A Canberra Week-end -- in search of a Gang-gang Cockatoo

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pacman
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A Canberra Week-end -- in search of a Gang-gang Cockatoo

Most readers of these columns would be aware of my rather nomadic life, as a relief manager in aged care. I am currently past the 4 month mark of a 5 month placement in Canberra. I spend the 1st weeknd here (a Canberra weekend) and the next weekend in Brisbane (a Queensland weekend). Early on I identiifed that the Gang-gang Cockatoo is the bird emblem of Canberra and recall that my current G-G pics are not good and therefore have been on the search for G-Gs since I arrived in April, as the staff and residents at Mountain View Centre can testify. Before I arrived I had started a thread here asking for recommended birding spots from any Canberra residents. I had a reply from RawShorty, you might remember his great Latham's Snipe pic from early this year. With that pic in mind I thought that I was onto a good thing for birding drives whilst in Canberra. Well we have been out on birding drives on a few weekends and to my disapppointment Shorty has not been able to guide me to the G-Gs. This disappointment has been heightened because I have been out and about and discovering places without Shorty and 4 weeks ago I was able to guide him to a number of life birds, not only guide him there but the birds were waiting on the fence and in the paddock beside when I stoppped the car. Yes, the Flame Robin and Australasian Pipit were easy lifers for him and then later that day I also got him a Hooded Robin (lifer for me also). But was Shorty able to find the G-Gs -- no! Then 2 weeks ago I guided him again for another lifer - White-fronted Chat, he had to get out of the car and take 5 steps this time. But was Shorty able to find the G-Gs -- no!! Alright he did get me a Crescent Honeyeater (lifer) and I now know where the Nude Beach is in Canberra (if I ever come back in summer). So time is running out and this weeekend was my penultimate Canberra weekend and so I really challenged Shorty to find the G-Gs. You might recall that he found them last weekend -- when it was a Queensland weekend!!!                                        - to be continued 

pacman
pacman's picture

During the week we send PMs to arrange that Shorty will be the guide this weekend with priority attention, actually the only attention, on finding a G-G. On Saturday I pick Shorty him and he gives directions to Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve where he found the G-Gs last weekend and where 'they're always here'. We use the car park behind the Australain War Museum and cross the road to the NR. The 1st birds we see are Australian King Parrots and Shorty says this is a good sign as they are in the parrot family. In the same tree I see a pair of Laughing Kookaburras and Shorty sees the male inspect a tree hollow and tlaks about coming back again to check on them (he seems to be easily distracted). Next we see a pair of Eastern Rosellas and Shorty talks about them being parrots with red heads (in hindsight I wonder if he is already getting worried). Well next we saw some Maned Ducks in a tree and Shorty proceeded to tell me about ducks in trees (was he trying to distract me?). Crimson Rosellas then fly in, another from the parrot family I am told (as if I didn't know) (but still no G-Gs). We keep walking up Mt Ainslie and now the LBBs start to appear. Clearly Buff-rumped Thornbill and Silveryes are not G-Gs. I have always liked Treecreepers - but not today, I am solely focused on Gang-gang Cockatoos. We have been seeing Noisy Miners all morning and now Shorty starts talking about them - is he trying to distract me? By this time we are heading down the hill (Mt Ainslie) and have agreed to go to Jerrabomberra Wetlands (I'm not sure if there is any possibilty of G-Gs in this environment). We then see some Galahs and Shorty makes agalant attempt at calling them grey & red cockatoos. And last we see a family of White-winged Choughs, inlcuding some in a tree giving Shorty an opportunity to mention that he has never seen a WWC in a tree before. Well I would give you 20 tree-dwelling White-winged Choughs for 1 Gang-gang Cockatoo by this time and I am reading the fine print of the bird guiding agreement.                                                -- to be continued

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

So we arrive at Jerrabomberra Wetlands and go to the bird hide. The 1st bird I see is a Black Swan and the usual wetlands waterbirds - Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Grey Teal and some Superb Fairywrens in the foreground. You might understand the lack of excitement that I was feeling by now. We move on from the hide and see a Nankeen Kestral hunting - some good pics here. A Little Eagle makes a distant appearance as does a Black-shouldered Kite and a Whistling Kite. By now I am thinking that we have moved from a G-G search to a raptor search. So I suggest that we keep moving and head south to Tharwa and then Apollo Road where my guiding skills were so good 4 weeks ago.                                                                         -- further instalments being drafted

Peter

Araminta
Araminta's picture

Nice story Peter, I wouldn't complain about anything. I'd love to have a weekend with Shortywink. You got to see a few birds, don't whinge.

Does that mean, when we come to Canberra next time, we will get both of you as guides??  We haven't been to Canberra for years, we work for the High Court , they keep asking us to visit them from time to time. See you both when it gets a bit warmer then.

M-L

pacman
pacman's picture

So on the way to the south of Canberra Shorty advises that Point Hut Crossing is often cited as a spot to find G-Gs and asks if I want to stop there, the answer, as you would expect is yes, a short detour and we get to the car park, I park the car and we walk along the track, not only are there no G-Gs but there is very little bird noise at all, however there is a bit of activity back near the car park, I see a breeding male Superb Fairywren, and then both male & female Scarlet Robins, a Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Red-browed Finch, an interesting assortment but no G-G, well life was not meant to be easy

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

back on the road and we go past the farm where I had got the Flame Robin and A'asian Pipit for Shorty so I casually mention that in conversation, through Tharwa and onto Apollo Rd, we dodge the dead wombat near the creek crossing and I am stopping the car and moving off the road when I see 2 birds, so I am back into bird guide mode and say 'there you are Shorty, there's the Diamond Firetails that you missed last time', he gets some pics before they fly away, we both get out of the car and quickly get better Hooded Robin pics than previously, and then Flame Robin, and then Scarlet Robin, I like this section of road, a raptor had flown over but was too far away for good pics or accurate id, after just an hour I suggest that we can head back into Canberra                             -- to be continued  

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

on the way back to Canberra as usual I am driving but scanning for birds as well, we have just crossed the Thawra bridge when I point to the fence about 50 metres in front and 20 metres off the road and say to Shorty ' do you want pics of that raptor?', we stop, Shorty gets his pics through the window before we both get out, the juvenile Brown Falcon, light breasted phase stayed for a while before taking flight                                                -- to be continued  

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

on the way back to Canberra we agree to go back to Jerrabomberra Wetlands, well I can hardly disagree with the local who is today's guide, else I will get written up in BiB, straight into 1 of the 3 bird hides, nothing much on the water but Shorty starts taking pics, what of?, the Little Pied Cormorant and then he moves on to the Grey Teals, I constrain myslef and make no comment as I am scanning the water, I see something and say 'there right at the back behind the cormorant is a pair of Australasian Shoveler',                                            to be added to later as I am getting an out of memory message

Peter

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

Have you read the fine print yet, Peter.

It says Raptor Guide from Gang Gang citylaugh

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

pacman
pacman's picture

Shorty was confused for a bit as he thought that it was a large Chestnut Teal, we went for a walk to get better pics, the inflight pics remind me of the 3 flying ducks on grandma's wall and then on the way back saw a perched Nankeen Kestral, got some good pics of the Kestral, I think that it must one of Shorty's pet Kestral's as we get to within about 5 metres              ...... but no G-G                        .... I advise Shorty that I will go to the Gardens tomorrow, he says yes and we agree on a 7.30 start                                         ....................  to be continued

Peter

Lachlan
Lachlan's picture

Don't you know it's rude to end on a cliffhanger? 

pacman
pacman's picture

Sunday dawned a new day and being the forgiving type that I am I harboured no ill will towards Shorty, the bird guide for his inability to find G-Gs. he suggests that we give Mt Ainslie another look, I have no pics from here as there were no G-Gs and we saw the other birds yesterday

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

so on to the Gardens we go, a bit early as only the in gate is open, hardly out of the car before the guide (Shorty) finds birds, yes, White-browed Scrubwrens, a bit further in and there are Eastern Spinebills in all directions, definitely not G-Gs, not even in the right family, but then we see a pair of                               ..................... Crimson Rosella, well we continue walking and find the Satin Bowerbird bower so can't resist having a look  and get pics of both male & female, the female was repairing the bower and her reward was the male bringing some yellow flowers, but still no G-Gs, so off we go to the Sydney region area, we walked around this area with no new sighting and then suddenly Shorty props and says 'did you hear that, its a G-G, come on its this way'                       ......................... to be continued

Peter

pacman
pacman's picture

off we go to the eucalypt forest where, at last, Shorty the guide earns his hot chocolate, yes we find G-Gs, at least 4, maybe 6 as I was a bit focused on trying to get some pics without branches in the way, we had about 9 minutes viewing before they flew away  .......................................... thanks Shorty now I can leave Canberra in a few weeks time with better pics of my favourite parrot/cockatoo

Peter

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Love the story, have enjoyed all the commentary on your "Canberra" weekends, you know Shorty was just making shore he saved the best for last! Don't be too hard on him, he is probably a bit like me, suffers "brain freeze" from the cold weather. BTW, nice pics of the GG's, still a bird I am unlikely to see, but you just never know, with climate change and all that! And you have some great shots of the others to.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

I knew where they were everyday but wanted Peter to sweat a littlewink

Peter, you left so much out. I will fix that latercheeky

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

pacman
pacman's picture

thanks for the comments, I should say that I used some literary license in drafting the story, though the pics are real

Peter

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

OK, first omission from the yarn.

You forgot to tell everyone how you ran out of the hide screeming like a little girl when you spotted the Possumlaughwink

possum-6864 by rawshorty, on Flickr">possum-6864 by rawshorty, on Flickr

More to come?

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

Lachlan
Lachlan's picture

Now for the good bits!

smiley

Mind you, it's a pretty creepy looking possum!

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

Then when we went out to the paddock to look for Raptors and you spotted the wild beasts there and said that you hoped you could out run myself and Ian in case of attacksurprise

cow-2749 by rawshorty, on Flickr">cow-2749 by rawshorty, on Flickr

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

As a scuba diver, the buddy system prevails, 50% chance the beast is going to get your buddy, increase your group size, reduce your odds of being attacked!

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

timmo
timmo's picture

Loved the story Peter, and a bit like Lachlan says, now time for the REAL story eh shorty? wink

Cheers
Tim
Brisbane

Lachlan
Lachlan's picture

Well, the buddy system is even better if Shorty can run faster than his buddy 

Don't have to be able to outrun the wild beasts, just have to be able to outrun your 'buddy' *cough*sacrific*cough*. 

smiley

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

I'm confident i could outrun Peter, his Camera and lens are heavier than mine and he has a mono pod attached so he is sure to trip over (even if i had to helpdevil)

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

Corinne
Corinne's picture

Well, that's a most enjoyable yarn. I think the wait for the Gan-Gans was definitely worthwhile. Great pics as well. 

As for the possum, I'm with you pacman, I wouldn't stick around when there is a possum in close proximity. I have irrefutable proof they are dangerous animals. 

We were on holiday in the hills behind Coffs Harbour some years ago. I was standing on the verandah of our holiday house looking at the possum who had arrived and was sitting at the other end of the verandah. Suddenly the possum ran at me and latched onto my big toe! The teeth went in so far that I thought when the possum let go I wouldn't have a toe or only a bone in its place.I did have deep puncture wounds as a result.

The doctor's comments were interesting as well. He told me a possum's mouth was one of the dirtiest animals and prescribed the strongest antibiotics to combat any infection. I also required a tetanus shot.

Is there publicly available information about the hides in the ACT? And, are there publicised tracks for walking through these nature reserves?

Can I also ask what lenses, pacman and rawshorty, you use to get these fine close ups?

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

Hi, Corinne. Peter is away on holidays at the moment, but to answer your question yes there is plenty of information of our parks. (we have many) If you need let me know and i will provide links for you, or if you are to visit PM me and i will give a personal tour if i am available.

As for lenses Peter (pacman) was using a Canon 400 DO plus 2X converter, and i was using the far superior Sigma 150-500laugh

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

Annie W
Annie W's picture

Brilliant laughlaugh!!  Look forward to hearing more of the "forgotten" bits too wink

NW Tasmania

Corinne
Corinne's picture

Hi rawshorty, thanks for the update on the lenses. I can see why you think you could outrun pacman with his gear. I have a Canon 100-400mm and it is mighty heavy plus I need a monopod to steady it (not always successfully). Maybe I should try a converter on my lens to reach a little further.

Would appreciate any links to spots - don't know when we'll be in Canberra next but it is good to try something different when we are there.

Thanks for your help.

Corinne

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

Hi, Corinne.

Here is a link for TAMS on the left side it provides links to different spots

http://www.tams.act.gov.au/parks-recreation/parks_and_reserves/canberra_nature_park/jerrabomberra_wetlands

I highly recommend Jerrabomberra Wetlands, lots of birds there and heaps of Raptors.

Mulligans flat is another good spot, again lots of birds.

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far out of town and yet another great place, they do charge admission but well worth while.

You could spend a week there and still not cover the whole area. If you go here take a picnic with you as there is a great picnic area with a playground there for the kids (if you have some)

And don't forget to visit the Australian National Botanic Gardens

http://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/

You can also take a feed with you here or eat at the cafe (very nice food served here)

That should keep you going for a few tripssmiley

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

pacman
pacman's picture

rawshorty wrote:
i was using the far superior Sigma 150-500laugh

Shorty, you had better be careful or the truth police will be after you!!

Peter

dicutting10
dicutting10's picture

Hi Pacman

I was interested to read your post about being relief manager in aged care and reading further that you are at Mt View.  My mum was there until she died last year and I am the person that took the bird photos taken at Mt View that were in the dining room.  The residents were very interested in what I was doing and it was a great social interaction for them.  It was great for me as well as it kept me "sane" during my mother's very long drawn out death.  The residents were very keen to have copies of the photos that I took but the "Manager" at the time would not allow me to come back wirh cards etc to sell to the residents.  I bumped into a staff member recently and she told me they had a new manager who was mad on birds and to get in touch with him. Would love to come and see you officially regarding this.

I am Diane Cutting and myself and the "sherpa" bumped yoou and shorty at the Wetlands a couple of months ago.

Love to hear from you 

dicutting10@gmail.com

Woko
Woko's picture

Hmmm. I wonder if this is further evidence to support the idea of native gardens with their attendant wildlife being planted at aged care faclities rather than the usual exotic gardens.

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