We continue to share more of the amazing birds of the Kimberley region of far north Western Australia, including passerines not previously mentioned. Our first is the Great Bowerbird, a resident of Far Northern Australia, from both the west (race nuchalis) coast of WA to the east (race orientalis) coasts of Far North Queensland. Now we have seen both races of this bird. This rather drab looking bowerbird, compared with other species, collects white and green objects to beautify its bower, because these enhance its white and grey colors. Bowerbird are great mimics and can mimic cats and dogs as well as other birds they hear. The adult male has a beautiful mauve-pink nuchal (neck nape) crest and the female more a pinkish one. The immature lacks this nuchal (neck nape) crest, at the back of his head, which is visible when he bends forward, as seen below.

The Great Bowerbird builds a bower similar to the Satin Bowerbird, except it collects white and green objects to decorate its bower, which it believes enhances his appearance to the female when she comes to view his bower. She has to tick at least three boxes for her to present herself for mating. 1) the beauty of the bower and the cleverness of his positioning and design; 2) the skill and originality of his song and 3) the skill and beauty of his dance. This process ensures only the best genes are used for breeding. He spends much of his day and time watching his bower and repairing it, as well as gathering objects to place in front of it. Other males will steal objects and destroy bowers if they find it unattended.

One of the main incentives to visit the Kimberley again was to see the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren, one of our rarest and hardest to find Fairy-wren. This was another lifer for us. This is because it is only found in the Kimberley in the creeks and rivers of the far north west where the Pandanus aquaticus grows. They are able to find protection hiding from predators and find food, being insectivorous. They also breed in these palms. We were blessed to be allowed to be the only group to enter the Mornington Wildlife Conservatory while there, where this bird is protected and studied. Sadly we did not see the male in breeding, as it was out of its breeding season, some males continued to show their mauve cap. Though we did see the female several times. As they move so quickly and are human shy, they are a challenge to photograph. We saw many bird species at this amazing sanctuary, which is the largest non-government wildlife sanctuary, which scientists from all over the world stay at to study our bird, plant and animal species. They also study the behaviour of ferule animals in the wild.

Another lifer which really intrigued us was the Silver-backed Butcherbird, which is endemic to the Kimberley region. We found a pair building their nest right above the dining area at El Questro, though one bird was gathering sticks that appeared far to long for the nest (see below).

But a most intriguing feature of our time was to wake up to some of the strange sounds of these birds and then to race outside to try and lay eyes on them. One such bird which made a series of strange noises was the Blue-winged Kookaburra, which made a very different call to that of its Laughing cousin. Sometimes it would be a ‘goink, goink’ sound or another a pile driver as one of our tour companions described.

The bright blue colors shone brightly in the sun. The Laughing Kookaburra also has blue on its wings, but not as much as the Blue-winged species. The Blue-winged also has a bright blue tail whereas the Laughing a striped brown tail. Beak, eye, face and head coloring are also different.

We had an interesting few minutes watching this Blue-faced Honeyeater (a rather aggressive bird at the best of times) trying to move this Blue-winged Kookaburra (placid and unperturbed most of the time). It was humorous, as the Kookaburra was probably scratching his head wondering what this crazy bird was up to. Kookaburras will eat the young of other birds, so there may have been a nest nearby.

A large bird we had never seen close up until now is the Australian Bustard. This plains runner, bird of the savanna areas of the Kimberley, is well known by the indigenous population as their Plains Turkey, as it is and has been a staple part of their diet for hundreds of years. We only saw this bird at a distance last time we were in Broome.

It is interesting to see it walk slowly away from you, on each occasion, it does not run, yet it always has its head turned slightly with its eye on you. Bustards are omnivorous, eating leaves, buds, seeds, fruit, frogs, lizards, and invertebrates.

Lastly for this edition an amazing tiny bird the Zebra Finch, the world’s most studied and bred bird, used in research. It is easy to breed and can tolerate most climates, living on very little water and food, which is why it is found in large flocks within Australia’s most arid areas. Its name comes from the Zebra striping of its tail. The male has chestnut facial markings which the female and juvenile lack. This little seed eater is seen all over the Kimberley, especially near water, where they would come in to drink and cool down, by standing in the water. The only bare skin area on a bird is its legs and feet, so this is why they love to stand in the water on hot days. In the video below you will see them drinking from a lake and also a bird bath. It has very rapid movements, which makes it a challenge for us to observe.

Have a wonderful week and stay safe. The tracks in most of our parks and reserves remain impassable on foot in many places, restricting our birding experience. The weather in many parts of the world seems out of sync with what is termed normal, which is a challenge to both humans and birds alike. We are seeing less birds around home due to the very wet conditions experienced this year so far, as well as due to the loss of bird life through the horrific fires of the past years. At the same time those in the northern hemisphere have been suffering the effects of prolonged heatwaves and drought. We have been told to expect more rain into Summer months.

One of the features of cruising the inland rivers and gorges of the Kimberley, for example Chamberlain Gorge, is seeing the Archer Fish, endemic to this area. These small freshwater fish see insects flying over the water and with great accuracy and speed spit a jet of water from their mouth to knock it down and so eat it. We would hold food pellets over the water and they would strike us with water, aiming at the food and mostly striking us. One can get very wet as several fish have you as a target.

In a similar way to the goal of the Archer Fish, people and situations can get in the way and distract us from our life goals and cause us to turn away empty handed and sometimes leave us floundering. Most of the time our own thought processes are the cause, due to our fear of failure and sometimes poor sense of self value or abilities. The Archer Fish is quite accurate when aiming at a small insect, but when a complex human holding food comes along it is confusing and difficult to find the target. Likewise, we need not be discouraged when difficulty arises in life, for it surely will, to challenge, mature and grow us, developing our character as a person. We can easily loose focus on what matters in life and be momentarily mentally distracted and emotionally disorientated, but like the fish we need not allow ourselves to stay in that place – we have a choice: to give up (to complain is to remain) or spring-back to our goal objective (press on to achievement). Difficulties are a part of life and are best not viewed as problems or failures but as challenges and opportunities for personal growth and development. They can also be viewed at times as gifts for invention and improvement, as many innovative inventions occur by accident when things do not go quite as planned, such as the discovery of penicillin by Dr Fleming.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo female (The Kimberley)

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” – Ecclesiastes 11:6 (NIV)

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” – Proverbs 15:22 (NIV)

When we commit our plans to God and let him help us through our difficult patches of life, success and even miracles can occur:

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” – Psalm 20:4 (NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart;  do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do,  and he will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:5,6 (NLT)

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