Sunday afternoon and my partner had barely completed the first row of stalls in The Rocks markets before my interest started to wane, so I headed across Circular Quay and towards the Botanic Gardens. A string of freshwater ponds flows through the gardens and into the harbour. Long Finned Eels and Sea Mullet patrol the pools. They create huge swirls as they suck down the bread thrown by visitors. I reckon most adults think the bread is for the ducks, but the kids know that it is all about the huge eels lurking below the surface.
There are two small islands in the middle of the largest pond. There are trees on the islands, and just about every fork in the branches supports a nest. The edge of the pond is only twenty metres from the nests, so it is vastly easier to watch the activity these city nests than at ‘natural’ breeding sites. Australian White Ibis and Little Black Cormorants were sitting on nests.
Familiarity has a tendency to breed contempt when it comes to some common species of wildlife. The Australian White Ibis definitely falls into that category around Sydney. There is something about their bald head, liking for garbage and willingness to breed throughout the city that seems to generate a universal antipathy. Pretty interesting given that the ibis don’t build mega tips, toss away food scraps or destroy the wetlands that once supported their breeding colonies. Personally I love the way Ibis exploit the city, finding nesting and foraging opportunities among the novel habitats created by our constructions.
Silver Gulls are another abundant species with a particular liking for our discarded food. They are the local species most likely to snatch from your hand rather than wait for you to drop a morsel. I once lost a falafel roll to a swooping Silver Gull. I hoped it was disappointed with the vegetarian option.
On the way back to the markets I stopped to watch flocks of Silver Gulls wheeling above the open air restaurants in Circular Quay. Looking up simplified the scene into just three elements: clear blue sky; the sails of the Opera House; and soaring Silver Gulls. My telephoto lens froze the soaring gulls against the curved backdrop of the Opera House. Flying above the hundreds of people on the forecourt below, the scene had an almost post apocalyptic feel, a single bird against the famous architectural backdrop.