As we leave an unusually wet winter and enter the beautiful early spring, with wildflowers blooming, I took off early one morning into the Southern Highlands to Barren Grounds National Park for another attempt at finding the elusive and endangered Eastern Ground Parrot.
Above photo is taken from the sign in the park of the two endangered species of birds in Australia which live in the scrubby heathlands of the highlands. One reason why these birds have become endangered is that both these birds are predominately ground dwellers, and seldom fly. This makes them very vulnerable to predators, especially humans, ferule cats and foxes.
As I began my walk early with temperature still a crisp 11°C the first bird to greet me was the Eastern Yellow Robin, and also later down the track. I was asking God to show me the Ground Parrot, which after a while, not seeing it appear, turned into a request for ‘something special’, as on this occasion Barren Grounds was more barren than usual, being unusually quiet of birdlife.
Soon after to my surprise these two small robin-like birds ran out from under the scrub onto the track not far up ahead. I was looking in the trees, but these birds were on the ground and did not fly even when pursued. They ran and then stopped, ran then stopped, eventually running into the heathland scrub.
To my delight, I later discovered that I had seen immature Eastern Bristlebirds. This is not only an endangered specie, but I was blessed to see the immature of this species which was an added bonus. I found that there is very little documentation on the immature or juvenile of this species, and photos are very rare.
Just before I left Barren Grounds feeling I had not seen much, out came the adult Eastern Bristlebird onto the track. Note the bristles below the beak, and the beautiful red eye.
As I walked along the treed area of the track Golden Whistlers called to one another, but were moving too fast for me to catch a good shot. This male was the only one I got, but the music they made was beautiful, and I was the only one there to enjoy it.
My second delight at Barren Grounds was this immature male Variegated Fairy-wren which was in the process of morphing into its mature form. This means it will be able to breed possibly this summer. He looked so stunning in the sunlight. Variegated Fairy-wrens are always sought after by Aussie birders as they are not as common as their Superb cousins, and they are stunning with the red back and light blue face and tail.
Look carefully at the above photo and see the tiny patch of red on its wing.
Eventually, he will look like the one above and be a fully equipped breeding male.
Above are some of the interesting wildflowers in bloom at Barren Grounds heathlands.
Having exhausted my time at Barren Grounds I headed back down the mountain to the Minamurra Rainforest Centre in the Budderoo National Park. I always see the Lewin’s Honeyeater when I visit here and today was no exception, though it proved elusive, it usually would be more visual.
The Rainforest is a difficult place to get good photographs due to poor lighting and intrusing objects.
I had my coffee break (morning tea by name) using the park’s picnic facilities and was visited by a curious Pied Currawong, who very boldly (which is their character) took off with the remainder of my Tim Tam biscuit.
Above you can see the progress of the biscuit as the Pied Currawong flew off with it. This bird is similar to our Magpie, and has a beautiful melodious but varied song. They are known for both their curiosity and boldness to remove food from unsuspecting picnicers.
My Bird of the Week – The Superb Lyrebird
The Superb Lyrebird is a beautiful unique Australian bird known for its beautiful tail plumage, its mating dance and its ability to mimic all forms of sound from other birds to chainsaws and machinery. This bird is only found in the south east of the Australian mainland in the coastal rainforests of NSW and Victoria. They are predominant ground dwelling and use their strong claws to scratch up the rainforest floor looking for insects and grubs which for their main diet.
This young female Lyrebird did not appear worried that I was only a couple of feet away, and continued to dig by the track. From the rufous throat plumage it appears to be a second year immature.
As I walked the rainforest walk I encountered several young Lyrebirds. Above, this young male is in the process of forming its beautiful tail plumage.
You can see that the tail is that of a male, but not fully formed, making it about 2 to 2.5 year immature The tail develops with each moult.
Above are sound recordings of the Superb Lyrebird calling, mimicking other birds. The sound of the original Lyrebird sound is the ‘tchick, tchick’ sound they make repetitively in between the other bird calls it mimics.
The above young male Lyrebird was caught practicing his mating dance, something they appear to rehearse many times before maturity.
The above frame is taken from the previous video clip to show how the male plumage is developing beneath the juvenile/female like plumage of immaturity. This male is much younger than the male in the previous clip where he is digging. Note the Lyrebird sound, this is how you can be sure to know when you are in the forest that it is a Lyrebird and not some other bird or group of birds in the same place. The Whipbird, Currawong and Cockatoo often feature in their calls. Some call them liarbirds because they can trick you into thinking you are hearing a different bird. I was once walking with my children when they were young in a forest and we heard the sound of a chainsaw, on approach it stopped and there was no sign of any human activity at all, just a scuffle of something escaping in the bush, in National Park, where chainsaws are banned. This was my children’s first encounter with a lyrebird.
Above is a mature male Lyrebird doing the mating dance with full plumage. These birds dance to their own music and beat. Eventually, the immature male will have full tail plumage and will flip its tail over its head and do the dance while imitating many different birds to his own beat.
In one area in Victoria some years ago almost all of the Lyrebird population was decimated by domestic and ferule cats. Thankfully, after it became law to cage cats in the offending area, the population slowly returned. Recent surveys have shown that the intensity of bush fires in areas where Lyrebirds live is about 30% less intense and less destructive due to their digging culture.
The Lyrebird with its ability to copy and mimic sounds reminds me of how important it is to copy and speak only that which is encouraging and helpful to those who listen. True relationships are based upon trust, requiring us to be honest and true, not deceiving or lying , but speaking the truth in love.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” – Corinthians 13:6
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29
Have a great week birding, and remember to check out my book, it is a great gift idea for children from 7 to 12 years, and for adults who love birds and want to know more about our beautiful Australian birds. It is available online through PayPal, and books are shipped same day. Read more in my Birdbook page or purchase from the sidebar on this page. Have you checked out my website fully yet? If you are new to birding there is stacks of helpful information, just click on the menu at the top of each page and explore the pages.