On our recent visit to Sydney, we took our two grandchildren on a picnic to Lane Cove National Park. It is a short ten-minute drive from my son’s home. This park has also become one of our favourite picnic spots in Sydney.
Whenever I go to parks, especially national parks, I always take my binoculars and my camera. Spots like Lane Cove National Park always have a good range of birds to watch, and photograph. Because the children see me using my camera frequently, they often ask if they can take a few photos as well. Their ages are eight and five, so I let them use the camera. These days, they know how to handle my camera correctly. I think I have taught them well.
When my eight-year-old grandson was taking photos, he took the photo above. Many Australians, even if they are not birders, would easily recognise it as a Laughing Kookaburra. It is one of our most recognisable birds. My grandson has captured the bird well – good enough for this site, in my opinion. I love the silhouette effect.
My grandson also took the second photo (above) in this post. He has everything right: focus, composition, lighting – except that the bird is looking away! Sometimes you get everything just right – and other times one little thing doesn’t quite go to plan. Below are a few more photos I took that day.
Here are links to other picnics we enjoyed at the same spot:
Recently I have written about our trip to Sydney last month. I am a bit behind with sharing my sightings and photos on that trip, so I had better rectify that in the coming days. Actually, it will probably be over the coming weeks because I have so many photos and experiences to share, especially on the trip home.
On the second last day of our visit to stay with our son, we all decided to have a family picnic at the nearby Lane Cove National Park, about a ten-minute drive from my son’s home – depending on the traffic. My wife and I had taken the grandchildren there a few days earlier. They were keen to have barbequed sausages and try their hand at cooking marshmallows on the coals after lunch.
All was going well. We found a lovely spot with no other people around. We were able to easily get a fire going. Soon the sausages were cooked and we enjoyed our lunch.
“Keep an eye on those kookaburras,” warned Nanna.
There were about five or six Laughing Kookaburras perched in the trees nearby. they were all watching our movements keenly. One of the birds was perched right above our picnic table. We were annoyed when one of them decided to “decorate” the table below. Thankfully, his efforts missed our food.
Just as my son was about to take the last sausage off the plate, one of the birds swooped down and deftly snatched the last sausage. It had obviously done this cheeky manoeuvre many times before, never hesitating and expertly snatching the sausage off the very hot plate in its downward swoop. It didn’t stop but continued off into the forest, hotly pursued by the rest of the “gang” of thieves. We didn’t see where they went to devour the food, but we certainly heard plenty of protesting and squabbling as they fought over their ill-gotten gain.
While we were annoyed by their theft, it was wonderful for our grandchildren to be there to witness nature in the raw like that.
Despite our loss, we had all eaten well and enjoyed our picnic on a lovely sunny autumn day.
Over recent years, my wife and I have visited the Lane Cove National Park just west of Chatswood in the heart of Sydney. We try to get there whenever we visit family living in Artarmon nearby. Despite being in the heart of a bustling part of the city, this park not only preserves some remnant bushland for all to enjoy, it also boasts a good range of wildlife. I am particularly interested in the birdlife – hence this website. I also take an interest in other forms of wildlife, as well as the plant life, an interest which flows over from my wife.
On a visit there last October, I managed a few photos of some of the resident birds, as well as some other wildlife. A few weeks ago I shared a photo of two Long-necked Turtles here. I have also written about the local Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and the Australian Wood Ducks I saw in the park.
One of the very common birds in this area is the Noisy Miner, shown in the photo above. This individual landed on the picnic table alongside where we were sitting. I guess it was looking for a handout of human food, just like the local Laughing Kookaburras and Brush Turkeys. Noisy Miners are certainly the most common of the Australian honeyeaters in this part of Sydney.
I have noticed on all of our visits to this park that the Eastern Water Dragon is a very commonly observed reptile in the park. I think that we have seen many of these lizards on every visit to the park. The one shown in the photo below was quite friendly and unafraid, coming up quite close to where we were sitting.
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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Near the end of our recent visit to the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney I saw this Laughing Kookaburra, first on a branch of a nearby tree (see below), and then on a nearby barbecue plate.
Fortunately nobody had been to that barbecue to cook their lunch that day, otherwise we would have had one very hot bird!
On a more serious note: once several decades when cooking a barbecue lunch for my family in Western Australia a kookaburra swooped out of a nearby tree and grabbed a sausage from the hot plate. I was not happy at the time, but in recent years I delight in telling this little story.
By the way, Laughing Kookaburras are not native to WA; they were introduced in the 1890s and have spread over much of south west Western Australia. On the other hand, Blue-winged Kookaburras can be found in the northern parts of WA.
- Laughing Kookaburra comes to lunch – an account of another kookaburra seeking human food – also in the Lane Cove National Park a few years ago.