Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On to Sydney

After Turnfest 2007 I headed south to Sydney so that I could do some research at the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens. I arrived in Sydney in the afternoon on Monday, April 2, and headed over to the garden via foot after finding and checking into my hotel. The southern hemisphere is heading toward their winter soltice, so the days are getting shorter right now. By 4 p.m. the sun is low in the sky and there's not much time to take in the sights.

I stayed at Hotel Ibis at World Square, which is in China Town. It's not the nicest neighborhood, but the prices there were much more affordable than in the nicer areas of Sydney. The area reminded me a bit of parts of New York city. The herbarium was about 1.5 miles away on foot, which wasn't too bad except when it rained.

Given where the hotel was, I was able to walk through Hyde Park to get to the botanical garden. Hyde Park is a nice green zone in the city. A lot of people hang out there to enjoy the greenery. I think there are a lot of homeless people finding spots to sleep there as well. One can see all sorts of individuals there early in the morning or after the sun sets. There are so many people traversing the park at all hours that I never felt worried about walking there at odd hours.

This is a view of of the Sydney skyline as seen from Hyde Park late in the afternoon.

Here's a view of the promenade leading to the fountain I'll show you in a bit. I saw my first Australian Raven along in here. Most of the birds in this part of Sydney are urbanites, including common mynah, noisy miner, feral pigeons, silver gull and the like.

There are good views of St. Mary's Cathedral from most areas of Hyde Park. There is also a beautiful war memorial near the center of the park.

I liked the design on the gate leading into the war memorial,

as well as this fountain that has an aboriginal art design as its feature.

Another view of St. Mary's Cathedral.

Ok - that's probably enough views of it. . .

This beautiful fountain is a memorial to the association of Australia and France during World War I. The sculptor was Francois Sicard of Paris and it was the gift of J. F. Archibald.

The figures from the fountain are drawn from Greek Mythology.

Across a busy street and down a ways you reach The Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens.

One of the first things I saw was this Laughing Kookaburra. One of the days while I was walking along this route a kookaburra landed in a tree and did it's laughing song. What a treat to hear it!

I made it to the herbarium just before closing time on Monday afternoon. I found out then that the entire staff would be gone the next day for an offsite retreat. At first I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to work there the next day since everyone would be gone, but after a few minutes of negotiating with the receptionist, I was put through to a manager who arranged for me to use the collection on Tuesday. Whew! That was a big scare. When I had originally made arrangements to come to the herbarium no one knew of the schedule of this retreat, and I hadn't been told about it ahead of time. So I was really glad to be able to make arrangements to work there on Tuesday.

That arrangement turned out to be a good one because I was able to do two days worth of work while there by myself. Otherwise I would have been constantly interrupted to meet people and visit and exchange pleasantries. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does take away time from the task at hand.

I still had an hour of daylight after leaving the herbarium, so I walked around the Royal Botanic Garden for a bit. When I was here in October of 2005, I saw the roosting flying fox colony on the grounds. The population has about doubled from ca. 6,000 in 2005 to more than 11,000 currently. The first thing you notice is the stench and the second is the noise they make. You also notice the damage they've done to the trees in the garden. You should have an umbrella when walking in this area.

The flying foxes are pretty large - about a foot long and a wing span twice or more that length. You can't miss seeing them when they're flying through the trees at dusk, dawn or night.

When I was here in 2005, the Wollemi Pine exhibit had just opened. I was shocked at how tall the pines had grown in 1.5 years.

I'll have to come back in a few years and check them out again. They've tripled in size since I saw them last.

They've also acquired a huge population of spiders that have strung communal webs in between the trees. At least these aren't the nasty poisonous ones that live in Australia. However, they're pretty large - about 3 inches long.

I startled a buff-banded rail out of one of the flower beds as I was walking along. That was a big treat to see.

The cockatoos were starting to roost late in the afternoon as dusk was approaching. These are beautiful birds, but they sure are noisy ones. When you come across a dozen or so in a tree, the sound is near deafening. Add another dozen and you walk away quickly because of how loud they are. They are fun to watch, though.

The Royal Botanic Garden has one edge along the harbor. This is a view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge that spans Sydney Harbor.

There are hundreds of silver gulls in the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain, and Hyde Park. They must scavenge trash and such to be in such large numbers where people are out and about.

The Welcome Swallows were snatching bugs over one of the garden ponds. The lighting was really low, so this image is somewhat out of focus, but I'm amazed that I was able to get a stop-action shot of this fast flying bird.

Little Black cormorants were nesting in the palm trees in the center of this pond.

They have bright blue eyes.

Little Pied Cormorants were also nesting in this area.

There were also a lot of Pacific Black Ducks in the area.

Hmmmm - what's this all about? Something about HIV, perhaps?

Nope - it's the title of an exhibit in the conservatory. I wish I could have found time to come see this. I bet it was fascinating.

A Magpie Lark. My flash went off when I photographed this bird. It sure made for a good picture.

Just as I was heading back to my hotel around sunset, the flying foxes started to wake up and fly about the grounds. Seemed like a good time to leave the garden.

I stopped at a wood-fired pizza place a couple of blocks from my hotel to get a take away dinner. I had a refrigerator in my room so I had pizza each night for dinner and leftovers for breakfast. Yummmm!

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