The major thrill of birding, each time my wife and I go out walking, be it forest, grasslands, wetlands or coastline or river mudflats, is the surprise of finding the unexpected and the unusual bird. This is because birds are not static creatures, but move about, sometimes over great distances in a day in search of food, where as others rotate over a set territory they have claimed for themselves. One day last week the tides were right for waders, so I checked each of the usual spots and all I found were these three Bar-tailed Godwits, which are one of my favourite birds.
At my next stop on a ocean rock platform all I saw were a lone Black-fronted Dotteral and a Pied Oystercatcher, which have been seen here on many occasions.
I arrived at my last viewing spot at Bonna Point Reserve to find people walking their dogs off the leash in an area specifically marked reserve banning such activity. I have seen this many times before, and it is upsetting, since the many dog foot prints indicate that large dogs chased off the migratory waders that would normally be here. Even my usual Eastern Curlew was nowhere to be found. As I walked on, somewhat disappointed for all my morning efforts, I sent up a prayer asking God to give me something out of His ‘box of chocolates’, something special. Immediately after I heard a raptor sound, turned around, and there hovering some distance away over the bush near the beach was a beautiful male Swamp Harrier. This was a bird I had not yet been able to get good photos of, and I was granted this golden opportunity as an immediate response to my request, what a wonderful Father he is.
My Bird of the Week – The Swamp Harrier
You can understand how the Harrier Jump Jet get their name when you watch the hunting technique of this bird. As you know the Harrier jets are able to descend vertically to the flight deck rather than fly in. Notice the wheels (legs) are down in some of the above photos, ready for descent, but at this point he saw me, and flew off, thinking it might not be safe to land. He was ‘harrying’ some small creature by hovering over it with slow wing movement and talons down, attempting to unsettle it and pounce. They mainly prey on water birds and other prey they find around the water.
This is a male because of it’s tail markings being light coloured and only lightly barred, the female has a much darker and heavier barred tail. The Swamp Harrier are found throughout Australia and can migrate north for the winter months. They get their name because they tend to hunt around swamps, wetlands and lakes. They are also found near mangrove areas, where I found this one, where waders and waterbirds are also found. Sighting this bird was a wonderful gift selection from the box.
Seconds later, I heard the loud raucous call of a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoo chasing each other over the reserve skies. These migratory birds have returned for our Summer to lay their eggs in our native bird nests (mainly Currawongs, Ravens and Magpies) to be raised by our native birds. This is the largest Cuckoo.
Then this beautiful big Pelican flew over, and I had enjoyed ‘my last chocolate from the box’ for the day, satisfied.
On the weekend my wife and I went for a walk in our local Oatley Park, where we had not seen much bird life lately. We took a friend along who is becoming interested in birding. We delighted in this beautiful miniature bush orchid. How beautifully painted is each flower each dot so very small, what wonderful design by a marvelous Designer.
Quite a few of our resident birds were nesting, and though these birds are commonly seen here it is always good to see them.
Last year you may remember my post showing the Kookaburras nesting in this white ant nest, it appears they are back, the bird poo indicates recent habitation, she could be on the nest as only one bird guarded it from a distance.
This lone Dollarbird, another returned migrant, sat predictably, on the highest point of a dead tree branch. We told our friend we would see one there, and there it was. Sometimes birds are predictable, and you ‘know what flavour you will get’ with that bird each time you visit.
The Olive-backed Oriole was another migrant returned that we heard and saw. They are easy to find because of their continual call.
As we are days away from Summer the presence of the Eastern Water Dragon and Eastern Water Skink are more noticeable, as are the activity of snakes. These little guys lives near the ponds and sunbake on the rocks nearby.
In my last post I sighted a Pacific Black Duck fighting another male for his female, and on this occasion we saw it with a Chestnut Teal on the ponds. A rogue male tried to mount a female, who tried desperately to escape his advances. Her hubby saw this and came to the rescue. Notice she is locked between the two most of the time of the fight, till finally she escapes to fly off. Her heroic hubby chases the testosterone charged rogue male off. It is wonderful to see chivalry among the bird community, it is an encouragement to us to care and defend our vulnerable loved ones.
The whole time we were at the ponds several Welcome Swallow, including some juvenile (without orange face) were constantly flying over the water consuming insects. Every few seconds one would dive into the water for a quarter of a second and come out and do a few more rounds and repeat the procedure. I was pleased I could catch it this time on camera, as they move so fast.
It was good to see that the several Chestnut Teal families are doing well here. These are the ones I sighted in my recent posts. They were not shy at all, but came to us.
Two days before on my usual Friday birding morning I returned to the Royal National Park Visitors Centre where I like to have a coffee and cake and walk about some of my favourite bird spots, which I recently posted. I was delighted that the National Parks shop manager, Theresa, has decided to stock and sell my book ‘What Birds teach Us’ I am continually encouraged by the feedback that has been coming back to me on how this book has blessed people in their lives. It is a wonderful gift to give at Christmas to anyone 8 years and upwards.
It was good to see the several families of Wood Duck doing well. A lady and myself helped save one family from disaster as they crossed the driveway of the car park. We soon herded them onto the grass. Another family lay on the road soaking the warmth, thankfully it was not being used at the time.
As did my favourite short walk in my bird corridor it was quiet, the Golden Whistlers were on the other side of the river, however my ‘selection’ was good and enjoyable. Yes another lone Dollarbird high on a dead branch, so predictable. It was unusual to find New Holland Honeyeaters this far into the forest as they are more likely found on the coastal scrubland. This one was into the blossom of our spring flowers. The Grey Fantail is always here, usually with the Eastern Yellow Robin which was not on this occasion. The White-browed Scrubwren was an additional delight. But my great find was…
This pair of Eastern Koel, returned migratory cuckoos, loving each other deep in this dense Fig Tree. I only just managed to get these shots as they were on the other side of the tree, and quite dark, so enhancement allowed me to identify them, as at first I thought it was a male Satin Bowerbird, which looks similar, but the red eye gave it away when lightened. Satin Bowerbird males have a beautiful blue eye. I have never had a photo of both together, so this was a first for me. The last great chocolate from the box I enjoyed this last weekend. These birds can be heard calling to each other during the summer months, morning and evening in most residential and bushland areas around Sydney.
I had a little time left so I went on a short walk on a new track for me, by the river, and almost trod on this huge Lace Monitor lizard, basking in the sun. It quite startled me as it shot into the bush. This reminds me to always look ahead when walking in the Australian bush during the summer months, even on an open trail, for reptiles need warmth to get active, and often bask in these open sunny areas.
The Sulfur-crested Cockatoo and Little Corella look for grass seed by the banks of the river, and for any food that visitors have left. These birds are quite tame and allow you to get quite close to them. So at the end of the weekend we as birders, can appreciate Forrest’s famous line that his mother gave him “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get”. I am thankful that our heavenly Father wants to bless and delight us, and loves us to call on Him and trust in Him. The good thing is that his mother using the positive example of a box of chocolates denoting something enjoyable and mostly delicious.
Again, I see these magnificent Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum), growing on bare rock platforms. The nesting trees of the Cockatoos, Lorikeets and Owls and BooBooks. They are an artist’s delight because of their unusual spreading nature and smooth ruddy-pink bark. The above ones hang over the Hacking River. One of the principles for a good, prosperous and happy life is to build it on a firm foundation of healthy life principles, which encourage wise decision making. Most of our life direction is determined by the decisions we make, these will determine our outcomes for good or bad. My book deals with these issues using our Australian birds as a springboard to good family counselling principles. This is why this book is helping so many young people as well as older people. PayPal is a safe way to purchase my book online or take a trip to the friendly Royal National Park Visitor’s Center & Cafe next week.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
Some who read this may have concerns that my book contains religious content, but I assure you, as those who have purchased my book, who follow my blog, will tell you, it is not the case. This is a book to reach all ages and all beliefs and does not enter into belief systems, but encourages simple sound life principles taught in good family counselling (Advanced Diploma in Family Therapy).
Have a great week birding, and check out my website for more birding tips and information.