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:


Cockatoo Gulls.

Not a weird Cacatuidae-Laridae hybrid, rather the predominant birds on Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour.
Cockatoo Island is a sacred site for the women of the Dharug Nation, but under European rule has been a Penal Settlement and a Naval Shipyard. Nowadays it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, tourist attraction, glamping hotspot, and hosts exhibitions and festivals.
The elegant decay of the heavy industrial area is a magnet for photographers, but there is not a lot to offer the bird-lover. Silver Gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) are by far the most common bird here.

We visited hoping to get shots of gulls and chicks on the nest. Many years ago we were on the island when the chicks had arrived, and back in those days, you could get quite close to them. It seems like there have been a few incidences of gulls becoming overly aggressive towards humans around breeding season in the past few years however. Authorities have taken drastic measures to limit the number and location of possible nesting areas – which is a bit of a pity.
In any case, we were too early this time. No chicks were evident, but there was much fighting and squabbling over mates and potential nest sites. It was a day of raucous squawking!

Rock Doves (Columbia livia) are of course also on the island:

An Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides):

An Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus) flew over:

Nearly all of the best cliff-edge and cliff-top nesting areas have been netted off by the Island authorities, so competition is fierce. Now there are hardly any nest-sites, just nets-sites!

The layout of the island is such that the central plateau allows one to get up quite high and overlook the action below. This makes for some nice shots of gulls in flight:

Fitzroy Dock is a favourite area of the Silver Gulls, where they can bathe and sun themselves:

Familiarity breeds contempt… Silver Gulls are so common, and so rowdy and argumentative that we think many people overlook how handsome they really are.


Birds of Taronga 2.

Album Two of just some of the birds we saw in the aviaries of Taronga Zoo.
After a year or more of taking wild bird photos, it was a strange feeling to be editing photos of birds in captivity. Whilst all zoos – and Taronga in particular – do outstanding and invaluable work in research and conservation, and while the caged habitats they provide for their birds are definitely state of the art, we felt a slight poignancy with every photo of a bird with a ring around its leg. These were the first such photos we’ve taken.
That said, it was such a privilege to get up close to birds that we would never have a chance of even glimpsing from afar in the wild.

The beautiful Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii):

In the Wetlands Aviary were many Java Sparrows (Lonchura oryzivora). These birds are also called Java Finches and Java Rice Birds. They are endemic to Indonesia, but have been introduced to many other countries, due to their popularity as cage birds.

Still in the wetlands, a male Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae), native to South-West China and Northern Myanmar. The female is much less showy.

The Metallic Starling (Aplonis metallica) lives in coastal Mid- to Far – North Queensland. Its plumage has a metallic purple and green iridescence (not apparent in these pictures), and its eye is a distinctive scarlet.

The Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus)… first time we have ever noticed the blue coloration in the bill

The Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus) is smaller and less stocky than the more common Satin Bowerbird. The male is jet black and yellow, the female mainly grey-brown. Their bower is constructed out of grass but is flimsier than the Satin Bowerbird’s, and is generally only maintained for a few weeks. Another way to identify the Regent Bowerbird’s bower is that his collected ornaments are inside the avenue, whereas the Satin Bowerbird decorates around the outside of his bower.

In the Palm Aviary we spotted the Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla). This bird is found throughout South East Asia, India, China, Nepal the Philippines and even Hawaii. This one pictured here seems to have some sort of growth around its head, more pronounced on the left. He was being very secretive, keeping well in the shadows and hiding behind foliage whenever possible. The only usable shots we got was when he stopped for a drink.

A wide variety of ducks call Taronga home. Amongst them, the Wandering Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arcuata)…

…this type…

…and this one! (any help with identification gratefully received).

… and Australian Wood Ducks.

A Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) with the yellow “eyebrows”and red central forehead dot that indicates this one is in breeding mode.

A Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), we believe…

and Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor):

And finally, the Black-breasted Button Quail (Turnix melanogaster). Reportedly extremely furtive in the wild, they will freeze or hide when disturbed and are seldom flushed out. The pair we found in the Australian Rainforest Aviary seemed quite happy to forage right by the path edge and were well aware we were watching.


Nth Curl Curl / Long Reef.

Though we watched the Fairy Terns for quite a while, we saw a lot more of interest on our trip to the beach.
A pair of Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis).

A Fairy Tern

A beautifully painted – and timely – warning on the clifftop (artist unknown):

On the walk out to Long Reef Headland, we came upon a noisy juvenile Eastern Koel (Eudynamys orientalis).

Formerly the Common Koel, and sometimes called the Pacific Koel, or colloquially Storm Bird, the noisy, glossy black adult male is seen more regularly. Adult females and juveniles are more buff / brown with fine barring on the chest and underparts. They are a type of cuckoo, and the eggs are laid in the nests of other species.
The juveniles can be conspicuous, because they will beg stridently for food from their foster parents. Here, we believe we captured a Koel being fed a cicada by its Red Wattlebird “parent”:

Out on the rock platform, many Silver Gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae).

A few Sooty Oystercatchers (Haematopus fuliginosus):

Also Pelicans and Crows: