On 4th April a packed meeting much enjoyed Part II of Chris Ward’s excellent illustrated talk “Birds and Wildlife of Australia”.
Chris and his wife Caroline spent 3 months down under during (our) summer in 2016 having cleverly arranged a house and car swap with a couple in Brisbane, who happily spent three months in Milton Keynes for the duration!
Having covered most of their time in Brisbane and it’s surroundings in Part I a few months ago, we were treated first to very close views of Humpback Whales in Hervey Bay where the females gather in the warmer water there to give birth every winter and guide boats guarantee close sightings due to the inquisitiveness of these whales when the boats approach.
Next the illustrated tour moved on to Sydney, where after a brief spell in the city they moved out to the western edge of the Blue Mountains, staying at a couple of the more rural sites recommended for their wildlife interest, particularly catching up with Kangaroos, Wallabies and Wallaroos, Duck-billed Platypus and the tiny shrew-sized marsupial the Yellow-footed Antechinus. Slides of these mammals were complimented by lovely shots of the birds of the area, some looking a little drab in their winter plumage, some of everything from Eagles to Honeyeaters.
The scenery here was stunning, the amazing sandstone cliffs of the Capertee Canyon – said to be the widest canyon in the world – framing the scenic shots of the wilderness on the valley floor with some welcome slides throughout the talk showing us the accommodation and surroundings in the areas where they had enjoyed their driving and walks.
Next we saw views and animals and birds in and around Darwin. The monsoons visit this area every year from October to April, but in July when they were there conditions were ideal, although that year some of the dams were on the dry side and some of the most intimate photographs were taken of birds taking advantage of a puddle under a standpipe in a camp site. They also enjoyed a visit to the famous rock art sites in the Kakadu National Park although somewhat disappointed that some of them have been so obviously embellished in recent times.
Like most places in the natural world, visiting water bodies is key to finding the birds and animals – here around Pine Creek and Bird Billabong. Similarly, as in UK road accidents take their toll too, but an Agile Wallaby that had met with an accident had attracted a Dingo briefly which Chris was quick enough to snap before it retreated back into the roadside bushes. Rare Hooded Parrots were spied here despite having a very restricted range and the magical Bower Birds. And like true tourists they took a boat trip on the Yellow River to take shots of the Crocodiles and maybe one of the best shots of the whole presentation – a beautiful pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles flying across a perfect blue sky in tandem!
Lastly, Chris closed this thoroughly enjoyable and informative narrative with the “must do” shot standing beside a 7ft giant termite mound and an iconic sunset shot over the lagoon back at Laguna Lookout at Noosa outside Brisbane.