Category Archives: Royal National Park


Sooty Owl - Tyto tenebricosa A bloody good looking bird.

Sooty Owl – Tyto tenebricosa
A bloody good looking bird, I think you’ll agree!

One thing I’ve discovered is that trying to go birding with a little person in your life is … difficult. So that best remedy for that is to do it at night when he’s asleep! Unfortunately, that restricts my options to owls, frogmouths and I’ve had to expand into frogs. Now I’ll never be a frogger, but they’re pretty cool to track down. There’s a bit of a swampy wetland near me, and I headed down there the other night. Saw 3 frog species and heard another one, and thanks to some advice from a frog person I know who lives nearby, I’ve been put on the straight and narrow for ID – my frog book is still in a box somewhere, and while the ebook version is good – well, it’s the exact same text and images – but it doesn’t work with my brain the same as the book. So enjoy a Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peroni.

Peron's Tree Frog - Litoria peronii

Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peronii

One of the main perks of living at Helensburgh is the proximity to the Sooty Owls that you can find in the Royal National Park. I’ve looked on at least 20 occasions for these owls, and heard them quite a lot. Often at a great distance, but occasionally so close that they’re doing the trill/insect noise that they do when they’re on top of you, like Predator, yet I’ve not seen the nominate race (I saw the northern Queensland subspecies – Lesser Sooty Owl – back in 2006, but that has now been elevated to full species, and the NSW Sooty’s are now a seperate species, depending on your taxonomy), let alone photographed it. It is a frustrating thing spotlighting for owls in tall, dense wet eucalypt rainforest – you can’t see anything, there’s leeches, and even though you can hear them, you know that the chances are slim to see them. The worst part of all my prior houses was that it was a 2 hour round trip driving to dip on them every time. Now it would only be a 30 minute round trip drive to dip on them! Awesome!

Mountain Brushtail Possum

Mountain Brushtail Possum – Trichosurus cunninghami

Last nights trip followed the usual script – I could hear Sooty calls off in the distance, could hear Boobooks much closer (although equally invisible to my eyes and torch), and all I could find were microbats and a couple of possums – including the above Mountain Brushtail Possum – a first for me. Given Sooty Owls will eat possums, and there were good numbers of possums out, seemingly without a care in the world, and the Sooty Owl/s had stopped calling and weren’t responding to my amazing impersonation of their call, I decided to pack it in for the night, and try again later. Walking out from Bola Creek and heading back out to the carpark, I felt something behind me, and turned to my left to see the dark wings of a Sooty Owl pass behind me and land in some dense low growth. I was super happy with that, and although I didn’t get a photo, I saw a Sooty Owl! Anyway I chucked the torch on the bush, had the bins and scoured that growth and couldn’t see anything. put the bins down, and then it flew up into a high tree about 10-15 meters above the ground, and 10-15 meters away from me! Camera up, click, click – check back, great, decreased the shutter speed and got one more photo off, and then it was gone. I was super stoked, and here are the other 2 photos for your enjoyment. I’m a big fan of their feathery pant legs.

My first photo of one

My first photo of a Sooty Owl

Sooty Owl - my second photo of one

Sooty Owl – my second photo of one

Now I’ll get back down there and try for a: better photos and b: to record their calls. I’m 95% certain I’ve got this guy’s territory mapped out now. I’ve got another spot nearby where I think there’s another bird, possibly it’s partner, possibly the same bird, but it’s always good to have a backup location for a species. Anyway – happy birding everyone!

Over halfway through the year already!

Where does the time go…?

Last time I wrote, I’d just got back from the Oriental Plover twitch. Since then, I’ve been to Melbourne twice (only to Western Treatment Plant once though), done the Princes Highway in driving rain, and apart from that, flat out with uni and not processing photos. However, with uni finished for semester (kick-off for semester 2 is next week), I’ve been going birding when possible (pelagic this Sunday), and giving the website a slight makeover. That is all backend at the moment, but stay tuned for all new galleries as I move away from flickr to hosting everything locally.

So let’s start at the start – Victoria in mid-February, mostly to see My Bloody Valentine (a band in case you’re wondering), but the camera came along and a small bit of birding was squeezed in. The highlights were: Western Treatment Plant – once again, an awesome place. Nothing amazingly unexpected – there had been a Broad-billed Sandpiper around, but I didn’t see it, and probably the highlight was a flock of 6 Brolga, which was a new bird for my Victorian list. I managed close to 80 birds in 4 hours, got some good photos (yet to be processed), and saw a fantastic band. That was a good day.

Shortly after that, uni started. I am seriously loving this degree, but its quite hard to study birds, when that same study reduces the time available to go birding! To be fair, one assignment did involve spending heaps of time in the field, surveying birds at one of my favourite spots, Mt. Bass Firetrail in the Royal NP, and the residential school involved a full day in the field birding, and I saw over 150 birds while on residential school, including the trip there and back, but I missed out on some truly amazing Sydney Pelagic trips, most stingingly the one where they got the Barau’s Petrel… gragh! aaaanyway… apart from birding, one of the hghlights of the residential school was the taxidermy. I am absolutely terrible at it, and am quite happy to never have to prepare a skin again, but to literally get my hands inside a Boobook and a Crested Pigeon and see just how fragile these organisms I love to chase are, gives a new dimension to birding.

Marks come out for semester 1 in a couple of days, and looking at my unscaled marks I’ve spanked one subject and belted the other one, so hopefully scaling is favourable to me and I destroy it. Looking at the assignments for this coming semester, one appears to have me conducting silly amounts of time in the field birding again… did I mention that I love this degree?

Drs Dave Watson and Melanie Massaro know their stuff, and to anyone reading who is thinking of doing the Graduate Diploma (or Certificate) in Ornithology at CSU – I encourage you to give it a crack. I’ve got a different lecturer this semester, but he’s been an ornithologist for years and years, so I’m excited to learn from him too.

Ayeay – the birding! I camped in Chiltern as I usually do, so managed to get out each morning and get out most nights. Bartley’s Block was amazing, as usual, and despite the Regent Honeyeater captive bred birds being released, and hearing them at the release sight, I couldn’t see any. There were also some very late Fork-tailed Swifts around, and some White-browed Woodswallows,along with the usual suspects. Loads of Scarlet Robins as well. After that, I swung down to Melbourne to visit the nephew, and share a bottle of wine with the parents of said nephew, I then came back to Sydney via the Princes Highway. Unfortunately, the weather was absolute pants. I only managed to bird Sale Common in between rain squalls (good numbers of raptors though) and Lake Wallacoot (wallagoot?) in Bournda NP on the NSW South Coast, again in between rain (highlight being 5 species of raptor in the air at once, including calling Sea-Eagles!). It utterly hosed down for the rest of the trip, so I aborted a trip to Barren Grounds.

In actual birding news, we went spotlighting in the Royal for Sooty Owl on saturday, but apart from hearing a Tawny Frogmouth and an Owlet-nightjar, and seeing an Eastern Wallaroo, the bush was very quiet. Im looking forward to getting out on the boat off Port Stephens this Sunday.

While I can’t promise that I’ll make more regular posts and whatnot this semester, I’ll try to try. And with that in mind, I’ll try to post a report of the pelagic next week!

Good birding!

Curracurrang Cove, Royal National Park

Spent a pleasant enough spring morning on Sunday doing the Wattamolla to Curracurrang Cove walk at the Royal NP this morning – further training for my trip to Bowra in … not very long at all!

The highlights were several – a pod of around 30 Bottlenosed Dolphin, Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters a-plenty, a Peregrine Falcon buzzing a small group of feeding Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and around 30 other bird species. Not much in the way of landscape shots, as it appears that half of Sydney was also enjoying the sunshine, but I hope you enjoy this Tawny-crowned Honeyeater sans right foot. I’ll upload some more if I get a chance to process them before I go away.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – Gliciphila melanops

Deer Pool, Royal National Park, 26 August 2012

Royal National Park heath, with Little Marley beach on the horizon.

With some lovely late winter sunshine and some nice weather, we decided to go down to the Royal National Park and do the walk to Deer Pool. Highlights were the wildflowers in full show, and bird wise was a Little Eagle, and a Brown Goshawk (record shots below).

Little Eagle, top and bottom – even from >1km away, he was looking at us.

All in all a lovely walk, and one I can recommend to everyone.

I’ll upload some more images later on.

Wises Track, Royal National Park

Spent the morning walking the southern part of the Wises Track in the Royal NP, checking out Colbee Knob, and then heading out to the end of the track that looks over the rainforest at Lady Carrington Drive.

The view from 34° 8' 1"S 151° 2' 38"E

Didn’t take the big glass, just some record keeping lenses – it was refreshing to go birding again, and not with photography as the main purpose. Needless to say, no bird shots, but I did manage this rather nice photo of a Copper-tailed Skink.

Copper-tailed Skink - Ctenotus taeniolatus

Birding the Royal

In the possibly futile attempt to post monthly, I’m going to sneak in with a quick report on my trip to Jersey Spring on Lady Carrington Drive (LCD) in the Royal NP this morning. Photos to come – I’m just trying to not write my powerpoint for a series of classes I’m delivering in 8 days time.

I went for a stroll along LCD down to Jersey Spring and back, in the hope of finding some youngish male Lyrebirds.

It’s a month or 3 too early for them to be flexin’ for the ladies, but they should be around. And they are. I found a party of 4 young males bickering and carrying on, as young males do – it’s quite similar to the first few weeks of university really – frisky young people carrying on… good on them, but jeez it gets tiresome (at uni anyway – i quite like it in the bush. fnar, fnar). There was even one male calling, but he was over the river – I suspect that this winter will be Lyrebird season in the Royal, as I’m seeing more young this year than in many years indeed. I can only assume that it’s the same throughout their range.

At Jersey Spring, I wandered over to the river and saw an Azure Kingfisher fly north towards Audley – and I thinks to myself, sweet, I’ll set up shop and wait for him to fly back and take some shots. So I clambour across fairly dry mud that is smashed by deer hoofs (obviously the wet summer has been good for the Rusa Deer in the park as well, while not being so good for the river edges!), and notice another Kingfisher perched on a branch in the river. Another Azure! and s/he even let me take photos. And then I notice another Kingfisher perched! A Sacred. Not as exciting as an Azure, but to have the 2 of them in close proximity gave an excellent chance to compare size, and the Azure is as small as you’d think it is.

SO anyways – I’ve seen the kingfishers, they’ve gone off king-fishing, and I head back – pretty good tally for Jersey Spring – 2x kingfisher species, big party of Lyrebirds, Catbird and Bowerbird, good views of Striated and Brown Thornies, and Brown Gerygone, no topknots, but i’m pretty happy – it’s 11am and pretty much a howling gale after all – so I start to head back and come to work.

At the spring itself, I stumble across a mixed feeding party of bush-birds – Lewin’s, White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Yellow Robin, and at least 10 Black-faced Monarchs, including juveniles. Sweet!

About 200 meters along the track past there, I see a mixed flock of small birds feeding on the edge of the track – and then I hear a Beautiful Firetail whistle. That totally threw me – I’ve only seen BF’s in heath and swampy heath. not in tree-fern lined gullies of recovering rainforest/wet schlerophyll… then I see one. and another! definitely Beautiful Firetails! stoked! Got a dodgy, dodgy record shot (to come) to prove that they’re in rainforest. The nearest I’ve seen these guys is at Chinaman’s Helipad – about 150 meters of altitude (as in sheer cliff), and 3ish km as the firetail flies, but a whole different ecosystem. I should track their expanding range across the NP – and will even try to do that based on my records. Stay tuned.

Put the bins on the fairy-wrens, expecting them to be Superbs, when a male hops across, and I see the chestnut band – “bugger me – they’re Variegated!”. I’ve seen them previously on the Forest Path (about 2.5 km away), but not in the middle of LCD. all good.

In other news – I’m getting a 300mm f2.8 lens for my South Australia trip, and you’ll see all manner of updates from both of us as we’re off on that trip. I can’t wait, and I hope Keryn enjoys it as well ;) haha!