(This post continues my series on birding in Australia… choose “Birding Trips” in the Category box at right to see my previous posts.)
I woke the next morning as soon as it was light and headed out the door, surprising several grazing kangaroos. I snapped their picture as they bounded away. Several Noisy Miners lived up to their name, making a racket in the early morning stillness. A pair of raptors landed on the top of a tall tree nearby. Pulling out my binos for a good look, I realized they were Ospreys—familiar birds. It seemed strange to see them so far from home.
My destination was the mudflats that stretched across the nearby bay. This was my first chance to find some Australian sandpipers! Hoping for better looks at the birds feeding by the water, I chose to muck my way past the mangroves and out out onto the exposed mud.
I was immediately distracted by small foraging crabs. Winding, slightly raised trails ended in bumps containing the moon snails that made them, and Green Paddle Worms (Phyllodoce novaehollandiae) squirmed in the shallow tide pools. I passed an occasional jellyfish left stranded by the outgoing tide, careful to give each a wide berth—the stinging cells (nematocysts) can fire their poisonous darts even if the animal is dead.
A Whistling Kite soared effortlessly overhead. A White-breasted Woodswallow stared from the branches of a mangrove.
I was finally close enough to get good looks at the waders—several Black-tailed Godwits, some Whimbrels (more familiar birds) and one sandpiper that I have yet to identify. As I neared the water, I found that the substrate was getting too soft to walk on, so I snapped my photos and headed back.
One of my “really-want-to-see” birds was a Black Swan, so our first few stops were at freshwater lakes where swans had been previously spotted. The first was disappointing, offering only some domestic hybrid ducks and one lonely cormorant. We were amply rewarded, however, when we reached Myall Lakes National Park.
First we checked out Mungo Beach. We had the place to ourselves, and it was quickly clear why. As the waves marched shoreward, a blustery wind blew spindrift high into the sky. The few birds brave enough to take to the air passed by so quickly, I barely caught a glimpse!
A bit overwhelmed, we turned around and headed to the other side of the narrow, sandy spit of land where a lake glistened in the sunlight. Surrounded by trees, the lake was sheltered from the worst of the wind. Several ducks paddled past, cormorants perched on old logs, and… what was that? Several Black Swans glided elegantly across the water! As I waited, they drew closer. It was one of those perfect birding moments we all dream of.
Photos, from top: Kangaroo, Noisy Miner, Green Paddle Worm, Whistling Kite, White-breasted Woodswallow, Black-tailed Godwits, unknown sandpiper, Whimbrel, Mungo Beach, Australian Raven, Black Swans.