Sydney Trip Report June 2011
When we stayed with family in Sydney earlier this year we struck an unusually cold and wet period. We were confined to quarters for much of our stay. This was a blessing in one sense; we could spend extra time with our wonderful 2.5 year old grandson. On the other hand it was disappointing not to be able to get out and about exploring some of the wonderful places in and around the city, especially places like the botanic gardens. Birding was consequently not a high priority considering the weather.
One afternoon it cleared up enough for us to make a hurried visit to the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden. We had been there on several occasions before and I knew that the birding can be very good. My wife always enjoys seeing which wildflowers are blooming. Our interests are very complementary.
On this occasion we were both disappointed. While there were some bushes in flower when we visited, we could see that many were still only in bud; we were probably 4-6 weeks early. As for the birding, it was still overcast with dark heavy clouds, occasional drizzle (yes, we had our umbrellas – and used them) and late in the afternoon in fading light. All these elements conspired against seeing many birds.
I only managed a short list of species seen:
- White-eared Honeyeater
- Red Wattlebird
- Laughing Kookaburra
- Rainbow Lorikeet
- Australian Magpie
- White-browed Scrubwren
- New Holland Honeyeater
- White-throated Tree-creeper
Not an inspiring list, but better than none at all. I managed some poor shots of the lone magpie (which I won’t show here) and several average shots of a solitary White-eared Honeyeater which I’ll post here in a few days’ time.
Meanwhile I’ll show some of the wildflowers seen.
Yesterday I had the delight of being the guest speaker at the Mannum Garden Club. The small river port of Mannum is less than an easy half hour drive from my home. Like Murray Bridge, it is situated on the banks of the River Murray here in South Australia.
I should add that the speaking duties were actually shared with my wife. Almost exactly three years ago I spoke to the group about Australian birds, so this was an invite back to this very friendly group. I modified my talk this time around, talking about how to attract birds to our gardens, in particular native species. Because my wife accompanied me – and shared in the talk – I tapped into her expertise in the area of native Australian plants. We focussed on those species we knew would grow well in the area, and which would attract our birds. We made a good speaking team and were well received.
And the chats over morning tea were engaging – made even more pleasant by the lavish good old country style cooked cakes and biscuits.
I have another talk about birds coming up at the end of June to another group here in Murray Bridge, and just a short while ago had a call from the president of the local bird club, asking me to speak again at their meeting in two weeks’ time.
Offer: I’m getting to be quite in demand as a guest speaker. Book me up while I still have vacancies in my diary. I’ll even travel interstate if a plane ticket is included in the deal!
Instead of photos of birds today, I thought I treat my readers to some of the flower photos I showed the group yesterday. Enjoy.
On our trip though the mid north of South Australia earlier this year we stopped at Burra Gorge for lunch. A short time after leaving the gorge we stopped briefly by the side of the main road for my wife to take a good look at some wild flowers growing on the road side verge. They were daisies and the bushes made a spectacular show against the dull grey-green colours of the salt bush growing in this area.
We only stopped for about five minutes, not long enough to check for bird life. I wasn’t aware of any birds calling and only saw a few as we drove along. In this open dry grasslands environment I would expect to see Australian Magpies, Little and Australian Ravens, several species of chats if the conditions are good, Black-shouldered Kites, Nankeen Kestrels, Wedge-tail Eagles, Australian Pipits, Galahs and perhaps one or two wren species. Crested Pigeons and Peaceful Doves are another possibility, as are various woodswallows from time to time.
The environment might appear to be lacking in birds, especially if one is only stopping for a few minutes. On closer inspection, and given a longer time frame, many species can be recorded.
Many of the mallee trees in our scrub at the back of our house are fully in flower at the moment. The above photo shows one of them totally covered in blooms. Standing nearby one can easily smell the nectar coming form the flowers.
The resident honeyeaters love the flowers and yesterday we had a flock of about 20 Purple-crowned Lorikeets feeding on them as well. I have found that this is not an easy species to photograph. They are usually seen streaking across the garden at a great speed, or else feeding in the thickest topmost foliage of a tall tree. I was therefore pleased to get these shots early Christmas morning.
Mallee Ringneck parrots are common around my home town of Murray Bridge in South Australia. Almost everyday we have a small number visiting our garden. In fact, I would regard them as a resident species because there are very few days when we don’t see or hear them.
They have taken a liking to the beautiful Eremophila plant shown in the photos on this post. The nectar in the flowers must be delightful to them. Of course, after they have visited each bush there is a carpet of petals on the ground under the bush.