Category Archives: Cairn Curran

Should I stay … or should I go?

Cairn Curran Reservoir has shrunk to 34% of capacity … creating some large expanses of mudflats at the south-eastern portion near Joyce’s Creek.

The areas of exposed mud are providing excellent, albeit temporary, feeding habitat for small waders, Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints in particular. Last Friday evening I observed ~ 25 Red-capped Plovers and a small number of stints. The plovers will remain through winter, shifting their location as new areas of mudflat and suitable shoreline appear on the drying lake. The Red-necked Stints are more complicated. Small numbers of immature birds remain in southern Australia over winter, while the adults make their extraordinary journey to breeding grounds above the arctic circle, typically departing from southern Australia in April. I can’t recall seeing Red-necked Stints over-wintering at Cairn Curran … the bird pictured below appears to be moulting into breeding plumage before tackling another epic journey.

Red-capped Plover (adult male), Cairn Curran, 12th April 2019

Red-capped Plover (immature)

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Red-necked Stint … moulting into breeding plumage

Red-necked Stint foraging in the shallows

Red-capped Plover (foreground) with foraging Red-necked Stint

On dusk at the lake

This juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagle provided a thrilling sight, right on dusk, at Cairn Curran last evening.

Its parents had earlier left the same perch … Tarrengower-bound.

Wedge-tailed Eagle, Cairn Curran @ Joyce’s Creek, 13th April. 2019

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It pays to take a closer look

A concentration of birds on one of the mud islands in the Joyce’s Creek reach of Cairn Curran caught my attention earlier in the week.

Upon closer inspection with the camera, at a distance of ~ 150 metres, there was a bit to see, including a couple of rare visitors.

Australian Pelicans, Black Swans and a mix of ducks – Pacific Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, and Australian Shelducks caught my eye and then a nice surprise – a pair of Plumed Whistling Ducks.

Plumed Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna eytoni are infrequent visitors to the district. They are typically found further north, often in large flocks on irrigation country throughout the Murray Darling Basin and north into the tropics. They are a distinctive and beautiful duck, standing erect and showing off handsome cream plumes along their flanks. I’ve seen them only a handful of times in recent years but suspect they’ll be observed more often in the future.

Australian Pelican, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 20th January 2019

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A Black Swan event?

Plumed Whistling Ducks and Pacific Black Ducks

Happy New Year and 2018 reprised

Best wishes for 2019 to all readers of Natural Newstead. Thank you for the kind comments over the past year. Here is a selection of some of my favourite images – one for each month of 2018.

Southern Boobook, Wyndham Street Newstead, 23rd January 2018

Red-capped Robin (female), Rise and Shine, 18th February 2018

Great Egret @ Cairn Curran, 14th March 2018

Male Flame Robin, Mia Mia Track, 25th April 2018 … first of the season

Silvereye feeding on Ruby Saltbush in the home garden, 25th May 2018

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 23rd June 2018

Hooded Robins, Newstead Cemetery, 28th July 2018

Eastern Spinebill, Wyndham Street Newstead, 12th August 2019

Blue-winged Parrot, South German Track, 8th September 2018

Sacred Kingfishers, Mia Mia Track area, 20th October 2018

Nankeen Kestrel, Moolort Plains, 1st November 2018

Rainbow Bee-eater, Sandon State Forest, 31st December 2018

Sandpipers on the wing

It’s lots of fun photographing migratory waders in flight.

This flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, with a single Curlew Sandpiper put on a great display last weekend. How they manage to wheel and turn, without colliding and in perfect harmony, is a mystery to me!

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Cairn Curran, 6th October 2018

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Curlew Sandpiper (top) accompanied by a ‘sharpie’

Frequent flyers

It’s that time of year when migrating waders arrive in small numbers to Cairn Curran (and surrounding natural wetlands in a wet year).

I’m always on the lookout for a surprise visitor. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers breed in northern Siberia and are regular visitors to our area, albeit in small numbers, during Spring and Summer. Curlew Sandpipers also breed in northern Siberia, but are much less common than ‘sharpies’ – in fact the species is listed as critically endangered. Both species make the 10,000 km trip twice yearly between the continents, an amazing feat for a 60 gram wader!

While life is not always easy in Australia their main threats are habitat loss at key staging points on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway where the impact of development and habitat loss are increasing.

At the weekend I was delighted to spend some time with a flock of ~ 25 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at the lake … a lone Curlew Sandpiper keeping them company. The birds were particularly confiding, foraging to within a few metres as I watched in awe.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 6th October 2018

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… and a lone Curlew Sandpiper

The world’s fastest bird

The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird. Stooping birds can reach speeds in excess of 300 km/hr, while in level flight they exude power and grace.

Peregrine Falcons have a global distribution, occurring on all continents except Antarctica. They almost exclusively feed on birds, caught on the wing. We have small number of pairs locally and every encounter with this incredible raptor is etched into my memory.

Peregrine Falcon, Newstead area, 28th September 2018

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