The extremely hot Australian summer of 2017, as I have shared previously, has had its toll on the presence of passerines (tree birds) during the day. On heat wave days other birders have also commented on the eerie silence of bird voices. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Walking in the Royal National Park in the heat of the day, with only occasional bird sounds, it was amazing to find this Bassian Thrush hiding below a bush in the hot open eucalypt forest and not in rainforest, where it normally lives. This bird seldom flies,and is seldom ever seen by most people, as it lives off insects in the leaf litter on the rainforest floor. It blends in with its environment and so remains perfectly still when it feels threatened. As I walked in the silent forest, I began to see on the tops of tall eucalypts large bunches of beautiful white nectar filled flowers.
Taking a closer look I noticed flashes of colour moving among the flowers, no these were not honeyeaters, but flower eaters, this pair of Rainbow Lorikeets.
The rainbow Lorikeet is a common and plentiful bird here in Sydney suburbs and National Parks, which I hear and see almost every day feeding from the native Bottlebrush and Grevillea flowers found in many of our gardens, including ours. They also eat native forest fruit such as Lilly Pilly and figs. These birds, like most other parrots, mate for life. They are often seen as pairs. When they fly, like torpedoes, with their excited call, they are a flash of colour.
One of the hints for birders is when you see blossom, and you know there is not much to be found, that is where you quietly and motionlessly watch and wait, and the birds will come, and come they did, even in the heat. The Eastern Spinebill made its appearance, with its long curved beak, able to reach into the deepest flower with ease. It is designed for tubular flowers, which other honeyeaters find difficult to access.
Not long after the Lewins Honeyeater appeared cautiously at first, but once the taste of nectar touched its tongue it was disinterested in my presence, but with occasional precautionary glimpses.
The partner of this Lewins Honeyeater was more interested in a spider that was spotted. I call this photo series, I came, I saw and I conquered. I just loved the way the Honeyeater pondered for some time over taking this spider, I waited and waited, and then while I turned away, of course, it took it. Please Note: You will need to click on the first photo below to see what the Honeyeater is looking at.
Not to be left out the very active and much smaller New Holland Honeyeater appeared. I love the serious almost angry expressions on the faces of these birds. These birds are found in the open coastal dry scrubby forests of the National Park, but move inward for the blossom.
Many of our Honeyeaters, unlike the territorial birds, move around over large areas seeking blossom. They can survive eating insects, but they need the nectar to flourish and reproduce in a healthy state. Some, such as the now critically endangered Regent Honeyeater depend on the blossom of certain trees (Mugga Ironbark and White Box) to survive, annually travelling many miles in search of particular species of flowering eucalypts, mistletoe and native shrub flowers, because many of these trees have been depleted by land clearing and past timber requirements.
Even the tiny Silvereye were seen in small flocks moving through the blossom.
The Yellow-faced Honeyeater made an appearance also, but not in the blossom, and it was good to see they were also around, even in the heat.
My Bird of the Week – The Scarlet Honeyeater
The Scarlet Honeyeater was seen moving through the tree tops and sub canopy of the eucalypts in the Royal National Park also. This can make viewing and photographing this bird difficult. While they were not seen enjoying the nectar of the flowers while I was there, they were hunting in family groups for insects, moving from tree to tree. I was surprised to find so many on this day, but they stayed well away, as my experience has concluded that they are people shy, and perhaps that is why they did not come down lower to the blossom I was watching.
It was only the males that I saw, and were quite discernible with the bright red upper body, even from some distance away, that I noticed them. These birds are found in the eucalypt forests along the eastern Australian coast from Far north Queensland to Victoria. I love how, like other honeyeaters, they hang upside down quite naturally to feed.