Jim Thomson | The birdlife of Myall Lakes

The forecast was perfect, the kayak loaded for an early morning start – and I was not disappointed. I arrived at Myall Lakes just before 7am and the water was flat, a gentle breeze.

I glided off into paradise, in no hurry in the shadow of the paperbark trees that lined the banks because I knew there was birdlife aplenty.

First up it was a bit of a surprise as I have never seen them in this area before, the Pacific Heron in full plumage.  What a magnificent bird and I only hope my images do it justice. I took a number of shots before continuing.

FEEDING TIME: The brilliantly coloured Azure Kingfisher was looking for breakfast along the banks.

FEEDING TIME: The brilliantly coloured Azure Kingfisher was looking for breakfast along the banks.

LIFT OFF: A Blue Heron takes to the air.

LIFT OFF: A Blue Heron takes to the air.

Some time passed without seeing anything of note, so I pulled into a small shady area and waited. The conditions were so perfect, and sure enough in popped an Azure Kingfisher on his morning round looking for breakfast.

RARE FIND: A Black Bittern close to the water's edge.

RARE FIND: A Black Bittern close to the water's edge.

He stopped in front of me, completely oblivious to my presence. I managed a few shots, and at one stage I thought he was going to dive, but not so. He decided to move on instead – and I thought I’d do the same thing.

MAGNIFICENT FIND: What a great way to start the day of bird watching ... a Pacific Heron in full plumage.

MAGNIFICENT FIND: What a great way to start the day of bird watching ... a Pacific Heron in full plumage.

Next up was a White-faced Blue Heron, some distance away. It was fishing near the bank and was on a log, and it came up with a surprise, a pair of Damsel flies pairing in its beak. There was no time to get closer, so I took the shots and it was over.

You never knows what is going to turn up next in this area, and it happened to be a Night Heron at water level quite close to me. This was a real surprise as they are usually high up in the trees during the day. I took a number of great shots before it rose into the higher reaches of the trees.

TWO FOR ONE: A White-faced Blue Heron with pairing Damsel flies in its beak.

TWO FOR ONE: A White-faced Blue Heron with pairing Damsel flies in its beak.

It was time for a break so I pulled into a cove, with shelter and sandy bottom for lunch. My attention was soon drawn again to the bank and there was a Black Bittern close to the water’s edge, searching for food.

It is rare to come across these birds, although I have been fortunate to have found them in the past in this same location. I quickly moved the kayak into position and managed a few shots before the bird faded into the scrub behind.

In the past I have tried bringing birds of prey down to take fish I had thrown from the kayak – although without a great deal of success. This time I tried something different – I knew where a kite had a nest high in the trees and the shallow bay where it liked to fish.

I had a large mullet with me, a spinning rod and reel. My plan was to move the kayak close to the bank, drop the fish in water – it’s no more than a metre deep – opened the reel and slowly moved backwards out into the bay.

THE LIFE OF RILEY: Jim Thomson (with some image manipulation) can only wonder what that kite is doing with the fishing line it pinched.

THE LIFE OF RILEY: Jim Thomson (with some image manipulation) can only wonder what that kite is doing with the fishing line it pinched.

When I was a sufficient distance away I settled down in the kayak, camera ready, line on reel locked. The idea was to jerk the fish whenever the kite appeared, hopefully to attract bird into diving on the fish.

SURPRISE: A Night Heron searching for food at the edge of the lake, not  a common find.

SURPRISE: A Night Heron searching for food at the edge of the lake, not a common find.

It was very comfortable in the kayak … one hour, two hours, no sign of the bird … and I must have dozed off.

Bang! I looked up to see my rod and the bird heading towards the tree tops. So, without a rod – or a mullet for that matter – I called it a day. 

Locals in the Hawks Nest region swear there’s a kite in the area that doesn’t dive for fish any more, but just throws out a line from the nest.  

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