Beyond Nowra 34° 53' S 150° 36' E

The Darter


December 16th, 2011
by Mike Leggett


The Darter (view full screen)

Walking across the Shoalhaven bridge at Nowra I spotted a bird sitting on a branch near the water, drying its wings.

One of Australia’s remarkable waterbirds, the Darter (anhinga melanogaster), and after having consulted the bird book, I decided the bird to be a young male. When in the water only their snake-like neck and head are visible, and yet they are remarkable flight birds and sometimes ‘soars, often to great height’. (Simpson and Day Field Guide) Being able to see the magnificent structure of its wings from above certainly endorses that claim.

5 Responses to “The Darter”

  1. 1 Jo Law
    December 16th, 2011 at 23:19

    Beautiful footage of a handsome specimen. Is Shoalhaven Riverful plentiful in food for these birds?

  2. 2 michele
    December 20th, 2011 at 06:57

    yes beautiful indeed Mike. Its wings are so still while the bird just casually looks around.

  3. 3 Mike Leggett
    December 20th, 2011 at 11:48

    I’m not sure how you would measure whether food supplies were plentiful in the Shoalhaven river, other than observing the fact that birds like the Darter are present. They are able to swallow quite large fish that are speared under water with their sharp beaks, but will also eat smaller fish and insects. It’s surprising to see a bird like this is possibly the noisiest part of Nowra – next to the bridge. But there is no shortage of waterbirds further downriver in the quieter reaches; though most likely their numbers are but a fraction of what they had been in earlier times, before the river was dammed at the Tallowa and before colonial traffic made inroads into the habitat.

  4. 4 Jo Law
    December 20th, 2011 at 16:34

    Good to hear. Would you say that the river is relatively healthy? I have not ventured into Nowra yet but merely passed by.

    Years ago, I saw a David Suzuki program on rivers’ riparian zones and was greatly impressed by it. Back then (in Perth), I was a rower, or a sculler to be exact, and when out for a row in Bayswater, I would pay great attention to the riparian zone of the upper Swan. That part of river was frequented by assorted bird life and was in a reasonable condition. Further upriver near Guildford, however, had terribly eroded riverbanks with virtually no vegetation. The main cause was passing speedboats creating big washes.

  5. 5 Mike Leggett
    December 20th, 2011 at 22:28

    The Shoalhaven is more of a tidal lagoon these days, following the damming mentioned earlier. There are several groups keeping an eye on things and they would say there are many aspects of the river that could be improved: several Landcare groups, a Riverwatch group organised under the NSW Catchment Management Authority. They have their own website: http://lovetheriver.com.au/
    It’s interesting you mention speed boats as the Shoalhaven is used quite heavily by them. Part of the lovetheriver campaign has boat ramps crewed by volunteers during holiday periods to remind boat owners of their responsibilities. The boats were one of the features of the river that Arthur Boyd complained about to Council when he lived at Riversdale which made himself unpopular with some of the population. Some years later he left his properties on the Shoalhaven to the nation, established as The Bundanon Trust. The Trust is a partner of lovetheriver through its Siteworks project; just recently the bark canoe built as another part of the Siteworks research was launched from the Riversdale site – see a YouTube story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXmQkOb7hCk