Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gordon's bay down under

Sunday morning and once again the gang gathered around the waters of Gordon's bay for a little bit of underwater excitement. Walking to the bay we had already started anticipating a treat, the water was mirror flat and so clear that you could (nearly) perv on the fish standing on land :-)

Little G was, however, super eager to get into the cold water to try out one of her Christmas gifts - a wetsuit - so no beating around the bush, brain freeze here we go' ;-)

Being in the portrait mode little G decided to test the camouflage rating of my wetsuit, it is actually first time ever I see the suit under water and boy does that camouflage function work wonders! Now I understand why the fish never notice me ;-)

Water was crystal clear, sun was shining and there was quite a bit of wildlife to look at, actually we were incredible lucky and ticked 3 of the more exciting species:

Under good old "shark-rock" we found a sleeping Crested Horn shark, close by a Wobbegong was relaxing under a ledge and on the sand in the middle of the bay we saw an enormous Eagle Ray.

Fantastic winter day down under! Gordon's bay is very much alive at the moment and the winter species are still around, so in combo with crystal clear cold water and the slightly easier task of getting a table at the café afterwards it is nearly worth the brain freeze to have a dip.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Long Reef and Dee Why

Still eager to explore we headed a few kilometers south towards Long Reef. Supposedly a great spot for waders, but if you have just won in the lottery it is also an excellent area for some good quality house hunting ... that is only if the lottery winnings were good though ;-)

The cliffs attracted a variety of wildlife, those feathered ones that have always known how to fly and some that have learned more recently ... yet still need a bit of help.

Still having half an hour before sunset we decided to do a mad dash for it and give Dee Why lagoon a quick go before heading home - someone had reported a White-necked Heron - so why not? We should probably have given the map a look before going, since there are quite a few ways of approaching the lagoon and it is not all of them that can boast a easy accessibility rating :-D

Having an experienced scout leader in front is always an advantage when navigating treacherous paths, Gemma volunteered and self-sacrificingly pushed ahead with great energy and spirit .. A bit of the determination evaporated approximately 0.1 second after the above picture was taken, the sturdy looking branch lying on the ground under Gemma's right foot was apparently less solid than expected and there was not really ground under it, rather a combo of mud and water - most waterbirds left the premises approximately 0.2 seconds after the picture was taken :-D

Long Reef and Dee Why

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warriewood Wetlands

Another weekend, another attempt of seeing as much of Australia as possible, this time we had decided to visit the north-east end of Sydney, starting with Warriewood wetlands (WW) and then working our way down along the coast.

Every time I have been to WW, I start out being quite skeptical about the quality of the spot, but I always end up being happy doing the trip. Wedged in between a shopping centre, some residential area and a semi busy road it seems quite unlikely to be worth the visit. As soon as you dive into the "wilderness", get onto the boardwalk and leave the clatter behind, you realize that it is a great little green oasis in the middle of a busy Sydney suburb.

Being more or less surrounded by water seems to be a great way of getting BIF photo opportunities. Managed to convince some ducks to setup a bit of a synchronized show and we were surprised to see quite an impressive display of various predators.

A bit of a disaster was that Gemma probably saw a Tawny Grassbird and I did not :-\ Do not really know how we will resolve this issue, either she will have to close her eyes next time there is something exciting around or I will have to send her abroad for a while and make up the deficit ;-)
There are a few extra pictures in the Picasa album below, press the little picture of the Collared Sparrowhawk to be taken there - Cheers
Warriewood Wetlands

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Capertee Valley Camping With The Gang Part 2

The arrival of our final participant spurred yet another walk. Late afternoon and mornings never disappoint when it comes to looking for wildlife. Kangaroos are always abundant in Australia, but seeing wombats is a less frequent treat.

A lesson I have learned in life is to do things when you got the chance - not to postpone to the next day! .. Notice that I said I had "learned" not that I (always) follow :-) Apparently the same wisdom can be applied to owl spotting, the first night we had heard multiple calls during the evening and night, but had not followed up on any of them - the thrill of the card game might be to blame? However, despite trying hard Saturday night, even utilizing help from petrol propelled vehicle - cheating? - "The Valley of the Owls" was dead silent and none of the night predators were seen.

Once again we had an absolutely amazing (slightly less) early morning in the valley.

Great morning walk, managed to see another Dusky Woodswallow (looking at my pictures it seems I also saw one Saturday) and a few Little Lorikeets, which are both new to me. Walking seems to generate a healthy appetite and once again we found ourselves around the table anticipating a bit of breakfast.

A few pitstops had been planned for the return leg of the trip. First of all we gave Crown Station Rd a chance - being center of the universe for Regent Honeyeaters it was no surprise that we saw quite a few binocular slinging and tree planting BWs, unfortunately all the RHs took the day off so we had to settle for a bit of BIF training opportunities.

A final stop before reaching the comfort of good old Coogee was done at Lithgow sewage treatment plant - I surely understand how to take Gemma to all the romantic spots around Sydney - Having expert help along aka Mr "400"-Blake meant that I could bag the Hoary-headed Grebe and Blue-billed Duck without breaking sweat - tick-tick :-D

You can never get enough reach! Good enough for identification, but I might have to invest in a teleconverter to get some proper long distance excitement. A 1.4X would bring the Bigma to f/8.8@1050mm on the D300 .. tempting! And 2x giving f/12.6@1500mm ... that would probably mean I should cut down on the coffee before hand-holding. Another option is to give Gemma a scope with a Nikon adapter for her birthday! ;-)
There is a few extra photos from the trip in the Picasa album below - just press the little picture here:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Capertee Valley Camping With The Gang

Friday afternoon we headed towards the backside of the Blue Mountains for a bit of a camping bonanza with the gang ... the first hour or so was however spent on Parramatta road wondering why all the other people living in Sydney had decided to leave at exactly the same time as us.

Got to the campsite at around 8pm just in time to join an action packed game of card so thrilling that Gemma managed to stay awake until nearly 12 o'clock - guess the means the jetlag excuse cannot be used anymore :-)

Early morning in the Valley gave a rare display of Australian frost - some readers of the blog might find the sighting of frost a non-event, but living in Sydney it is one of those things you have to travel to experience :-)

Even the welcome swallows had found the winter coats to stay warm :-) After an early morning bird and photography walk it was time for some good solid camping breakfast. So impressive was the amount of action going on that it attracted a couple of younger campers and we all learned how well A + J and uncle P deal with fire and sharp equipment in presence of tiny fingers.

Despite having walked close to 4 hours in the morning, the energy intake during breakfast .. and/or that fact that the camping site was as busy as a Sydney beach suburb made us seek the comfort of the hiking boots and the tranquility of the bush again. This time heading heading up the Newnes track.

After returning to the campsite we were joined by Dr I who had decided to join the party, great guns, no names mentioned but I guess a few of the happy campers thought there would be a chance of gaining a bit of glory during the card game in the evening having a(nother) virgin "500" player in our midst :-D

To be continued ..

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

... And A Bit Of Sydney

After our early morning trip to the cliffs of Coogee, we decided to push the tourist theme even further and do the Circular Quay with Opera house and Harbour bridge combo followed by The Botanical Garden - the chance of seeing the Barn Owl down there might have added just enough energy to the equation to let us squeeze above the activation barrier and suddenly we found ourselves sitting on the bus heading towards the absolute tourist hotspot of Sydney.

Had a great few hours in the Botanical Garden. Great spot, lots of stuff to be amazed about. The flying-foxes are always worth an extra look and we managed to find a part of the garden where neither of us have ever been ... but we did not see any owls.

After using a bit of time running around in the fern house pushing all the most arty buttons on the camera doing portraits of everything from Gemma to Staghorn Ferns we took of towards China Town - we were going shopping :-)

Paddy's markets! My Danish tourist book failed to tell about this place and therefore obviously did not put it on any "what to see in Sydney" list either. I would probably rate it as one of the things to see if any of the readers should decide to visit Sydney. There is a bit of everything and if you dare I can recommend going Sunday afternoon somewhere around 4.30pm to see the absolute mayhem taking place 30 min before closing time when all the fruit salesmen goes ballistic in an attempt to get rid of the last bit of fruit that still is sellable, but will not have a chance the day after.

Near perfect day! I always wonder why we need to carry 10 bags of fruit home, but must admit that it is tasty and great to have in the house and many boys out there will probably envy me for carrying bags home after a trip to town with the girlfriend not much more expensive than $1/kg ;-)

By pressing the little picture below you will be taken to the Picasa album where there will be a few extra pictures from downtown Sydney.
A bit of Sydney

A Bit Of Coogee

A Sunday winter mornings around Coogee is not to shabby; blue sky, no wind and good waves. Unfortunately the waves ruled out snorkeling, but nothing wrong in finding a cliff top with a bit of vista potential and just enjoying the views.

Having all of that water and those rocks less than a 5 minuet walk from your front door nearly makes it a crime not to take advantage ... luckily Gemma is here now so that I remember to run around and behave like a tourist :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Botany Bay National Park - Southern Emu-wren Country

Once again the shining bonnet of the Magna was pointed towards the south end of Sydney on an early Saturday morning. Again the destination was the scrubby bush covered coastal area between Kurnell and Boat Harbour, with a planned rendezvous with the Shasha + Amoore cycling team conveniently pit-stopping at the mangrove viewing platform few kilometers from Kurnell.

Flanked by an Eastern Curlew, some Bar-tailed Godwits, the little Solomon and once again an upbeat Sintic I was in great company, which was of great value, since apparently the peloton had started the morning stage at a rather leisurely speed.

Well worth the wait, the newlyweds were in fine fettle and the conversation very entertaining. As usual a volley of topics were dealt with in an appropriately humorous style, including sorting out the migration pathways of the various waders, the quality of old Nikon glass and more importantly where to go camping next weekend - amazing how a few minuets of face to face chat can solve what would otherwise need 15+ emails ;-)

As the peloton headed west, we took off towards the windswept coastal scrub - The land of the Southern Emu-wren! To shorten an already quite long story - "Yes" luck was once again smiling our way! Sintic saw his Albatross ... next time it will hopefully be less than 1 kilometer away :-D But more importantly we had excellent views of first a single male Southern Emu-wren and later a brief, but close encounter with a pair.

Great guns - I had seen the SE-w before, but did not have a picture, so glad to sort that out. My two companions were equally thrilled and I am afraid a spark has ignited what will turn into a raging fire ;-)