When I arrived in Sydney, Andrea picked me up at the airport and took me for a tour of Sydney. We stopped for some Thai food before heading to the harbor. It seems like Sydney has outgrown its roads and without a freeway system in town getting around was a successive series of traffic lights intersections.
We began our proper tour of Sydney at the Royal Botanical Gardens, I beautiful park along the bay right next to downtown and the Sydney Opera House. We parked inside the park grounds Fleet Steps that lead down to Farm Cove, the body of water just east of the Opera House. Reading the placard at the steps I learned that they were named after the American Great White Naval Fleet that sailed here in 1908 by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. The placard had a photo of Queen Elizabeth ascending the steps from the harbor and mentioned that they had been climbed by hundreds of thousands of people. Today, I saw numerous joggers, locals taking walks and tourists snapping photos. The stairs seem to have become a bit of a fitness obstacle as many were running up and down in jogging shorts.
A visit to Sydney Harbor and the Opera House has been on my bucket list since I was a little boy. But today I would only see it from a distance. It was already late in the afternoon and the sky was gloomy so we decided to bird watch at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The park wraps around Farm Cove just east of the Opera House and has beautiful walking trails, green lawns and huge trees full of bats and exotic birds. Well, I say exotic because they are exotic for me but a tree full of cockatoos is normal for Australia. Andrea tells me that many people consider them a nuisance and some are even killed if they annoy people. How sad. I looked up into the trees and as I snapped their photos they looked down at me with curious eyes. They are beautiful birds and their white feathers really stand out against the green trees and blue skies.
The birds seemed to segregate themselves by species into different trees. A few trees were loaded full of huge fruit bats. They were hanging upside down and at first I thought they were sleeping but it seemed that they were waking for their day to start. Occasionally, one would push another one off of his branch or a pair would squabble for position on the tree. The bats were quite large, easily the size of a large hawk or eagle, their wingspan looked to be 2 or 3 feet across.
Rainstorms blew in and we ran from tree to tree dodging rain drops and tried to fit under a shared umbrella. We saw a large Australian Ibis who was fishing around for bugs and water along the walking path. The Botanic park had all kinds of birds and we were entertained as we watched them munching on seeds and nuts.
Looking back towards the bay I could see the Opera House and the Bradfield Highway Bridge behind it. Despite the “off” weather, the Royal Botanic Gardens are quite beautiful and I thought that it would be nice to visit here on a sunny day.
We came upon a rather large flock of cockatoos and we watched them as they foraged around for nuts. We collected some of the pods, cracked the nuts out of them and then used them to lure some of the birds closer to us. The cockatoos didn’t seem afraid of us and came up to eat out of our hands. Their expressions are so interesting, as they watch you it seems as if they are analyzing you, trying to figure out what you are all about. They are really interesting to watch, a bit like watching monkeys, you are always wondering what they’re thinking. I shot a short video of some of the birds that came up to see what we were holding. I wasn’t sure if they wanted to eat the camera or the nuts!
A few of the cockatoos decided to fly to another area once they had picked the nuts clean in this area. I tried a few times to capture a photo of one in flight and I captured this one as it flew right past us; the flash pulse captures his wing stroke as he made flight past us.
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