Last weekend my wife and I spent a few days in the Newcastle area to celebrate our wedding anniversary and have some birding time together, as well as birding time out walking and birding with my eldest son and his boys. One of the places we love to visit when there is the Walka Water Works near Maitland which seldom disappoints us, especially during Spring-Summer months.
This old steam driven water pumping station has long been decommissioned and now used as a museum and function centre. The man made lake is home to many waterbirds, and surrounding forest around it houses many passerines. The walk around the lake is always a delight as you never know what you might see. As we were about to commence our walk this flock of Corella were spooked and took off in flock.
The bird we were most wanting to see on the lake was the Great Crested Grebe, with its young. The last time we were here in Spring we saw the mating dance as well as very young juveniles being carried on the backs of the father Grebe. I figured that on this late Summer visit we would see the next stage of juvenile development, and we did.
Several families were present and the young were at various stages of maturity.
Surprising as it is the grey striping on white does camouflage the babies from the air, where their main predator will come from. This lake, surrounded by grassed flood plain is an ideal raptor hunting area, and guess what the next bird that came over head was?… The majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle, our largest eagle, with a wingspan of about 2.3 meters (7.5′). I was so pleased that it came overhead to examine us.
As it soared away from us it was suddenly in pursuit by what appeared to be a Magpie, but due to the intense back-lighting of the clouds was difficult to confirm. Wedgies are often chased by brave smaller birds, displaying their commitment to their family’s safety. This cat and mouse chase went on for several minutes, as the eagle soared up higher and higher making it more difficult for its assailant.
Later we found the pair of Wedgies working a paddock nearby and swiftly left when their keen eyesight spotted us watching.
Walking along the track we saw an amazing little incident with two Red-browed Finches. It appeared that the male was presenting the grass seed gift as a wedding ring followed by an acceptance and immediate mating. At first he mounted for a few seconds and now sexual contact was made, and then he mounted again and for several seconds there was intense movement as he watched the face of his partner. The movement helped to blur the photo. Then it was all over and he is left holding the grass. The female has a slightly narrower supercilium than the male. Now there is a word to explore!
Walking further along we were charmed by the beautiful chime of the Pied Butcherbird, one of my favorite bird calls which brings back memories of living on my property years ago. He did get a little worried at one stage when a pair of Musk Lorikeets flew toward him.
Rapidly moving Grey Fantails, Silvereye and Yellow Thornbill were flying with an MFF (Mixed Feeding Flock).
We just caught a glimpse of a White-bellied Sea Eagle before it escaped our view, after it had just passed over the lake.
It was surprising to also see a Spangled Drongo. These birds are usually found alone and migrate south from northern Queensland during Summer months, though usually not this far south. The fish tail is always a help in identifying it.
Just then we had another raptor moment when a Whistling Kite came over with a youngster in tow. Notice the adult always flies above the juvenile to make sure it is safe and not getting into mischief.
A pair of Hardheads cruised together on the water. The male has the white eye. A parent Dusky Moorhen was taking her two youngsters out for a cruise also, as a Little White Cormorant flew bye and a pair of Little Black Cormorant also were out together for a cruise.
After an enjoyable walk we made our way back to our accommodation, checking out Ash Island Wetlands on the way. We found most of the birds had left after the rains and as usual my wife prayed the prayer “What have you got for us here Lord?” as we were leaving, a large unusual bird with a long tail ran with head down across the road in front of the car, flying to a nearby tree some distance from the road with prey in mouth. It was a Pheasant Coucal a rare bird not usually seen here. We tried to get a better view but it hid in a Casuarina tree.
What a great way to finish an anniversary birding date. We were very grateful for a wonderful day out.
May you all have a wonderful week and get opportunities to get out and about. We are enjoying over 50 days virus free in our state and pray it continues as restrictions slowly lift. My new book is almost at the printing stage, looking at a possible April release, similar to last year.
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The Noisy Miner is one of the most aggressive bully birds in Australia, the cause of much stress, occasional deaths and nesting failures among many small birds. Above my friend Noisy leads his little coalition against my friend Butch, the father Grey Butcherbird who also frequents our birdbaths with his family. My second edition of “What Birds Teach Us” assists children to deal with bullies such as these. Occasionally the Miners will attempt to gang up and mob Butch or his family if he is too close to a nest, but Butch in this case is just ignoring them as he looks for insects in a Bottlebrush tree next door to us. Later he calls from the inside the other side of the tree after they left and could not find him.
Both these species provide a service to us. The Butcherbird sings and chuckles all day to me which I thoroughly enjoy and makes me smile inside and give thanks, while the bold Miners protect our yard continually from intruding vagrant, non native pest birds with their vigilant aggressive stance. We care for them both, though people would wonder why.
It is good to maintain a balance in relationships and show no partiality, accepting the person for who they are with a non judgmental attitude. If it is possible retain friendships with all people by showing respect, acceptance and understanding. We must however be careful to not take sides or enter into conversation that favors one side over the other, but simply listen and show empathy. If the person shows disrespect because you are friends with their opponent, step back and do not continue, but let them know you care and show no partiality for both parties. It does not mean you condone any inappropriate behaviour, or agree with it, but instead respect them and try to understand why they are doing what they do. You can only do this by developing a relationship, and spending time. It is in this context that we can be an instrument of positive change and healing to another person. We can eventually help them understand why they do what they do as they respond to our friendship and eventually trust us enough to share from their heart.
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12 (NIV)
“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” – James 3:18
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” – Proverbs 17:1
Above my female (left) and alpha male (right) Australian Magpies give thanks as they carol by our birdbaths, as they do each morning in appreciation.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
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, 2021.