Introduction to Birdlife of Curl Curl Lagoon
What follows is an introduction by member Mr Russell Beardmore to the birdlife of the Lagoon so that anyone can begin to recognise and appreciate the birds they are likely to encounter on a regular visit there. Images taken by Russell over the years at the Lagoon can be seen in the Birdlife Picture Gallery.
"Our lagoon provides refuge for numerous birds, both those that depend primarily on the water and its fringes for food and breeding (the water birds), and many others that feed in the trees and the grassy areas that surround the lagoon (the bush birds). Here are some numbers, based on data collected in monthly surveys conducted since early 2017:
Water birds – at any one time there are likely to be about 150 water birds on the lagoon although numbers vary enormously from time to time, from under 70 to over 200 - large numbers of Silver Gulls have a big influence on total numbers. Typically there are around 20 different species present.
Bush birds – huge variation in numbers, dependent especially on the numbers of Rainbow Lorikeets and Little Corellas with totals anywhere from under 50 up to over 200, with around 10 species usually present.
So at any one time there are likely to be of the order of 300 birds on and in the lagoon surrounds. These
numbers show the importance of the lagoon as a refuge for our wonderful birdlife. And not only are there
lots of birds, there are many different species with nearly 90 on our Checklist. With so many species, the
lagoon is a wonderful asset for birdwatchers. Obviously, not all 90 species are always present and it may
take regular visits over a period of some years for a keen birdwatcher to tot up these numbers.
Anyone with even a passing interest in birds can reap the rewards from becoming a regular birdwatcher –
all that is needed is a pair of good quality binoculars and an illustrated bird guide. Take the water birds. The
really common ones include Eurasian Coot, Hardhead (a duck) and Pacific Black Ducks. You can see these
just about any time. Then when the lagoon empties, beautiful Royal Spoonbills arrive to feed around the
edges. And very occasionally you can be rewarded with the sight of the gorgeous Nankeen Night Heron or
perhaps a White-necked Heron (as well as the common White-faced Heron), or even Black-winged Stilts
strutting on their long legs on exposed mud banks. Overhead, a bird that looks vaguely like a common
Silver Gull may be the rare Caspian Tern distinguished by its heavy bright red bill. Some of the more
common species can also provide spectacular sights, from a group of soaring Pelicans to the frenzied
feeding of a large group of Little Black Cormorants.
The bush birds offer a greater range of species with over 50 on the checklist. Anyone for an Olive-backed
Oriole (surprisingly common) or perhaps a Reed Warbler calling vigorously from amongst the Samphire?
Ospreys from nearby breeding groups are occasional visitors and Nankeen Kestrels are frequently present.
Musk Lorikeets can often be seen amongst the spring flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets. Eastern Whipbirds call
from dense vegetation along the lower reach and small flocks of noisy Figbirds pop up from time to time.
Monthly surveys of the lagoon’s birds have been carried out since early 2017. Covid 19 has put an end to
2020 surveys but they will resume as soon as Council gives the OK. You don’t need prior birding experience
to join the survey group, just enthusiasm to learn about the lagoon’s birds." (Russell Beardmore, May 2020)
The Osprey - An occasional visitor
Maybe a couple of times a year, an Osprey (or two) visits our lagoon in search of a fish meal. Ospreys are birds of prey, or raptor. They are widespread globally, occurring in Australia, much of Asia, Europe and North America. Their food is primarily live fish that they catch by diving at the water from a considerable height with their talons extended, clamping the unlucky fish in those specially designed claws. They rise from the surface of the water with the fish clamped in a fore and aft direction. At this stage their feathers are wet and they need to clear the water by aerial “shaking” before flying off to deliver the prize to a lucky mate or perhaps to find a safe perch where they can devour their catch.
A few years ago we watched in awe from the Griffin Road Bridge as an Osprey plummeted to the lagoon’s surface and came up with a substantial mullet in its grasp.
The photograph above shows one of the birds on a light tower beside the lagoon. Our visitors probably come from breeding pairs that nest to the north and south of Curl Curl. In 2019, a pair built their typical very large nest on a light tower in the middle of Nolan’s Reserve, Manly.
Birdlife Picture Gallery