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:
Last weekend we had a few days away in our caravan. It was only a short break of three nights. Hardly time to settle in and enjoy the lovely beachside caravan park at Kingston Park on the southern edge of Adelaide, South Australia. We stayed in the beautiful Brighton Caravan Park, a most welcoming and well set out and well-maintained park. I wrote about this area after a similar visit last year. You can read about that visit here and here and here.
This caravan park is an easy 90-minute drive from our home. We had the delight of sharing the weekend there with six other couples. Over the weekend all the ladies went to a nearby convention while the men sat around chatting, solving the world’s problems and enjoying the magnificent view over one of Adelaide’s premier beaches. There are so many great beaches near to Adelaide that it is hard to choose one over another.
One of the delights of staying in a seaside caravan park is the birding. On Sunday afternoon, several couples went off exploring, another couple went to a birthday party and my wife and I were left alone to fend for ourselves. We both had books to read and we enjoyed the solitude in such a wonderful, peaceful setting. It was a warm day so we sought out the shady side of our van to read, and to enjoy our lunch.
As we were eating, a small flock of Crested Pigeons flew in and landed a few metres from where we were sitting. They were attracted to the dripping tap near our caravan. Some of them even sat in the pool of water on the slab of concrete around the tap. The birds were only about four metres from where we sat quietly, watching them and admiring the colours on their plumage – more about that in another post in a few days’ time.
I had my camera at the ready, so I was able to take quite a series of close-up photos of the pigeons sunbathing, drinking and generally enjoying themselves in front of us. They were obviously very comfortable with us sitting only a few steps away. I guess that there are people around every day, so they become quite tame. This is a species I have found very easy to approach in most locations.
Over the coming days, I will feature more photos of the birds who came to visit our caravan site.
One of Australia’s most recognised and common birds would have to be the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. I have included a series of photos of this species in this post today. It is found along the north, east and southern coasts of Australia, and in Tasmania. It has been introduced to the south of Western Australia, and in New Zealand.
Throughout its range, it can often be found in large flocks numbering from a few dozen through to many hundreds. In my travels around different parts of Australia, I have observed this species in large numbers, especially where there is an abundance of seed for them to feed on, such as pastures. I have seen large flocks settle in paddocks, making the ground look like snow has fallen. When a flock is feeding on the ground, one or more birds will perch in a tree or on a fence post watching out for any danger. A large flock can also add colour to a dull grey looking gum tree when they all perch together.
These birds have a very raucous call, and when a flock flies low overhead while calling, it is very hard to carry on a conversation. In some caravan parks we have stayed in where this bird is resident, a noisy flock can be an unwelcome alarm clock, particularly at first light when one wants to sleep in a little. In populated areas, this beautiful bird is often regarded as an unwelcome pest. With such an abundance of food, cockatoos can easily get bored and start chewing on timber work around houses and other buildings. Some of my readers have complained in the past about the destructive nature of this species. There is no easy solution to this problem because this species is a protected bird, like all of our native birds. If you are having a problem with cockatoos, please be in contact with your local National Parks and Wildlife office. It is an offence to destroy them.
This species is also a common, long-lived pet for many people. They can be delightful pets and will often learn a range of words and phrases to mimic their owners. I am not familiar with the current regulations on keeping our native birds as pets, so it is best to talk to your local pet shop owners before buying a cockatoo as a pet. They are probably commonly available in pet shops in countries other than Australia. There should be no restrictions on keeping them outside of Australia.
The photos in today’s post were all taken of an individual in the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. we were staying with our son spending time with our grandchildren during school holidays. On this occasion, we had a few hours break from the children, so we packed a picnic lunch and drove the short distance to the national park. Along the Lane Cove River, there are many lovely grassed picnic areas, complete with picnic tables and gas barbeques for the public to use.
Corellas v Cockatoos
Some people can easily be confused when trying to identify cockatoos and corellas. The three species of corellas in Australia are the Little Corella, Long-billed Corella and the Western Corella. Their ranges often overlap. I have even seen mixed flocks consisting of two species. Corellas are generally a little smaller and all corellas lack the yellow crest of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. The calls are also different, with the corellas’ calls being not as loud or as harsh.
It has been a year of great weather contrasts this year in South Australia, and in other parts of the country too. At various times it has been freezing cold, fiery hot, bucketing with rain, wild storms and everything in between. We have also had the occasional beautiful day as well. Our state has had terrible bushfires, devastating floods, power blackouts from storms, crop damage due to large hail and silently creeping frosts.
Now we are about to feel the full force of summer weather. Christmas Day tomorrow promises temperatures in the low 40s (40C = 104F). In fact. our capital city Adelaide is forecast to be the hottest capital city in the world on Christmas Day. Still, at this time of the year, we expect some days in the 40s and many days in the 30s.
Heat and birds
The heat can adversely affect our birdlife here in Australia. One of the best things people can do in these hot conditions is to put out clean water for the birds. I have several birdbaths dedicated to the birds in our garden. A constant stream of birds come to have a bath or a drink on hot days. Even on mild days, the bowls are very popular.
Place the bird bath in a shady location near to a tree or bush. This can help protect the smaller species from birds of prey; it gives them a place to escape. It can be on the ground but is better if it is elevated a little. This will give the birds a clear view of any approaching cats.
Try to remember to clean the bird bath regularly, and during our hot weather this summer, top it up every day.
I have found over many years that having a bird bath near a window makes it easy to get good photographs of the birds while they are drinking or bathing. My wife and I find it very relaxing sitting in a cool room on a hot day, watching the parade of birds coming to drink.
- Time for a bath – a list of birds and animals we have observed at our bird baths
- The importance of bird baths – another article about bird baths
Several years ago we visited Morocco and fell in love with the country. It is a land of great contrasts and beauty, and we found the people to be friendly and welcoming. During our tour, we visited many wonderful and beautiful places. One of those places was the Sahara Desert. It did not disappoint. Over recent weeks, I have posted a few of the bird photos I took at the time.
The highlight of our visit to the desert was a camel ride into the Sahara on sunset. This was on Christmas Eve, so it certainly was a Christmas with a difference and certainly one to remember. We slept in a Berber tent in the desert overnight. The next morning – Christmas Day – we rode back to a local hotel where we had a late breakfast. While we were eating I managed some good photos of several local bird species. You can read about them here and here and here.
Today I feature another bird species seen at that location, the beautiful Southern Grey Shrike. This bird posed cooperatively for me on a light fitting just a few metres from where we were sitting. I love it when the birds pose like that – so considerate of them. This species, a member of the shrike family of birds, is found in northern Africa (except in the heart of the Sahara), Spain and through to Pakistan and India in the east. It is a passerine bird of medium size. It eats rodents, insects and will even take small birds as a part of its diet.
- Southern Grey Shrike – the article on Wikipedia
- Eurasian Collared Dove – an article about another species I photographed in the same location
- White-crowned Black Wheatear in the Sahara