The early morning autumn chill in the Baldry Creek carpark was just beginning to retreat in the face of a brilliantly fine day as the photography group gathered together. It was still cool though and many welcomed the opportunity to stay warm and chat whilst waiting for a few stragglers to arrive. When assembled this was a largish outing for the group with some 30 people starting the day. Nevertheless, the attendance list and other formalities were quickly despatched with, and the group eagerly moved across the road to begin.
The Baldry Crossing loop has a total length of some 3.6 km, but there is a point where one can bail out and walk only 1.6km. However, because it is a loop, our group was able to split into two parties. The first and largest group plunged into the bush directly opposite the carpark, while another smaller group headed up the road towards the end of the loop to walk it backwards.
The Baldry Crossing loop winds through a number of forest ecosystems, each with its own assemblage of birdlife. The track follows the creek for the first part under its canopy of tall Manna Gums (Eucalyptus viminalis), Swamp Gums (E. ovata) with abundant blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and tree ferns. The track climbs above the stream at various points allowing views into the tops of the tall gums and down steep slopes into cleared valley bottoms.
In this area the group stopped frequently to photograph an abundance of Brown Thornbills, Golden Whistlers, and Eastern Yellow Robins. In the eucalypts flowering high overhead Yellow-faced, White-plumed, and White-eared Honeyeaters were observed. All this activity was accompanied by the calls and occasional sightings of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Grey Currawongs. The ‘backwards’ travelling group was fortunate to see and photograph a Bassian Thrush in this moist riparian environment.
Moving up onto the drier ridges, the track traverses a more open forest of Messmate (E. obliqua), Peppermint (E. radiata), Blackwood & Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata). By this time the group was somewhat strung out as some took the opportunity to linger in likely looking places and see what birds turned up. But those that remained together were treated to a very productive ridge-top stop where the highlight was a pair of Satin Flycatchers. Other sightings included Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Eastern Spinebills, White-throated Treecreepers, Grey Shrikethrush, and Mistletoebirds. Careering through the understory were large flocks (up to 14 birds) of Crimson Rosella, while there were smaller numbers of Red Wattlebirds and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.
It was about here that the backwards and forwards group crossed paths. It was serendipity that this should occur at such a productive spot, although some comments were heard about the charismatic abilities of the group leader to attract any birds around.
The track continued to wend across the hills. Alternately crossing dry ridges and moist stream valleys. Here were an abundance of the ubiquitous Superb Fairywrens and White-browed Scrubwrens. The raucous calls of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos presaged a brief sighting, while a pair of Black-faced Cuckooshrikes were observed sitting resolutely in a stag tree jutting above the understory.
But all good trips must end eventually, and the group straggled back, decamping to Flinders Pier & park for lunch. The bird call totalled up some 37 species observed for the morning and there was a general consensus that Baldry Crossing had been a productive morning spent in very pleasant surroundings.
Lunch was finished up and the afternoon’s activities began with a short trip across West Head to the Flinders Ocean Beach. The objective was to photograph waders, in particular to see Hooded Plover observed on the pre-trip reconnaissance. The beach was busy, hot and exposed, but the birds did not disappoint.
The first sighting was a mixed flock of Red-necked Stints and Double-banded Plovers. These scuttled across the beach and finally settled in safer locations further down the beach, away from those who needed that final closer shot. Slightly offshore a small flock of Hooded Plovers flew past at breakneck speed, while some Ruddy Turnstones perched precariously on a wave-washed reef . The latter were joined at times by an active flock of Sooty Oystercatchers who flew up and down the beach presenting an impressive exhibition of smartly turned-out precision flying. The fly-past also included Little Pied Cormorants, Silver and Pacific Gulls, Crested Terns and a few Chestnut Teal.
Finally the Hoodies were spotted. A group of three (a Juvenile and two adults) wandering nonchalantly at waters edge. The approach of the photography group with big lenses pointing their way turned nonchalance to wary watchfulness as they continued to play chicken with breaking waves, scuttling amongst large drifts of stranded seaweed. But they yielded abundant photographic opportunities for the assembled throng who eventually departed the beach for the carpark, leaving the Hoodies in peace once more.
However the action didn’t stop. During the bird call a flypast of several Kelp Gulls provided an unexpected highlight. Also observed were Singing Honeyeaters, Australian White Ibis, Little Wattlebirds and Welcome swallows.
All-in-all the beach had delivered a good selection of shorebirds. The Hoodies had showed up, with a welcome bonus of Stints, Plovers and Turnstones. The bird call registered some 27 species, a good total from only 2 hours observation.
The departure was an affair longer that normal as everyone wished Peter well for his road trip extrordinare to Queensland. Eventually though the group straggled from the carpark well satisfied with a productive day’s bird photography in beautiful surrounds and under brilliant early autumn skies.