I am writing this while visiting my son and family in Sydney. We do this several times every year and really enjoy the times we spend with our two grandchildren. It always affords me good opportunities to see birds here, on the journey over from South Australia, and during the return trip. On the first Saturday we were here, my son was washing the car in the back yard and I was there chatting with him. I also had an eye on the children performing on the trampoline. We all stopped what we were doing when we heard a bird call. My first thought was, “Is that terrible noise actually a bird call?
I could see the two birds in question in the street tree a few metres away. Although they were high up in the tree, I had a clear view of them. i didn’t have my camera with me – it was in our locked car 30 metres away – nor did I have my binoculars – which were also in the car. It didn’t matter; I instantly identified the birds as Channel-billed Cuckoos. This was the first time I had actually seen this species, so it counted as a lifer.
I was able to watch them for about a minute as they called raucously. Various other species were mobbing them, trying to get them to fly away. These included Noisy Miners, Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Magpies, Pied Currawongs and several Australian Ravens. These latter three are all hosts to this cuckoo species, so I am not surprised that they were keen to see them off elsewhere.
During our four weeks here in Sydney I have seen this species several more times, and heard them calling around here on many more occasions. I have learned that although they are not a nocturnal species, they will often call during the night during the breeding season. That must be very annoying to anyone trying to sleep. Thankfully, we do not have this species where I live in South Australia.
You can learn more about this parasitic species and see a photo of it on the Birds in Backyards site. There is also a short sound recording of the call.
As I write this we are in Sydney visiting our son and his family. We enjoy visiting him because it is a precious time of blessing as we spend time with our two grandchildren, ages eight and five. It is always great to see them growing and developing. During our times here in Sydney we have limited opportunities to go birding, so any free time we have is really appreciated. On this particular trip, we have visited Lane Cove National Park on several occasions, both times for lunch. This national park is only about ten minutes away by car, depending on the volume of traffic and time of day.
On a recent visit, we set up our folding chairs in a shady spot with a good view of the river. We placed our picnic lunch on the side table of our chairs. Before we could take a bite I observed two Long-necked Turtles sunning themselves on a log protruding from the water (see photo above). I handed my binoculars to my wife so that she could have a closer look at them.
That was when we were robbed!
A cheeky Laughing Kookaburra swooped down from a nearby branch. It snatched a part of my wife’s sandwich and flew off with it. As it dropped the sandwich makings on the grass nearby, another kookaburra flew down to share in this ill-gotten booty. Not long after this, as they were squabbling over their prize, a Noisy Miner joined in the fun. Noisy Miners are one of our native honeyeater species; they can be quite aggressive towards smaller birds and they are obviously quite at home matching it with the much larger kookaburras.
My wife was incensed. She had lost a portion of her lunch to a thieving bird. Later, she read a small plaque on one of the park picnic tables. In fact, all tables have copies of the same message: “Visitors are asked not to feed the birds and animals” or words to that effect. Perhaps the rangers should also put up signs instructing the local wildlife not to snatch human food.
Naturally, we guarded the rest of our lunch very carefully. No sense in losing any more of it. A few minutes later, two Brush-turkeys came mooching around. They looked as if they also wanted a handout. In fact, I held out my empty palm towards one of them and it approached to within a few centimetres of my hand. It left disappointed.
Please do not feed the birds
I think it would be prudent of me to make mention of the fact that it is strongly recommended that people in parks, gardens and even their own gardens refrain from feeding our native birds. Most human food – especially bread – is actually quite dangerous – even deadly – for our birds. By all means, provide fresh drinking water in a birdbath, but resist the desire to feed them. It’s for their welfare.
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Earlier this week my wife and I took a short three-hour break from being with our grandchildren and family here in Sydney. We enjoy visiting Lane Cove National Park just north of the CBD. It is also the closest park to where our son lives, being only a ten-minute drive away.
We packed our lunch, a thermos, some fruit and my camera and binoculars. Can’t forget the binoculars – it’s only happened to me once in all my many years of birding. I also forgot my camera that day, but despite these drawbacks, I still managed some great birding.
After deciding on a spot to set up our folding chairs overlooking the river, we had a late morning cuppa. We were immediately joined by a Crimson Rosella and an Eastern Rosella perched in the tree above us. I scrambled for the camera, but they flew off before I managed to get the camera ready.
A few minutes later our peaceful relaxation was disturbed by the raucous calls of a small flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos flying overhead. I then noticed one of them perched at the entrance of a large hollow in a nearby gum tree. Every few seconds he would screech noisily, raising his wings as he called. Something was annoying him – not sure what.
Within a few minutes, we were joined in our picnic by several Pied Currawongs. They eyed off our mugs and bags looking for something to gobble up. They were not successful. Neither were the Laughing Kookaburras which also joined the party.
Earlier, as we pulled into the car park, I noticed a walking trail leading off up the hill. I remember walking that trail with other family members one Christmas some years ago on another visit. I checked my bird database; it was December 2008. It was time to investigate this track once again. Ignoring the hip and leg pain caused by the intervening years, I steadily climbed the track until I had a good view of the river below.
Numerous small brown birds chirped away in the vegetation, but none posed long enough for photos – and not even long enough for good views through my binoculars. Most of them were undoubtedly Brown Thornbills, a species I have seen here a few times before. The only other good sighting was a very brief view of a solitary Red-browed Finch. Never mind – I managed a few good photos of some flowers and a lovely butterfly. I left by butterfly book home so I can’t identify it.
As we were leaving, I drove slowly through the park to the exit gate. This took us quite close to the Lane Cove river at times. Not far from the gate I was suddenly aware of a male Australian Wood Duck heading aggressively towards our car as we passed by, head down, neck stretched out and I think he was hissing. He looked quite fierce for a few seconds. Pity I didn’t get this on my camera. This reminded me of another incident on the other side of the river a few days earlier. Another male Australian Wood Duck hissed at me in a similar fashion. I understood completely; he was guarding the female and three juveniles feeding nearby.
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I have been absent from posting new photos and articles on this site for several months.
Sorry about that. Life got in the way.
Earlier this year my wife and I went to Sydney to look after our two very energetic grandchildren during the school holidays. That was fun but also very tiring. On our return, we had many visits to stay with our daughter in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. Over the period of several months, we helped her to pack up all of her belongings. They are now in storage in a shipping container on our property.
She recently flew to Ethiopia to take up a two-year teaching position at an international school in Ethiopia. Although she hasn’t updated in in a while, you can follow her adventures on her site called Rose’s Travel Jottings.
During all this travelling, packing and cleaning I had very few opportunities to go birding. I had even less time to take photos and to write about the birds I was seeing. On top of all that I had computer problems (aaarrrgh) and then another trip to Sydney to care for the grandchildren. We love them dearly, so that is not a hardship, though opportunities to go birding and to do much writing are limited when we are with them.
Life is nearly back to normal, so you can expect more regular posts here in the coming months. I am also planning on publishing regular monthly newsletters with extra articles and information not appearing here on this blog. You can subscribe to this newsletter below.
PS My computer is now back and running okay.