While in Sydney earlier this year my wife and I took a day out from grandparent duties. One of the children was at school and the other at child care. We took the train into Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney Harbour. We had a short wait of about ten minutes for one of the ferries which operate up and down the Parramatta River, stopping at a dozen or more small jetties along the way and terminating near the heart of Parramatta CBD. We had done this trip some 35 years ago when our own children were little.
While I was more interested in watching and taking photos of the scenery along the way I also kept a watch out for any birds I could see. While I didn’t get a great list of species I really enjoyed the three hour return trip. To give me the best chance of getting good photos we stationed ourselves on the seats at the front of the ferry; sure- it was breezy at times but we had come prepared. The photo above shows another river ferry similar to the boat we were on. You will notice that it has the name “Dawn Frazer”. It was named after one of Australia’s most successful Olympic swimmers. On our cruise we passed the swimming pool where she trained. I believe that she still runs a hotel nearby.
As our ferry left Circular Quay (see photo above) the whole vista of Sydney’s CBD opened up for us. Leading up to this point I recorded Rock Doves everywhere, especially in the train stations and even in the underground stations. Around the ferry terminals were many Silver Gulls, Welcome Swallows and even a few Noisy Miners on the jetties, scrounging food dropped by passengers.
After only a few minutes in the ferry we passed under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge (see below). It is always great to get a different perspective of this wonderful structure. Usually we cross over it in trains and occasionally by car. Opened in 1932 this bridge still serves the city wonderfully, although it is now assisted by several additional bridges to the west and the Harbour Tunnel under the water.
The bridge is best viewed close up, usually from a boat, ferry or on foot via many access points around the harbour. One can – for a fee – join a Bridge Climb over the arch of the bridge. It’s only for the brave and not for those scared of heights, though to assure climbers they are secured tethered to the railing at all times. I haven’t done the climb and regret not doing it a few years ago when I was fitter and healthier. The view must be truly spectacular from up so high above the water.
After about an hour of cruising the harbour the ferry heads on up the Parramatta River, subject to favourable tidal conditions. As banks close in on the passage I had good views of the following birds:
- Australian Pelican
- Pied Cormorant
- Little Pied Cormorant
- Little Black Cormorant
- White Ibis
- Sacred Kingfisher
- Australian Raven
- Australian Magpie Lark
- Welcome Swallow
- Willie Wagtail
- Common Myna
- Grey Butcherbird
- Rainbow Lorikeet
- White-faced Heron
- Pacific Black Duck
- Variegated Fairy-wren
Finally, cruising on the river and on the harbour afforded me an excellent platform for observing the many wonderful and interesting buildings along the harbour. These include dirty industrial sites near Parramatta, magnificent apartment buildings, splendid old mansions – and an old and still very useful boat shed (see below).
If you are an Australian citizen with a Senior’s Card, Pension or Health Care card, ask for the special fare price when buying your ticket. Being over 60 years of age we both have Senior’s Cards. Instead of the normal fare of about $18 (Australian) each, our P.E.T. (Pensioner Excursion Ticket) cost us $2.50 each. This ticket enabled us to travel on any trains, buses, and ferries for the day.
And it was worth every cent.
I took this photo at the very end of our boat trip earlier this year. We had travelled across Lake Alexandrina, along the River Murray past Goolwa to the Murray Mouth and through the Coorong.
As we approached the boat ramp next to the Narrung ferry (SE of Adelaide) this lone Little Black Cormorant was waiting for my camera while deciding whether he needed to fly away from our boat, or not. Looking at the mess on the signs, it is obvious that this is a common resting spot for many birds.
On our boat trip on the River Murray a few weeks ago we went through the lock in the barrages at Goolwa. This allowed us to pass through from the River Murray into the Coorong and travel by boat towards the mouth of the river. Today’s photos show many birds lined up along the top of the barrages.
In the photo above you can see a number of Australian Pelicans, while below is a large gathering of cormorants. Although I’m not absolutely certain, I think that they are probably Little Black Cormorants. They don’t seem to be big enough for the larger Great Cormorant.
In my last post here I wrote about a recent boat trip on Lake Alexandrina just south of my home in Murray Bridge. While this boat trip was mainly recreational in purpose, I cannot help but notice birds along the way whether I am driving in a car, travelling on a bus or train, walking or boating.
While travelling at 40kph (25mph) across the water is not conducive to birding – the boat’s engine scares many birds away – some birds are obviously very used to speeding boats on this stretch of water. Silver Gulls followed the wake of the boat as shown in my last post, Australian Pelicans kept fishing less than 40 metres from our racing vessel, cormorants kept bobbing up out of the water here and there and flocks of ducks flew over the lake heading somewhere else to feed.
The photo above shows one of many navigation posts seen at intervals across the lake. The depth of the water varies from a few centimetres through to about 4 – 5 metres. Some sections are far too shallow for safe boating – as we found out later in the day. I deliberately captured both the pelican and two Little Black Cormorants in the photo. Little Black and Little Pied are the two dominant species of cormorant in the lakes and river system of the Lower Murray River.
The photo below shows a view of the lakeside town of Milang. I can thoroughly recommend the little bakery in town, and our friends tell us that the fish and chip shop is also worth patronising.
Last December we visited our daughter who teaches in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. One afternoon I wandered down the road to Lake Inchiquin which is next the Melrose Park on the northern edge of town. Over recent years I have often visited this top little spot to do a little birding.
Over recent years this lake has often been almost dry due to the extended drought conditions we’ve experienced over that period. This last year’s good rains has seen the lake return to capacity again. The birds have also returned, so I try to find a half hour or so to check it out every time we visit our daughter.
On this occasion I saw a few Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, plenty of Eurasian Coot, several Masked Lapwings and a solitary Darter. On the opposite shore a single Great Egret patrolled the lake edges, especially near the reeds. Another species was a Yellow-billed Spoonbill but I didn’t manage a photo of the one bird seen flying overhead.
Away from the water the birdlife was just as interesting, with Laughing Kookaburras, Little Corellas, Galahs and dozens of Rainbow Lorikeets. In nearby trees I saw Noisy Miners, Red Wattlebirds and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Standing quite still for about 5 minutes I watched a Mallee Ringneck feeding on the seeds of some weeds growing on the bank of the lake.