I met up with three other birders - Rob, Ed and Mark - for a day's birding in the Royal National Park, about an hour's drive south of Sydney on Saturday. Rob and Ed are expat Brits who, lucky them, now live and work in Sydney while Mark, like me, is just visiting for a few weeks.
It was an 8am start and the drive took an hour or so. The first stop was a place called Wattle Forest and this was alive with birds, producing loads of new species for me. The Bassian Thrush was elusive; we were told it was there by a group of Aussie birders, and we eventually tracked it down and got good views in the end.
Wattle Forest birds:
Bassian Thrush (very similar to White's Thrush, split, I think, fairly recently)
Superb Blue Wren (Superb Fairy Wren)
After the Wattle Forest we drove round to Lady Carrington's Drive, a nice track through the forest. Unfortunately, as well as being a good place for birders, it's also popular with joggers and pain-in-the-arse mountain bikers. The latter come along the track far too fast and the potential for a nasty accident is rather high. We were constantly having to watch out for these idiots and dodge them. One nearly ran me down while another shouted at us 'Move out of my way', rude bastard.
We walked about 4 or 5km along this track, hoping for Superb Lyrebird but, while we saw evidence of these and also heard one, we didn't get so much as a glimpse of one.
Lady Carrington birds:
Satin Bowerbird (one male, four or five females)
After dodging the cyclists and adding some good stuff to my list, it was on to the final birding place of the day, Mount Bass Fire Trail. This is heathland, with good views over the national park and also towards Sydney.
Mount Bass Fire Trail birds:
New Holland Honeyeater
The following day, yesterday, it was just Rob and myself and we headed west of the city to the Blue Mountains and Scheyville (pronounced 'Skyville') National Park. This is forest and, like Royal National Park, a lot easier to bird in than the rainforests and mangroves of the north.
There's also an open area where trees have been cleared to make way for pylons carrying power lines, known as the Power Line Cut, which is also good for birding.
The most obvious birds were Bell Miners and their carrying 'tink' calls, endearing at first, soon became tiresome, especially as Bell Miners are aggressive and drive other birds away, meaning if you come across Bell Miners not much else will be around.
Crested Shrike-tit (looks like a weird Great Tit)
From Scheyville NP we went to Bussells Lagoon where the birding was brilliant. It was hot but the birds were active, including the surprise Zebra Finch, we weren't expecting to find these so close to Sydney.
Also saw Turtles and water dragons.
All too soon it was time to head back to Sydney, where we managed to get in the wrong lane of traffic and ended up crossing the Harbour Bridge. We had to go round and recross it to get back to the right side of Sydney (the south)!
My trip list overall is 208, with 186 of those being new birds. That makes my overall world total something like 730. I might make it to 1000 in total by the time I get home in June, but I'm not too fussed if I don't.
Today (Monday) I went for a walk round the city. I got a ticket from King's Cross to Central and walked back via Darling Harbour. It was a nice walk but took ages.
I am supposed to be going to Coonabarabran on Wednesday to meet some astronomy friends from the US, but it's a 7 hour train and bus ride and I will be up all night before heading back to Sydney on Thursday! It'll be nice to see my friends again, but I'm not looking forward to the travelling or the cost of it.
The hostel I am staying in may be tatty, and the room smells like someone has been smoking in it in the recent past, but it has proved to be nice and quiet - however, the neighbourhood is well dodgy. I am sure next door is a brothel, judging by the superannuated slappers and dodgy blokes I've seen going into it, there are prostitutes everywhere (usually with cops rounding them up!) and there was a shooting in the next street in the early hours of yesterday morning! Still, it's an interesting place and I actually quite like it.