North Head and Warriewood, NSW, Dec 2007 (long)

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Subject: North Head and Warriewood, NSW, Dec 2007 (long)
From: "Peter Shute" <>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 08:10:08 +1100
I attended a 2 day work conference in the Sydney suburb of Manly, at the start 
of December, and being from Melbourne I thought I should make the most of the 
free travel and accommodation to do some birding.

I posted an RFI here a few months ago, and it was suggested that North Head, 
Dee Why lagoon, Long Reef and Warriewood Wetlands would be good, close places 
to visit.  Not having that much spare time during the conference, and being 
restricted to public transport, I decided to do North Head on Saturday 
afternoon, then Warriewood on Sunday.  I had all day Sunday, so if I finished 
Warriewood in time I'd do one of the city parks on the way to the airport.

Again I prepared by getting a Warriewood species list and creating a playlist 
from the BOCA CDs on my phone to listen to beforehand.

29/11/07 I ended up in the hotel in Manly by 3pm on the Thursday, so I wandered 
up to North Head after picking up an outdated map and some incorrect 
information from the hotel staff.  They didn't know about the walking track 
that leads up from the south end of the beach, so I trudged up the hill on the 
main road.

At the top of the hill I stumbled on what's called the Blue Fish Track, which 
passes through otherwise impenetrable heath, and walked down to the beach end 
of the track where I had my best ever views of several White-browed Scrubwrens. 
 This the first time I've ever found that my binoculars, with a limit of 3.6m, 
wouldn't focus closely enough.

Plenty of time left, so I walked back up again.  Around 6pm I could hear 
something calling loudly intermittently near the top, but couldn't see it.  I 
later discovered that it matched what BOCA CD 4's notes describe as the 
"falsetto" call of a Southern Boobook (track 59, 1m40s in).  Anyone want to 
comment on whether that's a possibility, or what else might sound like that?

Across the road from the top of the track was a new looking "board walk" (it's 
steel) through some dense vegetation.  I could hear Eastern Yellow Robins, but 
couldn't see them.  This track led to the lawn of some government (army?) 
building that I didn't bother to check the name of – a map I found on the web 
says it's the Roden Cutler Building, once part of the School of Artillery.  
There was a pair of Masked Lapwings with a juvenile on the lawn. Having read 
stories of parental aggression here recently, I kept clear.

At 6.30pm a sensible person would have returned to Manly for tea, but I turned 
left and walked to the head.  From the car park there I saw my first Peregrine 
Falcon, and saw some Australian Ravens chasing something big out to sea.  I had 
to run to get a look at my first White-bellied Sea Eagle before it got too far 

Heading back, I saw the mystery bird of the trip.  Just for an instant I saw 
what looked like a smallish green thrush sitting in a low bush.  I don't know 
where to start trying to work that one out, as I don't really trust my 

It was starting to get dark now, and I found my first Tawny Frogmouth 
(juvenile) sitting in a tree opposite the Roden Cutler Building, and then 
walked back 100m to locate a Common Koel and a Grey Butcherbird that were 
calling.  I saw a few more Koels on the way back down, but it was too dark to 
see them properly.

Full list for the day (21 species) at:

30/11/07 The conference had been moved from the hotel to Dee Why RSL because of 
construction works, but I found no time to get down to the lagoon, which was 
only a block away.  I made a half hearted effort to see the Little Penguins 
under Manly Wharf at sunrise before a mostly pointless tour of some of Manly's 
parks, but had no precise idea what time to be there.  I think sunset might be 

1/12/07 The second day of the conference was just Saturday morning, so I took 
my binoculars along, intending to spend the afternoon at the lagoon then get 
the bus back.  It rained hard all morning and was still raining when the 
conference finished, so I returned to the hotel and spent the afternoon in my 
room trying out the four sets of trial contact lenses my optometrist had given 

These were supposed to make birding better by improving my off-axis vision, 
making it possible to id fast flying birds.  Some were too strong, some were 
too weak, so I systematically tested them all and put in what seemed to be the 
best pair.

The rain stopped late afternoon, so I walked back up the Blue Fish Track to 
test them out.  With something really interesting calling in the bushes right 
in front of me, they gave me grief and no id.  That's it – I'm sticking with 

2/12/07 I had resheduled my Sunday morning flight to 5pm, so I had all day for 
Warriewood.  I had it all worked out with the bus times, but hotel breakfast 
didn't start till 6.30am – the same time as the first bus - and I didn't have 
time to work anything else out, and that buggered everything up.  I checked out 
and stored my luggage at reception, and arrived at the bus stop 30 minutes 
after the first bus, to find that the second bus left in an hour.  Not wanting 
to miss that many birds, I caught a taxi.

Sunrise was 5.30am, 20 minutes earlier than Melbourne, being much further east, 
so I guess I should have bought something for breakfast the day before *and* 
caught a taxi early.  My stomach cost me an hour's birding, my stinginess cost 
me another.

Warriewood was great.  I'd been told that 2 hours would be enough there, but I 
went around twice, then did the adjacent Irrawong Reserve, and didn't leave 
till after 2pm and could have stayed longer.

New for me were Channel-billed Cuckoo, Variegated Fairywren, White-throated 
Needletail, Lewin's Honeyeater, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Red-whiskered Bulbul 
and Dollarbird. I saw lots of Golden Whistlers around the bridge in Irrawong 
Reserve, my best views yet.

Heading back t the bus stop, I worked out too that the decending trill I was 
hearing on the boardwalk in Warriewood was a Tawny Grassbird, so I didn't even 
try to see it.  I was tempted, but I *really* had to go to get my bus.  Well, I 
gave it 30 seconds.

I watched my bus pass by, 3 minutes early, as I waited to cross at the lights 
on Pittwater Rd.  Bastard – I could have got the Tawny Grassbird (maybe).  I 
threw caution to the wind and jumped on the next bus, which wasn't going to 
Manly, in an attempt to make the inevitable taxi ride shorter and cheaper, and 
somehow fluked a change at some place the bus driver called Worgamal (Warringah 
Mall?), and everything was ok again.

I picked up my luggage, caught the ferry to Circular Quay, realised I was still 
kind of late and jumped in a taxi to the airport.  Phew.

Full list for the day (50 species) at:

In hindsight, I should have just hired a car.  For about $50 more than I paid 
for transport (plus fuel and tolls), I could have done the lagoons too, got to 
Warriewood earlier and left later.  And walked less - according to the GPS log, 
I walked more than 30km!  I guess about 10km was just getting places.  I 
probably could have used it for shelter on the rainy Saturday too, and come out 
between downpours.

Thanks to those who advised me about locations, etc, including Alan McBride, 
Alistair McKeough, Maria Merkling Havens, Tom Wilson, Bruce Cox, Roger McNeill, 
Nikolas Haass and others.

Happy New Year everyone,
Peter Shute

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