A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all! As you are aware from the many news reports our country is suffering the worst Summer season on record. A drought in its 4th year, strong winds, dry thunderstorms and merciless raging ravaging incinerating unstoppable firestorm bushfires have turned our holiday season into a state of emergency and declared catastrophic conditions. Millions of hectares destroyed, millions of wildlife incinerated, thousands of homes and properties and livestock destroyed and 17 humans dead, and we are only just into Summer. Many had their holidays terminated or cut short, and many more fled with their lives from their holiday grounds. It is just not safe to travel anywhere at the moment, as these fires can strike and move suddenly, without warning. Here is a brief video excerpt from On Demand News on YouTube.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the many homeless and now traumatized residents, where in some places whole towns have been wiped off the map. It has affected most of the east coast of Australia in populated areas, and the thick toxic smoke continues to be the daily norm for most of us, as it has been for over the last two months. It has affected the lives of most Australians either directly or indirectly.
So many brave firefighters from home and overseas have rallied to the fire front, including our defense force. These fires along with the drought are rewriting our Bird Field Guides for location and even for the existence of species in our country. It will not be known till further down the track if we have recently added more species to our critically endangered or extinct classifications. Our local Oatley Park Reserve’s main pond in one week has been gradually drying up as many birds leave with only a only a few remaining.
This pair of of Chestnut Teal are not worried at all. They have raised their young already, and now taking it easy in the murky ponds.
This male wanted aussiebirder to include him in his next post, so I obliged.
Other then the Teal and a few Australian White Ibis a single Great Egret and Royal Spoonbill stood together in the diminishing pond.
The Spoonbill had breeding plumage which I always find quite amusing, as well as their sweeping filtering bill action.
This photo best highlights there head dress. It is one which I have previously entered in an art show as a canvas print.
The reptiles, including young Eastern Waterdragons and Skinks are not affected by the drought and make their presence known in Summer as they bathe in the warm sun.
This little skink had a perfect place to hide and rest from the heat. When it saw me it quickly slid back into its hole in the tree. It needs to be careful, as Kookaburras and Pied Currawong check these holes for food.
As my wife and I walked through the almost deserted park trail, as normally this time of year many bird species would be feeding and calling, we heard one loud raucous sound which drew our attention. It was a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo being fed by a adult Pied Currawong. You may remember in my previous post on Channel-bills, that I mentioned how the Cuckoos migrate south in Summer and lay/plant their eggs in the nests of unwitting birds to be surrogate raised. Here is a great example, watch. The much larger Cuckoo has an insatiable hunger that keeps the poor Currawong flying off to find food.
As we continued back down the track we had a very exciting surprise as a pair of Buff-banded Rail ran across the track up ahead. They were fast so initial images were poor. We had reports of sightings of this bird but this is the first time we saw them here. The jerking of the camera was sadly unavoidable.
We later saw them again in more shaded bush.
As we walked further along the track the resident male Eastern Australian Magpie was foraging in his territory. This bird both knows me and trusts me, allowing me to walk right next to it. A lady passing by, caused it to run away, only to return beck next to me again after she passed.
I always see this bird every time I visit around the same area, usually with another male or female. My blogging friend David of the blog birdsaspoetry.com has engaged in his Magnificent Magpie 2020 Project, which will be worth following.
We are both enjoying Gisella Kaplan’s book The Australian Magpie which is to date the greatest work on this most intelligent and clever bird. As I write this I can here my resident alpha male Magpie calling to me. He usually does it after his bath in my birdbath.
A little further along the track and we could here another unfamiliar sound from a nearby eucalypt. It was difficult to see these two birds and make out what they were as the bright diffused light in the background and the smoke made it difficult, so again I apologise for the photos. They appeared to be 1st year juvenile Brown Goshawks waiting possibly to be fed. We did not see the adult, and the birds sat in the same spot watching and waiting. We had never had a sighting of this bird in the park that we know of so it is a new finding.
Approaching the creek which flows into the Georges River from the wetland, we saw these two birds. Now, on first observation one might think them two distinct species of Egret, but with binoculars it can be seen that they are both Great Egrets, one in full breeding plumage with turquoise lores, dark beak and fine streaming back feathers and the other with only very early breeding plumage yellow beak and back streaming feathers.
Before I finish I would like to correct an identification on my previous blog post on Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga where I thought the flock of Terns I was viewing were Common Terns. On further observation and talking with other birders they are actually Whiskered Terns (previously known as Marsh Terns). These two species of Tern do look very similar, however the Whiskered has the darker belly and distinct white throat, which is seen here. These are predominantly fresh water Terns found on inland lakes and rivers where they mainly fly close to the water surface to catch insects over and on the water as well as dive for the occasional small fish and crustacean. The heavy smoke made it difficult to photograph them with clarity. Sadly, the waterbirds of Lake Albert’s wetlands I featured recently have gone, as the wetlands are also drying up as the lake diminishes and becomes more shallow.
As we move into 2020 and get a 20/20 vision of what lies ahead, entering a catastrophic period of uncertainty and a most unpredictable Summer, we ponder as to what the future holds, and what birds will be left for us to enjoy, and where they will relocate. Most of our native wildlife is territorial and non migratory, so it will be difficult for them to find new areas, as tension will arise with birds of the same species already established in unburnt areas.
Interesting enough a friend posted this reminder, that times such as these have occurred in the past, captured by one of our renowned poets.
My second edition of ‘What Birds Teach Us’ is now with the publisher and when it is launched I will have some changes to my blog post and website. I will also be available for talks and seminars in schools and organisations, especially targetting Primary School aged children. I am delighted that despite the bushfires ravaging our national parks, my 1st Edition continued to be purchased as they sold out in National Parks gift shops there is only a hand full left. If you want to grab one of the last click here. I am hoping to publish my second book, targetting 16 years to adult, later in the year.
The birds love it and love you for it and it is so simple to install. Eventually they will wash and drink and allow you to sit and watch them only feet away from them, as they trust you and know that you care about them.
One of the best things we can do for our birds during this 4th year of drought is to install a birdbath or 2. My publisher and my sister both bought their family one for Christmas and are enjoying seeing birds come to drink and bathe. Our Australian birds are wild and aggressive around food, so it is recommended not to feed them, as they are best to gather their own, as they can become aggressive, demanding and destructive if they develop a dependence on your kindness, as many have found out the hard way. However, they do need and appreciate our contribution of fresh water. Your family can enjoy the experience watching the different local species come to your birdbath at different times of day. Children especially enjoy this. Just top up the bath daily and clean it our weekly and the birds will do the rest. Funny enough, when I arrived home from Wagga Wagga on New Years Day both birdbaths were depleted and no birds anywhere. I cleaned and filled both baths, walked up stairs and in seconds 7 birds came immediately and noisily drinking and bathing as if they had been watching and waiting for me to replenish it, as they know I do. Why 2 baths ( a small and large? because that allows both the smaller and larger birds to choose the best option and bathe at the same time. Also is is good as you will see in this photo to make sure the baths are shaded under a tree and have approach landing access, a tree, chair, post nearby, as they like to land and survey the bath before plunging in. Treat yourself to a birdbath, it will amuse and give you much enjoyment as it has us.😊
Have a great week and STAY SAFE!
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, 2020.