For weeks now we have had heat waves, and it has become the hottest summer for over 50 years. The result is that summer bird numbers have reduced, as birds take shelter from the heat beneath heavy undergrowth, or they simply fly to the mountains for a cooler climate. During the past week the birdbath in my backyard has never been so busy, as exhausted birds take their turn splashing and drinking in the water, which I have had to replenish sometimes several times in one day. This is what it looked like in our large flowering Endeavour Bottlebrush tree 4 days ago. The sound of continuous noisy chatter as several Rainbow Lorikeets feed from the nectar rich flowers.
But today it was just too hot too many hot days in a row, and not a bird can be seen or heard in what is usually a very busy and noisy courtyard.
This was also the case when we recently visited Warriewood Wetlands and Kuringai Chase National Park, north east Sydney area. We were disappointed with low bird numbers and low water levels in the wetlands. The first bird we heard was this immature Channel-billed Cuckoo whining for food. The poor unsuspecting Pied Currawong was making tireless return journeys to feed it as it continuously complained. In the distance I spotted the adult waiting to be joined with its surrogate raised baby.
Yes, the once wet wetlands were now drying out and had become a muddy mess for the remaining waterbirds. Only some sections had water enough for birds to swim.
Thankfully there were some passerines in the trees, despite the heat, and this female Brush Turkey.
My Bird of the Week – The Yellow Thornbill
The Yellow Thornbill is one of our smallest birds found (9-10 cm), mainly along the forests of the east coast of Australia. Like its cousin the Brown Thornbill, which we also saw in the same trees on this occasion, they feed on small insects, such as ants, being frequently seen quickly scanning the branches of the native Casuarina pine trees. But for its beak shape it can be confused with the slightly smaller Weebill, which has a smaller blunter finch-like beak.
Yellow and Brown Thornbills are found in much the same areas, though the Yellow is found also more inland. New birders sometimes find it difficult to differentiate the Brown Thornbill from the Striated, as both have striations on the neck. The eye colour is red for the Brown and grey-brown for the Striated. The Striated has a shorter tail, and usually facial white lines.
Above are the remaining birds seen in the wetlands trees. Next day we visited the Kuringai Chase National Park near West Head and walked the Elvina Trail. Again birds were very scarce, but the wildflowers made up for it, as they were blooming beautiful, especially my favorites the Grey Spider Flower, The Mountain Devil and the tiny Common Fringe Lily.
The beautiful Scribbly Gum eucalypt trees look as if someone has been scribbling over the trunks. The larvae of scribbly gum moths create thes lines as they burrow under the bark of the tree.
As for the birds, they were far and few between, in what usually is a busy times of small missile like bodies crossing over the walking track from bush to bush, but saddly only the occasional Little Wattlebird at first. Now the Little Wattlebird is smaller than the red and lacks any pendulous wattles on its cheeks which both the Red and Yellow Wattlebirds have. Note the white striations on chest area.
Occasionally we saw a New Holland Honeyeater and to our delight, on close examination of my photos, the very similar but rarer White-cheeked Honeyeater was captured feeding also on the native flowers. Can you see the subtle difference of New Holland to White-cheeked?
Sadly, this is all I have for you this week, but next week we return to check out the Royal National Park for some more surprises. My pondering thought this week is that there is always much out there to see, and sometimes the birds need to be few so we can better appreciate the other wonderful facets of Creation we can enjoy such as wild flowers…