Last month I had the delight of spending a few weeks in Sydney with my son and his family. During this time I had the delight of attending my grandson’s 10th birthday party. These are special times indeed. Once the children had returned to school, I was free during the day to do some exploring on my own. On one of those days, I spent about four hours in the nearby Lane Cove National Park, a wonderful spot just ten minutes’ drive away. It was a mild, sunny day with a delightful breeze.
During my stay, I explored a few of the many picnic grounds and walking trails along the main road through the park, Riverside Drive. I made a pleasing list of the birds seen and heard, taking photos of those which came within camera range. I also found a lovely spot to have a picnic lunch and a cup of tea, overlooking one section of the Lane Cove River which runs through the park.
After lunch I still had about an hour to spare, so I drove over to the other side of the river and slowly drove along the Max Allen Drive, parking at the end of this road. I still had some hot water in my thermos so I made another cuppa. While I was enjoying my afternoon tea, I heard the calls of a bird I did not immediately recognise. One of the two birds landed where I could see it. I immediately recognised it as a Dollarbird. This was only my second ever sighting of this species – the other sighting being last year at the same time of year and in the same national park.
The two birds flew around a little while calling to each other. One landed within range of my camera so I took the photos shown above and below. Despite waiting for quite a long time, neither of the birds landed in a sunny position but stayed with the sun behind. I could have walked to the other side of the tree, but that would involve walking on the river. This means that my readers cannot see the lovely colours on the feathers. You can see a much better photo and more information about this species on the Birdlife Australia site here.
The Dollarbird is so-called because of the round, white spots underneath each wing when flying. Early observers thought that these looked like silver dollar coins. They are very prominent underneath a flying bird. They are widespread in eastern and northern parts of Australia but are absent in my home state of South Australia. (There are occasional sightings but these are vagrant individuals and are not resident in my state.) This species is a member of the Roller family of birds, with 11 other species in the family worldwide. The family name “roller” comes from their courtship display while airborne.
Next time I am in Sydney, I hope that I can get better photos of this species. I have also included below some of the wildflowers in bloom in the national park during my visit.
Last month on a visit to Sydney, I timed my arrival to coincide with my grandson’s 10th birthday party. I arrived about ten minutes before the guests started descending on the small park near Chatswood, a suburb of Sydney near where my son and his family live. It had been threatening to rain all morning, and the preceding few days had been quite wet. The children present at the party were all keen to get out and play. No amount of rain would deter them as we found out later.
While some games on the grass were underway, my attention was diverted from the children and their enthusiastic pursuits. A small flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos had flown in to a nearby part of the park. I slowly moved closer to get some photos of them on my phone. I just did not feel like walking all the way to the car to get my camera. The flock can be seen in the photo below, but I was more interested in the two birds in the photo above. They ignored me getting closer and closer. They appear to be whispering to each other in a quite romantic way. (Forgive me; it is the “story-teller” in me writing this.)
In reality, they are just preening each other’s feathers, something most parrots do regularly. In fact, all birds indulge in preening on a regular basis. Preening helps to keep the feathers clean and tidy, which in turn assists in flight and their general health and well-being. So, while I may have thought that this pair was being all loving to one another, what they are doing is actually very practical help.
I recently went with my son and grandson to Little Athletics at the Rotary Athletics Field, Lane Cove, Sydney. On many occasions when I am in Sydney visiting my family, I have enjoyed seeing my grandson compete in the various events. He is quite talented and has even reached competing at the state level.
During the morning’s events, I made a note of all the bird species seen or heard. I have done this on most occasions on our visits to this athletics ground. On this occasion, all of the events had finished and the equipment was being packed away. My grandson and I bought some food for lunch from the barbecue which is provided every week and we were sitting on a nearby picnic ground adjacent the track. A Masked Lapwing flew in and landed only metres from where we sat. People were heading to their cars and it was quite unconcerned by their presence.
The bird actually came up to within a metre of where I was sitting. I am not sure if it wanted me to share some of my sausage or bun or was expecting some worms to fall out of my lunch. It hung around until I was finished eating and I managed to get my phone out of my pocket and take the photo above. No zoom needed – it was very close.
A little further off near the barbecue area, someone dropped a sausage on the footpath. It was only there for a few seconds until two Laughing Kookaburras swooped down from the nearby trees to grab the sausage. My grandson and I were amused by what happened next. The kookaburra picked up the sausage and proceeded to bang it on the ground, either to “kill” it or to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.
This incident reminds me of another occasion on a visit to the nearby Lane Cove National Park where we experienced some lunch snatching kookaburras.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.