Category Archives: Not a bird

Cicadas singing

Not a bird this time, but a beetle that makes bush walking painful to the ears in the summer months around Sydney. The piercing noise of cicadas is familiar to most Sydney-siders. In this video, you can hear them all round you, and see one close-up pulsating its abdomen to make the noise.

The insect is quite large – about the length of your thumb – and has transparent, lacy wings:


Their huge eyes make them look super cool, as if they’re wearing sun glasses:


An interesting fact: The adult cicada is the winged insect we see, and it lives for only a few weeks. But the nymphs, which are the form of the creature that hatch from the eggs, live for around seven years, underground.

A while back, I came across these cicada husks. When the nymph is ready to transform into the winged insect, it climbs up from the underground onto a bush or tree trunk and sheds its skin. These are the resulting empty husks:

Cicada husks


Australian water dragon in tree

While I wander with my head in the clouds, looking for birds, I sometimes spot other interesting creatures. This is an Australian Water Dragon.

They’re quite large lizards, at 80-90 cm when adult, and attractive with their fierce eyes and that spiky crest running down their spine. They can be quite colourful. This one is shades of grey with yellow tinges. I’ve seen others with a rosy red glow on their chests. They like to be near water, and have long-fingered strong hands for climbing trees.

Australian water dragon

Common name: Eastern water dragon, or Australian water dragon

Scientific name: Itellagama lesueurii lesueurii

Approximate length: 90 cm

Date spotted: 3 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’50.1″S 151°15’04.5″E

Caterpillar nest high in a tree

Wandering through the bush looking at birds in my usual fashion, I saw this clump of something high in a tree. I zoomed in and took a photo. That’s when I discovered that the something is a web full of caterpillars! I’m deducing they’re caterpillars from the well-nibbled state of the nearby leaves.

Caterpillar nest

Date spotted: 24 September 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’45.9″S 151°14’59.4″E

Psyduck in Sydney

This blog is usually about birds in the real world, but I couldn’t resist posting this encounter with Psyduck from Pokémon Go. The game is a cute demonstration of irtual reality and the real world merging in augmented reality.

According to the description in Pokémon Go, Psyduck has a mysterious power to generate brain waves that only sleeping creatures should be able to emit. Useful, I guess?

Psyduck at Manly Dam

Common name: Psyduck

Scientific name: Duck Pokémon

Height: 80 cm

Date spotted: 23 July 2016

Season: Winter

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’37.2″S 151°14’49.3″E

Bird or UFO?

While walking through a patch of bush near Sydney this morning, I spotted this quirky bird in the distance.

You’re seeing it here with the benefit of my camera’s powerful zoom. Even so, I bet you looked twice! Here’s a picture with more of the surroundings in view:

They’re actually seed pods of a Banksia serrata, one of my favourite Australian trees. The tree is fondly called Old Man Banksia, and often has an eccentric twisted shape and gnarled bark. The seed pods can look quite funny, due to their varied shapes and hair-like protrusions. These pods have had all their hair burnt off by a recent bushfire.

So now I can call my find an INFO (Identified Non-Flying Object) instead of a UFO. INFO is a nice name for a mystery solved. 🙂

Water dragon in a tree

Not a bird this time. This is an Australian water dragon – a reasonably large lizard that climbs trees and loves water. This one is about 60 cm long, the length of my arm without my hand.

I first spotted it when walking underneath the branch it was on. See the impressively long tail:

Water dragon in a tree

Here’s a side-on view. Apologies for the silhouette. The lighting was difficult:

Water dragon in a tree

This is a close-up of its head and hands:

Water dragon in a tree

Common name: Eastern water dragon

Scientific name:  Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii

Approximate length: 60 cm

Date spotted: 25 October 2014

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’24.1″S 151°15’05.5″E