Birdwatching in Woy Woy
Moving to Sydney from New York a few years ago where traffic is the norm 24 hours a day / 7 days a week (except at 7AM on Thanksgiving for some reason), I’m always surprised by how easy it is to get out of the city from Sydney. This past weekend we took full advantage of that and visited the large pelican colony that lives in Woy Woy on the Central Coast.
Pelicans have been working their way into my heart after seeing them whenever we visited Centennial Park or Spit Junction. Our sister company, Outer Island, created a hand-painted pelican ornament for the 2018 Christmas season and it sold out the fastest. So I know you’re out there fellow pelican lovers. And I know some of you might even want to take a full day trip to see them.
Woy Woy is on the Central Coast, north of Sydney and it takes a little over an hour to drive there. If you don’t have a car, you can take a direct train from Central Station to Woy Woy, an hour and half’s journey. Bonus if you go on a Sunday when train fares are $2.50.
We decided to drive and since it was a hot day, threw some bathing suits, snorkel gear and beach towels in the boot. Combined with our birdwatching equipment it looked like we were headed out of town for a week instead of just the day.
Over hundreds of Australian Pelicans live on the small sandbar island in the middle of Brisbane Water. Getting out of the car, we saw several lines in the sky like planes taxiing to land at a busy airport. In some ways, that’s exactly what the small pelican island reminded me of. Standing there watching the pelicans there was a never-ending cascade of take-offs and landings, some more graceful than others. Adult pelicans with their large pills puffed out, full of food, were feeding the juveniles. You could even see the little pelicans leaning into the bill up to their wings.
I learned recently that pelicans fly in a V formation because since they have such large wings, the ones behind can coast on some of the air currents the ones in front are making. Kind of like me in heavy pedestrian traffic - I pick one person who’s moving fast and get in right behind them, letting them break through the crowds for me while I relax and listen to music.
There are other birds near the pelican colony as well including Little and Long-billed Corellas, Pacific Black Ducks and Little Pied Cormorants. At the southern end are some large fig trees where birds can be spotted as well. But let’s be real, we were here for the pelicans and they did not even come close to disappointing. One of the most interesting things for us was watching them fly, almost fifty we counted in the air, swirling above the island, some coming in for a landing.
After a while we managed to peel ourselves away and headed to the village for lunch. It was late morning and on the way in we passed a very busy cafe, the Costa Centrale Cafe on The Boulevarde. I highly recommend the Ricotta Pancakes for a late breakfast as they were DELICIOUS.
Since it was a hot day we drove to Pearl Beach after for a swim. Along the beach are Casuarina trees so keep an eye out for Glossy Black Cockatoos. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but had a lovely swim. There are bathrooms to change in and showers as well.
Our final stop of the day was Warrah Trig at the Brisbane National Park. Turning onto a dirt road from Patonga Drive, the road is surrounded by low lying heath and blossoms. The perfect spot for little elusive birds. Drive to the end and park. The real magic happens when you walk back along the road as little birds dart in and out. Here the Little Wattlebird reigns supreme, but we also spotted New Holland Honeyeaters, White-cheeked Honeyeaters and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the elusive Southern Emu-wren a bird who defies us no matter how many times we try to find it.
Before we left, we walked the Tony Doyle track which took us to a stunning look-out over the water. Along the way we saw wildflowers and a few birds.
Having left Sydney at 9:30AM, we were back home by 6PM - a great day trip with three stops along the way!
To get there: Park at Burge and Allfield Road. Walk toward the water and make a right on the water path. You can’t miss the pelicans. We added Pearl Beach for swimming and Warrah Trig for birdwatching onto the day. These are easy to get to by car. If you take the train, spend more time with the pelicans birdwatching and in the town of Woy Woy.