Category Archives: Moolort Plains

In search of flamingos

We are off in search of flamingos … the blog will be quiet for the next month.

Happy wandering.

Black Swan on nest at Cairn Curran, 15th September 2019

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Australian Shelduck … lings on the Moolort Plains

End of an amazing journey

Earlier in the week I was poking around the wetlands at the southern end of the Moolort Plains, near Campbelltown.

Whilst the Red-gum wetlands are dry, there are some low-lying freshwater meadows holding water and attracting a nice range of birds. Black Swans are nesting, various species of ducks (Grey Teal and Pacific Black Duck are most numerous), herons feeding in the shallows (White-necked and White-faced) as well as good numbers of Black-winged Stilts.

A lone Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia was a nice surprise. This species is a summer migrant from the northern hemisphere (they breed in Siberia). In Australia it is most abundant on the coastal fringe but good numbers can be found inland as well. I see one or two most years around Newstead and hope to get a closer look this season. This individual was about 150 metres away when I spotted it amongst the stilts..

Common Greenshank, Moolort Plains near Campbelltown, 26th August 2019

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Black-winged Stilt

Black Swan on nest

Black Swans

Just add water …

What a difference a drop of rain makes!

As mentioned previously it hasn’t been a particularly wet year, but just enough to encourage a few local freshwater meadows to spring into life.

Just how birds such as the Black-winged Stilt find these oases is a mystery to me  … clearly not to the birds.

Black-winged Stilt, Moolort Plains @ Campbelltown, 19th August 2019

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White-necked Heron and Yellow-billed Spoonbill

White-necked Heron

A Black Swan event … sort of

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

  • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history,  science, finance, and technology.
  • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  • The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.

Last weekend I visited a lovely shallow, freshwater wetland on the Moolort Plains, at the southern end of the plains near Campbelltown. Two things surprised me, firstly that the wetland was close to full (it’s been an ‘average’ winter but not especially wet), and secondly, that there were five active Black Swan nests scattered across the wetland. This is a great result and demonstrates the ability of this species to breed opportunistically when conditions and habitat are suitable.

Black Swan on nest, near White’s Swamp on the Moolort Plains, 4th August 2019

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Black Swan sentinel

Sad sight

I’m not in the habit of photographing ‘road kill’, however, I often stop to examine specimens encountered on my travels. The Brown Falcon (pictured in the first image below), came off second best in an encounter with a vehicle at the weekend. Freshly killed, its mate (presumably) was perched nearby … a very sad scene.

Road killed Brown Falcon, Moolort Plains, 27th July 2019

Its partner perched nearby

Another individual seen on the same trip … Brown Falcons are the most abundant raptor on the plains at present

Recent arrival

The Black Falcon is an enigmatic bird in my experience.

They appear, as if from nowhere, in most years to breed on the Moolort Plains. Swift and powerful flyers – note the form and posture below – they are wary of people but will sometimes allow a close approach. This handsome individual was spotted late today, approaching dusk.

Black Falcon, Moolort Plains, 25th July 2019

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A Brown Falcon afternoon … sort of!

A journey around the Moolort Plains yesterday threatened to be dominated by Brown Falcons. They are a nice raptor, but not in the same league as a number of rarer plains inhabitatnts.

The first four images below are all Brown Falcons – all different individuals seen as I did a long loop from Cairn Curran, through Baringhup West and then back to Joyce’s Creek via Cotswold.

It was only on the final leg that I got some welcome variety – a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles over Long Swamp (perhaps shuttling from Cairn Curran to Tullaroop Reservoir), a few Nankeen Kestrels and single Black-shouldered Kite. Finally, just west of Joyce’s Creek a scatter of Crested Pigeons drew my gaze to a Peregrine Falcon hunting along the basalt escarpment above the waterway. The camera just managed to capture a distant image as the bird departed north at ‘peregrine velocity’!

Brown Falcon near Picnic Point, 15th June 2019

Brown Falcon #2 @ Baringhup West

Brown Falcon #3 @ Boundary Gully

Brown Falcon #4 @ Moolort

Peregrine Falcon @ Joyce’s Creek