Last Monday I decided it was time to do my annual 2.5 hour drive to the Threatened Species Habitat of Lake Wollumboola, at Culburra Beach down the south coast from Sydney, to see what waders were present, before they prepare to return to the Alaska and Siberia next month. We missed out last year due to Covid restrictions. The recent heavy rain of our current La Nina cycle had filled the lake and on arrival found that wader bird numbers were greatly reduced, as many had fled to other shores as the lake had recently overflowed. The surf beach is separated from the lagoon (lake) by a sand spit and was closed off from the ocean when I visited.
Culburra (aboriginal for sand) is a large surf beach with an intermittently closed lagoon, which is so large it is called a lake where migratory waders flock to annually during the Summer months. The endangered Little Tern, Australia’s smallest Tern (slightly smaller than the Fairy Tern), breeds on this beach each year and is finding it increasing difficult, as human activity, dogs, foxes easily ravage their open nesting sites on the beaches, despite them being set apart as bird reserves.
The rugged surf pounded onto the shore of this national park beach, while several Crested Tern families stood by the shore with their young.
Most of the species present appeared to have juvenile and immature offspring with them having fledged earlier, late Spring, except the Bar-tailed Godwits which had their young in Alaska during our Winter months. Now let’s have a look at the birds I saw along the lake on the other side of the spit.
Sighted above were the Crested, Caspian and Little Tern, Silver Gull, Great Cormorant and Bar-tailed Godwit. We normally would see many other species including the tiny Red-capped Plover but these were not present. The higher water levels may have caused some of the water weed feeding species, such as the Black Swan, to move to more favorable ponds. We also saw a pair of Black-winged Stilt keeping away from the crowd on the beach.
The difference in size between the Crested and Little Tern is remarkable.
The juvenile Little Tern have black beaks and the parent’s are yellow. They also lack some full black head markings and are notably smaller than the adult as seen blow.
Terns are basically small fish eaters and are able to dive at great speed vertically into the water emerging with their catch. Convoys of both Crested and Little Tern parents could be seen toing and froing to feed their hungry juveniles.
The Crested Tern juveniles could be seen doing the classic begging ritual for shorebirds of bowing and bobbing as they complain of their hunger. The juveniles have a more mottely speckled plumage and very light yellow beaks.
I always love photographing the juveniles in flight as their mottled plumage makes them appear more interesting and attractive.
I love the way the Terns angle their wings which appear to give them more length and power to their flight.
The Caspian Tern has amazing wings, which I may have shown in previous posts.
The birds seemed quite content to rest on the shore together. The Great Cormorant, the largest of our five species of Cormorant, looks beautiful in the sunlight. This one is still in breeding plumage by the brightness and thickness of the white around its face. Notice also how it is sitting on the back of its feet.
The Godwits one of my favorite birds are quietly resting, some in sleeping position in flock. Notice that several of the flock have already begun to show patchy traces of breeding plumage as they begin to prepare to mate next month and fly to Alaska to have their next season offspring. The yellow arrow points to the changes (below).
It is interesting to observe the way birds get along with each other and tolerate their differences. Often flying over the heads of those resting unperturbed and not causing them any alarm.
I would have enjoyed seeing more migratory birds, but was thankful to see what I did. This bright sand reflected background gave my Canon EOS R camera some difficulty, as viewing the sensor image made it very dark and difficult to see through the viewfinder. I changed to Manual and upped the ISO and it looked much better. However, when viewing the photos at home noticed the ones that appeared under exposed were normal and the ones I had lightened were over exposed. I was glad I took both settings and persevered, eventually when I pointed away from the bright sand it viewed more normal through the viewfinder. A surprising finding with this relatively new technology. Below is an example I had to do some post production work on to improve it, but highlights the restful, peaceful, friendly tolerant spirit these birds share with one another.
Have a wonderful week whether you are in the hot humid heat of Australia or the freezing cold of the northern hemisphere, our prayers for you are that you will be maintained safely through this uncertain time. Now we are seeing people all around us catching Covid, including family, and after 3 to 5 days recovering well, which is in part due to our country’s excellent vaccination mandate, resulting from God’s mercy.
If you have never purchased my books, and you want a very special gift to introduce your family or friends to Australian birds and their unique behaviours, this might be the time to stock ready for that next Birthday or Christmas, or just to develop an interest in a grandchild in our amazing Australian birds. My two books cater to both pre and post teenagers. Check them out, you will be surprised what you can learn from them, and how they can help you to enjoy a happier healthier life. Click here to find out more.
Watching these birds of different species rest peacefully together raised some thoughts about what it is to truly rest. During these years of pandemic and forced lock-downs we have been forced to rest in our homes from our normally busy working and learning lives. However, many have been overcome with fear, anxiety, grief and a disturbing lack of peace because of the unknown future which they have no control over. Though we all may have been forced to physically rest, emotionally, mentally and spiritually we may have been experiencing constant turmoil within. Many found resting with their anxious hearts and fears of harm and loss too much, making them vulnerable to do and say things which were out of character and hurtful to both themselves and those they love. Domestic violence, suicide and self harm have increased during this period across all sectors of the community. True rest comes when we can come to a place of trust and faith, knowing that regardless of what happens, you are safe and secure, even when it appears otherwise. Jesus brought this quality of rest into our world and freely offers it. I was so glad I received his peace and rest as late teen, after a difficult childhood, as it helped me through my final exams. I was surprised to see the stress and lack of peace that those who were some of our state’s top students had, when I felt to at peace as I remembered the verse, which also comforted me and took away my pain after a serious motorbike accident years later: “You will keep in perfect peace [rest], those who’s thoughts [minds] are fixed on [trusting in] You.” from Isaiah 26:3. It is this same Jesus who reaches out his nail pierced arms and calls to each of us:
” Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens [stressed out and anxious], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you [come, live and work alongside me] . Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28,29 (NLT)
It is one thing to find rest for your body and mind, but another to find complete and perfect rest which includes rest for one’s soul, spirit and emotions.