Not my usual feature photo for my posts, but this next two weeks marks the end forever of the 1st Edition of my book “What Birds Teach Us” after the last of the book shops that sell my book, stock up for the holiday season. The 2nd Edition as well as my second book we are looking to publish early in the new year. I will let you know when I know more. Here is the promo for the last time…
Following on from my last post we continue to showcase the birds from the bushfire devastated Mid-North Coast of NSW, where we visited 2 weeks ago. These were some of the survivors we saw. Refer to my previous post if you missed it, before reading this one, to understand more. Bushfires continue to blaze all over the state as thousands of hectares of prime forest have been destroyed, 83 fires continue to burn today in NSW and 20 not yet contained, 6 humans dead, 720 homes lost and many thousands of animals and birds incinerated (including over 1000 Koalas which many people are trying to rescue), as there is no relenting from the severe drought and the frequent strong, hot dry winds, constantly fanning the flames. You remember last week I shared how the raptors are having a field day catching wildlife as it runs frantically out of the forest to escape the flames.
The Black Kite in far north Australia have been observed carrying burning sticks from farm fires to grasslands and forests nearby to set them alight so as to flush out prey.
Sydney, like much of the east coast has been blanketed in thick toxic smoke for weeks now, where it has been said healthwise it is like smoking 10 to 40 cigarettes a day, there are many very sick people as a result. In fact the smoke is now classified in cities according to cigarettes. We had a 20 cigarette day Tuesday, and today after the Southerly cold change we have had a small reprieve. These conditions are worse ever recorded, and the effect on our bird and animal wildlife are catastrophic. Thank you for your patience and prayers, as many have been asking for an update. Now to continue…
Each morning as we sat on the balcony of our resort villa, sipping our coffee. We were at eye level with the Rainbow Lorikeets as they fed on these red flowers.
It was a great spot which many birds would come and spend time at, some to feed, some to rest and some to check us out for food, which previous occupants had done, a practice which is not good for wild Australian birds, unlike in other countries. Water is the important thing we can assist with.
This Pied Butcherbird and its juvenile appeared at regular intervals to check us out. This is one of my favorite song birds, we never see them as far south as Sydney. Of course ‘Pied’ meaning having 2 or more colors. Note that many juvenile birds are brown initially to blend into trees for safety from predators, and gradually gain mature plumage. Some species of male birds take up to 6 years. Adult plumage is usually associated with ability and permission to breed. From our balcony across the valley we had a good view of the adult male Butcherbird’s main observation point where the butcher shop operated from. See him honing his blade for the next kill.
We would frequently hear the constant tweeting of a juvenile Noisy Miner being fed by the Miner family members (Miners have one of the best organised social structures among birds). Occasionally the Kookaburra would come and sit the tree, mainly to watch us for food, but the Miners saw it as a threat to the youngster and gave him curry till he left.
Yes, Spring means parents are continually busy feeding their offspring, as with another Noisy MIner family.
Which brings us my most interesting observation, a small family of Australian Black-backed magpie. The fact that there is only one juvenile and that the female is present can signify that these birds have been displaced possibly from a bushfire ravaged area, as these birds are territorial, and rely, like the MIners on a very complex and well orchestrated social family network which contributes to them being one of the most successful native Australian birds. In normal circumstances the female would not be present when the male trains the youngster. Training can take up to 4 years, as Magpies are one of the most intelligent birds, up there with the Ravens. Notice how the female refuses to feed the youngster, when it beds from her, as it is the males role, and he obliges.
I have recently taken to study the Magpie, as some of you know, especially in the light of my new books and the gleaning of social and life skills we can apply from a family counseling perspective. Surprisingly my daughter bought me another useful and interesting book for my birthday recently written by Australia’s authority on Magpies, Gisela Kaplan. My loving daughter seems to know what book her dad needs next, as she did with last years very timely book.
If you have half an hour to sit and listen to a very interesting radio interview with Gasela Kaplan, here is the link:
Of course! as write this, I hear my little bird friend the Grey Butcherbird, ‘The Little Fella’ as I call him, singing to me as he approaches the birdbath for a drink. So I better not forget that his relatives were also present in the same area as the Pied. Again the male has the responsibility to feed and train the youngster.
Early in the morning, on a couple of mornings I would walk outside and hear this strange call from high up on top of a dead tree. It was a lone Dollarbird, a Summer migrant to our state, looking beautiful in the morning sunlight. These birds are insectivorous and hunt on the fly, but with a most unique and intriguing flight path of any bird, zooming up very high and fast and then down as it flies off. You will see that it gets its name from the white markings in the wing in flight. Someone thought it looked like a Dollar coin, but I think they have a vivid imagination.
Another beautiful bird we observed over coffee on the balcony was this beautiful pair of Eastern Rosella. These are a naturally very shy bird but we did manage to see both male and female sitting on the roof top of an adjacent villa.
While we were checking one of the fire ravaged areas where I had previously built the family home in the country north west of where we were staying, I was pleased to see it had been saved from the fires, and on our way back we noticed this rare sight of a lone Yellow-billed Spoonbill sharing a small dam with other ducks and Cattle Egret changing to breeding plumage. Because of the thick smoke and the distance from the road the photos are not great. But this is the second kind of Spoonbill in Australia to the more common Royal Spoonbill we see nearer the coast.
On my brothers suggestion we took a drive to Seal Rocks and the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, where we passed a large blow hole type cave. During the walk through the unburnt forest we found some interesting birds including the Variegated Fairy-wren, male in full breeding plumage and the female as we descended the steep steps from the lighthouse, as they popped in and out of the small shrubs along the path. This is usually not an easy bird to capture. This is my wife’s favorite.
Along the shaded track we heard and then saw the Scarlet Honeyeater family, always a wonderful find, and this time they were not high in the canopy feeding, but down low feeding and maintaining their young, somewhere.
As we came close to our car we heard this beautiful melody but could not place it. I had heard it before but not recently and I started guessing what it might be, and my wife finally found it yes! a Black-faced Monarch, another Summer migrant always welcome to our forests.
The Little Wattlebird is the most common wattlebird on the northern coast and lacks wattles on its neck, so it is very very little, like not there:-) Notice the interesting breast plumage.
Meanwhile back at the resort, there is Australia’s most opportunistic bird, having a similar ploy to that of the Australian Brush Turkey I posted last week. The Pied Currawong is known to steal the food of other birds, including their eggs and young, as well as human food, as he sits hopeful on the balcony railing. Their big yellow eye will watch you from a distance and wait for opportunity. In Lord Howe Island they are notorious at stealing the eggs of the beautiful White Tern, which nests in the Norfolk Pine tree, but lays its eggs on the branch. It does not build a nest. Though they do have many interesting and melodic calls which I love to hear, as they change at various times of the day. This bird is most prone to the tricks of the Cuckoos, planting their eggs in the Currawong nest while unattended. They lack the tight social structure of the Magpie, and are more selfish and private in their social structure.
I could not finish without including this very strange White-necked Heron who sat on this powerline/ aerial every day in the same spot. Strange for a wader, and always looking outward in the same direction, but never with any apparent purpose. Maybe the smell of smoke was alarming it.
These Scaly-breasted Lorikeets were feeding early morning on a native Colistamine bush nearby, the light was poor, and they were very difficult to get into full view. They kept one eye on us and each time we moved they moved. They get their name from the yellow lines on their breast.
One of the most affectionate birds I have seen is the Little Corella. Most times the faithful pair are sharing affection, mating, showing off or just sitting quietly together. This pair caught my eye.
If you have reached this far, thank you for your interest and patience, it is a long post, as many of mine are. Last of all the Golden Whistler male turned up while on a walk with my grandchildren to the beach, always a favorite of mine as you know.
My post pondering today comes from this snake skin which my son-in-law showed us on our walk to their beach. The question is: How did it get in the tree, did it shed the skin there or did some human hang it there?
This remains a mystery, as we were not there when it was shed. We could study the scene and speculate or postulate or ruminate or subjugate those who pontificate over the observable fact, which is: there is a snake skin hanging in a tree. So what?!
Like many scientists, as myself, I could spend time examining, testing, thinking, postulating and concluding, but I could miss the blatantly obvious observation: How interesting and how beautiful is the skin, how remarkable that it sheds its new skin in this way, and there it is hanging in a tree.
Oh, and by the way what snake did this? Oh, no! that sets them thinking again! Hey! why can’t we just smell the roses and appreciate the snake skin and admire the wonder and beauty of the thing for what it is. We don’t know a lot about fire and electricity but we admire and use it. We drive cars we know little about, and have bodies that function perfectly and with simultaneous harmony and complexity without us even being consciously aware. Sometimes we overthink things and for the secret sake of pride want to know how or why, and not just appreciate with humble acceptance the One who made the tree and the snake. This leads not to the giving us accolades for seeming to be clever, but to praise and appreciation for the awesome intelligent design of a truly wonderful and amazing Creator, God.
“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” – Psalm 40:5 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week and stay safe. Please pray for rain and cessation of these many destructive fires. As it surely lives up to the poets description in My Country: “I love a sunburnt country. A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.”
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.