Below we highlight special sightings and birding experiences that we want to share, apart from the usual blog post. These are usually local experiences, feel free to comment and ask questions.
A recent tip off from a lovely birding couple from Woronora led me to this wonderful Powerful Owl pair. This is Australia’s largest Owl, and similar to other owls they usually sleep during the day in the same tree.
The following day I took my wife to see the Powerful Owls and they were in the same tree but one of them had caught a Possum the previous night and was hanging what remains of it proudly from the perch, as is their habit, in readiness for consumption later that evening.
I visited Lake Wallace, just north west of Lithgow, after a tip off that there were many Blue-billed Ducks as well as the usual Musk Duck. The female is mottled grey in appearance, and looks similar in both species, which makes it difficult to discern at times. The male’s blue bill shines with remarkable brilliance in the sun and is very easy to spot, even far out on the lake. This is a sample of what I saw:
These birds are difficult to photograph as they are very shy and stay in the centre of the lake away from humans. They rarely come to land, and as you can see in these pictures they sleep on the water, tucking their bills under their feathers on their backs. The breeding male has the bright blue bill as seen below but to the right of him is a non-breeding male.
Blue-billed Ducks sleeping on the water
Breeding and non-breeding males
The Musk Duck male is seen here with his interesting facial apparel. These birds are often found with Blue-bills as they share some similar traits. They lie low in the water, have fan-like tails and also sleep on the water.
As many of you know I have ticked off the elusive and critically endangered rare Regent Honeyeater from my bucket list. Not that I have seen it for the first time, for I had in Taronga Zoo, but that I saw an unbanded bird for first time in the wild, making it a true lifer. You can view my story in a previous blog post here.
The decline in this bird over recent years is believed to be due to loss of habitat especially the blossom of the Mugga Ironbark tree. Most of these trees were cut down in the 1900s for railway sleepers. Australia’s largest ever conservation program is trying to save these birds (less than 200 left in the wild) by a massive tree replanting, but it may be too late as these trees take several years to mature and flower. These birds are turning up in most unexpected places, but Capertee National Park ( a locked gate park) is the main conservation area for these birds in NSW.
Regent Honeyeater feeding on Ironbark blossom
Walking in the Royal National Park, Audley, my wife discovered the nest of a Tawny Frogmouth, not in a eucalypt tree, which is the normal camouflaged tree for these birds, but on a large limb of a Angophora costata tree or Sydney Red Gum, where it stood out like a sore thumb. This was high in a tree next to the large Fig in Fig Tree Flat.
On one of our hottest Summer days on record my wife and I left very early to visit the Sydney Botanic Gardens to search for the very rare sighting of the leucistic Pied Currawong which was raising its two healthy black fledglings. Here is what we found. This bird is usually mostly black but the genetic mutation has caused it to only have patchy areas of black, appearing mostly white.