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Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) (16 May 2017)

contributed by cougar15
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Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Tweed River, Stotts Island, NSW

Having recently returned to the island from my golf trip to Yarrawonga / Mulwala, it was the ladies turn to have their golf trip away, to Shepparton.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Weebill, Horseshoe Lagoon, Moama, NSW

The plan was that I would drop my wife off for her get together and I would continue on and stay for a couple of days with a mate in Moama. It was ideal as his wife was playing with mine over at Shepparton and he had just moved into a new home with plenty of unpacking to finish thereby allowing me to do my thing chasing down the local birdlife.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Brown Treecreeper, Broken Creek Reserve, Barmah, NSW

My first field trip took me from Moama to Barmah where I had targeted the bush around Broken Creek. To get to this area, travel to Barmah then take the road to Picola. Turn left immediately after crossing Broken Creek (Cemetery Bridge) and follow the creek downstream for around 2-3 kms until you reach a locked gate marked ‘Management Vehicles Only’.

Birds of New South Wales - #3 - North Haven Region Red-capped Plover, Cathey Creek Lagoon, North Haven Region, NSW

Park in this area and then go for it along the bank of the creek.

Birds of New South Wales - #2 - Urunga / Forster-Tuncurry Australian King-Parrot, Bicentennial Flora Park, Tuncurry, NSW

I actually spent several hours in this area during which time I sighted – Black / Whistling Kite, Pied Currawong, White-plumed Honeyeater, Great Egret, White-necked Heron, White-throated / Brown Treecreeper, Yellow Thornbill, Weebill, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark, Red-rumped Parrot, Galah, Olive Whistler, Crimson (Yellow) Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren and a magnificent Restless Flycatcher (the latter being a ‘lifer first’, for me).

I then went back to the Barmah-Picola Road and headed towards Picola. I turned right onto James Bridge Road and continued until I came across a water-filled quarry on the left. The quarry is known as ‘Baxter’s Pit’ and attracts a good deal of birdlife.

Birds of New South Wales - #9 – Sawtell Region Australasian Gannet, Coffs Harbour, NSW

During my 15 min stay I noted the presence of Australian Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Raven, Eastern Rosella, Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark, Straw-necked Ibis, Little Pied Cormorant and Crested Pigeon.

I believe there are crakes amongst the reeded sections of the quarry’s waterline but I didn’t see any during my visit.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Emu, Barmah Lake, Barmah, NSW

My next stop was at Barmah Lake before I headed back to Moama. Unfortunately, there was precious little on offer at the lake and the angle of the late-afternoon sun, ie. directly into my lens, made photography a very poor option.

However, shortly after leaving that area and after slowing down upon reaching a ‘Kangaroo sign’, a pair of Emu crossed my path.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Varied Sittella, Horseshoe Lagoon, Moama, NSW

The following day, I spent several hours at Horseshoe Lagoon, Moama.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Eastern Rosella, Echuca, VIC

To get there, from Echuca, cross the Echuca-Moama Bridge, and turn right at the first street, cross the railway line and then immediately right again. The wooden boardwalk across the lagoon is clearly visible on your left.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Australian Pelican

During my walk around the lagoon and for a number of kms along the track beside the Murray River, I came across – Red-browed Finch, Weebill, Yellow Thornbill, White-faced Heron, Superb Fairy-wren, White-plumed / Blue-faced Honeyeater, Varied Sittella, Grey Fantail, Galah, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Rosella, Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, Australian White Ibis, Striated Pardalote, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe and Dusky Moorhen.

Birds of New South Wales - #6 – Yarrahapinni Azure Kingfisher, Yarralen Retreat, Yarrahapinni, NSW

While I was standing on the boardwalk bridge an Azure Kingfisher flashed underneath. It was shortly followed by another one and, then, much to my surprise, a third flashed by. They all headed for a clump of shrubbery along the distant shoreline but I never saw them again even though I spent some time searching that area for a closer look.

By this time, and having foregone breakfast, I was famished.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(c) - Murray River Region (Echuca / Moama) Restless Flycatcher, Broken Creek Reserve, Barmah, NSW

I drove a short distance to the main street of Moama and ordered some fish-n-chips from Chaddy’s Chicken & Take Away, on the LHS, just before the pedestrian crossing. The serving of butter-fish I received was the best piece of fish I have eaten in many years. And what a surprise it was as the shop’s external appearance is not all that inviting.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(b) - Murray River Region (Yarrawonga / Mulwala / Tocumwal) Crimson (Yellow) Rosella, Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort, NSW

I then went over to Echuca and walked along the banks of the Campaspe River.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Little Black Cormorant, Brunswick Heads, NSW

Apart from a couple of Pacific Black Ducks, a solitary Dusky Moorhen and two Crimson (Yellow) Rosella, all I came across was a bunch of noisy school-kids racing each other home on their bicycles along the pedestrian / cyclist pathway after classes had finished.

Indeed, very poor judgement, on my part, to be in that area at that time !!!

Our wives returned from Shepparton and the following morning we had brunch at Odd Captain Cafe and Bar, in Echuca. It is a favourite local eatery of our friends from Moama and we were happy with the quality of food and service.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(b) - Murray River Region (Yarrawonga / Mulwala / Tocumwal) White-necked Heron, Tocumwal Golf Course, NSW

After our meal, the ladies went shopping, my mate went to a doctor’s appointment and I took my camera down the track between the caravan park and the Murray River - adjacent to where a number of house-boats are regularly moored west of the historic, Port of Echuca, precinct.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Australian Brush-turkey, Pottsville, NSW

Along the way I came across – Eastern / Crimson (Yellow) Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, Masked Lapwing (Spurwinged Plover), Welcome Swallow, Noisy Miner, Common Starling, Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark, Purple Swamphen, White-faced Heron, Crested / Feral Pigeon, Pacific Black Duck and Galah.

Birds of New South Wales - #9 – Sawtell Region Australian Brush-turkey,  Toormina, NSW

Back at our friends’s home in Moama, which backs onto a man-made lagoon in a new housing estate, I frequently noticed - Black / Whistling Kite, Common Starling, Red-rumped Parrot, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark, Laughing Kookaburra, House Sparrow, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Singing Honeyeater, Pacific Black Duck, Crested Pigeon, Australasian Grebe and (on one occasion) a lone female Flame Robin.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Whistling Kite, Tweed River, Stotts Island, NSW

This entire region gets a big ‘thumbs up’, as an excellent birding precinct. The only pity is that it is a long way from Phillip Island for me to visit regularly.

Addendum – 3 July 2017

Birds of New South Wales - #4(b) - Murray River Region (Yarrawonga / Mulwala / Tocumwal) Whistling Kite, Tocumwal Golf Course, NSW

We have just returned from Rich River Golf Club Resort, Moama, where we had a short get together with three former work colleagues and their wives. The weather was fine and the two courses (East and West) were in excellent condition. So, too, were our on course accommodation and meals within the resort’s bistro.

It was a lovely experience all round.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Little Black Cormorant, Brunswick Heads, NSW

During our two rounds of golf I came across a variety of local birdlife including most of the species mentioned above. In addition, there were several Little Pied / Little Black Cormorants and a Darter sunning themselves around the perimeter of the water storage facilities.

The constant bickering of large populations of Noisy Friarbirds, high amongst the flowering native vegetation, was another source of attraction and amusement.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Brahminy Kite, Tweed River, Stotts Island, NSW

Having finished our golfing catch-up, we remained in Moama and stayed with our former Phillip Island friends (also mentioned above).

Whilst the ‘girls’ went shopping each day and my mate worked around the house or went for a serious ride on his bike, I visited some birding sites I had targeted but didn’t have time to complete during our last visit. These were – some highly recommended areas around Mathoura and the remainder of the Horseshoe Lagoon Reserve in Moama.

My first visit was to Horseshoe Lagoon with the primary intention of seeking out one of the illusive Azure Kingfishers I saw there last month. I hadn’t gone far across the footbridge (over the lagoon from the carpark) when I spotted the striking blue and orange colours of my quarry amongst the olive green background of the shoreline vegetation.

I must have watched that beautiful creature do its thing for almost an hour during which time I was able to capture its image at a reasonably close range.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Great-billed Heron, Hastings Point, NSW

From my vantage point on the footbridge, I was able to keep track of its movements as it flew from one side of the lagoon to the other. At times, it would dive into the water to take whatever it sought from on top of or just below the surface.

Birds of New South Wales - #4(b) - Murray River Region (Yarrawonga / Mulwala / Tocumwal) Little Pied Cormorant, Tocumwal Golf Course, NSW

Satisfied with my sighting of the kingfisher, I ventured further into the surrounding parkland and upstream along the banks of the Murray River.

My first encounter was with a gathering of busy Red-browed Finches not far along one of the tracks leading from the footbridge.

Shortly afterwards, I came across a flock of White-winged Chough fossicking amongst the fallen leaves. They seemed unconcerned with human traffic in the area but were difficult to photograph as they kept to the ‘protection’ of the longer grass and searched mostly in the shade. Nevertheless, they did put on a fine display of their feeding habits before flying off.

Birds of New South Wales - #2 - Urunga / Forster-Tuncurry Eastern Yellow Robin, Bicentennial Flora Park, Tuncurry, NSW

The following day, I drove to Mathoura and thought it was another unfortunate example of a once thriving rural township now suffering from the stress of economic downturns throughout many farming communities. It is very sad indeed to see so many townships in Victoria / New South Wales under such stress with, seemingly, no solution at hand.

Birds of New South Wales - #4 - Bowral Region Lewin's Honeyeater, Robertson, NSW

The first birding site I visited in this area was ‘The Reed Beds’ on the southern side of the Mathoura-Picnic Point Road. There is a well-constructed boardwalk which takes you from the nearby carpark to an impressive bird-hide on the edge of the heavily reeded wetlands. However, these ‘wetlands’ were bone dry and, currently, almost devoid of birdlife. In fact, the entire area was deadly silent with the only species on offer being a White-plumed Honeyeater high amongst the gum-trees.

Birds of New South Wales - #9 – Sawtell Region Pied Oystercatcher, Boambee Creek Beach, Toormina, NSW

Further along that road I came to Picnic Point and the nearby caravan park on a bend of the Murray River. It is a very peaceful spot, at least, at this time of year, with a beautiful sandy beach that would attract plenty of visitors and water sports activity during prime holiday periods.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Red-backed Fairy-wren, Cabarita Beach, NSW

Again, not much birdlife to report from this area save for one very tame and inquisitive Superb Fairy-wren that came out of the shrubbery and hopped towards me at such a rate that I was hard pressed to focus my camera in time to capture his image. At one stage, this little fellow was only a hand-span from my feet before he disappeared back into the bush.

I then returned to Mathoura with a view to taking in the reserve alongside Gulpa Creek. It is a pretty walk through that area along well used tracks which follow the creek amongst some densely wooded areas. There is plenty of birdlife to be seen in this reserve and I was pleased to encounter another Azure Kingfisher during my stay.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Osprey, Fingal Head, NSW

I also saw numerous Superb Fairy-wrens and several pairs of Australasian Grebe, Pacific Black Duck and Crimson (Yellow) Rosella. However, there were quite a number of other birds flitting through the undergrowth that were easily spooked and difficult to identify, let alone, photograph.

Back at the carpark, I was about to drive off when a sizeable flock of Galah flew past and landed nearby but out of sight.

Birds of New South Wales - #9 – Sawtell Region Satin Bowerbird, Toormina, NSW

Now, that’s more like what I was expecting to encounter in this relatively arid region.

On my way back to Moama I turned off to visit the Broken Creek Reserve near Barmah. I had visited this area last month and was delighted with the number of different species I came across on that occasion.

Birds of New South Wales - #1 - Tweed Coast Region Pied Currawong, Tumbulgum, NSW

Apart from the usual water fowl along the creek, I didn’t come across any of the more unusual species (that is, unusual for me), for example, White-throated / Brown Treecreeper, Restless Flycatcher, Olive Whistler, Pied Currawong and Weebill. The herons and egrets of last month were also amongst the missing.

Birds of New South Wales - #3 - North Haven Region Dolphins, Camden Haven Inlet, North Haven, NSW

I assume all have headed north, as we, too, will soon do, to enjoy the winter warmth of Queensland.

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