a male non-breeding. Sometimes we go through morphs and eclipse when we experience change in our lives due to difficult and unpleasant experiences. It is important that we ‘bounce back’ to the person we really are, as soon as possible and not allow ourselves to become ‘stuck’, which can lead a person suffering unresolved grief to develop the condition of Depression. In many cases Unforgiveness and Unresolved Anger due to Unfulfilled Expectations is behind the stalling. That is why it is wise to resolve your emotional issues as fast as possible so you can remain free.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” – Ephesians 4:26
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14
Have a great week, and have some exciting finds. Check out the rest of my website.