Middle Harbour River Monster

Since the Covid restrictions and working from home I’ve been doing a lot more running on the local trails. While running down by Middle Harbour river in the winter months some days the water boils and churns like there’s something very large thrashing about down there! It’s happened on many occasions but it’s only been once or twice that it’s been close enough to get a decent look at. The thrashing covers a patch of water approximately 3×3 meters and is usually close to the shore. It can stop and start over a period of a few minutes, each time lasts between 5 and 20 seconds.

Could it be this? ( Photo by Jimmy Jim Jim Shabadoo flickr.com )
Or maybe this! ( Photo by Greg Chiasson flickr.com )

I’ve still not been able to catch a glimpse of what is causing it but seeing the splashes from closer up it looks like it’s a school of large to medium fish rather than one large thing.

These are the only photos I’ve been able to get. They are taken from a long distance away. Now that it’s summer it’s stopped. I’ll try to get some better pictures next Winter

Mystery creature(s) thrashing about in the river. It only happens in the winter months
This is the closest photo I’ve been able to get. I’ve seen it closer but still not able to tell what is causing this

Channel-billed Cuckoo

Scythrops novaehollandiae

Even though the Channel-billed Cuckoo only visits northern and eastern Australia from around August to March I’m surprised not to have taken note of it earlier. It’s a distinctive looking bird, quite large with a huge beak and red eyes. In flight it looks sleek and almost hawk like. The other birds don’t take a liking to it ( and for good reason! ) and can be seen chasing and harassing it.

Channel-billed Cuckoo sitting in a tree in the front yard. Wouldn’t want to get pecked by that!

As well as their distinctive appearance Channel-billed Cuckoos have an unmistakable screeching call. Commonly heard in the early morning and evening they sometimes go off in the middle of the night, I’ve been woken a few times.

Channel-billed Cuckoos are brood parasites which means they lay their eggs in the ready made nests of other birds. The Cuckoos don’t hang around and leave it up to the host parents to feed and raise their young along with their own chicks. Sadly for the host family the strength and aggressiveness of the Cuckoo means that the host young are out competed for food and most often do not survive. No wonder the local birds don’t take a liking to them!

They are large birds with a wingspan of up to a meter. You start to get an idea of their size when they spread their wings

I’d like to get a photo of one in flight, I’ll post an update if I do.

Sources and further info

Water Gum

Tristaniopsis laurina

“A small spreading tree usually 4-10m high with handsome foliage and distinctive pale bare sheeny bark” NPOS p. 371

The water gum is a common tree found on the east coat of Australia from the Brisbane River in Queensland through NSW down to Gippsland region of Victoria. It flowers in summer with groups of small yellow flowers with 5 rounded petals.

Flowering Water Gum in the wet. Flowers are said to have a strong smell but my nose couldn’t detect much

The water gum is also a common street plant in Sydney and indeed we have one growing out on our nature strip! I confirmed on old Google street view images that it was there 11 years ago when we moved in. It’s a very slow grower and today it’s not much taller than it was back then. The photos are from one of several in the front yard, I didn’t pay attention when we moved in but I think they’ve been there all along as well. The ones in the garden look like they’re self seeded along with most of our garden plants. The yellow flowers are said to have a strong distinctive smell but when I took a whiff up close there was only the slight hint of a pleasant lemony floral aroma.

A self seeded water gum in our yard. There’s a few of them that are slowly growing bigger
Sources and further reading

Climate update

I’ve recently updated the Sydney temperature, sea level and rainfall pages to include the latest data available from the BOM. In case you’ve not seen these before a quick explanation:

The BOM provides long term weather observations for the Observatory Hill weather station going back as far as 1859. It’s an amazing resource, when graphed over time you start to see some cool trends emerge. I’ve set it up so you can graph the raw observations or select to see moving averages from 6 months up to 30 years. For the shorter time periods the observations can be all over the place, even the 10 year averages fluctuate up and down but selecting the 30 year averages show clear trends. Except for rainfall! In Sydney at least it’s all over the place with no clear trend over the last 160 years, there are 10yr or so patterns that i think correspond to El Nino and La Nina events.

Anyway, go check them out

Sydney Temperature

Sydney Sea Level

Sydney Rainfall