Sunday, April 29, 2012

Goolawah Regional Park


From top to bottom: Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Square-tailed Kite.

In 2010 Goolawah State Park was re-designated Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park, and the campground I’ve been visiting for some years with my dogs became part of the national park. The Regional Park is a 60 acre strip between the road and the beach, with the national park to the north and Limeburners Creek National Park forming its southern edge.

Given that Australia has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world with two thirds of families having a pet we have some of the most restrictive laws controlling them. I’ve always been entertained by the fact that I can have my dog with me in the five-star Trump International Hotel on the strip in Las Vegas, but not in most local caravan parks. At the tail end of the Easter holidays there were around a dozen families with their dogs at Goolawah. In addition to the general rules governing dog ownership in NSW under the Companion Animals Act, at the Park dogs must be desexed and confined at night. There was one dog that wandered about, a half-grown pup whose owners spent a lot of time in the surf, but it didn’t cause any problems and the other fifteen or so dogs ran and swam with their owners on the beach and collapsed tired and happy beside the campfires of an evening. One family have been staying here for four weeks every May for forty years, always with their dog, including their current pet Joe – a wonderful big guy never far from his owner’s knee.

Birds were plentiful, including doves, ducks and quail at ground level, along with snakes and lizards.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Blue Mountains


I have done a number of day trips with Follow That Bird which I have always thoroughly enjoyed. Well organised, the trips take in the best spots for the time of year, and with knowledgeable guides and an interesting bunch of people a great day’s birding is guaranteed. We were picked up by the bus at Killara after a foggy drive for me down the F3. But as we waited the fog started to lift. I was a little chastened to realise that we all immediately recognised each other as birders: a certain age, wearing muted colours, sensible shoes and a shady hat – even with the bins slung around necks or suspended from high tech harnesses.

Yesterday our destination was the Blue Mountains to observe the autumn honeyeater migration.

On the way out of town we saw the usual urban birds:

  1. Common Myna
  2. White Ibis
  3. Magpie Lark
  4. Welcome Swallow
  5. Australian Magpie
  6. Feral Pigeon
  7. Little Corella
  8. Laughing Kookaburra
  9. Noisy Miner
  10. Rainbow Lorikeet


First stop was Wilson Park in Wentworth Falls, the trailhead for the Charles Darwin Walk. Here we picked up our guide Carol Probets, an acknowledged expert in the birds of the region. From the park we also had good views of the migrating birds heading up the valley and pausing to rest on the dead trees. The fact that the birds migrate during the day and at tree-top level make them a relatively easy spectacle to observe.

The majority of the birds are Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. As I wrote in the Wikipedia article on the species, while there are resident populations of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater throughout its range, it is for the most part a seasonal, latitudinal, daytime migrant. During the autumn (March to May) it migrates north along the highlands and coastal fringe of eastern Australia to southern Queensland, to return in the spring (August to October) of the same year. The birds commonly move in flocks of 10 to 100 birds, but occasionally in larger groups of up to 1,000 or more birds. They move in successive flocks at a rate of up to several thousand birds an hour. Near Hastings Point in New South Wales over 100,000 passed through in a single day.

The species is able to detect geomagnetic fields and uses them to navigate while migrating. Experiments where the vertical component of the magnetic field was reversed indicate that the magnetic compass of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater is based on the inclination of the field lines and not on polarity, distinguishing between the direction of the equator and the poles, rather than north and south. While their flight is in one general direction, it is not in a straight line as the flocks stay in vegetated areas, negotiate gaps in the mountain ranges and detour around cities.

The migration of many birds in Australia, including honeyeaters, has generally been described as occurring mainly in response to external environmental stimuli, such as food availability or an influx of water. However, the Yellow-faced Honeyeater has been found to have a broad range of characteristics which are consistent with the adaptations of Northern Hemisphere migrants to their mobile lifestyle: an annual cycle of migratory restlessness; seasonally appropriate orientation based on magnetic, solar and polarised light cues; and a migration program based on the magnetic inclination compass.


We stopped for morning tea at Katoomba Falls Reserve. While the contact call of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater was with us almost continuously, also flying overhead were:

  • White-naped Honeyeater,
  • Noisy Friarbird
  • Silvereye
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Spotted Pardalote

Young Red Wattlebirds fended for themselves in the trees around our picnic spot.


Other birds we observed over our tea cups were:

  • Pied Currawong
  • Galah
  • Crimson Rosella
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo


The honeyeaters are channelled into narrow flyways by the peaks and valleys of the Blue Mountains – one of the narrowest of which is at Narrowneck. The bus parked before the Golden Stairs and we walked along the track towards the locked gate at the top of the rise. Highlights here were:

  • Beautiful Firetail
  • Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  • White-naped Honeyeater
  • Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  • Golden Whistler
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Silvereye



Last stop for the day for lunch and a walk was Govetts Leap. BIrds came to us as we ate our sandwiches:

  • Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  • Grey Fantail
  • Eastern Yellow Robin
  • Eastern Whipbird
  • Bell Miner
  • Eastern Spinebill
  • Brown Thornbill
  • White-throated Treecreeper
  • Wedge-tailed Eagle
  • Crimson Rosella
  • Spotted Pardalote



Walking out along the loop track brought close-up looks at:

  • Australian Raven
  • New-holland Honeyeater
  • Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  • Striated Thornbill






  • Mountain Devil
  • Hairpin Banksia



All round a great day.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Central Coast, NSW


While backyard bird feeders are a well established garden addition in the northern hemisphere, here in Australia we are generally discouraged from providing food for wild birds, other than through growing bird attracting plants.

Among the arguments against backyard feeders are:

  • It encourages larger birds, reducing diversity in the area.
  • It can open birds up to predation by habituating them to the urban environment.
  • Birds may become dependent on the easy food source and become less inclined to forage.
  • The food may not be of sufficient quality or variety to provide adequate nutrition.
  • Diseases can be transmitted at feeding stations.

However I do put out food on occasion for the Rainbow Lorikeets. I buy wild-bird nectar and also put out grapes, watermelon and other soft fruit. Generally I only do so if the birds gather in my trees of a morning, and often I won’t see them for weeks so I assume there is plentiful nectar and pollen in the area. The are the clowns of the bird world, and it is great to see them in in the garden. Eventually my shrubs will have grown to where they can provide all the birds’ needs.

We have had a week of very heavy rain, and this morning there was a huge flock waiting when I went outside, so I put out some thick nectar porridge and a selection of grapes and blueberries.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Galgabba Point

Easter means different things to different people. After ten years at Catholic boarding school I now rarely attend religious ceremonies. The Bathurst motorcycle races are no more. The Byron Bay Blues Fest now has too little blues and too many intoxicated young people. My taste in confectionary runs to a tiny amount of very good, very dark chocolate. But Easter is still a significant occasion. It is when the honeyeaters return to Galgabba Point.
A level track wanders between Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Highway to the end of the point, and returns. The vegetation is primarily Eucalypt, Melalueca, Casaurina, Cabbage Tree palms and Mangroves. It is a significant bushland remnant, home to many threatened plant species and to the Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot and Squirrel Glider. It is an important staging point or winter residence for migrating honeyeaters, who begin to arrive around Easter each year.


Scarlet Honeyeater