As Summer ends and the record breaking heat waves give way to cooler wet weather, the birds are given a welcome reprieve from the heat. My favourite local birding place Oatley Park Reserve in recent weeks, despite the heat has given me some lovely birding surprises to share. The park is known for its abundance of Rainbow Lorikeet and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo .
This is because the park is a major breeding place at the moment for these birds. The beautiful Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum) trees provide nesting holes after branches fall. I love inhaling the refreshing scent that these trees emit. It is a beautiful sight when a Rainbow Lorikeet fans its wings and squawks to ward you off from its nest. Click on photos to enlarge them.
So what about the unusual or not so common birds that have been visiting recently, not to mention the new arrivals from last Springs breeding which have now fully fledged and move about the park unaccompanied?
My Bird of the Week – The Black-faced Monach
My first surprise was this Black-faced Monach. This Summer is the first time I had seen it in the park, moving about on its own. Though I have not seen it in the last week. It is found along the eastern Australian coastal forests. It is described as a slow moving flycatcher, as it does not flit about like our other birds but moves slowly and eats insects both from the air and from off trees. This little guy was taking shelter from the extreme summer heat. The immature Monach lacks the black face. The Spectacled Monach is often found in the same area, and can sometimes be confused as it has a black face, but the black covers the eyes also forming a mask like appearance.
Birds to Oatley Park know that there is one little patch of trees where birds, especially unusual birds can be found. This is because of the native fruits that grow there and ripen in the Summer months, attracting such as the male and female Figbird. These are not commonly seen here, but this particular tree was ripe for the picking. Within a week this is what the tree looked like, and the Figbirds were gone.
As you can see the pair have feasted and left. Another bird very similar in appearance and related to our native Figbird is the Olive-backed Oriole. Unlike the Figbird it is a Summer migrant to south eastern Australia. It can be difficult to tell the difference from the female Figbird and the Oriole except for the olive colouring and the bright red eye of the Oriole. This Oriole was also hanging around this patch of trees for the last few weeks.
However the bonus was the discovery of what appears to be an an immature Olive-backed Oriole. Like most immature birds the eye remains dark coloured till they mature. I was blessed with many close shots of the bird feeding from a native fruit tree.
A welcome surprise is the appearance of the Sacred Kingfisher. Though there are several families in the park you do not always get a good look at them as they tend to be timid. It is only when they are in bright sunlight that you fully appreciate their beauty. Many are led to believe these birds just hunt small fish from rivers and lakes, but they spend much of their time hunting on land, eating insects, small reptiles and crustaceans.
One of my most recent surprises in the last week has been the sighting of the Leaden Flycatcher. Only a female and an immature have been sighted, I am yet to see the male. The bird tends to move around the same area eating insects on the fly, or should I say eats flies on the fly. I love the way this bird quivers its tail up and down when it lands. It is not too shy and will come and check me out in a similar way to the Eastern Yellow Robin.
The tiny Red-browed Finch is a common inhabitant of the park, but always a challenge to get good photos because of its small size and fast movement. The surprise was to get this picture of an immature. Notice how it lacks the bright red brow.
This little flock were nestled from the heat under this bush. You can see the difference from the immature in the middle to the matures around it.
The Yellow-faced Honeyeater visits the park from time to time and is always a welcome sight to behold.
Moving to the ponds area we find Royal Spoonbills, which are commonly seen here, waiting out the tidal changes of Lime Kiln Creek. Notice below the immature Spoonbill, lacks the yellow marking over the eye and acts like other begging juveniles, while its parents try to rest between tides.
While birding with one of my youngest birders and blog followers present, he brought to our attention a juvenile Rufous (Nankeen) Night-Heron hiding under some vegetation on an island in the middle of the main pond. Notice it lacks the blue cap of the mature Night-Heron.
Herons are amazing for the way they can extend and retract their necks to pluck their food from the water. This immature shows this feature as it stretches.
While the Grey Butcherbird is a common inhabitant of the reserve, this young immature guy was quite tame and came to sit next to where I was standing to view me. He sat there for some time, delighting me with his trusting spirit.
Two migrant birds that will soon leave to the warmer north as winter approaches is the Dollarbird and the Red-whiskered Bulbul. Both these birds are found in the park during Summer and are usually found in exactly the same locations each year. It is good to see them.
Even the common Superb Fairy-wren becomes a welcome surprise when you see the male morphing from immaturity. This one has almost made it, and will be soon able to breed for the first time, with a female which ias also pictured below.
The tiny Silvereye has been a recent visitor in large flocks. It is not that they are not common, but when you see the tree moving by itself, and there is no wind, you realize the numbers of these birds present, moving continuously through the trees, removing every insect from every tree they move into. It is difficult to photograph them when they are moving rapidly in a feeding flock .
To my surprise, I had this bird come nearby to check me out. It looked at first like a female Golden Whistler, but noticed the rufous markings on its wings realised it was an immature or juvenile Golden Whistler. It watched and followed me about as I walked, occasionally catching food. The beautiful male was no where to be seen, nor the female.
Another bird that occasionally is found fishing alone in the centre of the main pond is the Australasian Grebe. It is always a challenge to photograph it, for as soon as it knows your there it dives and moves away underwater. This little guy displays breeding plumage with yellow facial spot and rufous head. I was told his family is in a pond in the golf course pond nearby.
The Striated (Mangrove) Heron is one bird I always get excited to see at low tide in Lime Kiln bay in the park, or in the main pond when water level is low. They are very human shy, and will always move away on sighting. please note, these pics were taken some distance away, which accounts for lack of crispness.
The White-faced Heron is a common inhabitant of Oatley Park but when it is decked out in its breeding plumage, it looks so much more beautiful, especially when you catch a shot of it after catching a fish.
I have many good pics from previous encounters, but this was all I got on these two birds from one recent walk through the park. Sometimes one good shot is all you get, and the rest out of focus, too dark or too late. Sometimes all you get is the fan of the Fantail and nothing else, as the bird moves quickly through dense bush, or a Great Egret a great distance away can be difficult to focus on the face when its back is toward you.
Be thankful for small mercies was a saying used when I was a child. I am always challenged in my heart to give thanks for the times when there is very little as much as when there are many opportunities, as with previous photos in the post. However, they are all gifts from our very gracious Creator, who deserves much thanks for allowing us the privilege to share in the enjoyment of his Creation. A major therapy for depression and disappointment is: Have an ‘ attitude of gratitude’.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” – Psalm 107:21