Trying out the "Infrared Digital Scouting Camera - Pocket Camera SG570-6M"
Riddells Creek Landcare Committee has purchased 5 trail cameras that will eventually be made available for members to borrow. I've been experimenting with one of these on my property, and in two days picked up two new bird records for Riddells Creek. Actually, both species are frequent visitors to the property, but haven't made themselves available or haven't cooperated when I had a camera in hand.
The first shots were of a little pied cormorant, Microcarbo melanoleucos (http://natureshare.org.au/observation/9160/). There were two pictures of the bird, both facing away from the camera, so my initial ID was wrong. My Claremont Field Guide to the Birds of Australia unfortunately lacks a good picture for the little pied, and I mistook what Russell Best pointed out to me was actually the tip of the beak, for a yellow patch over the eye (see the enlargement of the picture below) that is diagnostic for the pied cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius. What I failed to pay attention to was the absence of a black strip on the leg feathers of my bird, but is typical of the other black and white cormorants (see James Booth's picture of a pied cormorant standing on a wire [!] - http://natureshare.org.au/observation/8360/). The absence of the stripe is diagnostic for the little pied.
The next set of pictures are of a white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae - http://natureshare.org.au/observation/9151/). These are also regular visitors to my dam, which isn't surprising because the neighbour (who called them "blue herons" said that last year they nested in a tall eucalypt next door.
Several species of waterbirds regularly use the bridge rail as a perch on arriving or departing from the dam, so my first choice of a spot for the camera was where it could see the rail. This is an easy place to land where they can check out the area for potential dangers before beginning their fishing.
Building a paradise for birds and aquatic life
The pond is a great success for the property. When we bought our Two Hills Estate property in 1991, it was a 5 acre bare paddock without a stick on it, and only a slight depression conducting runoff to the muddy pond next door. (The fence separates us from the neighbour's 15 acres.). We picked the property specifically because it did have a little drainage passing through it.
Newnham was still building the estate's roads and had his earth movers parked around, so we asked him for a price to prepare the house site and build a drive. I also asked asked if he could dig out a small pond. He suggested that I think a bit larger and sketched out how he could use the existing drainage and run a large dam along parallel to the property line to make a good sized pond. What we ended up with was an impoundment 140 m long by 40 wide, with a 10 m x 14 island, for an all up cost for the earthworks of around $5,000 (see below for the just about finished stage). The result of the plantings is that we lost our view of Barrm Birrm, but turned the bare paddock into a paradise for birds and other small wildlife that have been able to cross the horse paddocks to reach it.
Ros and I, with a couple of friends began to add vegetation, as can barely be seen in the next photo from a year later, thanks to a flying doctor who takes aerial photos to pay his costs for his hobby. The lower dam is the neighbour's that dates back to the days when Two Hills was a horse stud. The middle tree is the one where the herons are said to roost. The bridge to the island was hand-built with only a handsaw and an augur and no measurements as the lake was rising around my feet from a wet winter. Because the property gets the runoff from Cutevan Cr, even in the drought years there has been enough rain to fill the lake to full supply (i.e., the level of the trickle tube), even if there was not enough for a flow over the spillway.
The "after" pictures are below - showing what can be done with tube-stock trees and a little water!
As shown in the next picture, the bridge was "designed" as a drawbridge to protect nesting birds. A pulley can be attached to the posts to lower the 2" x 8" x 8' sleepers serving as the bridge itself. The middle railings slot into place once the sleepers have been lowered. The trail camera was strapped to the nearer post and aimed at the railing to see who lands on it.
The final picture (below) is from last year, showing the extent of vegetation on the property around the lake - showing what can be done in 21 years with a bulldozer, some tube stock, labour, and a little water.