Friday, July 1, 2011

Botany Bay National Park - Quails, Spider Wasp and Red Knot Twitching

One of the spots around Sydney that I return to over and over again is Botany Bay National Park – the southern part between Boat Harbour and Kurnell in particular. Earlier in the year I managed to get down there a couple of weekends in a row, firstly because I truly enjoy the walk along the coast and find the area down there slightly more exotic and less crowded than the coastal scrub around Coogee. If that was not enough, then with the presence of a Red Knot at Boat Harbour I was easily convinced.

I saw my first Brown Quail in Botany Bay National Park, and once again I had the joy of getting up close and friendly with a few BQs. You need luck to get in close, since you often do not realize the presence of these small fluff balls until they break cover in front of you and take off with the sound, and speed, of a gun salute .. leaving you behind wondering which type of quail you had just missed seeing.

On the way out from Boat harbour, I had seen something take off in front of me when I was close to the lighthouse, so on my way back I slowed down and took a careful look down the path – there was a little Brown Quail family pottering around on the path slowly making their way towards me. How easy was that, I hid behind a bend and even had time to change lens back to the Bigma (I had been using the macro for the photos of the Jewel Spider above). As they approached I could stand still and get excellent close-ups without moving, only as I tried to engage the flash it dawned on the quails that they were not alone, and they left the path and disappeared into the scrub.

A first for me during these Botany Bay trips was one of the fiercest battles I have ever seen in nature. I have heard about how spider wasps, Pompilidae, attack spiders and lay their egg inside them, but seeing it in reality was something that I never expected to witness. On one hand it is a terribly vicious way for the spider to die, on the other hand, it can be argued that the spider does not exactly run an insect friendly business and that it is only fair the spider wasp fights back taking out a few of the otherwise superior predators living off its defenseless relatives.

Another first was the sighting of a Red Knot. I had Jarrod along for the Knot spotting - with waders in non-breeding plumage you can always use an extra pair of eyes. It ended up being as difficult as expected and at some stage we were actually a bit afraid that we would not manage to locate this visitor to the reef. Similar to a “Where's Wally” puzzle, we had bee looking for the usual red-and-white shirt and the distinct facial features of mister Red Knot, just to realize that colors were all wrong – the bird was indeed sporting the most boringly possible non-breading outfit ever seen, and the sneaky bird had decided to take a position with its beak hidden underneath a wing, just to make the game even more challenging.

Well, we got our bird in the end, it is actually quite nice when it takes a bit of effort and the additional quail and spider wasp action were nice bonuses – not to mention that I managed to get out and about in yet another weekend.


Jarrod said...

Nice quails, looking forward to the photos from your big trip.

Boobook said...

Lovely photos. I'm determined to one day explore that part of our world.

AGL said...

Thanks Jarrod - I was very lucky to be able to just stand there and let them approach, the photos of the quails have hardly been cropped.

Hi Boobook, thanks a lot for your kind remarks. Botany Bay NP is one of those weird places that is hard to recommend, but still always delivers a great couple of hours. It is surrounded by heavy noisy and smelly industry, but for some reason it is still inhabited by some great wildlife.
Enjoy your trip north! :-)

KH Allan