It is no surprise that there are lots of juvenile wildlife towards the end of spring. Just about every pond around the city contains a clamouring horde of juvenile Australian Ibis as well as a pair of Black Ducks leading a flotilla of ducklings. Not all of the city youngsters are in plain sight, though, with dozens of Fairy Martins building their mud nests in the dark corners of drains and culverts.
Out on the wetlands of the Cumberland Plain there is a bit more variety to the waterbird flotillas, with clutches of Hard Heads, Grey Teal, Coot and Little Grebes out on the water.
The Little Grebes are especially gorgeous, the babies clambering onto their parent’s backs to ride and shelter.
I expect to see all this wildlife activity around Sydney’s wetlands, but have lower expectations for my own backyard. After several evenings listening to the barely audible subsonic rumble of a Tawny Frogmouth I went looking for the nest. I never found it, but came home a few afternoons later to find an adult and half-sized juvenile cuddled up together within a few meters of the back door. As soon as they realised they’d been spotted, the adult flew a couple of metres away and adopted the classic ‘I’m just a broken branch’ stance of the species. To my surprise, the half-sized version adopted the same pose. It was unconvincing as a rather fluffy looking broken branch, but certainly didn’t look like a bird. Maybe that’s enough to avoid being taken as something edible.
Short Necked Turtles
Another sign of the arrival of warm weather is the increased activity of local reptiles, including freshwater turtles. While watching Fairy Martins flying in and out of a culvert in Centennial Park I noticed a nose poking out of the water. It was a Short Necked Turtle. Closer scrutiny revealed another dozen pairs of nostrils swimming around that corner of the pond, along with several that had hauled out of the water to bask in the sun.
I was really looking forward to seeing the offspring of the Eastern Ospreys that nested on the Georges River this year. The pair started sitting on eggs back in early September (see blog for September 1, 2016). Sadly it wasn’t to be, with a group of jet ski riders destroying the nest and driving the adults away right when the chicks were due to hatch in mid October.
It left me genuinely uncomprehending about how the presence of the ospreys in the middle of one of the city’s busiest waterways could be perceived so differently by different people. I am convinced that for most it was a source of wonder that such a rare and majestic species was reclaiming a place in our city. For others the nest was a casual distraction and a chance to assert their dominance. How can we possibly survive on this planet if we don’t respect our fellow travellers?
On a vastly more positive note, one of the wildlife success stories of Sydney is that of the two species of oystercatcher, the Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers. Although both are listed as threatened species in NSW they are not only holding their own around Sydney but may even be increasing in numbers. A highlight of my week was spotting a nesting Pied Oystercatchers on the shore of Botany Bay. The nest was placed on a pile of debris that was heaped in the shoreline by an intense storm back in midwinter. It was a welcome sign of hope for one of our most sensitive species of urban wildlife.