Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Visit to New South Wales, Australia

23 September - 01 October 2018

23 -25 September
Waterloo - Mississauga - Hong Kong - Sydney

     On a bright, sunny day a bright, sunny Jim Huffman picked us up to take us to the airport. He had already collected Franc and Carol.
     Our journey to Pearson International was uneventful and we were at the terminal not much more than an hour after leaving home. We settled in for the long wait for our departure for Hong Kong.

     Take off was delayed, but we were finally in the air at 16h:13.
     It is a bit of a contradiction in logic to speak of airline food and quality in the same breath, but in fact the meals on our flight were quite decent, with selection from a menu. Wine was served and the flight attendants (wait staff of the air in reality) were not stingy when they poured! It always amuses me when I hear people complaining about airline food. First of all you don't fly for the quality of the food, and second of all when you have scoured the internet to find the cheapest possible price it is unreasonable to then expect gourmet fare.
     Carol was a little sick during the flight, from what cause we don't know, but she quickly recovered and by the time we touched down in Hong Kong she was feeling much better. It was about a half hour walk to our departure gate, but having sat for so long it felt good to stretch our legs.
     We did not have long to wait until boarding our flight to Sydney.

      We touched down about twenty minutes late, but having crossed the International Date Line and dealt with fourteen hours of time change it was hard to know what day it was or which end was up!
      Carol had organized a shuttle service to take us downtown to the Airbnb we had rented. We knew that we were too early to gain occupancy but we did drop off our bags. The cleaning person was at the house and we were able to glean some local information from her.
     We went to get our cell phone organized, following which we grabbed a quick bite and headed on the transit system to the Royal Botanic Garden. 
     It was a short walk from the train station to the entrance to the Garden and before even entering we saw Australian White Ibis (Threskionis molucca), everywhere it seemed, even walking along the sidewalk. This is not a species one would readily associate with a dense urban landscape, but there they were. 

     Before passing through into the Garden we heard Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus) and, in an instant, they were right before our eyes in all their multi-coloured glory.

     The ubiquitous Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala) seemed muted by comparison.

     Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is a very common bird, but this was our introduction to it.

     A Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes) seemed splendid and exotic when compared with the mundanity of nearby Rock Doves (Columba livia). Interestingly on my last visit to New South Wales twenty years earlier I did not encounter Crested Pigeon anywhere, so its range has expanded in the intervening years - a cautionary note for those viewing distribution maps in field guides as unchanging truths.

     Maned Duck (Chenonetta jubata) has become the Mallard of city parks and gardens everywhere in the parts of Australia we visited and there were numerous pairs all over the grass, some with young, mooching food from people.

       Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) would become one of the most common ducks we saw.

     The noisy clatter of Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) alerted us to the presence of a Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) no doubt bent on parasitizing the nest of the currawong, one of its preferred hosts.

     One of the great attractions for tourists on a visit to the Botanic Garden is superb views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that most iconic of Australian landmarks, the Sydney Harbour Opera House.

     A single Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) promenaded around a couple locked in a fervent embrace on the grass, and we felt intrusive almost taking pictures. Better they should have gotten a room to enjoy their groping in peace.

     On the way back Carol spotted a Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) and we were all atwitter with excitement. Little did we realize how common this species would become.

     Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) were ubiquitous, reminding us of the familiar Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) back home.

     Our bodies were starting to weaken, our will starting to wane, our eyes getting heavy. We made our way back to the subway and slumped into our seats. After disembarking we picked up a few groceries and had a simple dinner of bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes, with a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz.
     Not one among us was reluctant to turn in early to start our bodies on the path to equilibrium. Sleep was instant, but intermittent - equilibrium would take time!

All species 25 September: Maned Duck, Chestnut Teal, Australian White Ibis, Dusky Moorhen, Masked Lapwing, Silver Gull, Rock Dove, Crested Pigeon, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Common Myna.   

26 September 2018
Field of Mars Reserve - Castlebrook Memorial Park - Cattai National Park - Mitchell Park - Vineyard Creek Walking Trail

     We were all up fairly early, our bodies no doubt riven by confusion. Miriam had a sore throat; fortunately it appeared not to herald a cold.
     Before leaving Canada we had contracted with Andrew Patrick, a local Sydney guide, to spend two days with us. It was a wise move. Andrew turned out to be a great guide, a fine fellow, an engaging conversationalist and possessed of a detailed and intimate knowledge of the best spots to bird in the greater Sydney area. He picked us up at 07h:00 as planned, right on time.
     The augury was for rain, and the forecast was dead on. Soon it started to sprinkle, a sprinkle turned to steady rain, steady rain to a deluge. Andrew valiantly drove though it, at times mired in the congested traffic that plagues every large city throughout the world. And Sydney is growing apace. Andrew told us that its population increases by one Darwin each year. New housing construction, seemingly everywhere, affirmed this statistic. How much land for wildlife is removed from use? Where does this all end?
     The positive news was that there is an active campaign afoot to have people plant native vegetation in their yards and gardens - some amelioration at least.
     One of the greatest satisfactions I derive these days is to see the first representative of a family of birds I have not previously encountered. With this in mind, I had asked Andrew ahead of time whether we might see a Megapode, surely one of the most enigmatic families one could imagine, and a family I had spent a good amount of time studying. 
     Australian Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami) has become fairly common in the Sydney suburbs in recent years and Andrew told me that we had a good chance to see one. I was more than a little elated, therefore, when at the Field of Mars Reserve I saw a male slinking away as we disembarked from the car. I saw the bird well, and got one very hazy picture, taken through the rain, but the sighting even under less than perfect conditions was very satisfying. The experience was enhanced by being able to get close to two of the enormous mounds tended by the male of the species, to incubate the eggs buried under the soil, at a well regulated temperature to ensure hatching. 

     Our next stop was at a cemetery, Castlebrook Memorial Park. The rain had largely abated, although there were brief periods of increased intensity while we were there. Our goal at this location was parrots and we were well rewarded, but one of the very first birds we saw was a very smart Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) in a small pond. 

     Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) populated the ground, as did Red-rumped Parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) and Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus elegans). 

     As I have said before, it is a bit of a mug's game to try to rank the parrots, but Red-rumped Parrot is surely as divine a combination of pastels, shades and hues as one could imagine. Our friends, the Rainbow Lorikeets, were flitting from tree to tree, calling all the while and brightening up a gloomy, soggy day. Their cousins, Musk Lorikeets (Glossopsitta concinna), were also present, with this pair getting cozy on a branch.

     In the water we spotted Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) in full breeding attire.

      Both Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) and Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos) resided at the pond.

     White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) was the default heron throughout our stay in New South Wales, as well as in the other two states we would visit.

     Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) was commonly viewed throughout our journey through southern Australia, always strutting around with confidence and braggadocio.

     Those two unwelcome invaders Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) and Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) both plied their trade on the wet grass, feeding on worms and arthropods forced to the surface by the heavy rain. Little Corellas (Cacatua sanguinea), Long-billed Corellas (Cacatua tenuirostris) and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos rounded out the entourage at this location.

Long-billed Corella
          At Cattai National Park an Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus) played hide and seek with us, more hide than seek in fact, the whip crack call seeming to be an exclamation of derision. Little did we realize how easy it would be to see this species later in the week.
     In contrast to the whipbird a Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cocomantis flabelliformiswas an easy sighting.

     Andrew thought it was time for mid morning tea and we agreed whole heartedly. My new favourite picnic food is tea and Lamington cookies; although we all had a go at Vegemite, that unique Australian spread whose appeal is lost on the world at large, we agreed that it was something best used as drywall paste perhaps. I am convinced that it is fed to babies fresh from the womb and hence an Australian accent is developed! This is my third attempt at unlocking its secrets, but I am sure it will be my last! Andrew also had a variety of other sweet things, and fruit, and goodness knows what else. Elevenses worthy of the Henley Regatta in the Australian bush. We know how to live!
     Later, at Cattai National Park, we had lunch, where Andrew produced a veritable feast - bread, ham, cheese, tuna, tomatoes, fruit, cookies, tea, coffee...all enjoyed with the company of birds all around, pleasant song, and finally, dry conditions.     
     My notes are not exactly precise as to the range of species we saw at Cattai and our next stop, but the birding was terrific. Andrew knew the location of the bower of a Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) but it appears that it may have been abandoned. Certainly the male was nowhere in sight.

     A Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) was mostly partly concealed among the blossoms on the trees but finally one emerged to pose for a photograph.

     A Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) has a song described in the current Pizzey and Knight field guide, as being "impetuous, spirited spring song, the most 'Australian' of spring sounds." It was this that first alerted Andrew to its presence and enabled us all to see this beautiful bird.

     Varied Sitella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) displays behavioural traits aligned with nuthatches in other parts of the world, no doubt having affinities as indicated by the suffix "sitta" in the genus. Its posture in the following picture is akin to a nuthatch.

     Wonga Pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca) was seldom observed and even then not in the open.

     Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis) was seen but once during our entire stay in New South Wales.

     A chorus of Bell Miners (Manorina melanophrys) was heard almost constantly and every so often we got to see a bird or two.

     A drive through a grassland area, with a good degree of agricultural activity yielded raptors, woodswallows, butcherbirds and other species associated with open habitat.
White-browed Woodswallow

Masked Woodswallow (female)

Nankeen Kestrel

Australian Hobby

Grey Butcherbird (female)

     Another scintillating bird of the grassland was Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis), the only estrilid finch we would see in Australia.

     A Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) was, well, restless.

       Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) was in fact not especially common and we appreciated it the few times we saw it. 

      Superb Fairywrens (Malurus cyaneus) were seen every day and were an integral part of the magical experience of Australia. They were so familiar, yet so beautiful, reassuring somehow, feisty and bold.

     If anything, Variegated Fairywren (Malurus lamberti) was even more dramatic.

    We also had excellent views of Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus).

     A chance encounter while driving past a field netted us our first sighting of Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis molucca).

     The day wore on and it was almost dark when we arrived at the Vineyard Creek Walking Trail for the star attraction at the end of the day. There was enough light still to see a Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) roosting high in a tree. Although well hidden in dense cover, the bird was nevertheless visible, and we considered ourselves very fortunate to have a chance to observe this species. The rain had started up again but nothing could dampen our spirits.
     Andrew dropped us off at our house around 19h:00, following which he had a 45 minute drive home. We dined on bread and cheese left over from the previous night, and pasta with a bolognese sauce to which we added a can of tomatoes. Along with a glass of Shiraz it tasted pretty good.
     Everyone turned in early. It had been a great day, but tiring, especially given our still discombobulated state following our journey from the other end of the world.

All species 26 September: Maned Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Australian Brush Turkey, Australasian Grebe, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Nankeen Night Heron, Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Brown Goshawk, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Wonga Pigeon, Bar-shouldered Dove, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Powerful Owl, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher (Andrew only), Azure Kingfisher, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Galah, Long-billed Corella, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-rumped Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Satin Bowerbird, Variegated Fairwren, Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, Noisy Friarbird, Red Wattlebird, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Bell Miner, Noisy Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Yellow Thornbill, Eastern Whipbird, Masked Woodswallow, White-browed Woodswallow, Australian Magpie, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Varied Sitella, Australian Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Olive-backed Oriole, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Magpie-lark, Restless Flycatcher, Australian Raven, Eastern Yellow Robin, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Silvereye, Common Myna, Common Starling, Common Blackbird, House Sparrow, Red-browed Finch.

27 September 2018
Royal National Park (Fig Tree Flats) - Royal Castle Walk - Bonnievale -  Centennial Park

     Andrew picked us up again at 07h:00, which was fairly remarkable we thought since he had faced the long drive home after he dropped us off the previous evening, and then had to prepare the snacks and lunches for his hungry Canadian clients before leaving home to meet us at our house. Such is the commitment of a professional bird guide.
     In fact he had to park his car a little distance away. There is a curious practice (curious to us at least) of permitting cars in these old residential neighbourhoods to park on both sides of the street. The road is already narrow so when the street is full of parked cars there is barely passage for one vehicle and the street effectively becomes one way. This morning was also garbage collection day, so access for vehicles was completely blocked as the garbage truck slithered down the street collecting trash and stopping at every house in the process.
     Noisy Miners furnished a lively chorus as we walked back up the street with Andrew to his parked vehicle.
     A brief stop at a small beach provided our first looks at Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus); a Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) probed the sand with its long bill and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) pattered at the water's edge. Several Pied Oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) alternatively loafed and fed.

     A pair of Australian Ravens (Corvus coronoides) patrolled the sky above the beach searching for scavenging opportunities.

     Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) was so common, and was seen in so many habitats that we barely paid attention to it, but it is a very handsome bird indeed.

     A good deal of the day was spent at Royal National Park in several locations and we enjoyed a variety of birds. Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) was our principal target, but it eluded us the whole time. Stunning views of a male Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) was pretty adequate compensation if you ask me. We also were treated to Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) and Olive backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus).

     Mid morning snacks and lunch were enjoyed on the riverbank with an Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus) patrolling the river and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos walking up and down on an adjacent table, all the while eyeing us coyly, and coming within arm's reach, no doubt in high expectation of a handout. We followed the rules however and did not feed the wildlife. 

     The kingfisher obligingly perched on a branch over the water, mere metres from our table, as though posing for a photo in a studio. Franc wasted no time in cocking his camera and firing off dozens of rapid fire images.

     Several times we observed Satin Bowerbird, both male and female, but never at a bower.

Satin Bowerbird (male)
     Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) were seldom far from view.

     Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) was ubiquitous throughout our trip.

     Australian robins are enchanting little birds and we would have liked to have seen more members of this family. The only one we observed in New South Wales, however, was Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis), fortunately quite frequently.

     Andrew took us to an area of the coast where the scenery was magnificent to say the least.

     Australian Gannets (Morus serrator) cruised over the ocean in  small numbers and we doggedly followed a couple of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters (Gliciphila melanops) until we got good looks.

    Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris), a species we saw almost every day, is surely one of the most lovely of all the honeyeaters. It is even blessed with the ability to hover like a hummingbird. 

     New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) was our constant companion wherever flowering bushes were available.

     A visit to a park yielded Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) and Nankeen Night Herons (Nycticorax caledonicus).

         It was at this location that we saw our first Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae).

     Australian Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) was also present.

     Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus) was very common. It is colourful and bold and does not hesitate to mingle with people.

     Maned Ducks had evidently had a productive year and watchful parents with ducklings were frequently seen.

     Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) seemed to populate every stretch of water we came across.

     The day ended with a visit to Centennial Park where Andrew had surprises up his sleeve. The first was a sighting of a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), a camouflage specialist like owls and nightjars to which it is related; the second an Eastern Barn Owl (Tyto javanica) roosting in the crown of a palm tree. In the same location there was an enormous colony, and I mean enormous, of Grey-headed Flying Foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus). There was constant movement in the colony with several short flights and a constant jostling for position. It was fascinating to say the least.

     Here we also managed to see Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus), a uniquely Australian bird, and enigmatic in so many ways. It seems to me to bear a slight resemblance to a Dodo, that other pigeon so long gone from the realm of birds that have owned this earth.

     When Andrew dropped us off we felt that we had benefitted in large measure from his expertise and enjoyed his company greatly. If ever I am back in Sydney I will do it again.

Andrew Patrick
     Miriam was pretty tired (exhausted might be a better term) so she stayed at the house while Franc, Carol and I went to pick up groceries and restock our wine. We also picked up a couple of pizzas for dinner.
     When we returned to the house Miriam had lain down for a while but the odour of pizza enticed her from her bed, and she perked up after a couple of slices with a glass of wine.
     Once again we were all in bed early, anticipating a prompt start the next morning to leave Sydney for the Jervis Bay area. 

All species 27 September: Black Swan, Maned Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Australian Grebe, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Nankeen Night Heron, Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Australian Pelican, Australian Gannet, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Australian Pied Cormorant, Australasian Darter, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Australasian Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Pied Oystercatcher, Masked Lapwing, Far Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Silver Gull, Rock Dove, Crested Pigeon, Topknot Pigeon, Eastern Barn Owl, Tawny Frogmouth, Laughing Kookaburra, Azure Kingfisher, Galah, Long-billed Corella, Little Corella, Sulphuer-crested Cockatoo,Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Green Catbird, Satin Bowerbird, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairywren, Superb Fairywren, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Red Wattlebird, Noisy Miner, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Whipbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Grey Shrikethrush, Olive-backed Oriole, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Magpie-lark, Australian Raven, Eastern Yellow Robin, Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Silvereye, Common Myna, Common Blackbird.

28 September 2018
Sydney - Callala Bay

     I had my best night's sleep since arriving in Australia, waking up at 05h:07.
     Carol had been up later than the rest of us so she had made sandwiches for lunch for everyone. I had a bowl of cereal and a coffee for breakfast.
     The taxi we had booked to take us to the car rental agency was a little late, but finally it showed up and delivered us to the Hertz car rental office. The cab driver was a convivial old chap, originally from Poland, and possessed of adequate English as long as frequent interjections of "Bloody Hell" were permitted. The traffic was slow - Bloody Hell, he said - a pedestrian hastened across the road to make the light - Bloody Hell - he had to make a U-turn - Bloody Hell. I must check the dictionary of Australian English to see whether this is sanctioned vernacular! 
     In short order we secured our rental vehicle and were driving through Sydney traffic, snarled at times, on the way south to Callala Bay.
     We stopped at a rest area for a washroom break where a pair of Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) were on a small pond, and a family of Common Myna were present with the young begging continuously from their parents, even though they were fledged and quite capable of finding their own food. Shades of teenage kids here?
     Upon arrival in Callala Bay we were delighted with our accommodation. It was a gorgeous modern condominium on the ground floor of a building with a very large balcony, surrounded by native vegetation. A path led to the beach, a mere couple of minutes walk away. Birds flitted in the trees and bushes everywhere we looked.
     The most common species was New Holland Honeyeater (Philidronyris novaehollandiae), followed by Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) and Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus). 

     Several White-browed Scrubwrens (Sericornis frontalis) hopped around feverishly stabbing for food.

     The biggest surprise of all, however, was an Eastern Whipbird feeding on the lawn. After the peekaboo show we had been subjected to a couple of days earlier, this was truly amazing. Even when the bird was not visible its whip crack call could be heard constantly.

     We ate lunch and relaxed for a half hour, after which we went to explore the beach. There were a few sunbathers and swimmers, but not many. Birds were sparse too; in fact three species only were recorded here, Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and Australian Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius).
     A walk through the wooded areas surrounding the condominium was pleasant and yielded a few passerines. Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) were especially delightful.
     Franc wandered off by himself and was rewarded with a spectacular encounter with Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus).

     We went into town to buy groceries and to acquaint ourselves with the area a little. 
     Back at "home" we relaxed on the veranda with a glass of wine and then barbecued steaks for dinner, with rice/quinoa and a salad. A fine meal indeed.
     I read for a while after dinner, went to bed around 21h:30 and read some more. The bed was comfortable, I was tired, and it was not hard to fall into blissful sleep.

All species 28 September: Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Australian White Ibis, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Australian Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Silver Gull, Rock Dove, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crimson Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote (Franc only), White-browed Scrubwren, Eastern Whipbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Magpie Lark, Australian Raven.

29 September 2018
Callala Bay - Bomaderry Creek Park - Callala Bay

     Another good night's sleep. It is great to wake up refreshed.
     At first light New Holland Honeyeaters and Rainbow Lorikeets were already feeding on nectar. I took my coffee outside, but it was a tad cool and I soon went back in. Looking out the window an Eastern Spinebill had joined the others, dipping into the blossoms, and hovering for the briefest of moments, resembling a hummingbird of the Americas.  A White-browed Scrubwren hopped around on the ground.
     I cut up half a banana and added it to my cereal and munched on my breakfast watching the activity outside. I couldn't help but make a mental comparison with what I might have been seeing at home. Australia won hands down on the colour scale!
     As we left our apartment a Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis) was on a branch at the front of the building.

     Our chosen destination for the day was Bomaderry Creek Park, an area of sandstone rock faces and boulders, creek and rain forest, with good bird watching.  

     This was touted as a good place to find Rockwarbler (Origma solitaria), a range-restricted New South Wales endemic, reason enough for any birder to make a visit. Within a half hour we had spotted this species and were able to watch it for several minutes.

     A pair of Variegated Fairywrens were nothing less than enchanting.

     Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) was observed quite frequently but it was often quite concealed and not easy to photograph. This individual consented to have his portrait taken.

     It was indicated that there were two marked trails, one a little over a kilometre in length over fairly level terrain, another about a 6 kilometre loop, over (to put it mildly) challenging ground. We intended to take the shorter route, but somehow got off track and wound up doing the very strenuous long walk. As it turned out we didn't even get that right for somehow we meandered off and instead of completing the loop came out at a completely different location from where we had gone in. This added about another kilometre to our trek as we had to walk along the road to get back to our vehicle.
     The whole area had been subject to fire and there was a considerable degree of devastation in the forest.

     Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) is a magnificent bird and we encountered it for the first time on our arduous walk.

     On the way back to Callala Bay we stopped in Nowra to pick up vegetables, fruit, and meat for dinner at two splendid markets. One of them had a wonderful array of produce, the other an incredible range of fish, shellfish and meat. It was a pleasure to shop at both locations.
     We had a late lunch at our B&B, following which Miriam and I elected to relax while Franc and Carol went for a walk.
     For dinner we barbecued pork chops purchased at the meat market and they cooked to perfection. Miriam and Carol had made a fresh cabbage salad which was delicious along with the chops. We invited Wolf Blass to be our guest that evening!
    I got caught up with my notes and updated the checklist, read for a while and turned in for the night.

All species 29 September: Maned Duck, Chestnut Teal, White-faced Heron, Australian Pelican, Australian Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Australasian Swamphen, Silver Gull, Spotted Dove, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Galah, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairywren, Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Rockwarbler, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Whipbird, Australian Magpie, Willie Wagtail, Magpie-lark, Australian Raven, Eastern Yellow Robin, Welcome Swallow, Silvereye, Common Myna. 

30 September 2018
Callala Bay - Hyams Beach - Booderee National Park - Callala Bay

     A good night's sleep is becoming contagious! 
     Following breakfast we left for nearby Hyams Beach to search the coastal heath habitat in hope of locating Eastern Bristlebird. In that quest we were singularly unsuccessful; in fact we saw few birds at all. However, we did meet a couple who provided us with a wealth of information about birding in Jervis Bay writ large and told us that we could not possibly leave without visiting Booderee National Park, a haven for birds in many different families due to the varied habitat. 
     And so we repaired to Booderee without delay and immediately felt it was a wise decision. In fact we had originally planned to go back to our accommodations for lunch from Hyams Beach, but once at Booderee we elected to skip lunch in favour of staying in the park.
     One of the birds in relative abundance there was White-cheeked Honeyeater (Phylidonyris niger), effectively a New Holland Honeyeater with a large white patch on the side of the face. I had for some reason thought this was merely a subspecies of New Holland Honeyeater and in retrospect I am sure I had seen it previously but not recorded it.

     We were scanning the ducks on a lake, focussed on one species in particular, and we could not decide whether it was Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis) or Hardhead (Aythya australis). I realize that these two belong to different genera and are morphologically distinct, but given the distance and the play of light, it was not easy to observe the subtleties. We were leaning more and more towards Hardhead when a couple of friendly (and very helpful) Australian birders, clinched the ID as Hardhead.

     This couple, Cameron and Janette, with whom we spend a very pleasant half hour or so, told us that their daughter is working on a PhD in astrophysics in Washington, DC and that they plan to visit her next spring. I have stayed in touch with Cameron and Janette and hope they will come up to Ontario and we can show them some fine birding here, to say nothing of some good Canadian hospitality. They were certainly kind to us.
     Masked Lapwings were nesting along the shore of the lake and whenever anyone got close to the nest they were fiercely assailed by the defensive parents.
      Before leaving we ran into the first couple we had met at Hyams Beach and they provided us with information about a wetland to visit on our way back to Sydney. 
     We found throughout our trip that Australians were friendly and helpful. We were always greeted with a friendly "G'day Mate" and after receiving help were told "No worries." 
     The first couple we met at Hyams Beach had told us about a pair of endangered Hooded Dotterels or Plovers (Thinornis cucullatus) breeding in the park, and where to find them, and Cameron told us of another location. We searched both areas diligently but came up empty-handed. In fact, at one location sections of the beach were closed off to protect the habitat for nesting plovers and terns. It is encouraging to see action of this sort being taken. 

     Despite not finding the birds we were seeking we had a pleasant time exploring coastal habitat and Miriam saw our first two Sooty Oystercatchers (Haematopus fuliginosus) land on a rocky outcrop.

     As we made our way back towards our vehicle a Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) entertained everyone, obviously well habituated to humans in close proximity and displaying none of the usual caution one might expect from a wild creature. It became apparent that for people visiting for the day from Sydney an encounter with a wallaby was almost as much of a novelty for them as it was for us.

     A Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) patrolled the sky above us and a White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) was a little more distant.

     We stopped at the local grocery store on the way home and picked up what we needed for dinner. 
      The barbecue was pressed into service again as we cooked hamburgers, which we had with cabbage salad, tomato salad and avocado. Everything was delicious. 

All species 30 September: Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Australasian Grebe, Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Australasian Darter, Whistling Kite, Sooty Oystercatcher, Masked Lapwing, Australian King Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Whipbird, Australian Magpie, Rufous Fantail, Magpie-lark, Australian Raven.

01 October 2018
Callala Bay - Culburra (Lake Woolumboola) - Sydney

     I had eggs and toast for breakfast to use up the  last of the eggs before heading back to Sydney for our flight to Tasmania the next morning.
     As we packed the car we were delighted to have a White-headed Pigeon (Columba leucomela) land on the fence, our only sighting of this species for the entire trip.

     A stop at Lake Woolumboola was very productive with a wide variety of water birds, including entire flotillas of Black Swans (Cygnus atratus). There was also a sizable population of White-headed Stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus) and a multitude of shorebirds, alas quite distant in most cases. The only species I was able to identify with confidence were Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata). Myriad tiny peeps were almost certainly Red-necked Stints (Calidris ruficollis) but they appeared as little more than pebbles that moved!

     Both Great Egret (Ardea alba) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) were present, as was White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae).

     Australian Ravens were walking up and down the shore, ever alert for easy pickings.

     We took our lunch in the parking area where there were picnic tables and we could seat ourselves in the shade. Pied Currawongs and Superb Fairy Wrens kept us company while we ate, Red Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) plundered nectar from the blossoms on the trees.

     The rest of our journey to Sydney was uneventful and we checked into the Travelodge at 15h:30. Franc and Carol returned the rental car to the airport while Miriam and I relaxed in our room.
     We met for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Miriam had chicken parmigiana with fries and salad, I had lamb with rigatoni. Both were very good. 
     Back at our room we read for a bit and turned in for the night to prepare to leave for the airport dark and early the next morning.

All species 01 October: Black Swan, Maned Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Australian White Ibis, Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Little Egret, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Australasian Swamp Hen, Eurasian Coot, Sooty Oystercatcher, White-headed Stilt, Masked Lapwing, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Rock Dove, White-headed Pigeon, Nankeen Kestrel, Galah, Sulphuer-crested Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Superb Fairy-Wren, New Holland Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Brown Thornbill, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Magpie-lark, Australian Raven, Welcome Swallow, Common Myna.

02 October 2018
Travelodge Hotel - Airport

     We were picked up by our taxi at 04h:30 and whisked to the airport. This being a domestic flight, we were done with the formalities quickly and were soon in our boarding lounge. 

          Our flight to Hobart left at 07h:46.
          The next report of our Australian odyssey will cover our time in Tasmania.


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.