Birdz in the Hood

australian magpie  

I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy watching and identifying birds we encounter along our way. I didn't think we'd see any new birds just here in the marina, but we've been able to tick off two more new bird sightings on our bird list in the last week just walking down the dock. Of course, my memory is so bad after a year away, they're pretty much all new to me.

On land near the condos that surround us, there are the usual sparrows, swallows, blackbirds, mynas, pigeons and doves that seem to be ubiquitous, irrespective of our location. The Australian magpies, though they can be pests, have an interesting, complicated song and they're very vocal from the tops of masts in the early morning. Give a listen.

I've already mentioned the silver gulls that inundate the docks on a regular basis, but I never mentioned the singular pied cormorant (they call them shags here) that regularly sits at the end of the dock sometimes alone, but more frequently amongst the chattering gulls. He seems to have no issues being the only one of his kind there. He's obviously quite self-confident and doesn't let the noisy gulls bother him in the least.


pied cormorant


I haven't seen Australian pelicans here in the marina, but we've seen them when we cross the river on the way to Port Adelaide, as well as several waders like ibis and egrets.


australian pelican


There's a small family of hoary-headed grebes that cruise around the marina and usually spend time in the empty berth beside us, when it's not full of moon jellies. Though we've seen grebes before, a further check in our bird book confirmed that this particular species was new for us.


hoary headed grebe


We also spotted a Nankeen night heron aka rufous night heron the other day sitting on the dock rail watching a fisherman. The second new species sighting this week.


nakeen night heron


Depending upon the time of day we walk to the supermarket, little corellas, white and raucous, are in great numbers. The distinctive-looking grey and pink galahs are always enjoyable to see and they seem to congregate in the vacant fields en route to the train station and near the golf course.




We're anxious to get out more into the countryside to see what we can see, but for the moment we're content with the birdz in the hood.


european goldfinch Whenever I used to think of “birdwatching”, I pictured a skinny-legged fellow in khaki shorts, probably wearing black socks and “sneakers”, a wide-brimmed hat, binoculars around his neck and a bird list in his hand, ready to tick off each bird he spotted. Birdwatching was a hobby for old people or nerds with nothing better to do with their time. It's not that I disliked birds. It's more that I saw them, but never took the time to really notice them. Oh, a bluebird. Gee whiz, there's a seagull. Hmm, the first spring robin. Not much enthusiasm. Boy, did I have it wrong.

pacific black ducks

When we moved aboard Nine of Cups and we were sailing, birds really started to get my attention. Sea birds, shore birds, passerines, non-passerines, big, little. Each new area had its own particular birdlife and that became even more apparent as we traveled from country to country and then from the Equator to the Antarctic. With nearly 10,000 bird species throughout the world, we'd be hard pressed not to find a new species wherever we went. What once seemed nerdy became absolutely fascinating.

birdwatching book

Of course along with finally noticing birds, came the need to identify them. So I bought a big “Birds of the World” identification guide. Soon, this was not enough. I needed a less bulky book that I could throw in my backpack. I wanted one which included more identification photos and/or sketches, like seeing a bird in flight as well as sitting on a bough. I wanted more information about the bird and its call. I've ended up investing in a bird book for each major area we've visited and I don't regret it in the least. I usually find a used copy which helps the budget significantly. In fact, I even traded a bird photo of a Pitcairn warbler with a publisher one time in return for an Australian bird book. That's how I got my Simpson & Day Birds of Australia which is in constant use.

pitcairn warbler

Now, I'm so totally enthralled with birds and photographing them, I've created separate pages on our website for them. Australia has ~800 bird species and though we'd seen and identified lots, it's not even close to what's out there. The best bird site and bird photography I've ever seen is Ian Montgomery's Birdway. When I can't find what I'm looking for in my bird book, I refer to his site for an answer and he never lets me down.

masked lapwing

That brings us to our current location in Cygnet. Not far away from our anchorage at the head of the bay is the Port Cygnet Conservation area. It's a ~250 acre wetland reserve and wildlife sanctuary and an important feeding, nesting and roosting area for over 70 species of birds. A boardwalk and paths meander through the wetland area allowing close up views of its visitors and inhabitants without encroaching too much on their turf.

white faced heron

It's a pleasant and fascinating place to explore. Tasmanian native hens scurry around on the grass and disappear into the tall marsh reeds. Masked lapwings shriek and tromp around in the mud at low tide and white-faced herons wait stone-still, hoping for some breakfast to swim by. Sea eagles regularly frequent this area, but unfortunately we didn't see any. There was much less birdlife than we saw on our last visit and we wonder if the smoke and soot from the bushfires is keeping them away. Hopefully, it's just a temporary thing.


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