The woodlands, grasslands and backyards of Canberra are teeming with birdlife. “Canberra is known as the ‘Bush Capital’ for good reason,” says local birder and photographer Tobias Hayashi. “Many reserves within and around the city attract lots of wildlife.” The annual Garden Bird Survey, running since 1981, has collected a treasure trove of observations for more than 200 species. For a bird watching adventure close to the CBD, Tobias recommends Mount Ainslie. “The grassy woodland around the base of Mount Ainslie, in particular Campbell Park, is probably one of the best and most easily accessible places to see a wide range of bush birds,” he says. “In spring, many species can be found busily building nests, only a few kilometres from the city centre.” The Australian National Botanic Gardens is another great spot to hang out with the local birds. Keep an eye out for two special residents. “There is a very large resident population of superb fairy-wrens, which have been part of an ongoing study by researchers looking at the promiscuous sexual behaviours of these iconic birds,” says Tobias. “There are many satin bowerbirds around the gardens as well, and if you look closely you may find a bower,” he adds. Further afield, keen Canberra twitchers flock to Jerrabomberra Wetlands. According to Tobias, “The wetlands support a great range of birds including many waterbirds and birds of prey. Rare birds from other states turn up at the wetlands too.” For a ‘wilderness’ birding experience, there’s always Namadgi National Park, which makes up more than 40% of the ACT. “In the wetter forests, you may find lyrebirds, rufous fantails and even the odd wonga pigeon, which has recently returned to the area after disappearing following the 2003 bushfires,” says Tobias. Here are 20 Canberran residents you may encounter on your birding adventures. Text by Ellen Rykers.
Six antennas huddle on the grassy 147ha site at Paddys River in the Tidbinbilla Valley, just under an hour’s drive from Canberra. One is a landscape-dwarfing dish as wide as a 22-story building is tall. Dotted around are three working 34m dishes and one under construction. The CDSCC is owned by NASA, but it is run through the innovation centre at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as well as by the CSIRO. It is one of three deep-space tracking stations in NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) – the others are in Goldstone, California, and Madrid, Spain. The tracking stations are strategically placed around the globe, so that, as the Earth rotates, they can stay in touch with interplanetary spacecraft 24 hours a day. The DSN provides the vital link to the spacecraft of many nations travelling between the planets and beyond.
Last year, AG went to the 29th annual Canberra Balloon Spectacular, listed as one of the top hot-air ballooning events in the world. Since its inception in 1986, the nine-day event has seen balloons of all shapes and sizes rise from the lawns of Old Parliament House and glide over the cityscape, carrying passengers above iconic landmarks. The next Canberra Balloon Spectacular will be held between 12–20 March 2016.