Birds, in the same way as all other living creatures need water to survive. They also need to be near a water source when nesting and raising their young so that water can easily be brought to the nesting bird and the nestlings. Many birds nest by rivers, creeks, lagoons and lakes, or even on them. Many birds find their food from within the same water source as does this Great Crested Grebe and its young, at Bushell’s Lagoon.
The best way to see many ‘hard to get at’ birds, such as this Little Kingfisher (above) particularly in thick rainforest habitat, is by boat or canoe. The above photo was taken from a boat on the Daintree River in Queensland, which is possibly the only way you would take a good photograph of this very small and elusive bird. Many of the birds will be seated or nested along the edge of the river, making them visible in reasonable light, to view and photograph.
Recently, early one Friday morning I took a keen young birder friend with me to explore Bushell’s Lagoon in Wilberforce NSW (about 63km north-west of Sydney). He had told me that he had recently seen a Paradise Shelduck there. This is a vagrant from New Zealand where it is endemic, so this was a treat, as this bird is not normally found in Australia. Many birders have been in pursuit of this bird, to catch a look at it. Sightings had been posted on Eremaea Birdlines NSW website, where many serious birders get their tips on recent sightings. This bird had also recently been sighted at Lake Wollumboola on the South Coast, and many sought it there. I did not see on the day of my visit.
Bushell’s Lagoon is a much closer prospect. It is situated on private property adjoining a market garden area, and is a large body of fresh water, comprising of several wetland habitat types, and thus a variety of bird species, including several species of raptor.
My Bird of the Week – The Square-tailed Kite
As we drove to Bushell’s Lagoon, we were granted our first blessing for the morning, Thank You Lord! a beautiful Square-tailed Kite against a blue sky. We followed this kite as it moved along the busy roadway, thankfully in the direction that we were travelling. The Square-tailed Kite gets its name from its long square tipped tail, and is found throughout mainland Australia, but not in the inland desert regions of South and Western Australia. Its wing design enables it to glide effortlessly with minimal wing movement. They feed on small birds and their nestlings and will destroy a nest to get at the young. The males have been known to bring the entire nest containing nestlings of their prey to nesting female Square-tailed Kite to feed her and her young. They are known to wait nearby to pounce on the adult birds when they return to survey the damage to their nest. They are found in eucalypt woodland, open forest and heath land.
On arrival, my keen birder friend finally found the Shelduck resting quite some distance away. It had its back turned to us. Other birders started arriving in search of the same bird. We waited for a while and finally the bird stood up and later walked behind vegetation, out of site. It was difficult from this distance to see much detail, it appeared to be a lone male bird.
Some time later the bird moved a little closer to a more accessible spot, where it proceeded to wash itself. The birds around continued resting and were quite uninterested in the splashings of this unusual intruder.
As we walked across the road causeway to the other side of the lake system we sighted a Great Crested Grebe with babies, which was a delight to see.
Listen carefully to the above movie clip and you will hear the call of the baby Grebes.
The Eastern Great Egret featured in the wetland marshes in all its graceful splendour. Notice in one of the photos how it stretches its neck tall. When it feels threatened it does this to look threatening, returning the threat. They always do this to me when they see my camera. This bird is non-breeding, lacking both breeding plumage and lores colouring.
I love the dexterity of these birds with their neck. The way they can bend their neck into a toilet ‘S’ bend shape so easily. This may be their next reaction, when making tall does not work, go small, and maybe the guy with the camera won’t notice me any more:-)
Several different raptors flew over the lagoon while we were there, since this was a great food source for them, as water birds are easy to take, being out in the open. This young White-bellied Sea Eagle in the last year of its maturity passed over. Because these raptors have the best eyesight of any creature, when they easily can see me pointing my camera at them from a long way off, and soon glide away.
The Black-shouldered Kite was another young raptor that passed over. It prepared to hover over its prospective prey, but it soon took flight also. You will notice it has not yet gained its maturity stripes yet (ie. it lacks the black shoulder markings, these will come when it reaches full maturity).
To me the highlight was the appearance of the beautiful Brown Goshawk with its classic body markings. The blue sky was such a blessing to film these raptors, had it been cloudy, the diffused light would have diminished detail and darkened to image terribly.
A pair of Whistling Kite made a brief appearance also.
It would not be right to mention water birds without the appearance of White-faced Heron, but this fellow was rather dishevelled. There were many other more common waterbirds present that I have not featured including the Pacific Black Duck, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Chestnut Teal and Grey Teal and more.
Now to the passerines that we saw both on the way to and around the lagoon. These Red-rumped parrots were grazing nearby. Notice the female lacks the red rump, as can be seen when they fly.
In a paddock nearby the beautiful metallic sheen of this Straw-necked Ibis wing in the sun, captured my delightful attention.
It was quite unusual to find a large flock of Magpie Larks at the lagoon. I did not get a good photo of them as there were so many and so scattered as they were on the move. Just these two males.
This very unusual looking male Superb Fairy-wren caught my attention. Its face looked atypically scary compared to the usual. It was difficult to get a clear shot, due to his unusual facial features.
One of the prizes for the morning was these excellent views of the very elusive female Golden-headed Cisticola.
The close relative, the Clamorous Reed Warbler showed up as well, which was amazing to see in the sunlight, as it is such a shy bird which is heard but seldom ever seen, because it calls from down among the tall reeds.
Before we left I was inspired by this little Golden-headed Cisticola perched at the very top of this bare deciduous tree branch. I was reminded that in life: ‘When you are out on a limb just trust and cling’. Sometimes life throws some very difficult times to us, and it is faith, hope and love that get us through it. As these tiny birds know it is not the amount of faith that matters, but the object of our faith (ie. what we actually believe in and cling to) that matters. For Jesus spelled it out…
‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”’ – Matthew 17:20
It ultimately concerns my relationship with God, whether I really trust Him with my life and my day to day issues. This has been the confronting issue for me this week as I have faced very stressful situations in my workplace. It has been amazing how he supernaturally seems to make everything work out so wonderfully, when I remember to call on Him for help and then hand the worry over to him. God says to us all…
‘When you call on me, I will answer you; I will be with you in trouble, I will deliver you and honor you.’ – Psalm 91:15
God is a gentleman, he will only come in and work on our behalf when we ask him and allow him to, when get out of the way to allow him to work. Too often I have asked God for help, but not trusted Him to do it, still stressing and trying to do it in my own limited strength.
Check out my Website Home Page Menu for more Birding photos and helpful information. I have several pages of helpful tips, links and information.
If you live in the Sydney area aussiebirder will be speaking at a one night seminar entitled “What Birds Teach Us” 7:30 – 9:30pm Tuesday 17th May at the Georges River Life Church in Stanley Street, Peakhurst. He will share information on birding and bird photography, as well as his journey as an author and blogger. His recently published book will be on sale for the special price of $20 AU. Phone 02 9153 6300 during business hours if you would like to come or view their website. The cost of the seminar is $5 per person and $10 per family.