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Black Swans are back

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Black Swans on Manly Dam. Now they’re back, and four of them at that. Black Swans are native to New South Wales, Australia.

The call of a Black Swan is a soft hoot, a little like an apologetic cuckoo clock. You can hear it about 6 seconds into this video:

In the next video, the swans are caught in the converging melee of waterbirds when someone throws some scraps into the water. Again, the swans hoot about 6 seconds into the video:

This swan slides a bit of green weed through its beak, presumably to scrape off slime and small creatures as food:

Reflecting on reeds:

Common name: Black Swan

Scientific name: Cygnus atratus

Approximate length: 120 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2018 (Winter)

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.3″S 151°15’18.7″E


Australian Wood Duck

Australian Wood Ducks are a fairly common sight. They stand out, with their neat round head and short beaks. Up close, I noticed the soft frilly feathers on the sides of this bird’s body under the wings. This one is a male, as its head is dark brown and lacks the females’ white markings around the eyes.

Common name: Australian Wood Duck

Scientific name: Chenonetta jubata

Approximate length: 60cm

Date spotted: 3 June 2017 (Winter)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.1″S 151°15’14.7″E

A coot and a metaphor

At first there’s nothing but the universe. The water and the sky. Then suddenly, there you are, in the middle of it all.

Common name: Eurasian Coot

Scientific name: Fulica atra

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 23 April 2017 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’27.7″S 151°15’05.9″E

White-bellied Sea-Eagle at Manly Dam near Sydney

Yesterday I spotted a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flying along the shore of Manly Dam. It flew up and down the shore a few times, and across the water, then landed at the edge of the water in a baylet, with its legs in the water.

I was on the opposite side of the dam, so I couldn’t get a close look at the bird. I did take some photos and videos, but they’re fuzzy and unsatisfactory, although they’re good enough to satisfy me about the identification of the bird. So I decided to record the sighting here, and hope I get to see this beautiful bird again soon.

Common name: White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucogaster

Approximate length: 85 cm. Wing span: 2.2 m

Date spotted: 22 April 2017 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’35.2″S 151°15’08.0″E

Darter drying wings then taking off

At first sight I thought this bird was a cormorant, but it’s actually a darter, also known as a snake bird because of its long, snake-like neck. Darters are related to cormorants, and also to boobies and gannets. They swim fast under water, hunting and impaling fish with their formidable long, thin beak.

Like cormorants, they sit on shore with their wings spread to dry. After I’d been watching this one for a few minutes, it decided to take off and fly over the water. It’s interesting to see how low it flies, with the wing tips actually tapping the water as it goes.

This pose reminded me of the ballet, the Dying Swan:

Darter posing as Dying Swan

Here you can see the characteristic chestnut colouring at the base of the darter’s neck:

Darter posing as Dying Swan

Common name: Darter

Scientific name: Anhinga melanogaster

Approximate length: 90 cm; wing span: 1.2 m

Date spotted: 12 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’49.6″S 151°15’05.7″E


Reflection symmetry and a coot

Manly Dam was quiet and calm when I strolled along its shores early this morning. I was struck by the patterns made by these reeds and their reflections in the water.

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

It’s a little mind boggling, isn’t it? Where does the real reed start and end? The finest of abstract art. Here’s the same set of reeds but with more around them:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

A different configuration:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

Another shape to bend your mind:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

Bubbles had reflections too:

Bubbles on the water

Since this is a blog about birds, I should probably include one. 😉 This Eurasian Coot was enjoying the morning quiet:

Euarasian Coot

Here’s the bird again, tucked away in the centre left of this mass of reflections:


Common name: Eurasian Coot

Scientific name: Fulica atra

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 22 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’27.9″S 151°15’05.5″E

Masked Lapwing’s face looks like a Lego model

I spotted two Masked Lapwings at Manly Dam, near Sydney, Australia, this morning. They’re also known as Spur-winged Plovers. They can be quite aggressive, especially in nesting season. The name “spur-winged” is apt, because they have hooks on their wings, one on each, which they use as weapons, stretching the wings then dragging back to wound their enemy. But these two were quietly going about their business, pottering around the edges of Manly Dam.

Their faces make me think of a model put together with Lego. They’re so perfect, and yet they seem not quite real.

Masked Lapwing

They have lovely knobbly knees and big pink feet:

Masked Lapwing

In this video, one of the birds advances tentatively, testing each step:

Here’s a zoomed out shot showing the two birds in their environment:

Masked Lapwing

Common name: Masked Lapwing, or Spur-winged Plover

Scientific name: Vanellus miles

Approximate length: 37 cm

Date spotted: 15 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.8″S 151°15’18.4″E

New Zealand Dotterel

I’m travelling in New Zealand, so this post is a departure from my usual subject of birds in Sydney. While walking on Hahei Beach on the North Island, I came across a roped off area protecting a brood of New Zealand Dotterels.

Dotterels are native New Zealand birds, with a conservation status of nationally vulnerable. They’re also called New Zealand plovers, or tuturiwhatu.

This video shows one of the chicks exploring its environs. The shot then zooms out to show the gorgeous surrounds, and zooms back in to the mother or father bird and another little chick.

Here’s a still shot of the chick exploring:

New Zealand Dotterel

The adult bird perches watchfully on a log:

New Zealand Dotterel

Common name: Northern New Zealand dotterel

Scientific name: Charadriiformes charadriidae

Approximate length: 25 cm

Date spotted: 7 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Hahei Beach, North Island, New Zealand

Latitude/longitude: 36°50’10.2″S 175°48’10.3″E

Paradise Shelduck at Manly Dam, Australia

If this is a Paradise Shelduck, it’s rather far from its usual home in New Zealand. I spotted it at Manly Dam, near Sydney in Australia.

It’s a big duck. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was a duck or a goose. This one is a female, as you can tell from its white head and neck. The male has a dark head.

Paradise Shelduck in Australia

She took to the water:

Paradise Shelduck in Australia

And showed a bit of ankle:

Paradise Shelduck in Australia

Common name: Paradise Shelduck

Scientific name: Tadorna variegata

Approximate length: 63-70 cm

Date spotted: 26 November 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’58.0″S 151°15’18.9″E

Purple Swamphen chick

So cute and fluffy! This little Purple Swamphen chick treads lightly on the lily pads, learning survival skills from its mother.

Here’s a nice shot of its stubby wings, and its well-developed feet under a couple of centimetres of water:

Purple Swamphen chick

Setting off on a bit of exploration:

Purple Swamphen chick

But staying close to mother:

Purple Swamphen chick

Common name: Purple Swamphen

Scientific name: Porphyrio porphyrio

Approximate length: 50 cm

Date spotted: 30 October 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’36.1″S 151°14’48.8″E