Wednesday, October 14, 2009:

Change of Plans

Our expected pelagic was canceled due to high seas (15-20 foot waves) and excessive wind. This delayed our start today, and I spent some time photographing the Opera House early. In the meantime, Jeri was working on plan B, which was to return to Royal National Park. Unfortunately, we couldn't get acceptable transport. Plan C was to bird the Royal Botanic Gardens, which most of us had done separately, but not as a group.

Early Morning at Circular Quay Sydney Opera House
Early Morning at Circular Quay Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Royal Botanic Gardens

We focused on two special birds. We first went in search of the Buff-banded Rail, which some of the group had seen there. We checked a few of the likely places, and pretty soon found our Buff-banded Rail. While doing this, we got information from locals about owls.

We visited the bats. There seem to be two species, Gray-head Flying-fox, Pteropus poliocephalus, and Little Red Flying-fox, Pteropus scapulatus. Current estimates are that about 12,000 flying-foxes roost in the gardens.

Government House was the most likely spot for owls, but we had had to wait until the Governor left the house, which was delayed by roadwork. Now it was time to visit Government House. We were scanning the big trees around Government house when I spotted a Powerful Owl, our main target bird. It had one of the Gray-headed Flying-foxes in its talons, and sat there peacefully while we studied and photographed it.

Some of the passers-by also looked at the owl, including a newlywed couple from Europe. They were amazed by the view through the scope. Although Barn-Owl had also been reported from this area, we were unable to find it. It may have been roosting deep in the bamboo stand.

Buff-banded Rail Powerful Owl
Buff-banded Rail Powerful Owl

By then, it was getting close to lunchtime. We didn't have any events scheduled after lunch. The bulk of the group spent time goving over the brand-new edition of Slater's guidebook, which we found at the garden, and also over previously taken photographs.

Trip totals—98 bird species seen including 90 lifers. Four mammal species.

Marriott Sydney Harbour, Sydney