My last post concentrated on the super abundant New Holland Honeyeater. This week starts with another local honeyeater, the Tawny Crowned Honeyeater. This species is far less common and is usually seen as individuals or pairs.
Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters seem to forage around a regular circuit between patches of heath and rocky outcrop. They will visit the same shrubs every few minutes, so with a bit of observation and patience it is easy to set up for a photograph.
Both New Holland and Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters spend a large proportion of their time chasing insects. New Hollands catch theirs on the wing, whereas Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters scuttle across exposed rock surfaces, prying their beaks into the cracks and crevices in search of invertebrates. They share this habitat and habit with Rock Warblers, the sandstone specialists.
The density of Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters is too low for the ‘rumbles’ you see in social honeyeaters such as New Holland, Yellow Tufted or White naped Honeyeaters. A different social behaviour that is characteristic of the species is spectacular display flights. The honeyeater makes a distinctive wailing whistle as it climbs high above the heath before dropping vertically to ground. Sometimes a second honeyeater will join the first, leading to a twisting chase through the heath.
Small freshwater pools form in depressions in the sandstone of the cliff tops. The sun warms the shallow bowls into an irresistible bath for many birds. Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters are regular visitors to the clifftop pools, energetically ducking under the surface and tossing water high into the air.
White Bellied Seaeagles can be seen hunting and scavenging virtually everywhere along the Sydney coast. They are usually noticed when flying overhead, but last weekend I was lucky enough to spot one resting on a cliff edge. They are very twitchy when perched and it flew off when it realised I was watching it. Confident in the air it swept past barely twenty metres away.
During winter Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos congregate into flocks of a hundred or more. A scramble up a conveniently located dune near Wattamolla offered the chance to photograph a flock landing in a stand of coastal banksias. White cockatoos flap around with manic energy but these black ones maintain a serene and unhurried appearance.
The final images for this post were taken during a cold dive at the entrance to Botany Bay. Lovely clear water and enough current for a lazy drift into the bay. First highlight for the dive was a school of Old Wife swimming over the sand. They are a slow moving fish that act as cleaners when young, picking parasites off larger fish. They are patterned in silver and black stripes that continue along the long spiky fins. A school of Old Wife combines in wonderful shifting patterns, nicely suited to black and white photography.
The second highlight was several Weedy Seadragons hunting shrimp along the interface between sand and reef. Photographing seadragons can be a bit frustrating as they tend to turn away from an approaching diver, but this behaviour changes when stalking shrimp. They become very single minded and you get the chance to watch them vacuuming up the tiny shrimp.
Nothing outstanding, but a satisfying mixed bag for the week.