The long hot summer series of heat waves may have made the passerines (tree birds) scarce, but shore birds did not seem to mind the heat at all, and are quite predictably present each low tide . It was wonderful when I visited one of my best viewing beaches near the mouth of the Georges River, for seeing my favourite wader, the Bar-tailed Godwit. Above we see a mature male starting to develop breeding plumage, a mature female and second year juvenile.
Along with the male gaining the chestnut breeding plumage in preparation for having its young in Alaska later in March, it is also getting fatter, as it and its comrades eat as much as they can to fuel their long journey home via the Asian coastlines. It will be sad not to see them here next month, but this is also predictable, as they are migrant waders. Eventually the male will be bright orange, this will recede as they return to Australia in September.
These birds are usually found on river and coastal tidal mud flats where they use their slightly upturned bill to extract small mud crabs from the wet sand. Notice the many Light-Blue Soldier Crabs all over the beach, escaping from the Godwits. Thousands of soldier crabs scuttle away from me as I walk the beach.
Funny enough, these birds are quite unconcerned with these crabs, as they are large and shelled, the Godwits enjoy eating the much smaller and softer sand/mud crabs which they extract from below the sand. Notice the size difference between the mature and young crabs.
The Bar-tailed Godwit gets its name from the Bar pattern on its tail. This is not normally visible while the bird is at rest walking about, but becomes a beautiful picture when the bird takes flight. Click on photo to enlarge it.
It was interesting watching the faithful five fly off, as one of the males led the flight, and the others followed.
It always gets me excited and tops off a mornings birding when I find the lone Eastern Curlew walking the beach, but always well away from people. This is the largest migratory wader that we see on our beaches and numbers are declining. They are very people shy.
They always give their warning call when they take flight, even when they are the only bird on the beach. Sadly in several of our local shorebird reserves, despite signs forbidding dogs, dog owners not only bring their dogs, but let them chase the protected, endangered birds, being allowed off the leash. Laws are toothless tigers if there is no one there to enforce them. However, on one such beach It was most pleasing to find a flock of Eastern Curlew, more than I have ever seen here, quite some distance away where the dogs and humans can not reach them.
After a while the beach came alive with aerial movement as a small flock of Crested Tern (non breeding) started arriving to rest on the beach surrounded by the soldier crabs, which also scurried away.
The Crested Tern are the most common Tern to be found on our coastline. When breeding their crest is entirely black on the forehead also. These are non breeding. However, it was delightful to find a parent with a juvenile bird. Note the beautiful grey plumage, and the lowering of the head by the junior, a classic action seen in most shore bird young, as it seeks feeding. The speckled plumage will eventually give way to the uniform grey plumage of the adult.
My Bird of the Week – The Little Tern
The Little Tern is not as common as the Crested Tern, and suffers from destruction of its nesting sights by humans, dogs and foxes as it nests on the sand on beaches, where people often walk. It is our smallest Tern, only slightly smaller than the Fairy Tern. It is rapidly becoming endangered. I was delighted to spot this one bird. They fly so fast it is often difficult to catch them on the wing. They breed in Australia and also in North America. They are classically migratory, though they nest here also. They feed on small fish, insects and crustaceans. Look at the size comparison with this bird next to a Silver Gull. These birds are found along the coast of mainland Australia but not the coastline of South Western Australia.
It is always pleasing to see our White Ibis foraging on the beach in a similar way to the Godwits, rather than foraging in garbage bins in parks. Sydney has been inundated over the last ten years with White Ibis, they breed and live here now, which has been the subject of research studies in recent years. This country bird has become city bird.
One rock platform I visited at low tide recently had no waders at all, and was quite disappointing, but faithfully the first bird I saw each time I visit is always a pair of Australian Pipit, which jump around the fringe of the platform.
What made up for my disappointment on my return from the reef, was the sighting of the Pipit pair’s one juvenile bird for the season. It jumped out in front of me and led me up the path.
This is not a bird commonly seen in our area, but faithfully is predictable, like the Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Butcherbird, Magpie, Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Superb Fairy-wren and the Eastern Whipbird, to name a few. because each of these birds like many other Australian birds are territorial, and move continuously about a given region, careful to keep within their own perimeter. It is this predictability which adds a delight to birding. Unlike most birds, you never know if you will see them again, but these territorial perennial birds, you get to know them and they you, and a trust is built up.
Which brings me to a wonderful experience I had over six years ago when I lived near the ocean on the mid-north coast. Here I was developing a predictable relationship with a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. This bird was actually getting to know me, as it saw me often spend hours watching and stalking it. It sometimes would circle or simply hover above my head and just watch me, as soon as I pointed my camera at it, without the slightest movement it would glide away, returning to observe me on another day. I hid in the bush on a cliff one day waiting for it to do its rounds and it flew right up to me and hovered in front of me, looking curiously into the bush at me for several minutes.
Now it is a Grey Butcherbird who visits me several times every day and sings with excitement as he splashes and washes in the dog’s drinking water bowl. I always smile and get a kick out of hearing its happy call each time. He is usually the first bird I hear in the morning, and his arrival is predicable, and delightful on every occasion. Faithful returning friends, how we treasure them. How we love to be known and loved, for each of us are created for relationship. Life is relationship. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our relationships and how we love, care and share with others sharing our journey. God calls us to be faithful in the same way as He is faithful, for He says:
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
“For I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” – Psalm 26:3
Trusting God more and more with my life and future, I discover he is predictably faithful, as only a true friend can be. He comes and faithfully meets my needs, often surprising and delighting me beyond my expectations. That is why King David could honestly and experientially say of his God:
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful” – Psalm 18:25
Faith believes and then receives, because it is God’s delight to shower his love on us as we allow him to do so.
Have a great week, and check out my website, especially the new recently added pages. I also have a new promo video below.
You can check out my book, and purchase it in the sidebar on this page. I am delighted that sales have greatly increased, NSW National Parks shops have recently become the new sales success places, for which I am very thankful.