The main reason for taking this trip is wildlife watching, and we have high hopes of seeing lots of interesting critters and birds in Tasmania. In Sydney we thought we might spot a feral pigeon or two if we were lucky, but otherwise had minimal expectations. The plethora of Sacred Ibis mentioned in the previous post was the first clue that we were being unduly pessimistic. The next day we took a bus to Centennial Park, which we hadn’t even heard of before we arrived, and had a great morning. Places like this demonstrate just how good urban wildlife watching can be.
The park was proclaimed in January 1888, exactly one hundred years after the founding of the colony of New South Wales. It was dedicated to the people, and there were certainly lots of people there when we visited, all making the most of this great opportunity to get closer to nature without leaving the city limits. Centennial Park constitutes a welcome green oasis in the concrete and asphalt jungle, a mixture of open grassy areas, trees, ponds and cultivated beds, with a few statues thrown in to add a bit of variety. In the woodland area we were delighted to see a roost of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, including this one emerging from a hole in a tree trunk where she presumably had eggs or chicks.
In the same area is the largest colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes (a type of “megabat”) in the Sydney area. They feed by night and during the day we would have expected to see them hanging upside down, immobile, sleeping off the excesses of the night before. However they proved to be very active, squabbling with their neighbours and occasionally taking off like this one for a quick flight around the treetops.
The Laughing Kookaburra, an oversized relative of the UK’s native kingfisher, is one of Australia’s most familiar birds. We were amazed when this one flew into the lower branches of one of the very trees in which the flying foxes were hanging out a few metres above.
The ponds also proved productive. Black Swans were present in abundance; they are handsome birds, with their crimson beaks contrasting vividly with their jet black plumage. Amongst the swans were a couple of pelicans, their enormous bills making them an unmistakable and comical sight:
All of which reminds me of an old birding joke that I feel obliged to share with any non-birders reading this blog:
Q: How do you convert a pelican into an American soul singer?
A: Whack it in the oven at gas mark 8 until its Bill Withers
Think about it.
I can only apologise for any distress that appalling joke has caused to the more delicate followers of Platypus Pandemonium. On the other hand I’m tempted to urge everyone not to worry, after all it’s gonna be a lovely day … (lovely day, lovely day) …