Summer is struggling to come to an end this year. The continued high temperatures are having an impact on local wildlife, with reptiles still active and lots of breeding activity still in evidence.
Despite the unusually warm autumn weather the week also offered one of my favourite signs of approaching winter, the arrival of Rose Robins.
A small number of Rose Robins stay around Sydney all year however the majority arrive in April and May. They soon become one of the easiest spotted bushland birds, setting up small territories where the same bird can be seen day after day. This contrasts with many other small birds, which form up into mixed species flocks that wander widely in search food.
My first Rose Robin of the season was in the carpark at work. Admittedly, work is in a national park rather than a suburb, but even so I was surprised to see the robin was staring at itself in a car’s side mirror. The following day the camera went in my backpack, and sure enough as I pulled up there was the Rose Robin. It captured a small caterpillar, subdued and swallowed its prize then sat nicely for a photograph.
A few days later I was at Centennial Park for the last fifteen minutes of daylight. Up until the last twenty years Pied Cormorants were irregular breeders around Sydney. Today there are large breeding colonies at a number of sites including the biggest of the ponds at Centennial Park. I wasn’t surprised to find fully fledged juveniles in the colony, but didn’t expect to see adults sitting on their next clutch.
The freshwater ponds provide vast quantities of European Carp, Mosquito Fish, Sea Mullet and Long Finned Eel. Most of the returning adults landed in trees to feed their young, which would compete to be the one to shove their heads down the parent’s gullet to retrieve a fishy meal. Others landed on the water, at which point the youngsters would pursue the adult over and under the water. It looked pretty brutal, with the jostling juveniles often pushing the parent below the surface. After watching for a while I started to wonder whether the ‘catch me if you can’ was a way of teaching the youngsters the skills they would need to catch their own food.
The ponds provide a highly productive site for the breeding colony. As always these city locations come with a bite for wildlife, the need to share them with we humans. A cormorant that had swallowed a fishing hook hung from one of the nesting trees as a grisly ornament.
Little and Long Billed Corella
As the sun disappeared under the city skyline a large flock of corellas landed just ahead on a patchy section of grass. Most were Little Corellas. Any flock of Little Corellas will contain birds more interested in a game of rough and tumble that feeding.
There were also several Long Billed Corellas. One landed near where I was sitting and gave a demonstration of using that long bill to dig deep below the surface to extract the starchy base of the grasses.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
The third species of white cockatoo in Sydney, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, is very common in the suburbs and even the middle of the city. They occur anywhere they can find food in gardens, open ground or open bins. They even inhabit the seaside, including rocky cliffs. There is a small flock that spends several hours each day on the cliff tops and rocky ledges around Cape Solander near Kurnell. There is no food for them in this micro habitat, and presumably they leave to feed elsewhere, however there always seem to be at least a few of the birds hanging around the cliff tops.
New Holland Honeyeater
One of the most spectacular wildlife sights around Sydney is the nightly ‘hawking’ of honeyeaters around dusk. The birds sally out after over the coastal heath, the action intensifying as the light fades and insect activity increases. This spectacle occurs throughout the year but is at its best in autumn, when hazard reduction burning gives that extra intensity to the sunsets. The most common species involved in low light hawking are New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds. the former being much more abundant.
Odds and sods