You may wonder why this Yellow-throated Miner is my feature photo, well it has a history. When my wife and I went on our first holiday together we were not aware that we both loved birdwatching, but when I saw her get excited seeing this bird I realised and so we shared that we had a common interest, which to this day has been a wonderful hobby we share together as ‘recreational birdwatchers’ or more accurately birders. We were returning to our first holiday place Uluru a.k.a. Ayers Rock. the world’s largest monolith (single rock) sitting in the red centre desert region of central Australia’s Northern Territory [Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park].
Most of this rock lies underground but stands 348m high with a circumference of 9.4km. The feature which draws people out to the desert other than the unique bright red pindan dust soil…
…is the colour changes that take place during the day of this very coarse high iron content rock. Here is an example I put together of shots throughout the day…
The other fascinating feature of this desert is the amazing enduring Desert Oak tree, which is able to withstand drought, fire, extreme temperature, poor soils and grows about 10mm a year making some the trees well over 1000 years old. They send down roots over 8 metres to the water table. The juvenile trees look like feather dusters the mature trees have seed cones and look like native pine or Casuarina. The native Australians sometimes use this tree to get a drink of water when they cross the desert.
Where do you stay in the desert you ask? when you can freeze at night and boil by day. We had days of 35°C in Spring with afternoon thunderstorms. My wife loved the fact she could swim in the Sails in the Desert resort pool. Oh yes, it is Voyages Resort in the Desert, since the nearest town is 468 km away in Alice Springs. Beautiful Ghost Gums were planted around the resort attracting many birds, these are native to the coast of NW WA.
Birds you say! What birds live in a desert you ask? and this was one of the reasons we came to find out. The first bird we saw in large numbers around the resort was the Yellow-throated Miner which is just as numerous and aggressive as our Noisy Miner back down on the south east coast. It is the dominant bird here, and looks much like its noisy cousin. It tends to drive other birds away from the flowering native shrubs and Ghost gums. Click on pics to enlarge them.
Interesting enough, the greatest variety of birds were Honeyeaters around the resort. Again you ask: “How can that be your in the desert?” This proves the old adage ‘If you build it they will come’. This applies to our own backyards also, if you plant nectar producing native plants you will eventually attract the birds. Most birds enjoy nectar, flowers and lerps. Australia has the most amazing nectar producing plants and trees which produce lots of high energy (sugar) nectar in the poorest of soils. The next most numerous noisy bird was the White-plumed Honeyeater…
a tiny gregarious inland honeyeater which forms very into groups often seen playing and perching together, calling excitedly to each other as they feed. Honeyeaters often experience a nectar feeding frenzy which is known to cause some aggressive behaviour between and within nectar eating species. Australia has the largest honeyeaters, and the most aggressive birds in the world, including the most dangerous. You might get the impression in some of the next shots that some poor fella is getting nagged at by his lady, but the bird on the left with the pink beak is actually a juvenile bird, most likely complaining to be fed. The black beaked bird on the right is the adult parent.
However, the greatest delight was to hear and see the rarer Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. This bird can be heard in feeding frenzy high in the Ghost Gum flowers, loudly calling to each other, early in the morning as the sun rises, before the miners have taken over and driven them off. here is some footage of their peculiar call.
I so enjoyed hearing and watching these birds calling in the morning and watching as they busily fed on the tree blossom, calling to one another in constant communication. They have beautiful blue eyes.
When we drove out to ‘The Rock’ (as commonly known by us Aussies), we were both hoping to find some lifers and had asked God to show us to them. One which we were hoping to find was the Grey-headed Honeyeater, which is only found here in the northern inland desert regions of our continent and occasionally on the NW coast. We were blessed to find a pair in the heat of the day near the Mutitjulu Waterhole, which was currently dried up. The brown background is the Rock itself.
I managed to catch one Grey-headed Honeyeater eating lerps from the bottom of a leaf. The lerps can be seen as white crystalline sugary covering of the psyllid insect, which birds love and is one of the main foods for many birds, causing some species (such as the miners) to prevent other birds from accessing by patrolling particular feed trees using aggressive pack like gang behaviour toward other birds. This can eventually cause the death of eucalypt trees as miner birds mostly only harvest the lerps and not the psyllid insect, which other birds also eat, thus causing the tree eventually to be over-run by the insect and die. Pardalotes lessen the stress on our native plants by eating both lerps and psyllids, but these our tiniest birds, are easily driven away, injured and killed by the larger aggressive birds. Many These birds have developed a way of removing the lerps without removing the insect beneath.
It is not difficult to deduct our lesson for life from the above action of miners whether they be Yellow-throated, Noisy or Bell Miners, their aggressive controlling possessive behaviour ultimately causes the death of the very source of their food. This highlights the principle of what goes around comes around – a universal principle. Greed eventually consumes the greedy, and the selfish who exclude others and manipulate and cheat for their own gain. Those who follow this course in life will eventually be left alone excluded by others to die a lonely sad and shameful death. Jesus said it well:
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” – Mark 8:26 (NLT)
The antithesis of this behaviour is echoed again in Jesus words which he showed in his own life and death.
“Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” – John 12:25 (NLT)
This does not mean we have to hate ourselves, it means that there is more to life than us, there are others who need to live also who need love, sometimes more than we do.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” – Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
Have a wonderful week! We are so glad to get rain for a few days, even if winter has returned which will be good for Spring nesting.
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