Last Sunday afternoon my wife and I went for a birding walk with a non-birder friend. We had previously done walks with her, but on this occasion it happened naturally that we introduced Catherine for the first time to birding as an enjoyable afternoon recreation walking part of the way on Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park. She was a little concerned having been told of the Red-bellied Black Snake we saw with another friend a couple of weeks ago on the same track.
To start we took her to the place where I saw the Azure Kingfisher (featured in my last two posts) but due to the many people in the nearby area the timid bird was not to be found, but we did delight in the beautiful reflection on the river. She noted this Australasian Grebe floating on the river. My wife lent her binoculars as she saw close up this cute little bird. We had seen this bird many times before but for her it was a lifer, as were a pair of Purple Swamphen which she interestedly asked the name of (not pictured). Click on photos to enlarge them.
Having had no success with the Azure Kingfisher we started our walk, mentioning at certain points where particular birds are usually found, but on this occasion, as you would have already guessed, there was hardly a bird to be found. But we did hear the call of several birds including the Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Lewins Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill and White-throated Treecreeper. We mentioned that a highlight of this walk would be to see or hear a Superb Lyrebird. Just then we saw a large bird fly up into a tree near the track, but was well camouflaged under its canopy. At first we thought Bowerbird female, but we were not far wrong, when my wife identified a Green Catbird which is a member of the bowerbird family. It sat quietly in the tree while we checked it out. This was another lifer for our friend who was now becoming quite interested, for this was an uncommonly seen rainforest bird, normally quite timid and usually found in dense rainforest further down the track. The darkness of the forest canopy usually makes photography difficult, but God granted us the gift of this bird to tantalize our friend in the delights of birding.
The reality of Forest Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ begins to become reality for our friend as birds never before seen are found by us. Catherine asks in amazement, while pointing into the thick tree canopy: “How do you find the bird in all that ?” She starts to ask the right questions of birder in the making. Our next lifer for her was this New Holland Honeyeater making a continuous chirping in a low lying bush.
As we walked further we could hear the sounds of a lyrebird in bush nearby the track, and our friend was blessed with her first sighting of a male Superb Lyrebird foraging, another gift, as you may not see this bird, you may only hear calling in the river valley below. We watched for some time as he foraged without being disturbed, as these males are quite timid normally. The first sighting of the bird through the bush is usually the beautiful tail, which is magnificent in the sunlight.
As we walked on we met a lovely mature couple sitting quietly on a rock by the road waiting for their lyrebird they call Bill, to appear. After answering a question for them, we left them, sitting and waiting for Bill to appear. One of the other features of our winter walk was the wildflowers that were out, the beautiful bright Boronia included, flowering quite early.
We could hear the Yellow-faced Honeyeater constantly, but being small and high in the canopy we found it difficult to photograph, until one sat high up in the sunlight long enough for my wife to show Catherine and me to photograph. This tiny honeyeater is very common here during winter months, but another lifer for Catherine. Of course the Currawong, Magpie and Kookaburra are common birds that we saw also but were not lifers for Catherine.
Little did we expect on our walk back to find another lifer for Catherine, in fact a bird we had never seen in the park here before, a Crested Shrike-tit, another bird that may be seen more in winter months. This tiny bright bird, is usually discovered by the sound of bark being dislodged from tree branches as it searches beneath it for insects and grubs. That was how we found this one, in fact Catherine noted her attention was drawn to the noise of the bark dislodging. We saw him catch a worm and eat it.
I always have trouble getting good clear pics of this bird because of the darkness of the canopy, as they are usually high up under the canopy, and always on the move. These have been considerable lightened up, as you will be able to tell from lack of clarity. Of the three races of this bird the nominate race frontatus is found in eastern Australian mainland, throughout NSW, Victoria and coastal Queensland. The other two are found in SW and northern Western Australia and NT. This bird was a female Crested Shrike-tit as it had an olive green bib, as males have a black bib under their chin.
My wife always get excited seeing this bird, as it is so cute and colourful, and we seldom see it. It was starting to get cold as the winter sun was low in the sky and time to walk back. On our way we were twice blessed with another appearance of the male Superb Lyrebird, and again he did not mind us watching him forage for a while, this time much closer. This ended when he climbed up a tree on the edge of the river and flew across the river to the other side where he lived. Sadly there was not enough clearing for me to film the flight, which are quite extraordinary to watch. Here is some movie footage I caught in reasonable light.
This bird seldom flies long or high, appearing somewhat difficult for it, as it is a non migratory, territorial rainforest ground dweller. This means it is predictably possible to find this bird in the same area, How do you know a lyrebird is in the vicinity? By the scratchings on the side of the track, where they have been looking for insects and worms in the leaf litter. When we see these we know they are about. See here the beauty of God’s beautiful craftsmanship in the tail of this bird.
So we made our way home, with us encouraging Catherine on the sightings of the many lifers she had encountered this afternoon. Birds she would probably have never seen or even known to look for, that were there all the time. I said she was ‘a birder in the making’ and joked that we would take her again because we saw such great birds with her. My final thought for this post came from a feature of this Angophora costata tree that Catherine noted and my wife photographed.