As you have probably heard there is a second outbreak of the Covid in Sydney, which has put us all on high alert. Last Sunday my wife and I needed to get out and walk, so we went early to the Royal National Park, to hopefully escape the usual crowd, but it is now near a new virus hot-spot and locals were already there in large numbers, with some Victorian number plates sighted as well. So we decided to find a trail which no one was on to explore an area where someone had mentioned Southern Emu-wrens were sighted, a bird we have never seen, on the Mount Bass Fire Trail. Sadly, due to a technical problem, I lost many of my photos and was unable to retrieve them all, so what I have here are the ones I could retrieve from our birding date. This Eastern Crimson Rosella, is one of the many bird species from the Parrot family in Australia, the land of the Parrot. It is frequently seen and heard around the forests of Sydney.
Last week I asked some passing walkers what birds they have seen. The reply came: “I heard A Bellbird !” and I will respond saying “I don’t think so, not here in this park. But if you only heard one bird, it was probably not a Bell Miner (known as Bellbird) as they are a community bird, and they call to each other, so there are usually many. What you heard was most likely an Eastern Crimson Rosella. Listen for yourself to the chime of the Eastern Rosella calling to its mate, it can easily be mistaken. The Rainbow Lorikeet is calling noisily, as they do, in the background.
Now, before I get started on this birding date trail I want to explain that for the next few weeks I will be featuring the common local birds one can find around and in Sydney, where we live. We have many species, at throughout the year, and most local species remain all year round, and are very territorial, which means that when visiting birders ask me to take them out birding, and they name their list, I can usually find the bird they want with a reasonable probability.
Such as the Laughing Kookaburra which can be predictably found in the same location, sitting quietly watching as you pass by. We have these birds in our street, and they do occasionally visit our home and mark their territory, but choose to stay away rather then face abuse from the Noisy Miner coalition. These gentle patient birds are usually human friendly, and will come very close, especially if they see meat on your BBQ, or watch you digging in the soil. You can often get a shock when they fly suddenly down in front of you and grab a work you did not see. They have excellent binocular vision, being the largest bird in the Kingfisher family. Listen to their territorial call, it is very difficult to film them calling, as they tend to stop if they see you watching, so this is shot from a distance excuse the movement due to hand held full lens extension. This is Australia’s morning alarm clock, calling its inhabitants to rise and shine at sunrise.
This series of local birds was inspired by a request made by a blogger friend and blog follower, Takami from T Ibara Photo who showed special appreciation in my Pacific Black Duck photo, asking if I could show more of the common local birds where I live, as these often get left out, as we have so many interesting bird species.
Now back to trail. The first birds we heard calling and making a loud raucous metallic cough-like like sound were the Red and Little Wattlebirds, calling and feeding. The Red Wattlebird is our largest honeyeater in Sydney and is very aggressive and controlling, where as the Little (or non wattlebird as I call it) as it has no visible wattle, is not as common and mainly seen here now in Winter. Both species feed on nectar, blossoms, fruit, lerps and insects. Listen to calls and judge for yourself.
You will usually hear in the background the excitedly call of the Rainbow Lorikeet, in both above sound files. They are our most common small Parrot family bird and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo our most common large. Both birds are found nesting in the same trees and sometimes competing for nesting holes, as I have shared previously, it is all about the Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata) tree. Both these birds pair for life. The cone or crest of the Cockie is raised when the bird is alarmed or excited to communicate to their flock, acting somewhat like an emotional gauge. It also aids as a deterrent to any threatening situation. Both species feed on seeds, fruit, flowers, lerps and some insects, and both are featured in my book.
I love watching the Lorikeets feeding on our Bottlebrush tree each day. The excited chatter and call is continuous as the pair call to each other. So there may be many pairs feeding but they know the call of their mate. If a group alarm is sounded they are gone in a second, like airborne torpedoes they can fly with amazing accuracy past your head by an inch and through the tiniest space. I love watching the pair at the birdbath. I always get the best comments of appreciation from posting this colourful bird.
Probably the most common bird in largest numbers found around Sydney, and newly featured in the recently released 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us”, is the Noisy Miner, one of the world’s most aggressive and brave birds, and Australia’s most aggressive native honeyeater. This bird has no fear when either alone or in coalition, to attack raptors, cats, dogs, humans and even kill smaller birds. This bird is a good example of a bully. It takes possession quite literally of an area of trees, and terrorizes any bird that they do not approve of, driving them from the area. They are very noisy as they put out calls to the coalition to come, and use their constant call as another form of harassment, like being in a house with the alarm going off, it is unbearable, especially to the ultra sensitive hearing of the bird.
The coalition of 6 visit my birdbath daily for their ablutions, at about 1:00 pm every day. The leader of the pack, pictured below, is now so use to me that he will often come and sit on the chair back next to me and just look at me for a few seconds. They know I fill their water for them, as all my backyard birds do. They will wait in nearby trees and on power lines, till I refill the bath, and then converge on it, madly ducking and splashing and all the time making a noisy racket, which sounds like: ” Hey, get out its my turn !”
Of course they soon disperse to the tree when the alpha male Magpie comes, he is king pin and nobody argues with his very strong beak, and his powerful bite, for this territory is shared by Noisy Miners, Rainbow Lorikeets, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven and Australian Eastern Black-Backed Magpie, which all drink and bathe here.
This is the little guy I call My Little Mate who makes my heart rejoice every time I hear him call through the day his beautiful song. I reckon he laughs a better laugh and a happier one than the Kookaburra.
He is like a pet to me, and you may remember last year how he brought his two fledglings to show me (see above). This is a younger photo of him. I never feed him, he just drinks and visits each day, sometimes several times. His call can be heard all through the day, and he varies it, so it is not monotonous.
Here are his children later on calling in the morning like their dad from the TV areal next door.
What about the lonely Pied Currawong. These are very deceptive and covert birds, known for their opportunistic behaviour, for which they have been a new inclusion in my 2nd Edition. They do have many beautiful and interesting calls, often the first call before sunrise. They silently sleek about and their bright yellow eye is constantly on the lookout for an opportunistic moment to score. In my book they teach the universal life principle of “A man reaps from what he sows.” or “What comes around goes around.” He is related to the Corvid family, and is uniquely Australian.
My Backyard Currawong usually only visits my birdbaths when no one else is around, bird or human. He is a bird of stealth and secrecy and quite shy.
Speaking of Corvids, the last bird I see near home, but rarely visits my baths is the Australian Raven, our most intelligent bird. A family flock moved into our neighborhood last year during the fires and at the beginning of the Covid. Now we have a large flock of them, but they keep well away from us and the Miners.
Our Australian Raven is quite a different bird to the crows of the Northern Hemisphere. Note its hackles beneath its chin, a distinct feature. This very intelligent bird, also has a tight social and complex structure similar to the also very intelligent Australian Magpie.
A bird I often see flying over head almost every day is the Australian White Ibis which has become in recent years a pest to Sydney gaining the name of the bin chicken. This is because it has learnt to remove garbage from bins and make a mess. Ornithologists have been studying this change of behaviour for some years now, as this recent increase in numbers within the city of Sydney has become a interesting problem. In one town nearby in the palm trees of the nature strip dividing one of the busiest roads, these birds are seen sitting on nests, perched precariously hanging from these palms while noisy traffic surges beneath. When roosting and nesting. like many flock birds, they find safety in numbers.
This bird is meant to be on mud flats and grassy fields prodding the earth with its long beak for insects and crustaceans.This is another new inclusion to my book, replacing the Glossy Ibis which is not an Australian bird but a migrant found worldwide.
Well, I have deviated from my birding date somewhat and ending up in my backyard, where we have shared some of the most common birds we see every day in the Suburbs of Sydney. I will come back to our walk again next week. One bird that has become a very real problem, even worse than our own native Noisy Miner, is the introduced Indian Myna or Common Myna. Efforts to cull this fast breeding bird have failed, and it is taking over and pushing out many of our native species. It was reported on the front of the newspaper as “The myna bird has become a major problem.” Thankfully my little coalition of 6 keep them away and they thrive further down the street. These birds have infiltrated many parts of the world with amazing success.
I managed to share the common or local birds that visit my back yard, as I digressed from my birding date, which I will return to next week where I will feature more local birds that are not found in my back yard. I would be interested if other bloggers would share their local backyard birds as a one off, in a blog, as some of my blogger friends have already done.
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I guess the best message we can gain from this weeks post is that it is too easy to take the things we experience daily for granted. We are constantly exhorted in the Bible to give thanks in every situation, and rejoice in all situations whether seemingly good or bad, because they are all sent to mature our character and make us into endurable people who live more by faith rather than sight. The outcome is we worry less and trust and rest and know peace more. We can only achieve this level of peace and sense of safety if we have faith in a trusted and tested source. As Jesus tried to show his followers long ago, and stands today, it is not so much how much faith one has , but the object we place our faith in that matters. This takes the pressure off of us to produce the peace, and rests it with God, who has the power to do it. (see Matthew 17:20). It is not science (though I am a scientist), nor mankind or luck, which are known from experience to be always unpredictable and constantly changing, but it is the unchangeable omniscient omnipotent loving Father God, with whom my wife and I find peace and rest in at this historically unprecedented turbulent and anxious time of uncertainty. I can understand now how the apostle Paul was able to say through the many and life threatening experiences he had:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week my dear friends and stay safe !
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W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To encourage young people to make good life choices,
using birds to teach important life skills.’
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.