Friday, October 28, 2016

Birding in Sydney - Information and Logistics

Looking back we wished we could have stayed longer than the 6 days we were in Australia. Of those 6 days the weekend was spent with friends with just a little birding on the side. On the one day that we hired a bird guide it rained! Nevertheless we still chalked some 75 lifers, 72 of which were with photos.

We took the Cebu Pacific Air from Manila to Sydney. It was a cheap, no frills flight which means you had to pay for check-in luggage, buy inflight food and blankets should you need it. No in-flight movies either. The 8 hour flight time was spent sleeping anyway since we left Manila at midnight and arrived Sydney at 11 (their time is 3 hours ahead that of the Philippines).


The first place we stayed in was at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park. Although it is basically a campground there are also cabins for rent. The cost was 151 Australian Dollars per night. The cabin was perfect with comfortable beds and hot showers. You have to bring your own food. Anyway the cabin also has a stove, a refrigerator and a microwave oven. We stayed here for 2 nights. Birding around the area is superb and we wished we could have stayed longer.

From there we moved to the Holiday Express Inn at Macquarie Park. It is a city hotel close to stores and public transportation stations. We stayed here from Oct. 14 to 17. The cost varies according to season and room type. It has all the amenities of an international hotel which included free breakfast.

Our final night was at the Meriton Serviced Apartments. As the name implies it is more like an apartment that is available for short stays. The apartment we got was huge and fully furnished. Again, the price varies according to season and number of rooms. Moreover it is close to the airport and shops. They also offer a shuttle to the airport for a minimal fee.


Although many birds in and around the Sydney area can easily be seen in parks, it is still a good idea to use the services of Bird Guide company. We were glad that we did on our last birding day. Andrew Patrick of Zest for Birds is a very experienced guide. Without him we would have never seen some marvelous birds like the Powerful Owl, Tawny Frogmouth, Musk Lorikeets and much more. The cost was 330 Australian Dollars for a day's birding for the two of us.


We were told that there are trains and buses that have stations near parks.We were lucky that our friends drove us to the various birding places that we wanted to visit. The distances between the birding areas are so far apart that we believe a private car is a necessity. If you can handle right hand side driving, there are car rental companies near the airport. One of them even has a weird name: No Birds. 

All in all we had a great birding experience in Sydney and surrounding areas. We are already thinking of going back!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Oz-some Birding Part III - Birds of Forests, Shrubs, Thickets, and Open Fields, Third of Three

On our last birding day in Australia, we were glad to have availed the services of a very talented bird guide, Andrew Patrick, of Zest for Birds. Thanks to him we were able to see birds that we would have never seen on our own efforts.

Foremost of these was the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua). True to its name it is a gigantic bird and lucky for us, the time we saw it, it had its prey in its talons - an Australian Possum.

Andrew also showed us the Tawny Frogmouth but unfortunately it was a bit high up a tree and was so well camouflaged that we did not get that good of a picture.

can you see it?
Another setback was that we had bad weather that day. It drizzled and sometimes even rained occasionally thereby making photographing birds a real challenge. Still we were thankful despite the so-so images we got.

Three more Honeyeaters were added to our list:

The White-plumed (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

and the Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii)

Also know as the Crimson Honeyeater, the Scarlet Myzomela is its "official" name (Myzomela sanguinolenta)

Two kinds of Thornbills were also seen:

Yellow-rumped (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa)

and Yellow Thornbill (Acanthiza nana)

The Bell Miners (Manorina melanophyrs) were plenty and noisy but very seldom stays put.

In the same area as the Bell Miners, was an Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus) that kept calling as well.

The Black-faced Cuckooshrike (Coracina novaehollandiae) preferred the higher branches.

Too bad we only saw the drab female Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus).

We were looking for the Azure Kingfisher, but we only had glimpses of it. On the other hand, the unexpected Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) was more cooperative.

Finally, as we were about to leave the area, a Wonga Pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca) casually walked by.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Oz-some Birding Part III - Birds of Forests, Shrubs, thickets, and Open Fields, Second of Three

This time, let me start off with the parrots. Early in the morning as we were having breakfast at our rented cabin in Lane Cove, my wife heard some screeching noise. Looking up she saw a group of colorful Australian King Parrots (Alisterus scapularis) perch on the tree across from us.

The following morning, a flock of Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus eximius) congregated on the trees right outside our cabin.

Then the next day, we were fortunate to see the Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) not far from where an outdoor wedding was being performed. Note the difference in throat color between the two Rosella species.

On our last birding day, our guide took us to a cemetery where we saw the Musk Lorikeets (Glossopsitta concinna).

At the Waterbird Refuge in the Sydney Olympic Park, we had the good fortune of seeing three more beautiful birds.

The Rose-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis)

New Holland Honeyeater (Philodonyris novaehollandiae) - the second of four kinds of honeyeaters that we have seen.

As I stopped to catch my breath after a long walk, I don't know why but I had the urge to turn around and look up at the tree branch over the path I was taking. There I saw the Red Wattlebird (Anthrocaera carunculata) practically begging me to take its picture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Oz-some Birding Part III - Birds of Forests, Shrubs, Thickets, and Open Fields, First of Three

Let me start off with the Australian Brushturkey (Alectura lathami). This species can sometimes be seen in city parks as well. They are also so used to human presence that one of them visited the porch of our rented cabin.

Two more forest birds that also inhabit city parks are the Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) and the Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina).

Grey Butcherbird
Pied Currawong
Lane Cove Park has a forested area that teems with birds. In an area of a few meters my wife and I saw a number of lifers.

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophyrs). The name is a bit confusing because it is not really a wagtail but actually a fantail. It is not known how the term "Willie" came about. Despite the vagueness of its name, it is a very active, friendly bird. The pair we saw in Lane cove were hunting for insects just a couple of feet away.

It is strange that we saw mostly the female and immature Australian Golden Whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis). The more colorful male only appeared briefly and we only got a documentary shot of it.

Both male and female White-browed Scrubwrens (Sericornis frontalis) were a regular sighting for us.

The Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) - a cousin of White-eyes - is just as active and very seldom stays put.

We got lucky when a pair of Spotted Pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) appeared. Most likely they have some young ones because both male and female were carrying food in the mouths and bringing it to their nest which was a hole in the ground.

Two species of  Fairy Wrens were added to our lifelist:

The Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)

The Variegated Fairywren (Malurus lamberti)

The colorful Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) was another active bird, always busy hawking for insects and worms (Note: no feeding or baiting done here).

Although it is just a "little brown bird" the Brown Gerygone (Gerygone mouki) was still a joy to see.

The first of the four honeyeaters we encountered in Australia was the Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lychenostomus crhysops).

Finally, a surprise! We learned later that this species was not very common and so it was such a blessing that we saw a Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis)!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oz-some Birding Part II - Birds of Ponds, Lakes and Rivers

Sydney and the surrounding areas have plenty of bodies of ponds, lakes and rivers where water birds can be found.

Most common of these birds is the Maned Duck (Chenonetta jubata) also known as the Australian Wood Duck. They can occasionally be found in places without any body of water nearby.

The Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) is another species that one can easily encounter in ponds of city parks.

Its more colorful cousin, the Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) is not as common. They are usually in lakes that are not near urban areas.

Another iconic image of Australia is the Black Swan. A very elegant bird and is usually seen in park ponds.

The only representative of the Ardeidae family that we saw was the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae). It is relatively small - about the same as the Cattle Egret in size.

Two additional lifers for us were from the Rallidae family. They look so much alike those that are found here in the Philippines.

First is the Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) which is similar to the Common Moorhen.

The other is the Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus) closely resembling the Philippine Swamphen.

Another interesting bird is the Australasian Darter. This bird is more of a river inhabitant.

There are four species of Cormorants found in Australia and we were lucky enough to have seen all of them (although some pictures were not that good).

Australian Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) - a very bad photo.

Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Last month, birders in the Philippines got excited when an Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) wandered in South Cotabato in Mindanao. When we went birding in Sydney we were suprised that this species was quite common near bodies of water.

We tried birding the seashore in Sydney but because it was raining and the tide was low when we arrived, we missed our target oystercatchers. There were a few birds..Eurasian Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits and one lifer for us the Greater Crested Tern. However, it was too far and we only got a "documentary" shot.

Once again, Sydney and the surrounding areas did not disappoint. Water birds were plenty and we chalked up more lifers.