Last weekend my wife and I drove to Wollongong Botanic Gardens on the tip off that a single Regent Honeyeater had been visiting a bright red flowering bush known as the ‘Drunk Parrot Tree’ (Schotia brachypetala). To our great delight we were blessed with many sightings of the bird as it came briefly to feed and then flew off, usually because it was harassed by the highly aggressive Red and Little Wattlebirds which dominated the tree along with the alos aggressive Rainbow Lorikeets. I managed a few decent photos, though it was difficult having to shoot to the back of the tree as this timid bird kept well away from us and the other birders present.
Botanic Gardens in any town we visit always provide some of our best birding, especially in spring when the high nectar output is occurring which Australian honeyeaters love so much that it sends them into an aggressive frenzy at times. The Regent is not so aggressive but rather shy on his own.
This is one of Australia’s most endangered species, nationally labelled ‘Critically Endangered’ and this particular sighting was a lifer in the wild for my wife, and more so for us both, it is my second sighting of an unbanded bird, which for us birders is a BIG plus, as it was not a release from Taronga Zoo Regent Honeyeater Breeding Project to save the bird, which is suffering from the deforestation of their prime nectar tree the Box and Mugga Ironbark, as well as the drought affecting the Capertee Valley breeding area.
Less than a hundred years ago there were flocks of hundreds flying over inland rural areas, but the railway found the iron like strength of the Ironbark tree ideal for railway sleepers, and most were felled for this purpose, as it was Australia’s hardest hardwood.
Today the Regent Honeyeater Project is the largest single conservation project ever in our nation, consisting of volunteer tree planters, bird counters and property lenders. The national government also have a Recovery Plan which they have enacted to save this beautiful bird. Of our over 70 species of Honeyeater their main diet is insects, nectar, some fruit and of course lerps. For this bird the specie of tree appears to be important for its survival and breeding, unlike most other species.
We took our lunch and Thermos along and sat in the shade of some large trees on a bench provided nearby and watched and waited for each return. We were told by a bird group the bird would return to the nearby rainforest area to rest between feeds, but sadly no female has been seen or nesting, which is the current plight of so many of these birds spread now across the coast in unfamiliar areas to escape the drought and ind sufficient food. This last shot was a gem as it flew off…
The other honeyeaters on the bush, most of which were aggressive toward the Regent are the Little Wattlebird, Red Wattlebird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet and Lewin’s Honeyeater. The Lorikeets are not classified as honeyeaters though they do eat the whole flower as well as nectar, being less dependant. They eat fruits and seeds as well, however the nectar has the same frenzy effect as on the Wattlebirds.
Hope you enjoyed our special little visitor, who’s appearance gave so many of us great delight to travel several hours early in the morning to observe. We also enjoyed conversation from birds from the local Illawarra Bird Observers Club, who posted the original tip off. Look how regent this Regent is in the photo below, what a stunning bird when seen in the sunlight, especially when in flight.
It is interesting they call this bush the Drunk Parrot Tree as it intoxicates the birds with its high sugar content nectar. It is interesting how greedy and possessive many of the flocking (pack as I call them) honeyeaters become, often ganging up on other species and taking over whole trees and sometimes parts of a forest, keeping them exclusively for themselves. They spend their time driving unwanted species from their food source, precluding the humble and shy birds in small number from access, as they noisily feed communicating constantly with the pack or gang.
This spirit of selfish, aggressive oppression rises its ugly head in our society from time to time causing all forms of pain for the humble innocent. This is a lesson to me of the need to help those who are disadvantaged because of such destructive behaviour, and to stand up for and assist where I can in real time, not just by giving financially for others to do. God’s heart and concern is for the underdog, the outcast, the oppressed, the foreigner, the orphan and widow, he blesses those who have a heart like his own of mercy, compassion and unconditional love. Jesus himself brought hope and help to these people in his society when no one else would, transforming their lives forever. I have had to change my attitude to the influx of many different cultures and beliefs to my own society in recent years. The Lord is the one who knows us and cares about us, his faithful promises can always be trusted. One just needs to ask and rest, trusting in him to act, and he will do the rest.
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” – Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:17
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” – Exodus 23:6
“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” – Psalm 140:12
Consider this, as I have, an orphan and a widow may look a little different from the past, where women lost their spouse in the battles of war. The battle is there still, but now it causes divorce and separation of families, and it is these ones who need our protection and support today.
May you enjoy the birds this week as you get out and about. May they assist, along with the surrounding nature, to bring rest and peace to your stressful life as you re-earth yourself in the Creators magnificent garden.
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