Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bushell's Lagoon and Castlereagh Nature Reserve

A few kilometers north west of Pitt Town you find Bushell's Lagoon. After a little Scheyville National Park detour we crossed the Hawkesbury at Windsor and headed towards the next Lagoon on the agenda.

Bushell's Lagoon is a great spot! Contrary to the Pitt Town equivalent you have the option of walking a bit around getting close to the wildlife and smelling nature. We got a glimpse of an Australian water dragon and according to a reliable source it is a great spot for seeing Red-bellied black snakes during summer. (Luckily?) It was still too cold for the snakes, but we had excellent views of a bit of feathered wildlife, which seems very relaxed - nearly curious - about a couple of walkers entering their domain.

Was quite happy with a series of photos, including the one above, where I managed to catch a few sharp ones of a particular inquisitive Golden-headed Cisticola getting close. The water birds were swarming like planes around Kingsford Smith and once again an Australian Pelican with nearly 2 meter wingspan is an excellent subject to practice on when taking on the wonderful world of BIF (Bird In Flight) shooting.

While walking along the track we managed to get a glimpse of something yellow, red, black and finchy and realized that we had a little community of European Goldfinches in the trees around us. They were less curious than the Cisticola, but managed to get enough of a picture to be able to claim it as a done deal.

On the way back towards the significantly more crowded end of Sydney I realized that I should take advantage of being accompanied by the most experienced Regent Honeyeater spotter that I know and soon after we found ourselves on good old Spinks Rd preparing to dive into the wilderness of Castlereagh NR. Well, well - got a few pictures - none of Regent HEs and will probably still need to visit Capertee valley .. how sad(?) ;-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pitt Town Lagoon - A Mini Road Trip with The Sintic

Early Saturday morning I fired up the Magna and headed towards the north-west end of Sydney together with a very upbeat Sintic. Not only did my companion manage to direct us through the streets of Sydney so fast and smooth that anyone wanting to better the performance will need the tightest-tight full-suit Arena, but before we passed the Blacktown exit, we had talked about Pink-eared Ducks, solved the economical meltdown and briefly dealt with most other things in between :-)

Always wondered why it was called the Fan-tailed C. :-)

Pitt Town Lagoon has received a bit of interest lately, hordes of Pink-eared Ducks have, according to the internet, chosen the lagoon as their winter hideout, with the added excitement of (minimum) one Australasian Bittern reported to have been flushed multiple times in combo with some excellent Sydney winter weather we were up for a treat :-)

Great spot, lots of excellent wildlife - unfortunately the Bittern was tired of being flushed and the Pink-eared Ducks were either taking a little rest from all excitement in a neighboring pond or they had collectively decided to hide their pink bits. However, there was still quite a bit of stuff going on when it comes to man and beast,

Paul found a horse dressed in matching blue - probably the color of this winter! And we meet a few celebrity birders, including the Shasha and Amoore duo, good to know that they did not find the Bittern either ;-) Had a little chat and decided to move on. We all went to a neighboring national park for a little walk, the newly-weds had to leave early though, something about a trip to Brazil ..? - guess young couples nowadays are not shy of taking a second honeymoon :-)

The ticking machine Sintic and yours truly had bigger(?) plans though, we were going to visit the Bushell's Lagoon, just around the corner ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Botany Bay National Park with Boat Harbour Detour

I really like the south part of the Botany Bay national park, I used to go there a lot last summer. Despite of the peninsula having some of the heaviest industry in Sydney it also have some good quality coastal bush with some excellent wildlife and (probably because of all the heavy industry) you can bushwalk around down there without bumping into other punters all the time. With the added excitement of a sure Grass Owl tick it was a easy choice to start up the mighty Magna and head out of Coogee with the shiny bonnet pointing southwards ... also it would be one of my last chances of gaining a bird on my WA born American ticking machine sweetheart :-D

Wonderful day! 23 degrees is very good performance considering we are mid winter. Not a cloud in the sky, giving excellent conditions for the (slightly) light-hungry Bigma. I added in a little detour to Boat Harbour, trying to do a few close-up "portraits" of some of the feathery residents, while the light was still good.

Great area down there, lots of different habitats in close proximity to each other; heath, reef, cliffs, beach and scrubby bush all mixed together making it a great place to walk around. Used nearly 6 hours before I had accomplished everything I had set out to do and managed to get some of my sharpest bird pictures thanks to the quality of the afternoon light :-)

I will have to work my way through the rest of the pictures and might try to update the Picasa album later, but this will have to do for now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Down Town Sydney by Night

It has been a while since I was running around doing touristy stuff here in Sydney - probably not since my action-packed excursion to Watson bay for fish and chips have I ticked any of the touristy hot spots of this wonderful city ;-)

Having a few guests flying in during the next couple of month, I realized I was in desperate need for a guide-skill-refresher so why not head down town Sydney and rub shoulders with some proper camera-slinging overseas visitors, just to get the hang of it again ... and since my American visitor has grown quite fond of the feathered wildlife I could probably score a plus in the book by already pinpointing the favorite tree of the barn owl flying around down town Sydney ;-)

The trees down town Sydney support a surprisingly large amount of wildlife, which makes it hard to find the owl you are after, but easy to get photos of all kinds of other stuff :-)
I though I had nailed it when I got a high ISO + flash shot of something in the top of a palm tree just to realize that it was a juvenile Australian white Ibis when looking at the LCD screen :-D It is not everyday you are in the bush you see possums - Saturday night a member of that family was so keen on me that I think I could have lured it all the way back to Coogee if I had brought a bit of food :-D

Well, well - who would have thought the Barn version would be harder to see that the super duper easy to find Grass cousin...? ;-)
Quite exciting running around with a camera at night in a place like Sydney, I got into the arty mood and found some motifs that did not turn their back to the camera.

Think I understand why people like a good tripod, the next picture was taken by finding a solid stand for the camera and having a shutter speed of 25s. The observant reader will notice that the head of the statue is missing(!) Suggesting that I either need a movable solid stand instead of relying on rocks-on-site or significantly more lens "flexibility" than I get with my fixed focal length 50mm f/1.8. :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Clovelly Bay Revisited

It is not that often we snorkel in Clovelly bay, guess it feels a bit less "natural" than the neighboring Gordon's bay due to the concrete walls. However, there is no doubt that it is excellent snorkeling and if the surf is really rough your best chance for some snorkeling in the Eastern suburbs is Clovelly ... or Little Bay, but that is another story ;-)

Saturday proved to be one of these absolutely amazing Sydney winter days that reminds you of a Danish summer equivalent. Surf was a bit rough though and while walking North for a bit of snorkeling I decided that I was probably more likely to get good visibility in Clovelly rather than anywhere else in walking distance.

Water temperature has started dropping fast and I should probably have brought my wetsuit ... guess I am getting soft :-) Well, cold water is clear water and despite some really rough conditions outside the protective walls of the bay I had some decent clear water to take pictures in.

I had made a serious beginner mistake when preparing for my snorkel! I had left my bag, clothes and apartment key(!) in what I expected to be safe distance from the water, approximately 5 meters away but still on the flat concrete, while I was in snorkeling the waves increased in strength and actually managed to flood the entire concrete area on the South side of the bay. While I was happily "whaling" around my bits and pieces where in imminent danger of being wash out to sea!

I realized all this when I came back to the spot where my stuff was supposed to be only finding wet concrete, instead all my stuff, including sour socks, shoes, my bag and a pair of knickers (luckily not as sour as the socks) was gently moved another meter inland up on a little rock into safety :-) How good is that? In some countries you cannot leave stuff unattended without it being stolen - in Australia people will save your gear when you recklessly put it at risk - Thank you! :-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Storm Approaching - Rain in Coogee

Driving back from work Thursday was quite an experience. As the Magna started the decent from Randwick down towards Coogee the view was absolutely stunning. Some seriously bad weather was approaching from the sea, Dark blue clouds were building up and I could see two rainbows. At the same time the sun was setting in the East on a cloud free sky given of a warm orange color. The play of the colors ended up being quite amazing with velvet black clouds being lit by the fading sunlight.

It was all changing really fast, so as soon as I was home I grabbed the camera and ran to our roof top terrace. Getting the colors right is quite hard and if I had been home maybe 5 min before my guess is it would have been even more impressive.

Trying to capture a massive storm front approaching with a minimum focal length of 50mm in your arsenal of camera lenses makes you wonder if you bought the right setup ;-) Well, well thanks to autostitch, which is an absolute fantastic easy to use, free piece of software for making panoramas, you can actually still manage to capture a good wide view over Coogee, having nice blue sky left in the picture and tremendous rain coming in from the right.

Still I might pull the plug on a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 when the Australian dollar starts showing a bit of strength again :-) Remember to click the last picture to get a better resolution version of the panorama.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Walking Back to Carlon's Farm - Bushwalk Part 2

Early morning in the bush - sorry about the picture, must admit it was probably taken during the very last available light the night before - After a super duper sleep and some good solid breakfast we packed our gear and prepared for another day in the boots.

Jarrod, who's blog you can find here, had planned for us to do the walk as a circuit, meaning that we would not have to battle the 41 river crossings on the way back out - I was very happy about that, instead we would climb straight out of the valley and then follow the ridge back home ... sounded good ...? I promise the readers that after about 20 min of scrambling up the hill trying to follow the determined New Zealand mountain goat, who was speeding up the hill like a Tour de France rider high on EPO, I started considering if I would have been better off by swimming all the way back up Breakfast creek instead :-D

It took 1.5 hours to reach the top, gaining somewhere close to 600m of altitude making it equivalent to conquering Himmelbjerget "The Heaven Mountain" back home in Denmark 4 times in a row with a good solid backpack and 3kg of camera hanging from your waist - excellent exercise :-D I sneakily managed to get in front of Jarrod for just enough time to take a picture - that will come in handy one day when I need proof supporting my story about how I spearheaded an expedition out of the Cox's River Valley ;-) A picture never lies and there is no sound revealing me huffing and puffing like a steam train running out of water.

The views at the top were absolutely stunning and after having done all the climbing as the very first bit of the walk the rest was literally "a walk in the (national)park". There were quite a few things to look at on the top of the ridge. A Wedge-tailed Eagle was cruising its hunting grounds, we saw wild orchids growing and aboriginal sharpening grooves used to sharpen tools by grinding them against the rock and aboriginal waterpots drilled into the rock.

Absolutely fantastic walk, thanks to Jarrod for arranging it. One of those that gets even better when you are back home, have had your shower and sit and look at the pictures :-) I have put together a Picasa album that you can access by pressing the map below.
Cox's River

Monday, July 13, 2009

Carlon's Farm to Cox's River via Breakfast Creek

Saturday morning I picked up Jarrod and pointed that shiny bonnet of the Magna towards another action packed weekend with all the fun and excitement the Blue Mountains can deliver. Jarrod had talked me into a bit of bushwalking in the Megalong Valley and I had said yes without knowing exactly what would be on the menu, except it would be a two day walk and I had therefore packed the tent, a good supply of gnocchi and a spare pair of knickers - be prepared! ;-)

Standing at the car eating a few bananas and drinking some water I realized that this trip was slightly different from my usual bushwalking exercise, Jarrod insisted on me reading the description of the route, which is a good idea(!), but what was this thing about 41 river crossings - that sounded very wet ... well, well - maybe the author of the book had chosen a not-so-clever route or we could even be lucky and the creek would be dry ... we took off into the wild.

Walking in Blue Mountain rainforest during winter is cold and wet, but amazingly rewarding. The cold and wet bit is easily solved by bringing the right clothes and shoes (I remembered this time) and left is just to enjoy the nature and wildlife.

On the way towards Breakfast Creek we encountered a flock of Glossy-black Cockatoos, probably counting more than 10 birds, peacefully sitting feeding in the casuarinas. Even though I have seen them before it was worth a few pictures, as was the Eastern Shrike-tit Jarrod pointed out after less than 5 min of walking :-)

The book had been right, scrambling down the banks of Breakfast Creek was as though the path had been made by a creature severely suffering from "The grass is greener on the other side"-syndrome. I did not count number of crossings, but 41 is not far off. Jarrod "Bambi" Amoore decided early on to put both his boots well and truly under water and from then on he did the crossings with the determination of a New Zealand tractor - I on the other hand jumped from rock to rock with the grace of a ballet dancer and managed to stay dry until about the 30th crossing after which I adopted the tractor approach - I do not think all that dancing from rock to rock slowed us down much more than an hour :-D

It was great arriving at Cox's River. When you are wet and hungry there is nothing better than to set up camp, get some food and get those wet boots and socks off. At the campsite we discovered yet another plaque, this one was in memory of Miss Oonagh Kennedy, who had died trying to cross the Cox's River in 1967 after a horse-riding expedition had gone wrong due to heavy rain.

I have pointed out before that bushwalking during winter means reduced daylight. When you camp in a valley you cut off at least another half hour in the evening as well as in the morning i.e. you have the chance of a proper monster sleep :-) When you have finished eating there is not much more to do in a dark valley, so we hit the tents and sleeping bags around 7pm. I had no idea what Sunday would bring, but knowing that I had 11 hours to spend sleeping before anybody expected anything from me was very nice indeed :-D

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Good Quality Relaxing in Long Bay

It is quite fantastic to have a "secret" spot only 5 minutes drive away from where you live, with albatrosses, whales and nature galore ... even producing a surprise tick once and a while ;-) All of this happening in a crowded city of 4.5M people and still you can sit alone recharging the capacitors with a million dollar view and not a soul around! :-)

It was all happening, a Nankeen Kestrel eating while on the wing - I have spared you for the pictures where it was getting bloody - and an Eastern Reef Egret performing on one of the rock platforms, great bird - and a new one for me!

The slightly more ocean going wildlife was in place as well, a few whales were heading North approximately a kilometer from the coast, at least 2 species of albatrosses were seen and I was lucky to get decent BIFs of some feathered wildlife flying close to shore.

Walking back after a couple of high quality hours I guess the mood got the better of me and turned a bit "arty" - sorry about that :-)

With a bit of help from the Nikon I even produced the HDR below, 5 raw images taken with one stop between combined and tone mapped trying to capture the sun setting behind Long Bay - in real life it was even better :-)

Long Bay, revisited

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Taffy's Rock, Bushwalking in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Jarrod and Adelle had again made sure our weekend would be action packed! This time the event was going to take place in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and we, Iain, Jarrod, Adelle and yours truly, were all set to depart the vibrant township of Cowen early 9.34am Saturday morning heading into the wild.

I really like walking in Ku-ring-gai, wildlife is not the best around and the trees are a bit scrubby, but the vistas are absolutely fantastic! The combination of rock, bush and water is gob smacking and gives an excellent opportunity of doing a bit of landscape photography ... and carrying 3kg of camera up and down the track makes you very fit ... or just sweaty!

We were heading for Taffy's rock, a not so well traveled part of the park, but famous for its views and apparently the presence of a hard-to-find plaque in honor of Taffy, hence the name of the place. As we arrived to "the first" Taffy's rock, a search for the plague was unsuccessful and after a bit of debating and a thorough examination of the map, it was realized that we were indeed not there yet - it was a very nice rock though, see the picture above.

Well, well - no worries we headed for the next one :-) Arriving at the next hill, it all gave sense. Views were absolutely stunning and Adelle "hawk-eye" Shasha/Amoore spotted the plaque honoring Taffy faster than any of us boys could have zoomed in on a "for sale" sign in clothes boutique :-D - this time we were definitely on the right rock.

The only problem about bushwalking in winter is that time is limited - we could have used longer time enjoying the views - but at the moment sundown happens just slightly after 5pm and we had a bit of climbing on the way back.

Great walk, a good long day in the boots and how good is it to come home and know that you deserve your gnocchi ;-)
A few more pictures are included in the Picasa link below:
Ku-ring-gai Chase NP