I am currently staying with my son and family in Sydney. Before arriving at his home I spent a few hours taking photographs and doing some birding in the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan. These beautiful gardens are situated in the south-west of Sydney. The plants are certainly worth seeing, especially in spring when so many are in full bloom. The birding is also very rewarding.
While I was taking plenty of photos of the many plants in flower (see photos below), I came across a very cooperative Noisy Miner. It was busily feeding on the nectar in one of the plants and was certainly unconcerned that I was barely a metre away, snapping away with my camera. It certainly makes bird photography easy when you get cooperative birds like this one. It is generally a very bold species, quite accustomed to being in contact with humans.
The Noisy Miner is a member of the honeyeater family of birds. They usually feed on nectar which is generally in plentiful supply in our Australian native plants. They will also eat fruit and insects.
Habitat and distribution
Noisy Miners are a common species found throughout eastern Australia from northern Queensland through much of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They are also present in Tasmania. They are found in open bushland, woodlands and forests. They have adapted well to life in parks and gardens in urban areas, often supplanting our smaller birds species through their aggressive nature. They are bold enough to take on much larger birds like magpies and ravens.
Last month I had the delight of spending a few weeks in Sydney with my son and his family. During this time I had the delight of attending my grandson’s 10th birthday party. These are special times indeed. Once the children had returned to school, I was free during the day to do some exploring on my own. On one of those days, I spent about four hours in the nearby Lane Cove National Park, a wonderful spot just ten minutes’ drive away. It was a mild, sunny day with a delightful breeze.
During my stay, I explored a few of the many picnic grounds and walking trails along the main road through the park, Riverside Drive. I made a pleasing list of the birds seen and heard, taking photos of those which came within camera range. I also found a lovely spot to have a picnic lunch and a cup of tea, overlooking one section of the Lane Cove River which runs through the park.
After lunch I still had about an hour to spare, so I drove over to the other side of the river and slowly drove along the Max Allen Drive, parking at the end of this road. I still had some hot water in my thermos so I made another cuppa. While I was enjoying my afternoon tea, I heard the calls of a bird I did not immediately recognise. One of the two birds landed where I could see it. I immediately recognised it as a Dollarbird. This was only my second ever sighting of this species – the other sighting being last year at the same time of year and in the same national park.
The two birds flew around a little while calling to each other. One landed within range of my camera so I took the photos shown above and below. Despite waiting for quite a long time, neither of the birds landed in a sunny position but stayed with the sun behind. I could have walked to the other side of the tree, but that would involve walking on the river. This means that my readers cannot see the lovely colours on the feathers. You can see a much better photo and more information about this species on the Birdlife Australia site here.
The Dollarbird is so-called because of the round, white spots underneath each wing when flying. Early observers thought that these looked like silver dollar coins. They are very prominent underneath a flying bird. They are widespread in eastern and northern parts of Australia but are absent in my home state of South Australia. (There are occasional sightings but these are vagrant individuals and are not resident in my state.) This species is a member of the Roller family of birds, with 11 other species in the family worldwide. The family name “roller” comes from their courtship display while airborne.
Next time I am in Sydney, I hope that I can get better photos of this species. I have also included below some of the wildflowers in bloom in the national park during my visit.
Yesterday I wrote about a visit to the Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Garden in St Ives in northern Sydney earlier this year. On that occasion, we were annoyed by a rather pesky Australian Brush Turkey which thought it had a right to some of our afternoon tea. It went away disappointed.
These gardens are a nature lover’s delight. Not only is there a good number and variety of birds present, but one can wander along the many walking and cycling tracks throughout the park, enjoying nature up close. As we were having our snack we were delighted to see a Swamp Wallaby carrying a joey in its pouch (see photo below). This was a real delight for our five-year-old grand-daughter.
Many other items intrigued our grand-daughter as she clambered through the bush with her grandmother. The fungi shown below held her attention for a while, not mean feat because she is always on the go.
She was also interested in the many flowers in bloom along the walking tracks. Knowing that her grandmother was interested in the flowers, she would race ahead, pointing out the new plant in bloom. She often became frustrated when we stopped too long to take photos of the flowers. Some of these are shown below.
Earlier this year my wife and I travelled to Sydney to visit our son and his family. We always enjoy the long trip because when we get there our grandchildren are always so pleased to see us. We love spending time with them. On this occasion, we went for a drive with our son to the Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Gardens in St Ives. We try to get there every time we visit Sydney. The wildflowers are usually very interesting, and sometimes the birding can be good too.
On this occasion, we were pestered by an Australian Brush Turkey (see photo above). It came wandering through the picnic area where we were sitting having a snack for afternoon tea. I guess it thought that we were good for a handout. We had some biscuits but the bird was out of luck. We don’t feed our native birds because human food can be dangerous – even deadly – to them.
In frustration, the turkey decided that there must be something it could salvage from our bags. My camera bag was sitting on the grass no more than 30 centimetres from my son, but this didn’t deter it. The cheeky bird pecked at it, thinking it might find something inside. It was out of luck.
These gardens are wonderful for exploring because there are many walking and cycling tracks throughout the park. We have visited on many occasions and there always seems to be something flowering. Below I have posted a few of the flower photos I took on this visit. These are just a small sample of the many plants in this location.
- Five reasons to love Brush Turkeys – from the ABC website
Yesterday was my wife’s birthday.
To celebrate we went out to lunch with friends, and then drove south to Wellington on the River Murray. After crossing the river on the ferry we drove the short distance to the Pangarinda Botanic Gardens (formerly known as the Pangarinda Arboretum). My wife enjoys exploring places where native Australian plants are the feature. You can check out her site about Australian plants here.
We found a shady spot in the middle of the gardens, complete with a table and seats. The garden all around us was alive with birds, especially dozens of New Holland Honeyeaters. We also saw White-browed Babblers, Red Wattlebirds and Little Wattlebirds, along with dozens of Tree Martins soaring on the breeze hawking for insects (photos to come in a few days’ time).
As we were having a cuppa and some delicious birthday cake, we heard an interesting call nearby. It wasn’t long before we spotted a quail-like bird skulking through the garden about 50 metres away. I checked my bird app on my phone and immediately recognised the call of the Brown Quail. I knew that I didn’t have a photo of this species, so I set off in pursuit. I actually managed only two photos which I have cropped and shown here today. They are not brilliant photos, but they are the best I have.
This is the first time I have seen this species, even though they are relatively widespread in the region where I live. They can be quite shy birds, hiding in grasses and bushy areas. I guess that they have found these gardens to their liking and are getting used to people being around quite often. I was amused when my friend Keith started imitating the call – and both birds answered him from nearby. They also answered the call from the app on my phone. Neither Keith’s call, nor that from my phone made them come closer to investigate. At one point one of them did fly low over the table where we were sitting, but it went straight into a bushy area and out of sight.
As far as I can tell from my memory and records, this sighting is a “lifer“, that is, it is the first time in my life I have seen this species.
Further reading (click on the title):
- Mallee Native Plants – my wife’s site about Australian plants
- Pangarinda Arboretum – some flower photos are featured in this post
- Birds and plants of Pangarinda Arboretum – more photos of the beautiful plants in these gardens
- Spotted Nightjar at Pangarinda
- Red-capped Robin at Pangarinda – featuring possibly my favourite photos of any bird
Below I have included several flower photos taken yesterday.