Monday, October 5, 2009
In search of waterbirds
Following yesterday's virtually waterbirdless walk around my local wetland, I decided to head up into the hills to look for waterbirds. I headed towards the Barossa Valley, South Australia's most famous wine area, and home to the Jacob's Creek and Wolf Blass wineries. I was amazed at how the vines had come along since my last trip to the hills (3 weeks ago with Peter and Margaret from Scotland). Most of the vines have plenty of new growth with only a few of the late fruiting varieties still bare. With all of the rain we've had this winter, there are plenty of marshy areas along the sides of the road and many of them have these lovely flowers in them. They look like a form of Iris to me. I have not seen them before, or at least not noticed them. Also in full bloom at the moment is the Calistemon or Bottle-brush Tree. These are native Australian tees, but there also a lot of cultivated varieties available like this one. They are very popular with the honeyeaters and lorikeets, but this one was being visited by a Silvereye. I was heading to the little town of Tanunda, where there is a nice group of pools (actually the local sewage works) that usually holds a good selection of ducks. As I was crossing Jacobs Creek (yes, it does exist, and no they don't use the water for making wine) I noticed a group of Black-tailed Native-hens on the edge of the vineyard. These nomadic gallinules and can turn up almost anywhere in large numbers. The pools didn't disappoint. First on the list was Pink-eared Duck. This odd looking duck used to be known as Zebra Duck yet they chose to rename it after it's most inconspicuous fieldmark!! Also in the photo are Hardhead, Australian Little Grebeand Australian Shoveller. I didn't spot this one until I looked at the photos!!. On the next pool were a two species of wader (shorebird), with both looking as if they may have been breeding there. The Red-kneed Dotterel tried the broken wing routine, and the Black-fronted Plovers had a juvenile bird with them. Also here were half a dozen Blue-billed Ducks - a close relative to the Ruddy Duck of America and White-headed Duck of Europe. This was the first time I had seen them here. These guys are obviously very shy as they stayed on the far side of the pond for the whole time I was there, so the photo is very heavily cropped. While I was watching the ducks, I had a strange feeling that I was being watched, and turned around slowly to find a Black-shouldered Kite hovering behind me - I managed to get a couple of shots in before he flew off. On the way back home I spotted a small parrot on a fence wire, so slowed down and saw it was a Red-rumped Parrot. They are not usually very co-operative, but this one obviously hadn't read the manual!! He was quite happy to sit still for a couple of photos.