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.
A few days ago my wife and I spent a little while at Long Reef Point at Dee Why, a suburb of Sydney. This spot is known for its sea-birds, but at this time of the year only a few resident species can usually be found. Most of the waders have long since flown to warmer climes in the northern hemisphere.
The only water birds I was able to identify with my binoculars and the zoom on my camera were as follows:
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Sooty Oystercatcher (see photo below)
That’s not a great list by anyone’s estimation, but about the best I could do in the short time I had. Other birds seen in the vicinity, including the adjacent golf course, were:
Common Myna (see yesterday’s post)
Variegated Fairy-wren (see post from 2 days ago)
Again – not a great list but about what I expected for this time of the year, and for the weather conditions which were dull and overcast.
Next time we visit family in the summer months I must take out time from looking after the grandchildren and visit this spot again.
A few weeks ago we had a family outing to Darling Harbour in Sydney. For morning tea we had visited one of the most wonderful cafes imaginable – see photo below – and then lingered on allowing the grandchildren to play on the playground equipment provided nearby.
As one would expect, the time got away from us and we needed to get lunch too; it would have been too late for the children if we had waited until we had arrived home on the train. So we went to the nearest fast food outlet – you know – the one with the big golden thingies on the roof.
Seeing it was in the middle of the World Cup, all the special hamburgers looked like small footballs. I chose an Argentinean hamburger while my wife choose a Brazil burger. With all the extra spices and sauces they were actually quite delicious.
I guess that the local Silver Gull population thought so too. Quite a gathering of them soon descended upon us where we sat, uninvited and unwelcome guests at our lunch. They didn’t get any.
I was amused earlier in the morning while having a wonderful treat for morning tea that the cafes of the area were frequently playing the calls of presumably a Peregrine falcon. I guess it was an optimistic attempt at scaring away the vast numbers of Silver Gulls, House sparrows, Feral Pigeons (Rock Doves) Noisy Miners and White Ibis which also find the Darling Harbour area quite attractive to visit. I do not think they are tourists. They look too comfortable, just like a local, I’d say.
Last weekend we were invited by friends to take our caravan to Meningie on the shores of Lake Albert here in South Australia. Meningie is just an hour’s drive from home, so it wasn’t a long road trip. The weather forecast looked promising for a good long weekend.
As we drove down the main street of Meningie we noticed that the local Progress Association had arranged for a Food Fair on the lawns along the shore of the lake. After setting up our caravan we drove the short distance from the park to the fair. Our treat for dinner was a Coorong mullet sandwich.
As we were eating our friends Rod and Janet who live nearby joined us at our table. They asked us about our plans for the weekend, offering to take us out for a trip on their ski boat – not for skiing but for touring the nearby lakes and river. How could we refuse such a kind, generous offer?
We set off at 9 o’clock next morning, heading straight across Lake Alexandrina at 40kph; quite exhilarating. As we went along I noticed quite a few birds following the wake of the boat. Most of them were Silver Gulls. The following photos show some of them.
Despite being a popular beach with both locals and tourists, the shoreline at Victor Harbor is remarkably rich in birdlife, particularly shorebirds. On most occasions the observant visitor will be able to see several Pacific Gulls, either on the beach or resting on the rocks near the rocky outcrop known as The Bluff.
A short distance from where I took these photos there is a popular fishing spot. This spot always seems to have a few hardy anglers present, regardless of the weather conditions.