Category Archives: 2015


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!

And here we are. Helensburgh!

So yeah – as I alluded to in the last post, shortly before pledging weekly/more frequent updates, we were moving. And now we have – to sunny Helensburgh. About an hour south of where I used to live, and I’ve already utterly smashed my old house list, in terms of quality, and most of that has just been in moving and hanging out.

Best birds seen in/over/from my yard in the 5 days that I’ve had the keys are: Square-tailed Kite, which is obviously hanging out nearby as I’ve seen (what I assume to be) the same bird 3 times now, the nesting Sacred Kingfishers which are just over the fence, Boobooks visiting my front tree (along with duelling Boobooks calling for most of the night) and having Satin Bowerbirds visiting/flying past daily. My old best bird on the house list in 8 years of Outer-Inner Western Sydney was a passing through juvenile Rufous Whistler, and probably next best on the house list was Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike. And prior to that in proper Inner Western Sydney would have been Koel. So not much chop. My old house list as well was around 55 species, which is pretty bloody solid, but here, in 5 days, I’m up to 47 (my total Helensburgh list, for the whole suburb, and a much larger area than just my house block is somewhere in the 70’s). I am very confident that I will have destroyed the old PB for “biggest house list” by the time our lease is up.

And mammal wise, I’ve also killed it. The old house list was Fruit-bats, 1 rat, and a couple of mice. Here I’ve had Fruit-bats, some sort of micro-bat/s buzzing around the street light, and a deer just up the road as we came in on the day the removalists did their sordid task. I’ll take microbats over rats and mice any day of the week, and I’ll quite happily take deer over rats and mice as an introduced species as well. I haven’t gone spotlighting in my patch of bush which is … 20 meters from my back door yet, but I’ll get into that shortly. There are some frogs calling as well, but I’ll get onto them later. No reptiles yet apart from a couple of skinks which were too fast for ID purposes, but if there’s more than just garden skinks, I’ll have more diversity here than in lovely Campsie. The spiders are more different – I’ve seen about 2-3 species I can’t ID and don’t recall having seen anywhere prior, which is good, and the beetles and butterflies make for all new types of bugs and flying things that I’m enjoying having around. Jr is also quite enamoured with the numbers of butterflies… I’ll make a nature dude out of him yet.

Anyway – tomorrow is a rest day, which means I’ll be up at sparrow’s and off to the Royal for a dawn birding trip. I can’t wait to get down to my new local patch, which I have visited near countless times before, but that has always involved at least a 45 minute drive each way. Now it’s a sub-10 minute trip to one of my favourite places in the park. To be fair, I will miss being in close proximity to Olympic Park and Eastlakes Golf-course (easily some of Sydney’s best birding locations), but you know… I won’t miss it as much as I’ll enjoy living here. He says after 1 nights sleep at the new address. ;) hahaha.

Anyway – hopefully I’ll post more regularly, but I’m not making promises anymore. That just breaks hearts.


(tap. tap. tap.) Is this thing on?

Hi everyone, sorry about the absolute lack of posts… it’s been hectic doing this parenting thing! I’ve still been getting out there birding a bit, but not as much as I used to. Anyway – I’m now going to be more pro-active and start posting stuff more regularly. First up will be porting my now long-in-the-tooth-but-still-used guide to birding in Sydney ( to this blog, as in the coming months we’re moving suburbs and I’ll be changing ISP which means that page won’t be live soon. As a plus of the move, I’ll be 15 minutes away from some of my favourite spots in the Royal NP, so going for a sneaky birding mission before Jr. wakes up will be actually doable. And going spotlighting for Sooty Owl also becomes a reality. Anyway – more on that later!
So yeah – strap yourselves in for (weekly? at the very least more regular) updates.