Lake Wollumboola is a birder hotspot for endangered and rare shorebirds and waders. It boasts 104 species of birds including 17 listed as threatened or endangered. Its shores support the breeding grounds for the Little Tern and Red-capped Plover, both endangered species. The above link will provide a pamphlet of the lake’s birds. To protect and manage this area more appropriately it was incorporated into the Jervis Bay National Park. Last Friday at 5:30am, I travelled a 2.5 hour drive on the Princes Highway on the South Coast of NSW, turning east at South Nowra to drive out to Culburra Beach, before the heat of the day, to spend 2 hours filming shorebirds before returning home at 1:30pm so I could start work at 2:00pm.
You may remember last year, about this time, my wife and I visited this lake to find the rare sighting of the White-rumped Sandpiper, that had lost its way from America. It was drawing crowds of birders from all over Australia. This morning on my arrival one birder told me that a rare sighting of a New Zealand Shelduck had occurred the day before, but had not been sighted again today.
It was difficult to identify these tiny birds without photos, and even then after careful comparison, as some were breeding, non-breeding and juvenile. Sanderling, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and some other sandpipers were present together, running over the sand. All tiny waders. It was amazing to watch these tiny birds running from the powerful surf. and bravely running so close to its pounding waves.
One feature that captured my attention was the peace and harmony with which these waders had together sharing their habitat without the greed and aggression of the Noisy Miner or Red Wattle Bird of the passerine family. Here you can see three types of Cormorant Great, Little Black and Pied all standing together with resting Chestnut Teal and Bar-tailed Godwit in the background.
Crested Tern were present in reasonable numbers, and had been breeding here, with the evidence of immature birds shown in the above photos.
Baby Terns and Silver Gulls have the behaviour of crouching low and bobbing up and down while squawking for food. This eventually irritates the parent who flies off for some respite. I have seen this several times with different shore birds. Returning later with the other parent.
As the parent flew away from the baby I captured these beautiful images of perfect reflection on the lake
The Little Tern has its breeding area on the beach fenced off. It was a beautiful experiece watching these birds fly, and amazing to see how small these birds were compared with the Crested Tern and Silver Gull. As you can see above it is about the size of the Red-capped Plover, which is very small. How beautiful to see two endangered species peacefully sharing space together. Note the forked tail of the Little tern, they are amazing flyers, and so fast in the air. The last photo compares the Little Tern in foreground with the Crested Tern nearer to the Cormorants.
The Red-capped Plover is another tiny wader and endangered specie found nesting here. This little fellow was running about all over the sand. He would run stop run stop…
This pair of Pied Oystercatcher soon took to running off as I approached, they were also recently classified as endangered specie, along with their Sooty cousins.
The Red-necked Avocet were feeding on the far side of the lake, but it did not stop me getting these photos. I love their reflections.
This lone Grey Plover, looks very similar to the Pacific Golden Plover, but lacks the golden patterning.
If you are a camera or telescope enthusiast you will be amazed at the quality and shear size of the equipment birders bring to this beach. Birders and Conservationists are constantly coming and going here all day. They share tips with each other along the way. This man, a professional birder and his daughter were observing this mixed flock, where some were nesting. He was looking for the Hudsonian Godwit which he had seen here on previous days, another rare bird seen here, which I have never laid eyes on as yet. I was blown away looking through his telescope at the clarity and magnification of the distant birds. It is lovely to see young people enjoying birding with their parents. This is a growing trend. Most Australian birders are over the age of 50. One of my life goals is to encourage young people to appreciate Australian birds and wildlife. My recent book “What Birds Teach Us” is doing this, and my proposed talks and book launches early this year in schools etc will assist this also.
I conclude with this short compilation I call the Shorebird Blues, as you would know by my backing music I am an old blues band player from way back:-) I had exhausted my time here, so I returned to my car and drove home, thankful for the tiny waders I had seen.
These beautiful reflection photos cause me to ponder, ‘what image am I reflecting to others around me?’ What are my blind spots, those areas that may be unsavory or unpleasant to others which I can not see in my own life? To reflect on our life, means looking at ourselves in the mirror of our life, and making changes to accommodate others,with love, kindness, understanding and most of all, respect. Respecting their needs in their relationship with us. Has someone tried to share with you something they find distasteful about your behaviour, but you have ignored them because you think it is nonsense or you just don’t want to believe them…
Take the time to Reflect, Detect and Respect and if you need help to do this…
“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” – Psalm 146:8
My Bird of the Week – The Cattle Egret
When we were visiting the Mid-North Coast of NSW two weekends ago, my wife mentioned to our friends her love of seeing Cattle Egrets in their breeding plumage, it is one of her favourite bird things. They took us to a stand of Casuarina trees by Manning River Drive just north of MacDonalds. Here was a row of very tall Casuarina trees covered in vine, next to a small lake by the Dawson River, on the northern exit to Taree. There were hundreds of Cattle Egret in various stages of breeding plumage, and what appeared to be hundreds of nests many with babies at various stages of development. These birds are known to flock and do community very well. They go out and come in each day after spending the day in the fields with the cattle (Taree is a big cattle area) returning to roost in these trees for the night. Compared to the other Egrets this one is smaller and more hunched in appearance.
The breeding plumage is a distinct orange covering the head and neck areas, contrasting to its normal pure white all over appearance, as can be seen in the above photos.
This makes for a colourful spectacle during the Summer breeding months. As you can see they are very community orientated and find safety in numbers. These birds love being around cattle (often seen standing on the back of cattle preening them for ticks and other nasties) forming a synergistic relationship with the cattle who are quite at home with them being around. This is an interesting development considering these birds, like other Egrets are waders which are found also in wetlands, swamps, river mud flats in both fresh and salt water.
From the above map you can see that they are found throughout most of Australia, and even in smaller numbers in the desert regions after rain, but not in central Western Australia.
Of course, the Cattle Egret chicks were quite visible through the branches and vines. Notice the dark grey beak and the soft white plumage of the immature birds, at various stages of development. It was a real treat to get this close to a nesting site, which are usually heavily protected.
Check out my Home Page, I have recently updated it. Especially read my reasons for Birding blurb.
Remember my book is available and for sale online from this page, or check out my Birdbook page for more info. This book “What Birds Teach Us” is now available at Koorong Books as from last weekend. It makes a great birdthday gift for any age, and it shares wisdom for living a good life, from the birds. Have a great week!