Most Ingenious ParraDucks.

The word on the street was there were 13 newly-hatched ducklings on the Parramatta River in the area around Buttons Bridge. This we had to check out. After spotting them on the western bank the day before, we returned the next day with camera to find them on the eastern bank. No apologies for the number of photos, but strap in for an epic. It was cuteness overload!

The Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) is a medium-sized grazing duck native to Australia. It is the only living member of the genus Chenonetta (New Zealand’s Finsch’s Duck – Chenonetta finschi – became extinct in the 1870s).
It is widespread throughout Australia, apart from the extreme tropics and the most arid parts of the interior.

Most bird guides state that 9 to 11 eggs are laid, but we have seen figures that suggest 14 to 17 is common. There have been reports of a brood of 30, but it is unclear whether this was due to “Creching”. All 13 of these little ones are in this shot:

The ducklings were achingly cute:

The lesson today seemed to be getting into and out of the water in difficult locations. The female led the ducklings to part of the bank with a stonewall drop of a couple of metres, and they stood around in some trepidation.

Through a tragic fluke of inattention, I missed the mass jump into the water, but all 13 brave ducklings made it without incident!

The handsome couple took their charges on a swim across the river….

The siblings all stuck pretty tightly together…

Then it was an about-face, and a swim back…

Mum led the ducklings downstream under the bridge. She had a test in mind.

She led them a slightly challenging exit point, and left them to it:

One duckling made it fairly quickly and joined Mum on the bank:

A few resolute kids stuck at it for a while, giving it all they had:

Mum called them on….

…and a few more determined kids made it up :

The remainder considered their options, and whether through a flash of inspiration, or from some clue from the mother’s calls, they made their way back upstream to an easier landing place:

Mum guided them the rest of the way:

Further foraging cuteness ensued:

Fed, and tired after their ordeal, the ducklings joined their mother on a warm dry mound of twigs for a sleep:

One by one they squeezed themselves in and around her:

Believe it or not – this is a photo of 14 Australian Wood Ducks!

So wonderful to see these behaviours first-hand in an urban green space like Parramatta Park.


Lutino Rainbow.

Walking the backstreets of Pearl Beach, Central Coast NSW, we happened to spot a yellow flash land in a yellow banksia. We thought that maybe the sun had just caught a Rainbow Lorikeet at a strange angle, but as we came nearer, we were amazed to see it was a rare “Lutino” Rainbow Lorikeet!

Being unprepared, and with the sun at a bad angle, the photos are not among our best, but sightings of these birds in the wild are rare enough to warrant us posting them.

Unlike the Yellow Morph King Parrot (refer Hello Yellow Jan 2, 2022), the Lutino mutation in Rainbow Lorikeets is not a naturally occurring one. It originated about 20 years ago when breeders crossed an extremely rare naturally-mutated Lutino Scaly-breasted Lorikeet with a Rainbow Lorikeet. Since then breeders have been refining the mutation in Rainbows.

So we can only assume this guy is an escaped pet. Given that there is a breeding aviary that specializes in colour-mutated Lorikeets on the Central Coast of NSW, our mate here may well have staged a break-out from there! He was in the company of a handful of other Rainbow Lorikeets, and seems happy enough feeding himself in the wild, so we don’t think there is any cause for concern.

Birds Mammals Reptiles

Sydney Zoo.

Sydney Zoo was opened in 2015 in western Sydney. Bramanda visited and spent far too much time watching the Otters. But here are some of the other wonderful animals we saw.

Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus)

The beautiful African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus):

Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

Giraffes (Giraffo camelopardalis)

African Lion (Panthera leo)

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

The Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens) were sadly very reclusive on our visit:

The Tufted Capuchins (Cebus apella)

The Sacred Baboons (Papio hamadryas)

A sleepy Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)…

…and other sleepy critters!

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)

The Kangaroo Island Kangaroo (Macropus Fulginosus fulginosus)

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus)

And for the bird-lovers, portraits of the Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

And finally, we compared the Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)


Back in Blax.

On a visit to Amanda’s parents in Blaxland, we spotted a lovely Grey Shrike-Thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) in their backyard, before we headed out on a walk.

A Crimson Rosella:

An Eastern Spinebill:

There were many Eastern Yellow Robins around, but they were so flitty, and the bush so thick, that photography was a frustrating business:

But the real darling of the day was the Grey Shrike-Thrush.
We have read that this bird is considered one a Australia’s best songsters, and reports are that he has hundreds if not thousands of songs – which is really annoying: he was totally silent all the time he was in earshot of us! Next time.

For all their cuteness and their reputation as masterful songbirds, they are also notorious predators of other birds’ eggs and chicks.


Short Stint at Long Reef.

On a day when we visited North Curl Curl Beach and Long Reef Headland, we saw a lot of birds, including three species we’d never snapped before.
At North Curl Curl, a Little Black Cormorant was being photogenic in the distance:

Willie Wagtails like to hang around the rocks and the pool at North Curl Curl:

This Australasian Darter was minding his own business when an Australian Raven took exception to his choice of perch:

The Ravens arrived in numbers, and ructions ensued:

The Darter decided it wasn’t worth the hassle:

The usual suspects like New Holland Honeyeaters, Little Wattlebirds, Superb Fairy Wrens, Indian Mynas and Crested Doves were all in evidence.

At Long Reef headland, we saw a Nankeen Kestrel hovering and diving on the wind:

Two Eastern Ospreys were also on the headland, keeping an eye out for fish:

Out on the rock platform, we saw the familiar sight of Sooty Oystercatchers, with those bills that always look to big for them to fly with:

Then Dave Noble, also at Long Reef that day, pointed out to us the Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes), the first time we had encountered this handsome migratory shorebird, that nests in Siberian riverbeds and travels to the southern hemisphere for the Northern winter. By all reports, they tend to leave Australian by early to mid-April to return North, so we were probably very lucky to see these in April.

This one foraged closer to the edge of the rock platform, where the chop made for some interesting water shots:

As the shadows began to lengthen, we spotted this string of birds flying low over the platform:

When they alighted we were able to get a few shots. At first we thought they were two parents and some chicks. But we soon realised the size difference was due to the fact they are two separate species that just enjoy each other’s company! This was our first encounter with both species.

The larger of these is the Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicintus), a migrant from South Island New Zealand who can be found all along the southern and eastern coasts of Australia from February to August. These are in their non-breeding plumage – when breeding they have a double band across the chest, one chestnut one black.

The smaller of these birds is the Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis). Like the Grey-tailed Tattler, they migrate from Siberia too. They are usually identified by being the smallest common bird amongst Australian wader flocks.


Some Birds of Bowen Mountain.

After a boozy lunch at Karu Distillery with a good friend (where I focused so much on the award-winning chipotle vodka that I couldn’t focus on the birds), Bramanda visited our friend’s beautiful Bowen Mountain hideaway, where some lovely birds graced us with their presence.

The Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) were very sociable:

The light was fading fast (it had been a longish lunch!), but some members of the Columbidae family (Pigeons and Doves) that we had not previously photographed turned up to forage. This is a Wonga Pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca)

One of the Currawongs needed some late-afternoon hydration:

Then, a pretty bird we did not recognize at the time, but which we’ve since identified as the Brown Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia phaisanella)

We are not sure if this guy is a Common Bronzewing, or a Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans). I’m leaning towards it being a Brush Bronzewing, due to the particularly rufous forehead, and the fact that in our bird guide, the wing iridescence is painted more brightly, like this guy here. May just be a trick of the light though:

And there were also some very attractive domesticated birds in our friend’s garden as well:

But the stars of the show were the Brown Cuckoo-Doves. Though they have a reputation of being difficult to spot in the forest, they posed quite happily for us.


Olive Branch.

While at Lime Kiln Bay Wetlands, we spotted an Olive-backed Oriole in heavy shadow.

We’ve read that the Olive-backed Oriole’s call of “Orree, Orree, Oriole” is almost always heard before he is spotted, but we did not hear a call at all from this male. He was however making a lot of noise is his hunt for grubs.

He caught a very fat grub in this tree (sorry – photos of that moment were not successful), and he drew our attention to the nest we had walked beneath without spotting only a moment before.

The female builds the nest – cup-shaped in a horizontal fork, made from bark, leaves and twigs bound with spider’s webs, and she incubates the eggs.

It is the male that takes on feeding duties. Dad commenced to try to feed this enormous grub to one of his two chicks (sorry again – it’s not real pretty!)

The second chick seemed to miss out on this occasion:

Whilst present in Northern Australia year-round, the Olive-backed Oriole visits South-Eastern Australia in Spring and Summer to breed, nesting in forests, rainforests or well-treed urban areas like Lime Kiln Bay.

Birds Walk

Hello Yellow.

We journeyed to Dangar Island, a small (31 hectare) forested island in the Hawkesbury River in Sydney’s north, to try to find the rare Yellow-morph of the Australian King Parrot.
After a lovely breakfast at the island’s only cafe, we took a circuit of the island – a walk of 3.2 kilometres. We obviously chose the wrong direction, as we had all but arrived back at our starting point before we found our target.

The male Australian King Parrot’s wings are normally a rich dark green:

Bird experts believe that a genetic condition called Leucism is what makes the feathers of some birds more pale (or even white). The population on Dangar Island has this genetic condition – locals tell us there are a number of yellow-morphs on the island. One local told us she has seen four, another reckons about half the males have the morph.
We have seen photos of other yellow-morphs where the condition even affects the bright red of the head, but on the guy we found that is clearly not the case.

Here is a comparison of the yellow-morph male and a “normal” male:

Another male was feeding in the same area. (The two had a brief altercation, but nothing serious).

The females that we saw did not seem to exhibit any abnormal colouration:

We were very pleased to get so many shots of a Yellow-morph.

Dangar Island is listed on a number of sites as a “birding hotspot”. On this visit, however, apart from the excitement of the Yellow-morph, we found it to be a bit of a birding NOT spot. Very few other species appeared – and none that were not common all over Sydney.

Dangar Island itself is an interesting place. It has a population of approximately 300 (which swells in Summer holidays), and is Sydney’s only private-car-free suburb (there is a fire-truck and a Council ute).
Judging solely by the residents’ houses and gardens, there seems to be a bit of a bohemian vibe on Dangar:

What sort of bird lives in this nest?


Cook’s Tour.

The Cook’s River Cycleway is one of those underrated Sydney classics: a 30km mostly off-road cycle path (give or take, and depending on where you consider the start and the end), that wends its way between many different landscapes – from industrial wastelands to landscaped parklands and Casuarina groves, mostly hugging one of Australia’s most polluted rivers! At times ugly and smelly, at times beautiful. Very Sydney!

On a strangely cool December day, Bramanda rode about half of it, and saw quite a few birds.

Starting with a mystery: we confess… we don’t know who this is. We would love it if anyone could reply with a identification of this bird.

Australian Pied Cormorants and Australian Pelicans were using the inflatable pollution booms as a lilo:

Magpie-lark Dad was showing his two fledglings how to forage in the mud, but they were noisily more intent on being fed, rather than learning to feed themselves:

A family of Australian Wood Ducks:

This fluffy young Pied Currawong was also being shown the ropes by a parent:

A pair of sleepy, fledgling Noisy Miner siblings hunkered together for warmth in the cool breeze. It made me sleepy just watching them:

At Boat Harbour (a tiny man-made dock that once served the historic sugar-mill) a pair of Tawny Frogmouths were roosting. We had heard that this family of Frogmouths were something of a fixture at Boat Harbour, so we were pleased to spot them on our visit.

At Beaman Park, a flock of Eastern Rosellas was feeding:

In Gough Whitlam Park, a Little Pied Cormorant dried his wings and was none too happy that I had interrupted him:

Also in Gough Whitlam Park, we happened upon this lovely Striated Heron, waiting for passing fish. As is always the way when we encounter Striated Herons, we spent ages here in the hope of him doing his “amazing telescopic neck” thing… sadly no luck this time:

Even though the fish were tiny by his standards – we’ve seen Striateds deal with much bigger catches – he seemed to be catching enough to make it worthwhile:


Honey Dippers.

The Lewin’s Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) is usually quite a dapper looking bird. But when this pair took it in turns to bathe, they got themselves looking uncharacteristically bedraggled. I guess nobody looks their best straight out of the bath!

The Lewin’s Honeyeater will eat nectar, and pick insects out of the bark of trees, but has a very sweet tooth and likes nothing more than fruit. Reportedly they favour bananas when they can get them.
Their call has been described as a “machine-gun rattle”.
This one dropped down to the bird-bath in preparation:

Their ablutions could only be described as “frenetic”: