One day last week to set off early to miss the walkers and walk through Royal National Park and search for Lyrebird we knew was nesting near the track, as unlike most birds they nest in Autumn and Winter. We had only just stepped out of our car and we heard the Superb Fairy-wren family twittering right beside us. We always see them in this area, where I researched them for my book. A beautiful male in eclipse or female-like non-breeding plumage was happily twittering and drawing our attention away from his wife and children who were escaping behind him. He stayed as his curiosity gave me some lovely footage, but notice the speed of his every movement, which shows how much faster their thought processes and metabolism is to ours.
The lovely feature photo at the top of the page was my wife’s, as I continue to await my lens repair, which is meant to be concluded this week, however the part has not come in yet. Here is a photo in his breeding plumage last Spring:
Since the Covid crisis my wife and I have been taking longer walks deeper in to the rainforest areas of our National Park to get much needed exercise, to refresh our spirits and distance ourselves even further from the dramatic increase in walkers due to the virus restrictions and the need to exercise. However, walking but no loitering or picnicking allowed. As you can see below the Cafe is closed and the picnic benches taped over, as the people-less grounds will soon be joined by a leafless introduced tree as it approaches the Covid winter of my life.
Royal NP Cafe outside empty
Picnic tables taped over under a changing introduced tree.
Walking amid the coastal rainforest of eastern Australia is one of the most beautiful and refreshing experiences, especially when one enters pockets of constant bird song, as mixed feeding flocks feed on nectar rich native flora which at this time of year is limited mainly to Banksia ericifolia, which helps carry them through to early Spring.
Our main mission which moved us further into the forest, this particular walk, was to search for the female Superb Lyrebird building her nest. You may recall in this recent previous post the male Lyrebirds have recently been performing to attract females to mate with, as is their custom this time of year. Now the pregnant female is gathering sticks, moss and soft foliage to build it’s unique dome nest. When looking for Lyrebirds one looks for fresh track-side scratchings. These became more extensive the further we moved into the forest away from people.
Evidence of a recent Lyrebird foraging
Keeping my eyes ever looking ahead, I finally spotted a male foraging quite some distance ahead on the side of the track. This explains the poor quality of video.
The easiest way to discern the sex of a Lyrebird is by it’s tail. The male has the beautiful streaming tail with streamers and net like frills, and the female has a shorter, simple dull brown-grey feathered tail, as does the juvenile.
As we walked further we saw evidence of moss being gathered, and then to our surprise, as well as the female Lyrebird’s, we caught her carrying moss to her nest, though she made sure we did not find the nest.
We heard the sound of a male Eastern Whipbird calling as he made his morning rounds, but there was no female response. He could be a young male who may find a mate and breed early Spring.
The female response always immediately follows the male whip call. It is only a second after his, how amazing is that. When she hears him she waits and calls precisely after his call. This is what it would sound like if she were there foraging nearby:
It was interesting to find this single male Yellow-tailed Cockatoo calling from a tree. This bird is always found in flocks and pairs, so this fellow either lost the flock or maybe lost the plot as he seemed disorientated. This time of year we see flocks of this bird on the coast exploring the cones from the many pines planted, especially Norfolk Pines planted along the coast.
While we were walking, the flock eventually flew over but without this guy. Listen to their unique call. Birders get excited and run outside with their cameras when they here this sound, especially if a large flock is passing over, they are so loud, even at a high altitude.
The tiny constantly moving Brown Thornbill, an insectivorous local is always seen year round calling and moving through trees, often in MMFs (Mixed Feeding Flocks), delights us with his classic call.
The Sulfur-crested Cockatoo have usually finished breeding in the south, but because of the warm Autumn some are breeding here, as if they are far north. This guy is on nest-watch.
A companion breeder to the Cockie is the Rainbow Lorikeet who competes for tree holes since they often share the same trees at the same time. However, the Rainbow Lorikeet can breed all year round, producing 2 eggs each time, where as the Kookaburra breeds only in Spring. This pair may be checking out this white-ant nest, which has been traditionally the nest of the resident Kookaburras, and has previously caused controversy between the two over the years, which I did show on a previous post last year. Notice how one stands guard while the other looks inside. Not sure what is happening here, whether they are using it at present, before Spring arrives later in the year, or just doing a pre-auction inspection, as this is prime luxury real estate.
Later before leaving we heard the loud sound of many Rainbow Lorikeets in an Angophora tree. We focused our lenses high up in the tree to discover that these birds had discovered a small pool of water sitting in a bowl formation upright in the tree. This unusual tree, which I have shared about many times, is an important part of this bird’s habitat, due to its unique branch formation, and branch ejection system, leaving pockets and holes which birds use to nest in or in this occasion to drink from and bathe in after rain.
Rainbow Lorikeet flying in for a drink, scattering the others.
One bird we always look for along the river before we leave the park is the Azure Kingfisher. We usually spot him zipping in and out of the river. Though it would appear to a brief onlooker he is just resting, he is actually hard at work looking into the water for his next catch, which he will pluck out of the water with precise accuracy and speed, returning with it to the same perch.
The Kingfisher family (of which the Kookaburra is the largest member) have binocular vision, to enable accurate distance assessment using triangulation. In addition they also have the ability to correct for light refraction in water, which enables them to accurately target and catch their prey. It is interesting that what can appear to one person from the context of their own experience to be resting or non-active is actually quite the opposite. It is only when one studies, observes and investigates the facts fully, they can make an informed decision otherwise a false assessment can easily be made, by making a comparison with ones existing knowledge. The chapter on the Australian Raven in my book sheds light on this also. It is one thing to gain knowledge (to know what), and even greater to gain wisdom (to know how to use knowledge) but the greatest treasure one can procure is understanding (to know why wisdom works). The wisest man King Solomon says:
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” – Job 12:13
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5
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My Mission: To encourage young people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).