One-A-Week # 9 In search of the Coorong’s rare birds

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The days of spring are fast approaching their end. This means that the warm weather of Summer will soon be here and I can finally wave goodbye to negative Celsius degree mornings for, at least, a few months. While this is cause for celebration, it also means that many of the migratory species that made their long journey to Australia will begin to head home. Intent to catch a glimpse of some of these amazing creatures, I decided to wake up early before the sun, on one of the final days of spring, and head down to the Coorong to take some photos of the areas vast and diverse bird population.

As always, the hardest part of the day was getting up. My alarm was set for 5:30 am. At this time, the sun couldn’t even be seen on the horizon, so I was getting up in pitch blackness. There’s just something about getting up in the dark that makes the whole thing an ordeal. However, after about 5 minutes of contemplating going back to bed and even a failed attempt at doing so, I finally rose. I had to get up at this time because the Coorong was about a 35-minute drive from the place I am staying.

The day may have been off to a slow start, but when I finally began to drive and the morning coffee hit me, I was glad to be awake. The first glimpses of the morning sun could be seen. The horizon was a menagerie of red and purples. It was an amazing sight and one that always makes early mornings worth it.

 

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Along the way I ran into a bit of trouble with directions that held me up while I worked out where to go. This slight setback meant that I was running a bit late to see the sunrise over the Coorong and the first signs of life begin to rise. Nonetheless, I was about 5 minutes away from the location when the sun peaked over the horizon. By the time I reached the Coorong it had just peaked over the horizon. It was huge. A huge ball in the sky burning a dark orange colour and mixing in with the purple and red tones of the sky. You couldn’t ask for a better backdrop.

Wandering deeper into the midst of the Coorong’s unique and great ecosystem, I was met with one spectacle after another. From beautifully peaceful silhouettes of pelicans and sea hawks gliding along the red lit sky to pairs of rare seabirds that seemed to be intimately and carefully embracing each other in the presence of their peculiar visitor. If it were not for my prior goal of finding rare birds, I could have sat down at the forefront of the Coorong and watched the various creatures as they went about their daily affairs. But, I had set a goal; I was looking for rare birds that could only be found at this time of year.

Following the flow of the river, I climbed dune after dune. After walking for about an hour, I reached the Coorong’s internal lake. It wasn’t particularly large in size, but hosted the most diversity in the area. All manner of birds and other animals seemed to congregate in this area. Likely because it offered the most protection, due to the large dunes surrounding it and protecting it from the sea’s vicious breeze. It was also far enough from most roads that few people would ever venture in this deep.

 

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I was lucky that so many different birds could be found in one place. I did not know what half of them were, but their beauty held great weight. Black swans with charcoal feathers glistening in the morning rays. Tiny little birds gliding across the water’s surface, scouring the area for fish, occasionally catching one. Great flocks of pelicans silhouetted the sky. Rainbow lorikeets, expressing all the most commonly seen colours in our world, were abundant. It was an incredible area. There was so much diversity that I spent the next few hours hauled up in the exact same spot, graciously taking in the magnificence of the area and occasionally getting some shots of birds that were game enough to fly within reach of my lens.

I don’t know if I caught any pictures of rare birds. I don’t even know what most of the birds in the pics are, besides the common swans and pelicans. Regardless, I left the area feeling like I accomplished something. They may not have been pictures of the year, but they were visual links to a special day where I was entirely overpowered by the beauty of a tiny corner of this world.

Note: The bakery in the nearest town, about 25 mins away, sold one of the best spinach pasties I had ever tasted. That in itself was enough to justify the 1 and a bit hour drive it took to get there. In this case though, it just topped of a great morning.

 

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