Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga

Birds of Fields and Fencelines
December 29, 2009, 12:33 pm
Filed under: General | Tags: , ,

Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae)

Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae)

The Australasian Pipit arrives in the area in spring, responding to the yearly explosion in insect numbers. They are most often seen perched individually on fences. When disturbed, they drop down into cover in the fields. They are the most common of a group of birds with similar habits.

Rufous Songlark (Cincloramphus mathewsi)

Rufous Songlark (Cinclorhamphus mathewsi)

The Rufous Songlark is almost as common as the Pipit. It is also highly vocal (see here for a recording) and can be found in woodland as well as open grassland.

Brown Songlark (Cincloramphus cruralis)

Brown Songlark (Cincloramphus cruralis)

Horsfield's Bushlark (Mirafra javanica)

Horsfield's Bushlark (Mirafra javanica)

The Horsfield’s (or Australasian) Bushlark is the least common of the group. I have sighted it only once this year. Its colouration varies, however, making it more difficult to identify.

White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons)

White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons)

The White-Fronted Chat, which might be confused at first glance with the Double-Barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii), is similar in its habits to the others, but is more closely related to the honeyeaters. It is an insect-eater, however, rather than a nectar-eater.

Aside from the above, there are a number of other species that are most likely to be seen along fencelines and roadsides. The Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata), for example, is seen infrequently in small flocks along lightly treed roads. I have not seen it elsewhere.

Brown Falcon (Falco berigora)

Brown Falcon (Falco berigora)

The raptors, too, are often seen perched on fenceposts and telegraph poles. The most common are the Brown Falcon and Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides). The Black-Shouldered Kite (Elanus axilis), Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax), and Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis) are also reasonably common. The rarest of the hunting birds are the Little Eagle (Aquila morphnoides), Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis), and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). The Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), and Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus) are not generally seen by roadsides.


More New Arrivals
December 21, 2009, 8:02 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , , ,

This is a follow-up to this earlier post.

Summer is very much here, and it is becoming increasingly hot and dry, but some birds are still in breeding season: Crested Pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes) have been seen performing courtship rituals and mating; young Australian Magpies (Cracticus tibicen), Red Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) and Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) are frequently encountered within the town; many ducks are seen with broods of 10-12 ducklings; Fairy Martins (Petrochelidon ariel) are often seen circling around bridges and culverts, guarding colonies of their bottle-shaped mud nests; on the north side of Livingstone National Park a Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans) was seen sitting on its tiny nest; and on the opposite side of the park Dusky Woodswallows (Artamus cyanopterus) were seen feeding dependent young.

This young Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is one of two spotted recently in O’Halloran Park, near Lake Albert. Neither had yet mastered the famous cackle.

(Some of) The Flora and Fauna of Livingstone National Park
December 13, 2009, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Flora, General, Lists | Tags: , , , , , ,

This post profiles a selection of the more interesting flora and fauna recorded in and around Livingstone National Park. A birdlist for the area is available here. See also this earlier post on the park’s orchids.

Stypandra glauca is probably the most common – certainly the most conspicuous – of the park’s groundcover species. It has a dense, shrubby growth habit.

In the early part of the 20th century, when native species weren’t sacrosanct, the Bulbine Lily was considered a serious weed. It has an enduring reputation for causing diarrhoea in stock.

The Finger Flower gets its name from the five yellow anthers that resemble (if only slightly) outstretched fingers.

Goodenia hederacea is a tough, spreading groundcover species. It is able to grow even in shallow, stony soils and, despite the hot, dry conditions, a number of plants remain in flower.

Common Raspwort is a common plant with a tiny, inconspicuous and variable flower. Its petals can be red, as in the photo, or green.

Drosera species are carnivorous and are found throughout the world. They may have originated in Australia, but this is far from certain.

There are many pea-flower genera in Australia – Swainsona, Bossiaea, Pultenaea, Dillwynia, Daviesia, and so on. I don’t know to which the pea-flowers in Livingstone belong. A single species – Pultenaea lapidosa – is mentioned in the management plan.

Livingstone seems to support a substantial population of the Lace Monitor, an exceptionally large arboreal lizard. Two distinct forms are known, the typical form (above) and the Bell’s form (below). Both have been recorded within the park.
Lace Monitor (Varanus varius), Bell's Form

Lace Monitor (Varanus varius), Bell's Form

That’s all for now. I have also added the White-Bellied Cuckoo-Shrike (Coracina papuensis) and Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula) to the list for the Wagga area. Both were recorded at Livingstone this morning (December 13)

Lake Albert Update
December 4, 2009, 5:46 pm
Filed under: General, Observations | Tags: , ,

The last post showed the dry, cracked northern shore of the lake. The image above shows the lake in a slightly more flattering light.

I have added the Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) and the Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) to the list for Lake Albert. Several of the former were present in the wetlands at the southern end of the lake, but they are a notoriously flighty bird. Rarely does one see them clearly enough to be sure of the ID. The latter species was present in extraordinary numbers. Eight separate flocks, containing on average probably a dozen individuals, passed by the southern end of the lake late in the evening. This is the first time I have seen them in such numbers. This is a special pleasure as they are listed as vulnerable by DEC and as vulnerable with a downward population trend on the IUCN Red List.

Update, December 5: I have also added the Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) to the list for Willans Hill. A single individual was seen repeatedly entering and exiting a narrow opening in a tree trunk. I assume it was catching and delivering insects to its young.