Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published September 25th 2014
Birdwatching for the Whole Family
In The Mathoura Reed Beds Bird Hide
There are 82 birds pictured in the Native Birds of Echuca Moama District pamphlet and we're ticking them off. Today, armed with our binoculars and cameras we're on our way to the Reed Beds Bird Hide at Mathoura, around 40kms from Echuca, via Moama on the Cobb Highway.
Minutes after parking the car we spot two crimson rosellas. Their yellow breasts are like a ray of sunshine through the trees. The boardwalk to the hide is flanked by metal sculptures and information panels are inset between the rails. We spin the panels to activate an audio of each bird's call. Do stop to read them if you go. They are written from the comical viewpoint of the bird. My favourite is the white-bellied sea-eagle who is embarrassed by his parents' honking mating calls. Who could blame him.
On the walls of the hide are letters and emails from migratory birds, like the letter to Cousin Coot. Or the email titled How is Siberia? Can you guess which of our birds has travelled that far north?
My husband settles at one of the high openings in the hide, I at a lower one. We peer out at clear patches of water amongst large areas of green and red weeds, and so many reeds, some taller than a man. A vast expanse to a distant tree line; it is a postcard vista.
Small birds flit about the reeds, a yellow blur, perching first on one and then another for so short a time I wonder why they landed at all. Finally one stops on a tree branch and I take photo after photo on digital zoom. I have forgotten to bring the tripod so I balance my camera on the thick wood of the hide to keep it steady. One photo is clear and we check the pamphlet. Ahh, a white-plumed honeyeater. And there, swimming through the red weed, are they ducks? No, look at that pointy white beak and those beady red eyes. There they are on page four. Eurasian coots; tick.
Look, walking at the water's edge, an eastern swamphen. Its purple breast is almost iridescent. What's that high pitched squawk about, something down there has certainly upset it. Too late with the camera. The swamphen has disappeared into the reeds.
The Mathoura Reed Beds
To our left in a clear patch, an eastern great egret lands. It is white as a bride's dress with a golden beak. Now a white-necked heron descends next to a cluster of pacific black ducks.
For a while the birds seem at rest and it is quiet save for a pair of welcome swallows that I guess are nesting beneath the hide. Then a whistling kite soars overhead too far to be properly seen, and pelicans and white ibis. The ibis settle next to the white-necked heron and the ducks. What a sight.
We spend but four hours here and tick 19 birds off the pamphlet. A wonderful day.