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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Exploring Sydney - and further afield. (5 Viewers)

Nocturnal mammals at West Head
13 January 2024

My birding mate Murray, who is also into mammals and herps invited me to join him at WestHead in Ku-Ring Gai National Park to look for snakes and nocturnal mammals. Murray ahas a good quality infra red night scope, which dramatically raises the potential for finding wildlife at night. Indeed my first and only Australian Owlet Nightjar was found by Murray back in March 2023 at spot that is a kilometre or so from my place in Northbridge.

Our evening started well as we heard White-throated Nightjar calling close to the gate where West Head Rd meets General San Martin Rd at Coal and Candle Creek. Be warned that the gate restricts road access after 8:30pm, and we saw one car waiting around an hour to be released by the security guard. While the bubbling call is diagnostic we didn't the nightjar so I won't count it as the lifer it would be. We walked around 3km along the road, and apart from an abortive attempt to find the tiny Red-crowned Toadlet that was calling in a tiny stream bed that served only to feed us to a particularly rapacious species of mosquito we picked up good numbers of Grey-faced Flying Foxes feeding on flowering Red Gums and around ten Eastern Pygmy Possums, most of which we feeding on Banksias. It was great to see so many of what is not an easy animal to see.

DSC02507 Eastern Pygmy Possum @ West Head bf.jpeg DSC02512 Eastern Pygmy Possum @ West Head bf.jpeg

On the way back we followed good directions from a trio of students to find a Diamond Python hanging out of a tree looking for all the world like it was waiting for a Pygmy Possum to mistake it for a branch. An Australian Owlet Nightjar called close to our turning point, but like the White-throated Nightjar also remained unseen.

DSC02546 Diamond Python @ West Head  bf.jpeg DSC02542 Diamond Python @ West Head bf.jpeg

The final highlight was a wonderful Sugar Glider feeding at eye level on the sap of a small forked branch right by the roadside. It paused just long enough for one decent shot before disappearing into the darkness. We did also add single Brush-tailed and Ring-tailed Possums, but these did not pose well and you'll have to revert to the linked post from March last year if you want to see a pic.

DSC02553 Sugar Glider @ West Head bf.jpeg

According to Murray this was a reasonable but not outstanding haul - others have recently seen two good snakes - Bandy Bandy and Death Adder here - but It was nonetheless an enjoyable evening.

Filthy Twitching: Black-necked Storks at MacPherson Swamp, Wyong
25 February 2024

DSC03077 Black-necked Stork @ Macpherson Swamp bf.jpeg
Yesterday I made what I think is now my fourth visit to look for Black-necked Storks in the Central Coast Wetlands. On my last visit I failed but found compensation in my first Striped Honeyeaters. The storks are not always present - they breed elsewhere and seem to wander in and out of the area with no fixed schedule. Having bumped into hardcore seabird and whale photographer Sam at Long Reef the day beef (more of that anon) and heard that the birds had been present yesterday and for several consecutive days before that I took an early train.

As with my last visit I caught the 26 bus to McPherson Road Swamp, and once again the driver kindly let me out at the junction of Johnson Rd and Gavenlock Road that would save me a few minutes walk (the no 26 bus route map is here) to the swamp. A noisily singing Little Wattlebird accompanied by three or four others and a couple of Red Wattlebirds were in the melaleucas on the corner, where I also picked up a couple of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, a Sacred Kingfisher and a male Satin Bowerbird along with an Australian Magpie and a couple of Australian Ravens.

I picked up three of the Black-necked Storks - a golden-eyed female and two sooty-brown juveniles from the watch point on the northern edge of the marsh. The youngsters were hunkered down on the edge of the water about 80 metres away and the female slowly made her way along the same edge and then headed southwards and out of sight through the reeds. Knowing there was another stretch of open water there from a previous visit I followed the firetrap along the southern edge and scored big as the female posed beautifully beneath a massive grass tuft. These were my closest views. Unfortunately the bird spooked as I climbed up the bank behind me to have a clearer view and flew over to what seemed to be a familiar loafing spot at the western edge of the marsh. Disappointing though this was I was able to scope the wire and was delighted to watch a dark-eyed male fly in from the direction of Pioneer Dairy and land next to her.

DSC03087 Black-necked Stork @ Macpherson Swamp bf.jpeg
DSC03105 Black-necked Stork @ McPherson Rd Swamp bf.jpeg
Even better the youngsters had made their way in the same direction and from my new vantage point on the corner of Freshwater Road I was able to watch all four birds within a thirty metres radius before the female took off, made a loop of the marsh and having gained enough height drifted off inland to the west, allowing wonderful views of the broad dark covert band on the otherwise pure white upperwing and underwing. The flight shots also show the scapulars and tail are black.So, finally, I nailed what had become one of my most wanted birds, and was only a little disappointed that the Plumed Whistling Ducks, which had also been present for a few days, had moved on overnight.

DSC03070 Black-necked Stork @ Macpherson Swamp bf.jpeg DSC03090.jpeg

I was pleasantly surprised when I put the eBird checklist together to learn I had managed a solid 42 species from this site alone.

A nice extra bonus was finding this adult Brahminy Kite perched on one of the vertical poles just off shore from Hawkesbury River station in Brooklyn, which is right on the boundary of the Sydney Local Government Area - the city boundary for city listers. A proper old-school record shot through the train window confirmed all the key features of this easily identified bird.

DSC03065 Brahminy Kite @ Brooklyn bf.jpeg
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DSC02021 Tilly @ Long Reef Glf Course bf.jpeg

Long Reef Golf Course and Aquatic Reserve
January & February 2023

I'm long overdue to post on a series of visits to Long Reef Golf Course and Aquatic Reserve that began with a failed twitch to find a Bush Stone Curlew at Palm Beach with Veeraj Sharma on 21st February. We did better at Long Reef when I outrageously called a distant, dark, slightly-low-in-the-water, blob on one of the golf course ponds as the Musk Duck that had been on Dee Why Lagoon for a few days. So we got the scope on it, and it turned out that that was exactly what it was - a cool 660 metres away on a pond with Coots and Dusky Moorhens!

DSC02629 Musk Duck @ Long Reef golf course bf.jpeg

After visiting the reef and not seeing too much unexpected except for a flyover Eastern Curlew and a few Crested Terns flying past carrying sand eels we went back and got some great views and decent shots of the Musk Duck as it foraged in a pond on which it stayed for a good six weeks, always giving good views and, over time, progressively better photos.

DSC02592 Musk Duck @ Long Reef golf course bf.jpeg DSC02653 Musk Duck @ Long Reef golf course bf.jpeg
DSC02998 Musk Duck @ Long Reef Golf Course bf.jpeg DSC03018 Musk Duck @ Long Reef Golf Course bf.jpeg

I can't fully articulate why but I found this bird absolutely fascinating. It looked so different in every light, sometimes all-dark sometimes capped, sleek as quicksilver as it emerged from a dive and scruffy-haired when drying off on a windy day. And always that massive heavy conk of a bill and that stiffly spiky tail - very much the prehistoric photo duck. And this is just the female. I absolutely can't wait to get close to a fully dew lapped male in all his glory!

DSC02626 Musk Duck @ Long Reef Golf Course.jpeg
This was far from the only good bird on the golf course. A Latham's Snipe has over-summered and frustratingly always flushes from the same 30 metres stretch of bank on the same pond without me ever getting a look at it on the deck. The same ponds provide a convenient a rather decorative roost for all five species of cormorant-ish birds (Pied, Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorants, plus Australasian Darter). The Great Cormorants are less posey and like a floating platform in the pond that Australian Pelicans also use sometimes.

DSC03049 Cormorant roost @ Long Reef Golf Course bf.jpeg
DSC02987 Great & Little Black Cormorants @ Long Reef Golf Course bf.jpeg

My favourite is the Australian Darter, which is really the Wryneck of the piscivore world, with a neck that twists and bends at all kinds of weird angles. This one is in the Cormorant roost, but they're equally happing sharing a street light with an Australian Pelican or bickering over a radio mast with all comers - The Australian Raven is clearly in no doubt that he could be impaled from any angle if it pushes its luck.

DSC02994 Australasian Darter @ Long Reef bf.jpeg DSC02981 Australian Darter @ Long Reef Golf Course bf.jpeg
DSC02948 Aus Darter, Aus Raven & LP Cormorant @ Long Reef.jpeg DSC02955 Aus Darter & Aus Pelican @ Long Reef bf.jpeg

More to come

Long Reef Golf Course and Aquatic Reserve II
January & February 2023

The main reason for several subsequent visits was to seawatch during the southerly and southwesterly winds. This was a bit of a mixed bag, with lots of passage of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in the hundreds and even thousands with a steering of faster and whippier and less shearing Short-tailed Shearwaters, plus single digits of pale-bellied Fluttering Sheawaters. There were also couple of brown-spotted juvenile Australian Gannets.

On 28 Jan
I was please to pick up my first Little Tern at this site amongst 251 Greater Crested Terns, which felt like birds that thad bred elsewhere returning with their youngsters, nd even better an adult Kelp Gull was my first since moving to Australia .

On 8 February I was chuffed to pick up single White-capped and Black-browed Albatrosses, and on 24 February a seawatch with Michael Ronan delivered us each a Streaked Shearwater. This was very much a target bird for me and while they were both pretty distant I did at least get white on the belly on both and white underwings on my bird which was a little closer. I also had three Arctic Skuas going through before Michael arrived.

Despite all these good birds I missed out on a good deal more - with adult Red-tailed Tropicbird being seen a couple of times, (including flying over Long Reef Golf Course!), plus Buller's Shearwater, White-headed, White Necked and Gould's Petrels. While this is a bit frustrating, I t also leaves me plenty to look for.

Northbridge Patch Birding
January - March 2024

DSC03340 Maned Ducks & Australasian Grebes @ Northbridge Golf Course bf.jpeg

Having steamed out to 96 species in less than five months, my patch birding settled into a quieter pattern in the first three of months of 2024. It mostly took the form of walks round the golf course and Tunks Park, with occasional forays to other nearby walking trails.

One reason I enjoy patch birding is the close connection to individual birds that you don’t get from going further afield. My star performers were:
  • the juvenile Powerful Owls that continued to call all the way through into the first week of March, sometimes very close to the house. I've seen one just once - a bird sleeping through the day high in a tree. I also found and separately heard an adult hooting close to the bridge at the top end of Tunks Park - on the same night I also head my first Australian Boobook since December. The boobooks are clearly getting frisky as I heard them almost every night for another two weeks afterwards.
  • A single parent family of five tiny Maned Ducks that were successfully raised by their dad after the female was eaten by a predator back in December. It's also been fun to see a second family with two youngsters that fledged three or more months later, and are now following the same perilous path towards maturity. The golf course ponds are currently attracting a regular flock of 21 birds.
  • The ponds have also attracted back a young male Hardhead, and briefly this week a mature adult. Up to 4 were here in September/October last year, so it was good to see this species reappear in the third week of February.
  • The Australasian Grebe had awesome
  • And to round off the duck news, the pair of Chestnut Teals reappeared for a day the first time since the end of December.
DSC03355 Hardhead @ Northbridge Golf Course.jpeg DSC03131 Australasian Grebe @ Northbridge Golf Course bf.jpeg

I was pleased to pick repeat views of a couple of scarcer raptors:
  • Upgrading my White-bellied Sea Eagle from a juvenile at Castle Cove in the wider Willoughby eBird reporting area to a pristine adult over the golf course and then both birds together soaring over Clive Park before heading off towards the Spit on 13 Feb.
  • A slow fly-by from just my second Square-tailed Kite, that was moulting its primaries and outer tail feathers.
  • A second Osprey also appeared at Tunks Park one evening in late January.
  • I've also had a couple of near misses with a possible Peregrine and Australian Hobby on two different days.

DSC03158 Willy Wagtail @ Northbridge Golf Course bf.jpeg DSC03167 Willie Wagtail @ Northbridge Golf Course bf.jpeg

Other Irregular visitors included a trio of Dollarbirds that appeared on the bare trees above Sailors Bay Creek in February and more recently an ever-fabulous Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo wandered in for a couple of days. A juvenile Willie Wagtail that showed on the golf course was just my second or third, and I also enjoyed a new high count of 52 Australian Ibises that appeared on the golf course in early March.

DSC03172 Australian Ibis @ NorthBridge Golf Course bf.jpeg

The one addition to my patch list was a Spangled Drongo (97) that flew about a metre in front of my nose on the path down from the men's shed to the golf course on 5th March. Other good birds have been an invasion of Musk Lorikeets that included over 80 on the golf course and just this week a gang that are feeding on a flowering gum tree at the top of my road and have been flying over and screeching occasionally.

Having just remembered that the violet-eyed female Satin Bowerbird was also I January I went back to those pix and found this fun series of a curious Red Wattlebird that was feeding in the same area, along with a couple of Olive-backed Orioles a Pacific Koel and a few Australian Figbirds.

DSC02430 Red Wattlebird @ Warner's Park Northbridge bf.jpeg
DSC02435Red Wattlebird @ Warner's Park Northbridge bf.jpeg DSC02436Red Wattlebird @ Warner's Park Northbridge bf.jpeg DSC02438 Red Wattlebird @ Warner's Park Northbridge bf.jpeg

Now I’m within touching distance of the ton I’ve been wondering what are the likeliest species to get me there. My current list is here: There are a couple of sources to pore over to figure out which three species might get me over the line. EBird's official Willoughby list is here. The Willoughby Council list, which includes the waters of Bantry Bay is here. These lists include such potential patch gold as Noisy Pitta, Little Penguin, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Pacific Baza and Black Bittern!

Based on these lists, the available habitats, and what I've seen nearby I reckon my top 5 most likely next species are:
  1. Crested Tern
  2. Peregrine
  3. Brown headed Honeyeater
  4. White-throated Treecreeper
  5. Crimson Rosella
What do you think?

Love the photo of the Ibis on the fairway apparently completely oblivious to the golfer.

As for the next patch tick, never right off something as widespread as Peregrine.
Thanks Pete - totally agree. I've had one fly past my office window a few times. This has no view of the sky. If its possible there its possible anywhere!

I had species 98 today by visiting Mowbray Park, which is on the far western side of Willoughby in the Lane Cove area. This was a rather tedious dog walk in which I dropped one of the dogs' leads and two different bagged poops and spend a stupid amount of time retracing my steps to collect them. However I did discover that Osprey nests on the floodlights at the athletics track and scored a grey phase Grey Goshawk soaring around with an angry entourage or Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and while enjoying this spectacle a pair of Crimson Rosellas quietly appeared in a low fruiting tree where I could have secured some lovely shots - except I'd left the SIM card in the computer when I downloaded my pix from what eventually toned out to be another great visit to the Central Coast. I'll be posting on that day shortly.

Northbridge Patch birding
1-3 April 2024

The thing about Peregrines is that they rarely hang around - so all it takes is to be looking the wrong way and you miss it. I'm sure I'll connect sooner rather than later Pete. No new patch birds today, but I did have a record count of 35 Maned Ducks on the golf course this morning. I also learned that it's the flowering Grey Gum trees that are bringing in the Musk Lorikeets.

I also got rewarded for taking Poncho out for a late night pitstop with walk up and walk-away views of this Australian Boobook that I photographed with my iPhone. Full disclosure, it was on 31 March, but as it was four minutes before midnight I'm squeezing it in here.

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Central Coast Farmlands: Palm Grove and Palmdale
Sunday 31 March 2024


Another productive visit to the Central Coast started with a visit to Palm Grove - the neighbouring valley to Palmdale, which receives much less coverage. It's three to four times the length of Palmdale. This was the first time I'd driven up, and this gave me the opportunity to cover a greater area. Unlike Palmdale, which rises slowly as the valley deepens, Palm Grove is flatter, but has the same mix of wooded creek line and valley slopes interspersed with open pastures.

Palm Grove and Palmdale .png

I made my first stop after seeing a Brown Cuckoo Dove perched on a roadside wire where the road passed through the woods, and I quickly found my first Yellow-throated and Large-billed Scrubwrens which came close to the road, but somehow evaded my efforts to take a decent photo. My fishing also brought in a couple of Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, some Crimson-browed Finches and Lewin's Honeyeaters, whose yammering call provided the principal soundtrack for the morning. My best birds here were a couple of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos that were feeding close to the creek, but again declined the photo op. a distant Square-tailed Kite, and fly-by Topknot and White-headed Pigeons added to the sense that the valley has plenty to offer without quite delivering on this particular day.

I did finally find a couple of White-headed Pigeons feeding in a roadside privet which were far too busy gorging to pay me much attention. The close views of the second bird revealed the green fringes to the wing coverts as well as the green patch on the back I'd seen on a previous visit to Palmdale.

DSC03427 White-headed Pigeon @ Palm Grove bf.jpeg DSC03415 White-headed Pigeon @ Palm Grove bf.jpg

Having worked hard for rather limited reward I decided to drive over to Palmdale, which has failed to disappoint on four previous visits. My main target was the spot where a wooded stream crosses under the road and sea good cover on both sides. I started well, picking up a couple of Bassian Thrushes feeding right out in the open on the roadside leaf litter, and a third bird which completely failed to make use of its beautifully cryptic plumage by standing in the middle of the tarmac road.

DSC03485 Bassian Thrush @ Palmdale bf copy.jpeg DSC03436 Bassian Thrush @ Palmdale bf.jpg

This area has been productive in the past and today was no exception, as Yellow-throated and White-browed Scrubwrens preceded a friendly flock of Red-browed Firetails that, filled like the Elephant's Child with 'satiable curtiosity, pished in to within a metre or so to ask me how I did.

DSC03466 Red-browed Firetail @ Palm Grove bf.jpeg DSC03467 Red-browed Firetail @ Palmdale bf.jpeg DSC03464 Red-browed Firetail @ Palmdale bf.jpeg

They were followed by a terrific run of birds coming in to feed on the cascade of white and red berries of a palm tree that included three Topkot Pigeons, a male Satin Bowerbird and my first Green Catbird and Eastern Shrike Tit for the Central Coast. If it had ended there that would have been quality finish for the day. But following a month-old dropped pin from my birding mate Veeraj I crossed the road and turned a rustling in the heavily shaded leaf litter first into another Yellow-throated Chat, and then looking closer as the rustling persisted, a wonderful pair of Australian Logrunners! To my delight they decided I posed no threat and continued to forage at the base of a big tree beneath some palms just a few feet away, and I was able to grab some noisy shots of both the white-throated male and his orange-breasted consort. This is a tough bird anywhere near Sydney, so I was stoked to find them so easily - and in one of my favourite birding spots. Happy days!

DSC03472 Logrunner @ Palmdale bf.jpeg DSC03481 Logrunner @ Palmdale bf.jpg

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Wianamatta and Windsor Downs
7 April 2024


Viraj Sharma and I visited a couple of the relict lowland woodlands on the Cumberland Plain after being thwarted in our plans to visit Pitt Town Lagoon and a site in the Hawkesbury catchment for Chestnut Quail Thrush, Brush Bronzewing and Painted Buttonquail by the heavy flooding in the valley caused by the heavy rains on Friday and Saturday.The Cumberland Plain has taken a hammering from housing and other development over the years and a further large tranche has also recently been lost to make way for Sydney's new airport at Badgery's Creek. These remaining stands proved to be teeming with passerines and we enjoyed a fine array across both sites.

We started at Wianamatta where a trio of Peaceful Doves flipped up from the pathside on our arrival, and the overhead trees were filled with a range of passerines that were headed by eight Black-faced Cuckooshrikes - at least half of which were juveniles with only partially formed black masks. birds in the first flocks included several Superb Fairy Wrens and Red-browed Firetails, Eastern Yellow Robins, Yellow Thornbills, numerous Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Silvereyes. Showing very briefly amongst them was a top target - my first Speckled Warbler. This attractive warbler is endemic to eastern Australia, but not at all easy to find in Sydney. I had dipped previously at Longneck Lagoon in Scheyville National Park, and was therefore delighted to connect.

DSC03511 Speckled Warbler @ Wianamatta bf.jpg

Other good passerines included numbers Grey Fantails, a nice group of Varied Sitellas and showy males of both Golden and Rufous Whistlers. This was the first time I've seen Striated and Spotted Pardalotes in the same tree. Veeraj's excellent ears picked out unseen Bell Miners and Fuscous Honeyeaters, as well as an our fist Rose Robin of the autumn, and a group of Noisy Friarbirds that eventually showed as they bounced into a treetop.

On our way out another Specked Warbler was on the path close to where we stopped to enjoy a female Black-faced Monarch and a juvenile Rufous Fantail - both rather late, but zipped oof to the left just as we heard an unidentified bird calling. As we headed round to see it I was shocked to find three more Speckled Warblers foraging on the path, and finally managed a couple of pix of the rusty-edged mini mullet and the black-speckled cinnamon-washed breast.

We made a brief and unsuccessful stop for Red-capped Robin in another part of Wianamatta, picking up what might have been the same group of Noisy Friarbirds, before heading to Windsor Downs to look for Painted Buttonquails. We dipped on them too, but I was happy to see my first Buff-rumped Thornbills which eventually gave themselves up after hiding amongst a flock of Silvereyes. The other good birds here were a trio of Fuscous Honeyeaters that had come right down to the ground to feed on emerging insects of some kind. I was surprised to see how bright the basal half of the bill of these juvenile birds as I'd clearly only ever seen dark-billed adults previously.

DSC03573 Fuscous Honeyeater @ Windsor Downs bf.jpg DSC03584 Fuscous Honeyeater @ Windsor Downs bf.JPG

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Mowbray Park, Willoughby
7 April 2024


After adding Crimson Rosella to my Willoughby list last weekend I decided to stop off for a break on my way back from birding out west. This proved to be a good move as I added Yellow-Thornbill and White-throated Treecreeper in the riverside trees above the Aboriginal Interpretation Site at the far end of the athletics track, bringing my eBird Willoughby list to 100 species. While Yellow Thornbill retains its talent for avoiding my camera, the pair of White-throated Treecreepers not only pished in and called like champions but also posed beautifully to be immortalised here on BirdForum.

DSC03607 White-throated Treecreeper @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC03613 White-throated Treecreeper @ Mowbray Park bf.JPG

While Mowbray Park is not really part of my Northbridge patch - its a 10-15 minute drive away on the other side of the district and ecologically distinct for being more of a brackish water river system that the tidal bays around Northbridge, Castle Crag and Castle Cove, Willoughby (marked by the red and white dotted line) is the closest I can manage on eBird. The map does also show how built up the district is and how important the river valley are as habitat. Mowbray Park runs in an inverted l shape from the M2 bridge on the far left, dog-legs north at Chatswood golf course and continues north along the river up to the A38 Bridge close to the Lane Cove National Park wording. The athletics track is the pale green sliver just to the east of the M2 bridge.

Willoughby - Northbridge to Mowbray Park.png

This brief hour turned out to be pretty good, not only for reaching the milestone, but for providing a nice counterpoint to highlight the difference between the birds of the Cumberland Plain with those of the mangroves and sandstone bushland of Sydney Harbour. Most notably Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill and Lewin's Honeyeaters, which had been absent this morning, were noisily apparent. I've added the female Golden Whistler that came in to inspect me on my elevated perch (title pic) while I was shooting the treecreepers, but not the Yellow-faced Honeyeaters or Eastern Spinebills that were flycatching in the trees right above the river with the Lewin's Honeyeaters.

DSC03633 Lewin's Honeyeater @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC03625 Golden Whistler @ Mowbray Park bf.jpeg

As I was unusually dog-free I even had the opportunity to lie down on the turf for some eye-level shots of the pair of Masked Lapwings that are completely unfazed by the sprinters, dog-walkers and even the discus- and javelin- throwers using the athletics field. The eBird list is here

DSC03642 Masked Lapwing @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg

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Photospot: Australian Ibis at Mowbray Park
8 April 2024


The day after bringing up the Willoughby Ton I returned to Mowbray Park to explore the river walk that heads east between the mangroves and a low-lying casuarina stand before turning north past Chatswood Golf Course. While I picked up a nice list of 31 species the outstanding highlight was a flock 185 Australian Ibises that had been roosting in various trees and dropped onto the rain-sodden meadow that was formerly part of the golf course and began feeding on a mix of earthworms and other prey items that I could not identify. Given their well-earned soubriquet of Bin Chicken It was lovely to see a good-sized flock foraging across a meadow in a scene that looks more like a safari than a scrap of habitat in a major city.

DSC03710 Australian Ibis @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC03714 Australian Ibis @ Mowbray Park bf.jpgDSC03706 Australian Ibis @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC03717 Australian Ibis @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg

The group built up slowly as more and more birds came off their roosts and swooped down to feed, some of them offering wonderful close views as they flew right by me before pitching down in the flock.

DSC03699 Australian Ibis @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg

A couple of interlopers also joined the flock. The first was a White-faced Heron that had actually been first to the muddy patch in the middle of the field and had started it all, but he second, an Australian Magpie was fooling absolutely no-one. I had been hoping that the flock might attract a flyover Straw-necked Ibis to drop in, but they are few and far between in eastern Sydney. I nonetheless remain optimistic as only a patch birder can!

DSC03685 White-faced Heron @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg

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Northern Beaches: Red Hill, Deep Creek and Long Reef
Saturday 13 April 2024

Northern Beaches Narrabeen cathcment and Long Reef.png


I decided to keep it relatively local on Saturday by birding a few areas of the Northern Beaches that are just a 30 minute drive from home. I started at Red Hill (1), which is a known site for Brush Bronzewing, which is perhaps the hardest regularly occurring pigeon to see in Sydney.

DSC03783 White-eared Honeyeater @ Red Hill bf.jpg DSC03764 Australian RAven @ Red Hill bf.jpg
DSC03736 Rainbow Lorikeet @ Red Hill bf.jpg

This is an area of relatively low bush on some pretty depleted hilltop soils. I bombed out on the bronzewings, but did enjoy connecting with my first New Holland, White-cheeked and White-eared Honeyeaters for a while, while I've never previously seen so many Little Wattlebirds as I saw round the entrance to the reserve. I also enjoyed close views of a couple of Australian Ravens whose throat hackles were as prominent as any I've ever seen.

Deep Creek, Narrabeen

DSC03793 Turtle @ Deep Creek bf.jpg
This broad-bottomed valley through which Deep Creek runs drains the streams on Red Hill, and the Slippery Dip trail where I birded in March 2023. It includes a range of habitats including grasslands between large trees and some lower trees providing deeper shade on other parts, plus scattered palms. The recent heavy rain had waterlogged substantial areas and flattened some of the grasses, but there were no signs of serious damage.

The forest held a nice range of passerines including several Grey Fantails, Golden Whistlers, Red-browed Firetails and Eastern Yellow Robins, as well as Lewin's and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a couple of Eastern Spinebills. A Scarlet Myzomela singing all but invisibly from a treetop was my ninth Honeyeater (including the two Wattlebirds) of the day. I enjoyed seeing my first Fan-tailed Cuckoos for several months, including one nicely confiding bird that checked me out from the branches of a melaleuca. The best bird here was an unseen White-headed Pigeon, which I heard while taking an unplanned detour up a side stream (3).

DSC03812 FAn-tailed Cuckoo @ Deep Creek bf.jpg DSC03796 Olive-backed Oriole @ Deep Creek bf.jpeg

I'm delighted with this shot of a Little Black Cormorant that was perched in the creek right next to the car park (2) . It had been sharing the perch with a Little Pied Cormorant that dropped into the water and began foraging close in along the bank under my feet. Other waterbirds included half a dozen Eastern Spoonbills and three or four each of Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot.

DSC03789 Little Black Cormorant @ Deep Creek bf.jpeg

More to come...

Hello Mike; for some reason I have overlooked your posting for 2 years; I have made over 20 birding trips from the UK since 1999 until the pandemic stopped play. I must catch up on back numbers asap. As a prolific poster for my local patch I value the effort that goes in; especially the photos that are very useful.
I am trying to plan another trip soon once I can convince myself that as a covid vulnerable I can sit on a plane for a day!
Many thanks Matt. Patch posting is indeed a labour of love, but I enjoy the process for helping me to recall the day in the field as I put the post together and for having a tangible record. Delighted that it may be useful too.

Northern Beaches: Red Hill, Deep Creek and Long Reef
Saturday 13 April 2024. Part II

On my way out of Deep Creek I passed the outfall to Narabeen Lagoon, where four Australian Pelicans were sitting on the street lights above the bridge After a coffee shop lunch in Narrabeen I headed to Long Reef to catch the afternoon low tide. I got as far as the golf course car park before I was distracted by a quietly chuntering roost of Little Corellas in the casuarinas. These highly social parrots rarely fail to entertain. Today was no exception.

DSC03827 Little Corellas @ Long Reef golf course.jpeg

The ever wonderful female Musk Duck continues to occupy the pond closest to the clubhouse. It's always a privilege to spend time with what I reckon is the world's scruffiest duck with its lumpy low slung body, rough-hewn bill, unkempt spiky hair and randomly speckled plumage. The effect was heighten thistle by the fact that it was moulting its tail feathers, leaving just a single outer tail feather on each side. I have a great affection for such birds because when my wife first clapped eyes on me she decided I must already be married because I was too scruffy to be single! The impression was heightened by a pristine female Hardhead that slid over the surface with immaculate serenity.

DSC03854 Musk Duck @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC03856 Hardhead @ Long Reef golf course bf.JPG

The Coots, while neat and tidy have table manners that are closer in character to the Musk Duck - yanking up piles of weed and shaking it apart, water flying everywhere. As I sat there a pair of Red-rumped Parrots zipped over my head to forage in the light rough on the other side of the pond and a Little Grassbird called invisibly from the reed fringe, which also host 30-odd resting Welcome Swallows in a variety plumages. This is now my designated spot to look for vagrant Barn Swallows. The Latham's Snipe that had summered on the other large pond was a no show and has likely headed back to Japan to breed. I did enjoy close views of a quintet of Australian Swamphens and was calmly dismissed by an elegant Black-shouldered Kite sitting close across the creek at the top of the pond.

DSC03862 Welcome Swallow @ Long Reef GC bf.jpg
DSC03870 Austalisan Swamphen @ Long Reef GC bf.jpg DSC03876 Black-shouldered Kite @ Long Reef GC bf.jpeg

My walk out onto the Rock platform was confounded by a tide that stayed higher than expected and apart form the usual pleasure of standing on the edge of a continent with waves higher than my head breaking on three sides and then flowing an inch deep and glass- smooth across the rock platform, providing fine feeding habitat for the usual small waders - 50-odd Red-necked Stints, 4 Grey-tailed Tattlers, 20-odd Ruddy Turnstones and four Double-banded Plovers. A Pied Cormorant caught an excitingly spiky-looking black fish I could not identify and a Little Tern joined the usual crowd of Crested Terns and Silver Gulls, plunge-diving with what looked like suicidal bravery right in front of the waves as they broke on the lip f the rock platform.

DSC03920 Little Tern @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC03902 Ruddy Turnstone @ Long Reef bf.jpg

On a good day for scruffy birds I'm pleased to close with this image of the decidedly less sleek of two Crested Pigeons fluffed up as I headed homeward across the golf course.

DSC03994 Crested Pigeon @ Long Reeef GC bf.jpg


Patch birding : Mowbray Park and Northbridge
April 2024

A few nuggets of patch gold over the last few days included the addition of a flyover Plumed Egret (101), Striated Thornbill (102) and a lovely adult male Rose Robin (103) in the swamp forest at Mowbray Park. I was pleased to grab old school record shots of each, but would definitely like better.

DSC04005 Plumed Egret @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC04040 Striated Thornbill @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC04033 Rose Robin @ Mowbray Park bf.jpeg

I did better with an Osprey that had on a well-established nest on the maintenance platform on one of the floodlights at the athletics track. It turns out that this a quite a thing in Sydney, with Ospreys also breeding on floodlights at Narabeen on the northern beaches. I was happy to show the Osprey to a group of Korean ladies on a bird watching walk organised by Willoughby City Council on Tuesday morning , and to connect as well with a talkative Olive-backed Oriole that seemed more than happy to show off to its appreciative audience.

DSC04333 Olive-backed Oriole @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg DSC04018 Osprey @ Mowbray Park bf.jpg

My regular dog-walks around Northbridge have also produced a few bits and pieces. these include the pair of Tawny Frogmouths feeding at two different spots in Tunks Park on different days. I don't bring the camera on these trips so the best I've managed is a couple of dodgy iPhone shots for my "gremlins" series I've also heard both Powerful Owl and Australian Boobook calling in Tunks Park after dark, and a pair of Masked Lapwings regularly hunts the lawns after dark. I've also enjoyed two fly-overs from a flock of about 95 Little Corellas, which I think are explorers from the Northern Beaches population. They presumably get kicked out of Manly on an ASBO when their destruction of public property becomes too outrageous. I've also enjoyed two groups of eight and three Galahs in different parts of Northbridge. A flurry of smallish passerines that flew over Sailor's Bay Creek reminded me that Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are migrants, and it is nice to have them back in the city for the winter.


The Hardhead has continued on the golf course ponds and an Eurasian Coot has also appeared and will hopefully stay a while. Other good waterbirds have included this White-faced Heron that posed in the last ray of sunshine to hit the darkening waters of the smallest pond, just my second Pied Cormorant that upset the gulls as it landed in Wreck Bay earlier this week and a fine Striated Heron in the mangroves at the mouth of Sailor's Bay creek.

DSC04000 White-faced Heron.jpg DSC04027 Striated Heron @ Sailors Bay Creek bf.jpg
Manly and Long Reef
20 and 21 April 2024


I was back on the Northern Beaches for a couple of days of seawatching at my usual spot at Shelly Beach carpark in Manly. Although e southerly winds looked promising I was a little disappointed with my return - a couple of White-capped and four Black-browed Albatrosses on Friday 20 April and two Black-browed Albatrosses on the Saturday. I also managed a few Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters on the Friday and a solitary Hutton's Shearwater, but I did enjoy the return of 20+ Australian Gannets.

On the Saturday I stopped in at Dee Why Lagoon, headlining with a count of 197 Chestnut Teals, 131 Eurasian Coot, and 45 Pacific Black Ducks that fell just three short of the all-time record of 200 made by tour leader Mike Barrow last winter. I was pleased to pick up a solitary Pied Oystercatcher, which I hadn't seen recently, and a couple of Ospreys which came in to the top corner of the lagoon. More intriguing I also heard a call that was either, and most likely Olive-backed Oriole, but also had me wondering about the similar-sounding Striped Honeyeater, for which there are no bird records for Sydney. Anyway it stopped calling and never showed. There were however good numbers of Little Corellas wandering about and I was pleased to see a Swamp Wallaby over the back of the lagoon. I also enjoyed close views of a quartet of Little Black Cormorants which drifted close-by.

DSC04072 Little Black Cormorant @ Dee Why Lagoon bf.jpg

I headed on to Long Reef, seeing friend the Musk Duck from the viewpoint at the top of the promontory before heading out on the rock platform to take advantage of the low tide. in addition to the usual scattering of Silver Gulls, Crested Terns, Pied and Little Pied Cormorants I was distracted by an Osprey finishing off the last of a kingfish on the higher rocks at the tip.

DSC04114 Osprey @ Long Reef bf.jpeg

I also enjoyed the eternal weirdness of a pair of Australasian Darters that were hanging out on the rocks between fishing expeditions right along the surf line and into the shallow pools.

DSC04203 Australasian Darter @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC04205 Australasian Darter @ Long Reef bf.jpg

But the real star of the show was this Sooty Oystercatcher that allowed me to get pretty close by crawling across the rocks and get my best ever pix of with a backdrop of the waves breaking against the southern edge of the reef.

DSC04233 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpg
DSC04195 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC04243 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC04229 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpg DSC04252 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpeg
DSC04236 Sooty Oystercatcher @ Long Reef bf.jpeg

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