The Barren Grounds loop track just to the south of Sydney offers around 8 kilometres of opportunity to spot rare and unusual wildlife such as Eastern Bristlebird, Ground Parrot or Potoroo. Or, as happened to me last Sunday, an 8 kilometre walk without sighting a single strand of feather or fur.
The loop starts and finishes at a carpark. It is located next to a stand of tall trees and a few picnic tables. There was no sign of any wildlife when I first arrived at Barren Grounds and the absence continued over the next two hours of walking. It was only when I’d finished the loop and returned to the carpark that I heard my first bird calls of the day, Shining Bronze Cuckoos foraging high in the canopy. I spent the next twenty minutes trying to get a clear shot of the fast moving birds as they flitted amongst the branches gleaning caterpillars and other insects off the foliage.
Two Golden Whistlers were calling from opposite ends of the carpark, while a family group of White Throated Treecreepers were working their way along the rough barked trunks and branches. I watched a treecreeper extract a Long Horned Beetle, the beetle’s impressive jaws no defence against the probing beak.
This wasn’t the first time I’d finished a wildlife free walk only to find that the wildlife were all hanging around the carpark. A few days later I had an unusually quiet walk along the Hacking River in Royal National Park, which finished with the discovery of a Noisy Friarbird nest a couple of metres away from my parked car. This pair’s nest was at head height, with another friarbird nest another twenty metres higher in the same tree.
Sitting down to watch the friarbirds I soon realised that a Sacred Kingfisher was hunting on the edge of the carpark, swapping between perches on either side after each foray to the ground. One of the kingfisher’s trips to the ground produced what looked like a Dwarf Reed Frog. The frog got thoroughly battered against a branch before being tossed into the air and swallowed.
Sacred Kingfisher 081115.1
I suspect that there is a bit more to ‘carpark syndrome’ than the fact that most walks in the park starts and ends at a carpark. I reckon that carparks attract a disproportionate amount of wildlife. There are lots of possible explanations: perhaps the reduced competition for light and water means that the fringing trees carry more blossom and insects to attract wildlife; or the clear lines of sight make for easier hunting of aerial prey; or perhaps it is the discarded food scraps and other rubbish that attracts some species. Whatever the reason, don’t dismiss the very real possibility that the best wildlife sighting of the day will happen as you open (or close) the car door!
Odds and Sods of the week