Canberra! Some say it’s the nation’s capital. A city of students and public servants, with a reputation for being kind of boring, and bloody cold to boot. But what if – hypothetically – you undertook a super-impulsive last-minute long weekend birding trip there? Would it be… worthwhile? Where would you go and what birds would you find? There was only one way to find out…
Part 1: The Botanic Gardens Are Undeniably Brilliant
The National Botanic Gardens in Canberra is a huge site with areas set aside for showcasing Australia’s floral diversity, with a rainforest gully, red centre section, rock garden, banksia garden, a paperbark forest with a two-level treehouse (really) and even two separate mallee sections. All of which is great to wander around in and explore, but it also hosts an excellent variety of birds!
Do Try To Stay Dry In The Wetlands, Dear
Jerrabomberra Wetlands is the #1 birding spot (by species count) in the ACT, so it is no surprise I went there. Twice. LOL. Anyway, there are no less than five (count ’em, FIVE) bird hides, all with individual names and all excellently set up to give great views over the water and reeds. There’s a loop walking track you can do as well, where you can wonder what the heck it is underneath the elevated platform above the ephemeral sludge ponds that’s making that weird squishy splashy sound…
Go to Mulligans Flat, There Will Be Birds There, They Said
True, actually (clickbait heading, soz). Mulligans Flat is a huge nature area in the north of the ACT with predator-proof fencing to keep the bad varmints out (except for the North Mulligans section, which is across the road). Be prepared to do some walking, one track of which can take you up a steep hillside to the border of NSW and the ACT with expansive views.
The Nature Reserves Are Reserved For Nature, Man
I visited a slew of little nature reserves around the Canberra region and discovered they were overwhelmingly gum tree forests (such as Yellow Box–Blakely’s Red Gum) with many expanses of grass and the odd creek and dam. Many felt like farmland, actually… so I tried to appreciate the subtle differences of terrain and vegetation, when I wasn’t looking out for avian action.
And In Conclusion…
Late spring in Canberra gave me a good stretch of weather with temps between 10 and 25 degrees, very civilised and with plenty of light for birding, with sunrise at 5:45am and setting around 8pm. You could bird all day… so I did! I managed to find my three main target species (Gang-Gang Cockatoo, Superb Parrot and Western Gerygone), as well as uncover a couple of unexpected cuckoos too: Channel-Billed Cuckoo (which generated a Rare Bird Alert in ebird for ACT), and two Pallid Cuckoos (which I had only seen once before, in the Northern Territory). The place was teeming with parrot/rosella/cockatoo species as well as, notably, a bunch of thornbill species. I was able to scour quite a few sites without driving more than 25 minutes from my hotel in the city, and discovering the National Botanic Gardens was terrific for birding and bird photography (now that’s one place I’d definitely go back to in a heartbeat!)