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:


Miner Fall.

Walking to Yagoona Railway Station through O’Neill Park, I happened upon this tiny fellow.

He had obviously fallen from the nest. I doubt that his parents had been trying to move him to a fledging branch – he looked too young, and could barely keep his eyes open.

As I got close to him to take photos, I was surprised that there was absolutely no alarm calls or swooping from his parents or extended family. I took that to mean that they had given up on him as a lost cause.

I couldn’t bear to leave him to the local cats, so I lifted him to a low branch – from where he promptly fell to the ground again.

When I lifted him to a higher and wider branch, he sat there happily enough. It was only at this point that his family began to make a commotion.
Had they previously considered him beyond any help – but now that he was off the ground and relatively safe, did they start to believe he could now be saved?
I like to think so…


The Kooka, the Butcher, the Miner.

A Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) spent some time scoping out food in the backyard:

He hopped to the ground to retrieve a slice of meat dropped by the cats. .

After a while, a Grey Butcher-bird (Cracticus torquatus) decided the Kooka had out-stayed his welcome.

And some Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala) agreed.

The situation developed into a three-way brawl:

The Kookaburra didn’t need this grief! He moved off to the next house north… but once there, roused the ire of even more Miners…


Eastern Block.

The Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) is a quiet, wary, mid-sized parrot common in eastern Australia from south-east Queensland to eastern South Australia (with sub-species extending south into Tasmania, and further north to north Queensland).
They inhabit lightly-treed forests, forest edges, open parks and grasslands, and are right at home in suburban gardens and wildlife corridors.
They will forage in trees (particularly eucalypts) for insects, flowers and nectar, but are more usually seen feeding quietly on the ground, on grass and fallen seeds. This guy was feeding in the grounds of Concord Hospital.

The Eastern Rosella is perhaps the most colourful and distinctly-marked bird in Australia. Its red head, white cheeks and beak, yellow lower breast fading to green on the abdomen, dark green tail and bluish wings and lateral tail-feathers make it absolutely unmistakable. Their black wing-feathers fringed with yellow-green make for an effective camouflage pattern however, and they can be surprisingly hard to spot in foliage and long grass.

Eastern Rosellas nest in tree-hollows, ideally a metre deep and preferably in eucalypts. However, they are relatively enthusiastic users of nest-boxes and other artificial sites as well.
I recently came across this couple scoping out every possible nook and cranny in a suburban house in West Ryde.
The female chooses and prepares the nesting site, and this lady was leaving no crack or gap uninvestigated:

I assume this is the male looking on from the fence…

Even this claustrophobic gap was inspected. I’m thinking that if Easterns are being forced to consider spaces like this, perhaps we need to build or buy one or two Eastern-specific nest boxes.

Eastern Rosellas face competition for more than just hollows. The Noisy Miners’ diet is essentially the same as the Easterns’. Plus Noisy Miners are just inherently belligerent!

And finally, a handful of Eastern Rosellas we saw on a trip to Cowra and environs in 2020.


Heat and Dust.

When we first saw these local Noisy Miners lying prostrate on the ground we thought they were injured. But it soon became apparent they were sunning.
Noisy Miners are among the cleanliest of birds. Few species enjoy bathing as regularly as Noisies, and they can often been seen indulging in dust baths as well.
Rarer to see is their habit of sunning: deliberately fanning and ruffling their feathers to maximize the exposure to sunlight.
The Miners seem to enter a slight torpor when they do this – remaining still and becoming a little more approachable than usual.

There are many theories as to why birds do this: to warm themselves up, to kill off or drive away parasites, to generate vitamin D, or maybe simply because they find it pleasurable.
In possible support of the “pleasure” theory, our Miners suddenly went into a frenzy! Six or seven birds began to violently jostle for the best positions – or perhaps it was just high-spirited play as a part of their downtime from feeding and defending their territories.
Apologies for the out of focus photos here – but it really was a fast-moving skirmish!

This guy could only watch the melee around him:

This bird perhaps illustrates best just how flat to the ground they get, and how splayed and ruffled they make their plumage.

This bird was lucky enough to get the prized location that had the best supply of dust as well, and he happily kicked it up about himself:


Minor Miners.

Noisy, territorial, aggressive, and a little too successful, the Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) is not one of Australia’s favourite natives. Part of their success is their prolific breeding, which can take place at any time of the year, when conditions are most favourable. Around our area, the soundtrack for the first two weeks of September has been one of plaintive, squeaky begging as the Miner chicks gradually fledge. It can be easy to forget, but all those bullish, noisy Noisies were once small, fluffy, hungry, sleepy chicks.

Their nest – built solely by the female – is usually in moderately dense foliage on a lower branch – often as low as 2-3 metres (or just high enough to make a shortish photographer stretch uncomfortably on tip-toe!)

When the nest gets too small to comfortably hold the chicks, they are moved out onto a branch – quite often in a different tree. We have not been lucky enough to witness this procedure yet, so we are not sure exactly how it is accomplished. They seem to sit on the “fledging branch” for another few days, and continue to be fed by the parents.

A parent appeared to feed the chicks:

In a West Ryde laneway a day later we spotted this family. The three chicks (one sat a little way off so we couldn’t get him in shot) seem to be almost ready to takes to the skies. They are the most advanced chicks we have seen that were still being fed on their nursery branch.


Fight! Fight! Fight!

Inter-species altercations at the local park.

These Galahs were quietly grazing., under the watchful gaze of their alpha-male:

A youthful Magpie wanted to search for food in the same patch:

Tensions escalated:

The face-off got serious as the combatants rounded on each other, sizing each other up…

Then it was ON!

The Magpie’s mates watched on, but didn’t weigh in…

The pair then took it in turns to adopt a “running-away” strategy…

Later, in the carpark….