Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Gardens

Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Gardens

Callistemon flower, Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Gardens

Whenever we visit our son and his family in Sydney, we try to spend at least a few hours in the Ku Ring Gai Wildflower Gardens. These gardens are about a half-hour drive from his home. The gardens feature a section which has been planted with Australian Native Plants, and the remainder of the gardens is natural scrubland.

There is an excellent new Visitor Centre, manned by helpful, friendly staff. Attached to the centre, there is a small nursery with Australian plants for sale. Groups may organise guided tours of the gardens and sections can be hired for functions, such as children’s birthday parties.  To hire the facilities, contact the Ku Ring Gai Council. There are also many walking and cycling tracks throughout the gardens, many of them wheelchair friendly.

On our most recent visit, we had morning tea in one of the picnic areas before going on one of the walks. Later we explored another part of the gardens before moving to a third area for lunch. In all of this time, I had my binoculars and camera at the ready. These gardens can be frustrating at times. On occasions, the garden is filled with birdsong and I have found it hard to keep up with making a list of species seen or heard.

This time, however, although I could hear a few birds, many of them remained frustratingly out of view of my binoculars, as well as hard to find with my camera. Small birds, feeding the upper canopy of tall trees and bushes, make it very hard to get any good shots at all. Although I managed a few photos, I am not happy with any of them. I will just have to go back on our next visit to Sydney.

Striated Thornbill (?)

Striated Thornbill (?)

One of the birds I was able to photograph was the one above. It is a very poor shot and I think that it is a Striated Thornbill, a common species in these gardens. I hope that I can get a better shot on my next visit. In order to get one, the birds will have to sit still a lot longer than they do now. Perhaps someone could train a few for me.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater (?)

Yellow-faced Honeyeater (?)

Just after taken the photo of the thornbill, I saw what I think is a Yellow-faced Honeyeater feeding in the tree high above me (see photo above). I was looking almost directly straight up, and the bird stayed high in the foliage. I can just make out the yellow patch on the face next to the eyes.

Banksia flower

Banksia flower

While I had a frustrating time photographing the birds, some of the flowers were far more cooperative. While there was not all that much flowering, I still managed a few good shots (see above and below).

As a bonus, I managed a nice shot of a Varied Sword-grass Brown butterfly.

Go to the bottom of this post to see links to other posts about these gardens.

Banksia flower

Banksia flower

Butterfly

Varied Sword-grass Brown butterfly

Further reading:

Lunch snatching Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

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.

Good birding,

Trevor

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Picnic at Lane Cove National Park

Picnic at Lane Cove National Park

Lunch time birding

Australian Magpie Lark

Australian Magpie Lark

Fine weather

It is autumn here in southern Australia and this is the favourite season of ours. We generally have very little wind, a few cloudy days but the majority of days are chilly in the morning with occasional frosts, followed by a sunny day. On lovely days my wife and I love to sit out on our back veranda to eat our lunch. This part of our house is overlooking our garden and the nearby mallee trees. It can be a perfect spot to do some birding without disturbing the birds going about their normal daily activities.

Binoculars

In recent days I have taken to also wearing my binoculars while I eat. I must say that I do more birding than eating in this way. The food eventually gets consumed but the interruptions are frequent. Today was a particularly good day with an interesting range of birds. Possibly the most common species in our garden would have to be the House Sparrows and the Common Starling, two introduced species here in Australia.

We also have many Weebills and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. About a dozen of these beautiful thornbills few past only a few metres from where we sat, calling to each other as they flew. The Weebills are harder to see because they tend to forage in the tree-tops and are sometimes hard to pick up as they move in the foliage. Their call is hard to miss, however. It is a similar situation with both the Striated Pardalotes and the Spotted Pardalotes: hard to see but easy to hear.

Weebill

Weebill

Talking about calls, one of the more strident bird calls we experience here is the Australian Magpie-lark, shown in the photos at the top of this post. We had two in the garden today but they hardly made a sound. In fact, the female sat in a nearby tall mallee tree preening itself for most of the time we were sitting there. Not a call to be heard and I nearly missed listing her for my database. Also quite inconspicuous today were the resident Australian White-backed Magpies, heard just over the neighbour’s fence but not actually seen during our lunchtime break.

At one stage I commented to my wife that I hadn’t seen the White-browed Babblers in a while. The local family must have heard my comment because a group of about eight flew past a few minutes later, their mewing calls unmistakeable. In the distance, I could hear several Little Ravens calling, and one of them came quite close, investigating the trunk of a nearby tree and looking under the bark for a few beetles or spiders for lunch.

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

One of the notable birds missing today was the resident Willie Wagtails. I didn’t see either of them, nor did I hear them. That can happen sometimes and I guess that they were feeding some distance away from the house – perhaps on the other side of the building. Or they might have been out in the paddock because we live on a five-acre block. I was also surprised by the lack of honeyeaters. I saw several White-plumed Honeyeaters and a few Red Wattlebirds, but the usually noisy and bossy New Holland Honeyeaters were nowhere to be seen – or heard. Strange.

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Over the last five years, we have been delighted to have a family of Superb Fairy-wrens resident in our garden (photo above). We take great delight in seeing them hopping around, flitting from bush to bush or feeding out in the open. Today the family of five – there may be more – were investigating the puddles of rainwater on the swimming pool cover. Several of them even tried it out by having a quick bath. Who needs to supply bird baths?

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Every day we have plenty of parrots in our garden – either landing in the trees or flying overhead. We have a noisy group of Mallee Ringneck parrots (photo above) which we see and hear every day so I class them as a resident species. Today we also had several small groups of Rainbow Lorikeets fly overhead. In recent weeks they have been feeding on the flowering mallee trees, but today they just flew over screeching as they went. The local Galah population often lands in some of our trees but today they just flew over in loose flocks numbering from about six to forty.

Black Kite

Black Kite

At one point I actually put down my food and walked quickly out from the veranda to get a better view of two birds gliding high overhead. At first, I thought they were Wedge-tailed Eagles, mainly because they were so high. On closer inspection using my binoculars, I could see that they were Black Kites (see photo above), common in this area but one species I hadn’t seen near our home for quite some time.

In all, I saw or heard 22 species during the half hour lunch break. This is not a huge number, but it was a satisfying break despite that.

I would love to hear about the birds in your garden – use the comments section.

Good birding,

Trevor

 

That’s not what I expected

Lane Cove National Park

Picnic area in Lane Cove National Park, Sydney

Yesterday, my wife and I took our two grandchildren, ages 8 and 5, on a picnic. We are currently staying with them here in Sydney during the school holidays. They are very energetic children and they needed to run off a little steam, so we took a picnic lunch, some balls, my binoculars, my grandson’s binoculars(he is starting to develop an interest in birds), our folding chairs, my camera and a thermos for a cuppa. And some treats from our favourite local bakery.

Lane Cove National Park

We drove the short 10-minute journey to this wonderful national park, just a short distance west of Chatswood. We set up for our picnic and enjoyed some barbecued sausages and the treats from the bakery. It was a clear day with the temperature in the mid-20s – perfect for a picnic. After lunch, we involved the children in a few games. These included searching for various natural objects such as finding three different kinds of leaves. They were quite entertained, especially when I suggested some running races. They are both excelling at Little Athletics so they enjoyed making up a short course and getting me to time their efforts while I had my cuppa. Too easy.

Slow birding

Meanwhile, the birding side of things was rather slow. Sure, the obligatory Laughing Kookaburras were perched nearby, just waiting for an opportunity to sweep down and snatch our food (see photos below). Small flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets streaked overhead, or squabbled noisily in nearby flowering gum trees (eucalypts). We heard the occasional Pied Currawong calling, along with several Australian Ravens. Two Australian Black-backed Magpies were quietly feeding on the grassed area opposite us, and I heard a number of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters in the nearby trees, though I did not get a good look at them. All very quiet and peaceful – just right for a relaxing afternoon.

An unexpected bird

Just as I was finishing my cuppa, a small flock of Noisy Miners (a native honeyeater species) started calling very noisily near the top of a nearby tree. I stood up and moved closer, training my binoculars on the spot where a hawk-like bird had landed. It was being severely harassed by the miners. I raised my binoculars and immediately identified it as a Pacific Baza. I had a good view for several seconds, long enough to identify it and to take a few photos before it flew off.

Photos

Alas.

My camera was twenty metres away on the picnic table next to where I had been sitting – so no photos.

Botheration!

In my haste to see the bird, I had clean forgotten to pick up my camera. This is rather sad because I would have loved to have taken a photo of this species. This is only the second time I can recall seeing this bird; the other time was several decades ago in northern New South Wales, well before I started bird photography. I cannot be absolutely sure about this earlier sighting because all of my notebooks are at home, some 1400 km or two days’ drive away.

Pacific Baza

This species is found along the coastal regions of New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. It is quite common locally but on this occasion, I only saw the one individual. This is about the southernmost extension of its range, and they are rarely sighted south of Sydney.

They are one of Australia’s easiest hawk species to identify, with a small crest and bright stripes across their chest. You can see several photos here, as well as more information about the species.

Meanwhile, here are two photos of the Laughing Kookaburras which sat watching our food in the hope of snatching something.

Good birding,

Trevor

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

More about Crested Pigeons

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

In my last two posts (here and here), I wrote about a small flock of Crested Pigeons which I photographed last month. This was on a short weekend stay in the Brighton Caravan Park in the southern parts of Adelaide in South Australia. This small group of pigeons came near to us while we were sitting outside our caravan having lunch on one of the days. They stayed long enough for me to quietly go into the caravan to get my camera and then back to my seat to take some photos.

All the time I was shooting them, they sat on the grass only a few metres away. Several of them were enjoying the dripping tap which was connected to the hose leading to our van. It was a warm day and the birds even sat in a small puddle of water on the concrete slab around the tap. For the rest of the time, they were either sitting on the grass sunning themselves, or pecking away at the grass all around our site.

I have found over the years of photographing birds that this species is often very easy to approach. They are generally not all that scared of humans nearby. In caravan parks, they are even easier to get close to than normally because they are used to large numbers of people all around, as well as plenty of car, bike and scooter movements. None of this seems to frighten them, making them easy to observe up close and also to photograph them. All very convenient to likes of me with my camera.

One of the disappointments of this set of photos (and those in the previous two posts), is that the iridescent colours on the wings do not really show up well. When the sunlight is coming in at the correct angle, the colours shine up brilliantly. What does show up in the photos today is the striping on the wings of the birds. At first glance, this species appears to be plain in colouring, but closer up there are subtle colourings and markings on their plumage.

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon