New Life Among the Currawongs

Over the last few weeks we’ve noticed a pair of Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) hanging around the house. Currawongs are far from unusual around here, but these birds had obviously developed some attachment to the place. While I suspected their purpose, it was revealed when we noticed one of them on the verandah railing, very energetically tearing apart the Tibetan prayer flags. Nesting material was being gathered.

The next day I spotted the nest, in the fork of a low gum tree branch at the end of our driveway. Not the most protected spot, perhaps but it gives the birds easy flight routes around the neighbourhood as they go about their business of collecting goodies to feed the babies.

Here mum sits on the nest, minding the little ones. This was a very hot day, hence the open beak – the bird equivalent of panting.

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In this shot, the orange mouth of one chick can just be seen, directly in front of mum.

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Of course, a critical part of the rearing process is collecting lots of lovely spiders and bugs for the little ones to eat.

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Then of course, mum and dad must work together to feed those hungry, gaping mouths.

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These shots were taken a few days ago. Yesterday for the first time I heard the chicks squawking for food and could see their little heads poking up over the edge of the nest. I hope to be able to get more photos to document their growth over coming weeks.

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Red-rumped

Red-rumped Parrots in the late afternoon light, Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Australian Capital Territory.

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Late Spring in the Wetlands

I got to spend an hour during lunchtime at the Wetlands yesterday. The swamps were full and lush, with an amazing array of bird life enjoying the warm, late spring conditions. I thought it would be interesting to share a sample of the birds that can be found only a little over a kilometre (less than a mile) from Australia’s Parliament House.

Australasian Grebe

Pink-eared Duck

Australasian Shoveler Duck

Pacific Black Duck attending to its ablutions

Grey Teal

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Eurasian Coot

Australian Pelicans – hanging out, flying off when I was zoomed in too close for a good photo (but I thought these were interesting anyway) and trawling for food

In two different parts of the swamp, Purple Swamphen chicks

In the trees around the swamp were a New Holland Honeyeater, (what I think is an) Eastern Spinebill and Grey Fantails

Just over the road is Sewerage Treatment Plant, which is also a haven for birds (it is not as gross as it sounds). You can’t get in there due to building works, but you can look in from the road. From a distance I was able to spot an amazing array of birds, including Black-winged Stilts, a Caspian Tern, a Latham’s Snipe, Masked Lapwings and lots of different ducks.

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If this wasn’t enough, there were also the birds that I saw but didn’t photograph this time around – Australian White Ibis, Reed Warblers, Magpies, Currawongs, Sea Gulls and Superb Fairy Wrens. Such an amazing treasure, just on the doorstep of our nation’s parliament!

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The Rocks of Gibraltar

I have just finished processing the photos from my walk to the top of Gibraltar Peak a few weeks ago (the only downside to taking masses of photos is masses of sorting and processing – by the way, please take the time to click on the smaller pictures below to see the larger versions – worth it for these sorts of landscape pictures, I reckon).

Gibraltar Peak is a mountain in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. With an elevation of 1,038 metres it is not a big mountain by world standards, but can lay claim to being the 45th highest mountain in the Australian Capital Territory. Nonetheless, with its cap of huge granite tors, Gibraltar Peak dominates the landscape as you drive towards Tidbinbilla.

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The walking trail to Gibraltar Peak begins in fairly open grassland before climbing up a well maintained trail. The grasslands are home to many Eastern Grey Kangaroos.

As the trail begins to climb, looking back rewards you with a beautiful view to the mountains on the other side of the Reserve. In the foreground the reeds of a small swamp produce soft colours and shapes, while ahead the granite boulders that define this peak begin to be seen.

Ascending the trail, glorious views across the valley towards Canberra begin to open up. Tidbinbilla was badly affected by massive bushfires that went through this area in 2003, eventually burning through to Canberra where they took out 500 homes and claimed several lives. The Reserve was closed for a long while and large parts of the infrastructure were rebuilt Bushfires are a part of the Australian environment and some plants like the grass trees (Xanthorrhoea sp.) rely on fire to germinate their seeds and produce regeneration.

At this point of mid-spring, many beautiful little wild flowers decorated the path.

Nearing the top a flight of stone steps led to a lookout that afforded glorious views across the surrounding area. From there you can see the Black Mountain Tower (as you can from pretty much everywhere in and around Canberra), the shiny white Lovett Tower in the Woden Town Centre and the radar dishes of the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station (currently playing a role in monitoring the craft that was deposited from the Rosetta spacecraft onto the surface of a massive comet hurtling at ridiculous speeds across the galaxy).

Some more stone steps and a bit more exertion and you find yourself on top of the peak, among the massive granite tors that made the place so important for the original inhabitants of this land, soaking in the views on all sides.

As much as I could have stayed on top of the Peak, soaking in the views for many hours, a fierce wind and fading daylight sent me back down towards ground level. On the way, the interplay of setting sun, rising moon and looming mountains made for some more moments of true beauty and drew an end to a fascinating, tiring and entirely rewarding day.

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Chestnut Teals

The other things that kept me entertained at the park on Friday were the Chestnut Teals – two males and a female (but I may have missed another female). I gather they are only infrequently seen in Canberra, which is a shame for they are very beautiful birds that are a joy to watch.

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Swamp Chicks

I spent a very hot Friday lunchtime this week at the park on the lakefront just near work. I was lucky enough to spot a proud pair of Purple Swamphen parents and their brood of chicks. At first it was just mum (at least I think it was mum – Purple Swamphens are not as sexually distinct as some other birds) and one chick foraging at the edge of the reed beds, then another chick joined. They had established the nest opposite a footbridge, giving a wonderful view through the reeds.

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Later I watched two chicks following mum through the shallow water beside the nesting area.

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They were soon joined by a third sibling, scampering in formation after mum.

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Mum obliged by going off and returning with a nice big chunk of some kind of plant, which she broke up and fed to the chicks.

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I will enjoy watching these chicks grow over the coming weeks. I will also continue to enjoy photographing the Purple Swamphens, that always look such proud birds.

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Sunday Part II

The second part of my lovely Sunday involved a drive out to Corin Dam. Located in alpine country on the western edge of the Australian Capital Territory, Corin Dam is a place I have been keen to visit for a long while.

From the Dam a series of trails take you to the summits of the highest mountains in the Territory, running along the border with New South Wales. On Sunday, in 30 degree heat, we contented ourselves with a short but steep climb up to a gorgeous lookout among the trees.

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