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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Sunday Part 1

This weekend I spent a hot Sunday with my daughter, checking out a couple of places in and around Canberra I had been meaning to visit for a long time.

This first of these was Mugga Mugga, an historic cottage just down the road from the Callum Brae Nature Reserve (featured in earlier posts). Mugga Mugga is one of only a couple of dwellings that remain from the time before Canberra was established as Australia’s capital – back when it was just good sheep country. It has been added to and extended over the years and part of it is still in use as a rented cottage. It was a nice surprise to find that entry was free today, as it is the anniversary of the day that the last owner bequeathed the home to the Australian Capital Territory government to be preserved as way of educating people about the past and how people once lived.

The name comes from the language of the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land on which Canberra now stands, the Ngunnawal people, who remain an important part of the life of the city. Mugga means diamond python and the Ngunnawal way of creating plurals is to repeat the word, so that Mugga Mugga basically means lots of diamond pythons. Sadly, the diamond pythons have all been killed off over the years by farmers and developers and are now extinct in this area and only brown snakes (and the odd red-bellied black) remain.

As I expected, photography was not allowed inside the cottage or surrounding buildings but I was able to get a few shots in the accessible outside areas.

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