Last Sunday afternoon my wife and I drove to the Australian Botanic Gardens at My Annan, just a 45 minutes south-west of our home in southern Sydney. We had heard that the tiny elusive and colourful Swift Parrots had arrived in our area from Tasmania to enjoy a warmer Winter with us and to feed on our flowering gums and lerps. They are called Swift because of their swift flight. On arrival a small flock flew off to the west. We started waiting and looking as the loud sound of the Bell Miner rang in our ears. Another difficult bird to photograph as they constantly move about and are green, feeding inside the canopy. One has to wait till they come down low enough and the sun is directly on them.

This what we heard the whole time we were there.

Many birders with large lenses also began to arrive at the spot in the gardens where these birds can usually be viewed just before sunset, as the sun strikes the upper canopy of the tall eucalypts where these tiny birds hide and feed. The spot had changed to further down the track, the local birders told us, so they invited us to join them. Swifties  are one of our most difficult birds to photograph, because of their size, fear of humans, high canopy feeding, rapid flight and because they also blend into the trees, but shine when the sun strikes them, as you can see from my feature photo.

I only managed to get a few imperfect photos on this occasion as the flock did not return and only a pair of birds fed in one tree as we all stood together with lenses aimed trying to catch a decent shot as the bird hid behind the leaves and fed, and was a long way in the distance.

Here is a photo from two years ago when we saw the flock.

Swift Parrot feeding on lerps

If you look carefully at the above photo you can detect the white spots on the eucalypt leaves, this is lerps which is bird candy. The reason there is so much is that the Bell Miners control this area and prevent the Psyllid larvae eating birds from entering their territory, so they can harvest these lerps without damaging the larvae of the insect. They have coalition patrols similar to the Noisy Miner and contribute to the death of both forest and smaller birds such as Pardolotes which feed on both the lerps and the larvae.

Bell Miner eating lerps. Notice the dead spots on the leaves.

Their continuous call can be distressing to other birds and forms a constant communication network. The Swift Parrot prefers the upper canopy and not inside the lower so the Bell Miner do not normally give them as much trouble. These birds always cause a stir when spotted flying as they are beautiful under wing as seen by this photo from two years ago, and the above shot is a rare capture for me.

Because this birding hot spot is near a natural spring, the birds come and drink and bathe continually throughout the day in this dry open woodland forest. Standing in the same spot on the track near the spring these are the birds we saw moving about us. This Lewin’s Honeyeater was trying to remove the one last red berry from the end of this native plant, but because it could not land on it it had to maneuver itself to pluck the berry after many tries and us watching.

Error
This video doesn’t exist

At the same time this beautiful male Australian King Parrot flew in and landed.

Yellow-faced Honeyeaters also fed on lerps as they tolerated the Bell Miners occasional bullying. These birds are seen in large numbers in our area during the winter months. This one was difficult for even the Bell Miners to detect intruding. Now you can get an idea of the challenge us Aussie birders have when spotting and photographing birds. This is a 400 mm zoom.

Here is the lightened cropped version, if you did not spot it looking like a leaf high in the canopy.

This immature Olive-backed Oriole was quite tame and came close to check us out.

While young White-browed Scrubwrens hopped on the track  in front of me with no fear.

As we started loosing light and the sun was behind a cloud and soon to set we made our way home, delighted that we had seen the Swift Parrot, and look forward to visiting the spot again soon.


Have an enjoyable week and stay safe.

If you have not yet purchased either of my books, I am running a 2 book Special Book Launch Discount of over 20% off which includes free postage.  The 2 books consist of “What Birds Teach Us” and “Flight of a Fledgling”. This crazy video was made for my thebeautifulbirdbooks Facebook page so the price mentioned at the end is for one book purchased in Australia and button referred to at the end is here: Shop Now

Error
This video doesn’t exist

A Pair of Swift Parrot deeding on lerps

Look carefully or you could easily miss the second Swift Parrot feeding in the canopy of this tall eucalypt, which illustrates the difficulty of seeing these birds. The bird on the right is my feature photo cropped. This is the difference between the quick glance ans the careful look. The difference between looking or watching a bird and moving on, to that of carefully studying its behaviour and learning from your observation. Birding has made me so much more mindful of my surrounding environment, and more acutely able to hear and see, despite my impaired vision. Sadly this is the way many of us treat our lives at times, me included. We need to take time to stop and reflect and study our behaviour and what has changed or is changing, in our relationships, our habits, diet, exercise, language etc to bring ourselves back in balance. This page on reflection deals with this in my new book.

Don’t do wrong by letting anger control you; when you are on your beds at night, search your hearts and be silent.” – Psalm 4:4

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” – Proverbs 27:19


<<< Back To Top of Page >>>


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.

 

13 Comments »

  1. Hello Ash,
    Ah, I can now understand why “Swift Parrots” are given their name, and “Swifties” sounds like an endearing term for them. The rainbow coloring underneath when it flight makes it seem as though multiple rainbows are streaking through the sky. They seem so shy and skittish, but I am glad you were blessed with some remarkable views. I admire the tenacity and determination of the Lewin’s Honeyeater, and am glad his efforts paid off 🙂
    It is charming how the younger/immature birds have a healthy curiosity and are not yet as wary of humans. This “innocence” may be fleeting, but what a joy it is to experience it while it lasts.

    Wishing you and your wife (and all your family) a blessed and safe weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Takami, we hoped to see them again yesterday but the clouds came over and the sun was masked preventing us seeing into the trees. We will try again another time. Yes it is a treat that many juvenile and immature birds are not as human afraid, and has alowed us to get quite close to many over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good photos demonstrating how difficult it can be to find birds in the trees. I couldn’t see the honeyeater in the first one, but managed to spy the other parrot in the second one. And good spotting with the swifties! I think I saw swift parrots when I went to Bruny Island last October, but can’t be sure as they were high up in the trees at Adventure Bay and hard to see and couldn’t get any decent photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, Aussie birders have quite a challenge with our small passerines and our thick dark high eucalypt canopies. Yes you would have seen Swifties in Bruny in October as that is their breeding season over there and if they are high in the canopy, very small, green, and hiding in the branches it probably was them. The only other migrating parrot there is the Orange-bellied Parrot which is also endangered but it lacks red on its body. The red around the mouth and under the wing when flying are characteristics of the Swifty, and the speed at which they fly. Enjoy your weekend !

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beaut to know that you’ve been able to get some good sightings, and it seems with a large flock of birds. They are as you say very hard to work with among the leaves and branches.

    Looks like a fine range of other bush birds were happy to have you on their patch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David, we are hoping that in the next few weeks we might have another try at sighting these little Swifties as they are a feature of the year for many birders here in the Sydney and greater Sydney area, in fact the locals go out daily checking for signs of them. They are always a challenge to get decent photos of. The best opportunities are always just before sunset on the west side of the tree canopies as the sun shines directly in on them. in 19 the flock had a habit of landing on a dead tree just before sunset, but they have not done this yet, so we are hoping they will again this year as we approach June. Enjoy the week and hope it is not too wet for you as it is here like full blown winter weather. Oh, and Covid has struck in Sydney again and no one knows where it has come from, scary stuff.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s