As the seasons change so do the birds. As Autumn embraces us in Australia, our migrant wader friends make their long journey of 16,000 km back to the Alaskan and Siberian spring to breed and replenish so they can return again in our spring. Many of us birders have enjoyed seeing them each low tide on the mud flats and reefs foraging for food. But they are gone! many took flight on the Easter weekend, and above is photo of a pair that were gorging themselves in preparation for the long journey back bia the Asian coastline. Notice the male is already donning breeding plumage, with the beautiful orange wader plumage. Notice how fat this little guy is becoming. Click on photos to enlarge.
I have to say the Bar-tailed Godwit is one of my favorite birds, it is very humble and yet one of the most endurant birds in the world, flightwise. I will miss them, though my attention will turn more to passerines (tree birds), since winter is a better time to explore the Australian bush, and snakes are less active. This is a bird that always lives in the summer months but flies from one end of the world to the other to get it, about 36,000 km per year.
As I had my last look at the waders before they left, a flock of Silver Gulls watched with great curiosity at the urgency of these little waders, wondering what all the activity was about. In the background was a squadron of Dark Blue Soldier Crabs marching through the wader’s grazing area. In the background is another wader also preparing to leave, the Grey-tailed Tattler which I featured on previous posts.
A few days after I took these photos, this will be what will be seen, only difference being, that they will form into a flock flight formation, and fly for days non stop, constantly changing formation so that each bird share rest positions and work positions in the formation. Check out the map above for their flight route.
Another bird I featured this summer who had already left was the large Eastern Curlew, a very shy bird.
I also went to Long Reef for a last look at the reef waders before they make their long journey back. It always amazes me how these very tiny birds can fly such great distances. The Red-necked Stint, which has not got its red neck yet, because it is not yet in breeding plumage, will change soon. The Grey-tailed Tattler and Ruddy Turnstone waders were also present, and would also soon be leaving for a similar destination. It was lovely just to witness the peace and harmony that these waders shared together as they foraged the reef. There was no rivalry or greed, they often moved in a mixed feeding flock (MFF) and shared the experience with birds other than their own specie. There is a story behind how I got these shots, I will disclose later.
My Bird of the Week – The Pacific Golden Plover
One wader I always love to see in the sunlight is the beautiful Pacific Golden Plover, which is my bird of the week. This is a migrant wader to the Arctic regions, likewise spending summer months on Australian coastlines. This bird has a dramatic plumage transformation when breeding ( click on the link above to view breeding form). Because it breeds in the northern hemisphere I have no photos of my own. These waders like the others feed from tidal mudflats, beaches and reefs, on small crustaceans and sea creatures. They are a quite bird usually, and shy of humans.
Above are some of the birds on the reef that will not be migrating, but will be here next time I come.The Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers are waders that breed and stay in Australia, as does the White-faced Heron. Notice the red larva rock from the volcanic origin of this reef.
My gift for the day was sighting this Osprey carrying a large fish from the ocean, of which I had seen its offspring here doing likewise on previous occasions. It appeared uncertain as to where it should go to eat it, and circled about me causing great concern to the other birds on the reef, but great delight to me, as it gave me excellent photo opportunities. The other gift I referred to earlier was when I was standing barefoot in the middle of the reef and almost slipped and fell. I was in a spot where I could not move without slipping so I stood and prayed asking God for help. I could not understand why I could not find a way out. Then out of the blue, came a mixed feeding flock of shy waders that landed right near me, probably because I was not moving. That’s how I got the photos of the Red-necked Stints, as prior to this they had fled on my approach. So God is amazing, He brought them to me! I just had to stand still long enough, for after filming these birds I was able to find away across the reef safely.
So we farewell our wader friends, knowing that many will never return due to the recent habitat changes on the Asian coastline due to man’s continuing reclamation of wetlands and coastal mudflats. Many will fall into the ocean underfed, and waders do not swim, they wade. But be encouraged as I am by the amazing Bar-tailed Godwit (which is also featured in my new book for its endurant spirit). Press on till you reach your goal and the joy set before you in its delightful acquisition. Have a great week, and next week I will share a beautiful birding experience we had recently, which I know you will enjoy.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” – Hebrews 12:7
“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” – Revelation 3:10
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