Tag Archives: Sale Common

Australia May 2022 – Sale Common Walk

With our time in Australia running out and having more or less recovered from the flu virus that had restricted our outings, I was keen to visit Sale Common for a nature walk.

So, one Friday towards the end of May, I borrowed the family car and drove to the parking area for the Common (full name is Sale Common State Game Refuge) where I parked next to one other car already there.

Sale Common NCR

Before reaching the parking area I had passed a stretch of river which was occupied by two prominent birds – a White-faced Heron and a Little Pied Cormorant – both of which I was able to photograph before they moved off.

White-faced Heron Egretta novahollandiae, Sale Common NCR
Little Pied Cormorant Microcarbo melanoleucos, Sale Common NCR

After parking I gathered my warm jacket, binos and camera and set off along the first stretch of pathway through Red Gum Woodlands with a carpet of greenery creating a beautifully peaceful scene.

Sale Common NCR
Sale Common NCR

Shortly thereafter the pathway branched off towards the “lagoon” (as it was known to the early settlers) and I soon came across my first sighting – not a bird for a change but a Wallaby – who eyed me from a distance, cocked its ear then turned slowly and went bounding off through the long grass.

Wallaby, Sale Common NCR

This was followed by close-up sightings of two small birds of the bush that I have become very familiar with in Australia – Superb Fairy-Wren and Grey Fantail, both emitting cheerful calls to liven up the forest.

Superb Fairywren Malurus cyaneus (Non-breeding plumage), Sale Common NCR
Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa, Sale Common NCR

As I approached the first stretches of water it was obvious that water levels were very different from those in 2019 when I had last walked these routes, to the point that the pathway was close to being inundated in places.

Sale Common NCR

I could see waterfowl ahead, breaking from their waterside cover and heading out into the middle of the lagoon, looking back to eye me warily as I hastened to get a photo or two before they became too distant.

Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae (Non-breeding plumage), Sale Common NCR

A short detour in the pathway led to the “Lookout” – a low hill with views over the lagoon and across to the opposite bank which was lined with trees. From this vantage point I could see a variety of birds perched in partially submerged trees, including Little Black Cormorants and Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills, the latter being a Lifer – my first for the morning.

Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, Sale Common NCR
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia, Sale Common NCR – Lifer!
Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes, Sale Common NCR

Nearby an Australian Darter was perched with wings spread, drying its feathers before its next fishing dive, and higher up in the tree above a Whistling Kite was partially concealed – I later discovered it was attending a nest with a young nestling.

Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae, Sale Common NCR
Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae, Sale Common NCR

I joined the main pathway again, alternating between natural track and boardwalks across the wetland sections, the latter providing a good vantage point for close views of White-faced Herons and Black Swans before reaching a stretch of track surrounded by water.

Sale Common NCR
Sale Common NCR
Black Swan Cygnus atratus, Sale Common NCR
White-faced Heron Egretta novahollandiae, Sale Common NCR

A bench standing in water was a further indication that the water levels of the wetlands were substantially higher than May 2019 when I had last visited the Common and I didn’t need further persuasion to make this my turnaround point, having walked enough and seen enough for the morning.

Sale Common NCR
Sale Common NCR

Time was moving on and the car would soon be needed for the school run so I headed back along the pathway, without rushing but with fewer meandering dawdles. Nevertheless, I spotted two ducks which I didn’t immediately recognise – with good reason as both turned out to be Lifers!

One was a Musk Duck with an unusual bill that reminded me of a Pygmy Goose, the other was a Grey Teal that looked remarkably like the Cape Teals we are used to in SA.

Musk Duck Biziura lobata, Sale Common NCR
Grey Teal Anas gracilis, Sale Common NCR

Thrilled with my haul of three lifers for the morning and the absolute pleasure of walking in such an inspiring environment (which I virtually had to myself as well) I hastened to the parking area and found I was just in time to head straight to the schools to collect our grandson and granddaughter.

Australian Adventure – Going walkabout on Sale Common

We had been in Sale, Victoria for about 10 days and we were getting into the swing of suburban life in this charming Australian town. Sale presents a number of opportunities for pleasant walks, with two lakes and a nature conservation area nearby, and the weather at this time of year is often ideal – not too hot, sometimes chilly, but not so that it puts you off getting out an about.

Just after arriving in Sale I joined the family for a short walk through Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve, which was just enough to whet my appetite for a longer birding-orientated walk on my own. One cold and windy weekday afternoon, with the family otherwise occupied with work, school and household activities, I chose to do so and drove the couple of kms to the parking area where I began my walk.

Somehow I had managed to leave my binos at home but fortunately had my new Sony “bridge” camera with me and decided to rely on my eyesight with backup from the telephoto camera lens to help ID the distant birds. The camera was a pre-trip purchase to avoid having to carry my heavy Nikon DSLR with its equally heavy lens halfway round the world – the Sony is about a third of the weight and a remarkably good substitute, so I have had no regrets so far, although the bank balance took a knock in the process as it is one of the more expensive bridge cameras.

Sale Common was proclaimed in 1863 and was used for farming for 101 years before being declared a nature conservation reserve. It consists of freshwater marshes, red gum woodland and introduced grasslands. The wetland is listed as a RAMSAR site and has a network of tracks and boardwalks leading through the varying habitat which provide a wonderful environment for birds and small animals.

I proceeded along the trail, stopping briefly to chat to a similar-aged gent eating his sandwich at a picnic table with his old-fashioned black bicycle leaning against a nearby tree – he pointed the way and wished me good spotting as I carried on. The trail proper started as a track through Eucalypt forest with the tall, sturdy trees forming a high tunnel overhead, the foliage attractively coloured in autumnal shades.

Start of the trail

So far I had found the forests to be devoid of obvious bird life other than the Laughing Kookaburras which favour this environment and make themselves heard with their loud cackling calls, but they do make for a very attractive walking environment.

Signage advised that the boardwalk over the wetlands was closed for repairs and in any case the wetlands were dry after the recent drought in the area, so I stuck to the sandy track. Soon I reached the first visible stretch of the river, called the Flooding Creek at this point, and checked the waters for water birds but saw none. However movement at the water’s edge caught my eye and I approached carefully to see what they might be.

A few photos later of the tiny birds with long tails held erect clinched their ID as Superb Fairywrens, a nice lifer and a lovely spot to find them.

Superb Fairywren (non-breeding male) – in breeding plumage they are brightly coloured

The trail continued along the river with raised boardwalks where it crossed a part of the wetland.

Sale Common

Rounding a bend, the river was once again visible ahead and several larger birds in the shallows made me approach cautiously, using the trees as a partial screen where possible. The slender, graceful form of a Great Egret on the near side was a familiar sight, looking identical to the SA version of this large all-white egret. The Australian bird book I use has it as Eastern Great Egret and some taxonomists consider it to be a subspecies but there were no features that I could pick up to differentiate it from the Southern African bird.

Eastern Great Egret, Sale Common

On the far side of the river four Yellow-billed Spoonbills were sweeping the shallow water from side to side with their spatulate bills – the smallest creature – fish, crustacean or insect – touching the inside of the broad tip triggers it to close instantly.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Sale Common

I watched them for a while then, looking up, a couple of soaring raptors caught my eye and I guessed they could be Whistling Kites, having seen one over the wetlands a few days earlier. Fortunately I spotted one that had landed high up in a tree, making it a far easier photo ID target than trying to shoot against the bright, grey sky and was able to confirm my initial ID of Whistling Kite.

Whistling Kite, Sale Common

The river held plenty of Ducks including Chestnut Teals in large numbers and some Pacific Black Ducks.

Chestnut Teal, Sale Common – males in front, female just visible in the rear. On the left is a White-faced Heron

Chestnut Teals, Sale Common

Maned Ducks (aka Australian Wood Duck, depending on which book you use) were almost as numerous but on the grassy banks. I have yet to see this latter duck actually in the water so they obviously don’t seem to understand the adage “takes to the water like a duck” for some reason.

Maned Duck, Sale Common – female on left, male on right

I had walked a good distance along the track and decided to turn around, with the light starting to fade, as it does from around 4.30 pm in the autumn in these parts. As I did I came across Little Black Cormorants and a Great Cormorant on dry tree stumps in the river.

Little Black and Great Cormorants, Sale Common

Something moved in the middle of the river and as I focused my camera on the ripples a fish leaped out and I instinctively pressed the shutter button, capturing it in mid leap – a really lucky shot! I’m not a fish expert but took this to be a trout

I did not see anything new on the way back but at the bridge I stopped to view the Masked Lapwings at the water’s edge, accompanied by more Maned Ducks.

Sale Common

Just before reaching the car park a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos descended on the trees, very noisily, probably getting ready to roost for the evening. South Africans of a certain era will remember the NBS adverts which featured this unmistakable bird – seeing it in numbers in the wild is a somewhat bizarre birding experience!

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Here and there a plaque provided more info on the history of the area

Sale Common

Sale Common

Water trough, Sale Common

All in all a thoroughly entertaining and interesting afternoon spent in a safe environment