Over recent years we have often visited family in Sydney, a two day drive from home. Whenever we have the chance we visit local bushland, parks and botanic gardens. Today was one such opportunity. For nearly two hours this afternoon my wife and I visited the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens in St Ives. My wife is interested in Australian native plants and areas featuring our native plants also attract a wide range of our native birds as well.
Over the years I have had mixed results birding at these gardens. On some occasions the birdlife is so prolific I have trouble keeping up with identifying what I am seeing, writing down a list of birds seen, and photographing birds as they come into camera range. On other occasions the birdlife seems almost non-existent.
During the eating of our picnic lunch I heard only 4 individual birds: Australian Raven, Noisy Miner, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and a Red Wattlebird. I actually only saw the last two in that list. It was not a good start. Little did I know how our time in the gardens would end.
After lunch we went on one of the walks through the natural bushland near where we had lunch. This walk has proved quite productive birding on a few occasions. During the walk we saw a few native plants in flower and this sustained our interest. I’ve shown several of these flowers on this post.
Other bird species encountered include an immature Grey Butcherbird, several Silvereyes, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and a Little Wattlebird. I think I saw a small flock of Red-browed Firetails fly across the road as we left, but they flew too quickly for a positive identification.
Just moments before we were about to leave, however, I had one of those wonderful experiences I have called Great Birding Moments on this site. I saw a male Scarlet Honeyeater – for the very first time in my life! A “lifer”! This has been one species I have wanted to see for a long time but it has eluded me so far. What is more, I managed several very poor photos. I hesitate to show one here because it is not up the standard I like to show here, so please forgive me. I will try to get a better one someday soon.
I should add that this photo was taken in poor light – it was very overcast – against dark clouds and at full zoom on my camera at a distance of about 40 metres. And the bird was sitting at the top of a 20 metre tree. So, all things considered, I was really pushing the limitations of my camera. The image is slightly cropped as well.
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.