I spent Christmas morning at my favourite cathedral - St Thornbill's,
sometimes referred to as Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National
What a gem this place is with its gorgeous, diverse botanical
splendour and magnificent array of birdlife. Needing to be at my
parents at midday for Chrissie dinner and wishing to get out there
before the cicadas struck up, I set off at sunrise. The birding was
incredible from the start with fantastic abundance. I adore the calls
of Noisy Friarbirds which filled the treetops adjacent to the
beginning of the trail, so it was hard to even get started walking,
as I'd have been happy to linger all morning and bask in the
A great feature of the morning was the total absence of mountain
bikes (didn't see any until 11:00am) and hoards of runners which
normally yell to each other as they go. One result was an abundance
of birds at the sides of the trail which I have not witnessed at this
location since the early 1990's, another was the behaviour of the
birds - much more confiding than usual and yet another was a much
greater presence of wallabies (witnessed a fabulous boxing match
between two Black Wallabies).
Accipiters did not disappoint, with repeated sightings of a Grey
Goshawk (at least 6 occasions), excellent stoush between a Collared
Sparrowhawk and a family of Kookaburras and a Brown Goshawk
attempting to take a Sacred Kingfisher. In 2003 I witnessed a
wonderful aerial dogfight between two Grey Goshawks at Lady
Carrington Drive, so I may have been observing two birds today, for
all I know.
One of the most successful Satin Bowerbirds on the drive this year is
an interesting chap. He has set up his bower on a rock ledge well
above the track but adjacent to a couple of large, abundant fig trees
(picnic ground at Jersey Springs). He had several females nesting
near his bower earlier this season and quite an abundance currently
visiting his bower and nearby fig trees. His bower is the simplest
Satin Bowerbird bowers that I have ever seen and it has not one blue
item decorating it, only a few cicada shells and some yellow-ish
leaves. I could only conclude that it's the fabulous food resource
which his territory contains which has made him so successful.
Perhaps defending a good territory is more important than display,
when the chips are down.
My list for the morning is below. I noted that Brown Cuckoo-Doves and
Topknot Pigeons are even harder to locate this year than they were
last year. I have not heard any Brown Cuckoo-Dove calls in the forest
at all for the past two summers, which is unheard of. I'd be
interested in other people's impressions of numbers and calls at this
location and elsewhere. Also now absent are the Scarlet Honeyeaters
which were quite common for some months.
Leaden Flycatchers appear to be much more abundant this year than for
previous years and the same could be said for Rufous Whistlers.
Regulars which I dipped on today included: Great Cormorant, Little
Black Cormorant, Australasian Grebe, Crimson Rosella, Yellow-throated
Scrubwren, Large-billed Scrubwren, Grey Shrike-thrush and Red-browed
Finch. Some of these species are not as common on the northern end of
the trail, which I visited today. Butterfly numbers were down, with
only a few Brown Ringlets making a showing.
By 10:30am the cicadas were singing very loudly - both damaging the
ears and making location of birds by call impossible so I returned to
my car and Christmas day with the family - one very happy birder.
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Wood Duck
Horsefield's Bronze Cuckoo
Eastern Yellow Robin
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