After an encounter with an expert
What a great day - we started a day with Philip Maher at 7.30 at the Island Sanctuary close to the centre of town. Philip is a true expert – even so, he was a great tutor for two novices in the birdwatching department.
It was a grey and cloudy day – so photography was a bit of a challenge. We saw many bush birds but this day for the first time we saw superb parrots in the wild. Unfortunately they were high up and partially obscured by the river red gum leaves but lovely to see. We also saw the tawny frogmouth – well three, actually! All were in various positions on the side of a gum tree imitating dead pieces of bark. We never would have spotted these on our own. Phillip identified many of the LBBs (little brown birds) in the forest, the prettiest being the white-throated tree creeper (a female as shown by the chestnut spot under the eye). The white-throated kind spends more time in the trees, whereas the brown tree creeper feeds more on the ground. Just one of the many nuggets we learnt from Philip.
Perhaps the photograph of the day was two red-rumped parrots taking off while we were actually looking at an azure kingfisher.
In the afternoon we left Deniliquin driving out to two areas of the Travelling Stock Route (known locally as the TSR). These were the traditional droving runs dating from at least Syd Kidman’s pioneering days. They still line the Cobb Highway, and some areas have undergone substantial revegetation. Philip has played a major role in planting habitats in the TSR to encourage better bird life – a terrific initiative. One of the most spectacular birds we saw there was the mistletoebird – it is attracted by the grey mistletoe which fruits and flowers all year around.
A storm was approaching later in the day, and the winds came up. This made birdwatching an even greater challenge. Even so, we saw a brown falcon and a wedge-tailed eagle flying above the road. Also emus racing along the roadside: “emu can’t fly but I’m telling you, it can run the pants of a kangaroo”. No kangaroos were spotted that day, pants or no pants!