Superb Fairy-wren (male non-breeding or eclipse plumage)
Winter is here in Australia and like us, birds are adjusting to the seasonal change. Some decide to fly north to the warmer climates of Queensland, possibly seeking a good winter holiday package like us in a few days, some fly further north to Asia and Siberia/Alaska to breed and return in early Spring. Others develop breeding plumage, stay and breed during Winter months, while others like the male Superb Fairy-wren pictured above, loose their breeding plumage, stay and do not breed again till Spring. Each bird species has its own unique breeding patterns, which over all are governed by seasonal changes. Just as we change the clothes we wear for each season so do many of the birds.
Many bird species such as the above male, moult to form a plumage similar to the female, during their non-breeding months. This plumage is known as being in eclipse. The tell tail blue tail remains, as his male sex marker when spotting him in the wild. The bright Blue Wren that we all know when breeding is incognito now till Spring for most males of this species, though there are still many breeding late due to our unusually warm Autumn. The Superb Lyrebird, of similar name, however, is most likely seated on its nest or with nestlings as they breed during Winter when more food source is easily available to feed their young from the rainforest floor.
Some birds such as this lone Royal Spoonbill have breeding plumage somewhat out of season, appearing to remain late. The head dress plumage and red forehead markings declare this. The nest would normally be with other similar large shorebirds, such as Ibis, but would be abandoned if we were to approach it. See how it sifts the water for small marine creatures.
These Pied Cormorant in Sydney Olympic Park are breeding out of season also possibly due to a warmer than usual Autumn. Usually there would be between 10 and 20 other birds nesting but only a few nests are active as the others have finished and flown. Late nesting can make breeding more vulnerable to predators, without the safety in numbers rule these birds usually employ, as can be seen as this Australian Raven contests a nesting parent, attempting to get her off the nest to steal her eggs or babies, but she stands her ground or should I say sits her ground and like a true parent ain’t gonna move for no one.
Pied Cormorant staying off Aust. Raven
Pied Cormorant with late nestling
Lastly, this cute little Yellow Thornbill was jumping around the mangroves and casuarina trees beside the lake enjoying its lone adventure. It appeared to be not only just maturing but is an example of one of the many territorial non migratory birds that remain through all the seasons and do not show any marked plumage differences when breeding.
This has been a quick post as I have just left hospital yesterday and have had some health issues to rectify which we have suddenly become aware of, from which treatment will now be ongoing. Thank you to those praying for me and sharing your kind thoughts it is much appreciated. Like these birds we have our seasons in life. The worlds wisest man King Solomon who wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible explained this fact. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You may remember The Byrds music group back in the 60s singing a popular Pete Seeger folk song formed from this passage. ‘To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn.’
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (NIV)
The key principle Solomon is sharing is that we need to realize and accept the fact that throughout one’s life there will be times or seasons of good and enjoyable experiences and what appear to be bad or unpleasant ones, both are the normal part of life. It is when we accept this truth we can have peace and draw courage and strength from seeing them as positive and necessary changes for our life, character and maturity, rather than anger and resentment blaming God or anyone else for their unfulfilled expectations. This is what gave me contentment this last week as I felt peace and rest in the midst of the storm my health experienced in this new life season I am presently in. Knowing that there is always Treasure in the Trial. We just have look for it, with wisdom, as you would for any treasure.
“We know that in all things [both good and bad life experiences/seasons] God works for good with those who love him…” – Romans 8:28 [ added and explained by me] (GNT)
Have a great week! My new book is now awaiting a first edit.
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One of the advantages of being home writing my second book is that I get to spend more marriage time with my dear wife on her day off. So off we went last Wednesday on a birding date to Royal National Park, our local park, on a beautiful clear warm winters day, after several days of torrential rain (much needed). Though the rain had eroded much of the track, but it was so good to hear and see running water in the creeks again, and hear the sound of birds that had recently fallen silent because of the long drought. While having coffee at the cafe before our walk, this Noisy Miner had quite an organised operation going, checking the tables for crumbs and left overs while keeping watch.
While we sipped our coffee and talked as we enjoyed sitting in the warm winter sun I caught this Currawong sitting above a Kookaburra, which made the Kooka a little curious.
We were so relaxed and thankful that we could have a day together in the middle of the week, it was so special to my wife, as weekends can be busy, plus, the National Park is usually crowded with the noise of families walking and talking loudly as they stroll the walking tracks. We walked on toward the rainforest on Lady Carrington Drive and were amazed how many lone birders were out with their large lenses blazing. The only native nectar flower blooming was Heath Banksia, and honeyeaters were visiting its bright heads frequently. Click on photo to enlarge it.
along the track
Banksia flowers, native nectar source
The only honeyeaters present at this time of year are the Yellow-faced Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater and the Eastern Spinebill. The sounds of the Yellow-faced honeyeater ring out continuously, as large family groups play in the sub canopy of the tall eucalypts.
New Holland Honeyeater
It was a great delight to hear and see the Eastern Whipbird again in his usual area not far from the now flowing creek, we had not seen or heard him for months. The rain makes such a difference. Sadly, he eluded my camera. But this Grey Fantail nearby almost eluded me as it flitted about constantly fanning its tail and checking us out, as they do.
But out greatest delight was to watch this tiny Brown Thornbill chiming its classic tune as it climbed over small trees by the track. This insectivorous territorial bird is not as affected by drought and is found in some of the driest forests.
Over all we had a wonderful time out together enjoying moments of mindfulness as we stopped to take in the rainforest with each of our senses. How I love the smell and aroma of the forest after rain it is so refreshing.
Passing by the remains of a Liquid Amber tree’s fallen leaves, it reminded me of the loving kind and generous people in the past of my life who have now passed on and fallen from the tree. Though they have died and are no longer alive and green, they leave a colorful legacy together, among the many brown leaves, making for beautiful memories and laying down a glorious carpet of path for me to follow and walk upon, as I draw upon their memory with appreciation and thankful praise.
Have a wonderful week, and keep warm!
If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on mywebsite HomePageon birding and counseling tips.
Last Monday on the public holiday, my wife and I had a birding date revisiting Bushell’s Lagoon in search of the Bittern again and to film Pink-eared Ducks vortexing for food. Surprisingly, both were not present, but got to chat to some birders where we exchanged tips and sightings. Click on photos to enlarge.
Birders focused at Bushells Lagoon wetlands
more of the extensive wetland where the Bittern usually is found.
The Blue-green algae blooms are gradually overtaking the wetland due to the drought and warmer than usual winter weather, which is limiting the area usable by the water birds.
On arrival, my best shots were taken unexpectedly from my car window before alighting, as a couple of Golden-headed Cisticola, non-breeding, came to check me out on perched on the rusty barbed-wire fence next to my car. Such little cuties!
The usual Great and Intermediate Egrets were present as was the White-faced Heron, in addition the unexpected flock of Cattle Egrets resting across the lake.
Cattle Egret flock
Cattle Egrets in flight
It was lovely to see this family of Australasian Swamphen caring for their one and only surviving baby, which is unusual as they normally have a clutch of about 3-8 eggs.
Swamphen family on the move
Feeding Australasian Swamphen chick
Another sad story was to see this pair of Australian Black Swan who had recently, last week, had 4 cygnets and appears to be grieving their loss, as they are gone from the nest.
feeling their loss together
Having a wash
The main reason for these losses is the large number of raptors constantly screening this area for an easy feed. While we were there this Whistling Kite made a pass over.
Followed by an juvenile (1yo) White-bellied Sea-Eagle.
Followed by this Black-shouldered Kite which is often seen nearby. These raptors spend much of their time resting on the top of dead and live trees. The film clip shows this peculiar up and down tail action or ‘tail flip’ which is thought to warn other Kites that this their territory, and go look elsewhere, but there is no other raptor of the same species, but several of different species. The other interesting observation was to watch it hover over its prey, gradually dropping to a different level, with feet extended, till finally dropping on it, in the same way as the Nankeen Kestrel.
A birding acquaintance Edwin, pictured in above photo at Bushell’s Lagoon, tipped us off as to where the flock of Pink-eared Duck could be located on a dam nearby, so off we went. We found them but they were too far away for great shots and they were resting not feeding, as I had hoped.
After lunch at Windsor we made our way to Wianamatta Nature Reserve in search of the Red-capped Robin again. However, it also was not seen on this occasion. However, we did see several small birds hopping about on one particular tree foraging, and at first looked very much like a White-throated Treecreeper, as they do look alike, but the beak was not curved. We were delighted to unexpectedly, as is one of the highlights of birding, to happen upon a bird rarely seen in our region, the Varied Sittella.
chasing the insect
The Varied Sittella is only found in the south eastern states of NSW and Victoria and occasionally eastern SA. They are insectivorous and feed mainly, like the lookalike Treecreeper, on the trunks and branches of trees. However, they do not necessarily ascend the tree to the top and fly to the next tree, when they forage in similar fashion as the Treecreeper, nor do they make the loud repetitive single note call of the Treecreeper, but forage more quietly with their sharp twittering calls. We saw these two Sittella huddled high and hidden in the tree. One appeared to be a juvenile and the other an adult female.
Together in another part of the tree this pair of Sittellas sat preened and rested.
Again we saw the beautiful tiny but bright Yellow Thornbill and the handsome Silvereye.
We followed this Grey Shrike-thrush along the track for some time as he stopped to check us out.
Lastly, the White-eared Honeyeater were also present, though we were starting to loose light so I had few good shots to show after this.
While we walked at Wianamatta this beautiful cloud formation appeared, looking very much plumed like a feather, as my wife suggested. Which reminded us that our loving Heavenly Father is enjoying this experience with us. He enjoys us enjoying and appreciating his Creation and thanking him for it. So he put this this reminder in the sky for us to remember that he is always there for us and travelling with us on our journey. This also was an unexpected sign. Birding is full of exciting unexpected experiences, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you are going to get”.
See how King David sees himself as a young bird shielded by God his Father bird, what a beautiful image for a Birder, of God’s care and protection of us.
“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” – Psalm 91:4 (NLT)
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” – Psalm 37:4
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” – Ephesians 3:20
This week I created a private song page for the encouragement of my wife’s niece Nikki, a young mother of 3, who has been in hospital now for nine months with a debilitating illness. Her faith and joy in the Lord is remarkable and an amazing inspiration to all who know her. If you would like access to this page to listen to the selection of my songs recorded way back in my earlier Christian years, drop me a line and I will send the link and the password, and please pray for her as she may be returning home soon, but with disabilities. We continue to pray for complete healing.
Have a wonderful week and stay warm! I am working well writing my next book as the inspiration flows during my time away from my previous work. I am privileged to have this time to devote myself to the task.
If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on mywebsite HomePageon birding and counseling tips.
It is difficult to believe, but true, when last Saturday afternoon, while celebrating the birthday of my step-daughter, a single small bird flew into a deciduous leafless tree in the backyard near where we were eating. My wife noted it in the afternoon sun and called me over. To our surprise and delight this Southern Star Finch turned out to be the fourth lifer in four weeks, and it came to us! My wife quickly got her camera clicking, as mine was home and these were some better of the few shots we took. The bird sat in the tree quite unperturbed by our presence and I was told that it returned the next day. What a gift! and we did not have to go on a birding expedition. It came to us!
To top it off, this is also the yellow/mango mutation of the southern race which normally has a red face, and is very rare. This mutation is also known as a Budda Star Finch. There is also a grey and cinnamon faced mutation that occurs in the Star Finches. Sadly, I received an email today from Birdlife Australia informing me that these birds are now classified as probably extinct due to loss of habitat from cattle overgrazing, restricting the grasses from seeding, as well as limiting the native varieties. The Southern race was only found on the east coast of Queensland and northern NSW, but now mostly restricted to a smaller region in Queensland. The Northern race is classified as Threatened and is found along the top end of Far northern Australia. Finches survive mainly on native grass seed and insects.
On a day through the week I took my wife out on a birding date back to see the Australasian Bittern, which she was keen to see. There were already about five other birders looking for the bird and reported that one had flushed and flown a distance across the lake to their disappointment. These birds hide in the reeds and move so stealthily that they can be right next to you and you would never know till they take flight, as they are extremely shy of humans. They are very difficult to detect due to their ability to move through the reeds and tall grass without even moving the surrounding reeds. See if you can find it in the third photo below?
The wonderful opportunity that afforded us on this occasion was that we actually got flight shots of the birds as they moved from one area of the wetlands to the other and back to the original area again, with us birders in hot pursuit. Click on photos to enlarge.
It is not hard to see why these birds are so difficult to locate in among the reeds. They are known for standing their necks upright as they survey their surrounds, appearing like part of the reeds. The vertical neck is all you would have seen in the previous photo if you succeeded in spotting the Bittern, as it is seen closer in the last photo below.
While we were watching the many other waterbirds including Egrets, Ibis and Heron, we also saw this cute Little Grassbird which we had not seen for a long while.
Of course if there are reeds present, and there are, the Australian Reed-Warbler will most likely be present with its loud call, and it was.
This Swamp Harrier is seen each day continually scanning the entire wetlands. There are several different raptor species seen frequently at Bushell’s Lagoon including Nankeen Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite. The white marking at the top of the tail is a helpful identification marker for this bird, as it was some distance away.
It has been an interesting journey for me the last month, at home writing my second book. My wife and I have enjoyed more quality time together and she has enjoyed having a home husband to look after the things at home she does not enjoy doing. We are a team and it is always helpful for us to remember that in a marriage there are three entities not two. The Husband, the Wife and the Marriage Relationship. This is what we share and bring to the table when we discuss our relationship, which we have an agreement today every 3rd of each month, which is our anniversary date for our wedding. It is good for us, even in our mature years to ask each other ” How are going in our marriage? What do we change or do better?
“Be devoted to oneanother in love. Honor oneanother above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15
Have a wonderful week and stay warm, Winter has hit the eats coast with its mighty force yesterday, and the birds have run for cover, though the warble of the worshiping magpies in the torrential rain and wind continues regardless from the TV antenna outside my window as I write. What a blessing!
If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on my website HomePage on birding and counseling tips.
Last Tuesday I followed another lead to discover our third lifer in three weeks, yes that’s a lifer a week within a two hour drive of Sydney. This is fairly birdless time of year for passerines due to the drought and lack of flowers, so to get these birds is a great blessing. Other birders had already arrived and despite the many Egrets, Herons and Grebes in Bushell’s Lagoon our attention was trained on the reeds by the road.
We had heard that an Australasian Bittern was seen here on several occasions. Sadly, we missed the opportunity as one flew off in the distance landing about 400 meters away. It was in the reeds quite close to us all the time, and finally flew. These birds are seldom seen by birders, or anyone as they are masters of stealth, camouflage and very slow covert movement through the reeds, to the point that they can move without moving the reeds in a noticeable way.
The Stealth of the Aussie Bittern
Other birders arrived and one younger man suddenly noted a Bittern in the reeds near where the other had flown. This was a great find as it confirms that at least two are there, and possibly a breeding pair. Quickly we took our positions and started tracing the birds extremely slow stealthy movements through the reeds, as it kept one eye on us most of the time. Thankfully this one did not fly off, but just hid itself for short periods and then moved on. So we stood for a couple of hours trying find where it would emerge. As you can see it can move right in front of you and it is invisible to your sight, and it is not small by any means at between 65 to 75 cm..
Australasian Bittern with head up
The Australasian Bittern or Brown Bittern is a member of the Heron family, found in south eastern Australia, Tasmania, south western WA and New Zealand. In Australia it is a Threatened species and has the amazing ability to move through reeds without moving them, crouching and skulking, rarely coming out into the open. They often poke their head up and look like reeds, even swaying in the breeze, but with one eye trained on investigating. It hunts by the waters edge similar to other Herons eating small fish, insects, crabs, frogs etc. They are easily identified by their repetitive deep booming call.
Australasian Bittern with head up
Australasian Bittern head
We were all thrilled to actually see the bird in good sunlight, which is a rarity, even to actually see the bird is rare enough. So now I have to take my wife to show her, as this is our third lifer. We are so thankful to God that we are getting these opportunities at present as I write my book and being currently unemployed in between jobs.
There are many birds that can be hidden from our sight by their unique camouflage as they blend in with their surrounding habitat. The bird can be right in front of you but you can not see it because you do not know what to look for or where to look because you have never seen it before, as in my case. I walked up and down and looked in the same place over a week ago and did not see it. I needed the help of the birders who had experience at spotting this bird, which rewarded me and educated me as to how to spot the bird in the future. With this bird, just looking in a Bird Field Guide is not enough, you need to actually see it in the wild, the way it moves and ever so slowly slides through the reeds, without moving them, to appreciate the difficulty, as it is the Master of Stealth. As I ponder on this experience I realize the importance of seeking the wisdom of experience whichoutweighs knowledge alone. I am thankful that I could draw on the experience of others and grow in my understanding of this bird. One of the great delights in birding is that of sharing our knowledge and experience to assist those who are learning.
“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” – Proverbs 19:8 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week! If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on my website HomePage on birding and counseling tips.
No you did not read wrong we received the gift of two lifers in two weeks and we did not have to travel much more than an hour to find them. The Red-capped Robin has been my target bird for 2019 and yesterday my wife and I together saw the male in bright sunlight north west of Sydney in Wianamatta Nature Reserve.My followers will remember from recent posts, that I have searched for this bird in the Sydneyregion(where it is not normally found) and Canberra at Mulligan’s Flat, where it had been sighted on several occasions, and not seen it. The other lifer is showcased in my last post, and more will follow next week on the Swift Parrot.
My blogging friend David of Birds as Poetry has seen and photographed many pairs of this bird in Victoria, where it is more commonly found. In the above link David shares his excellent photos of this bird. Here is another link from a previous post where in 2012 David has great pics of the female. The Red-capped Robin mainly prefers the dry woodlands west of the ranges and is primarily territorial and insectivorous. It started as a morning out together, hoping to find this bird.
We walked around the usual road tracks of the old signal receiving station and then decided to go off on a smaller track. Suddenly, a flash of red flew to the top of a dead tree in front of us. The sun was over our shoulders, the sky blue and the bird looked magnificent as it looked us over for a few seconds and flew off. We were so filled with joy and thanksgiving for this wonderful gift. I could hardly get over the fact that our loving Heavenly Father had placed it right there in front of us in bright sunlight.
Red-capped Robin out of focus
Red-capped Robin out of focus
My first shots were not crisp as I had trouble getting focus on the small bird so high, and as some of you know my vision suffers from a rare condition, and both eyes have had major surgery saving my sight several times, which makes it a miracle (as my wife often says) that I even get any birds in focus.
We later saw the female, but the clouds had started to come over and I did not get good shots of her with diffused background light. I am hoping to return another time to try again. My elation lasted all day as I kept smiling and repeating to my wife “The Red-capped Robin! What a gift!” Your can just see the light reddish patch on her head, as she does not have the bright plumage of the male, but is grey brown, like many female birds, to act as protection while nesting, making them less noticeable. This is also why the young males also look similar to the female until maturity when they are able to defend themselves.
It seems strange that a mature couple would travel over an hour to a bush park out west of Sydney to enjoy time together. We were the only people there the whole time. We sat on our fold-up chairs and enjoyed a cuppa from the Thermos and some of my wife’s lovely Anzac cookies and just practiced the mindful art of appreciating the sight, sound, smell and sensation of the place, and giving thanks to God. It was a beautiful bonding experience as we felt the gentle breeze on our faces, smelt the trees, heard the birds and watched the trees against blue sky. We felt quite invigorated after our six kilometer walk, and concluded a lovely morning together which of course was highlighted by the gift of the Red-capped Robin.
I am actively writing my second book now and having another rest between work. Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers. I am delighted my first book has almost sold out of print.
Have a wonderful week and remember that those of us who choose to smile and live with a positive happy cheerful attitude are more likely to live longer, stay healthier, being less stressed and able to make more friends. Most of all we can make a positive difference in the lives of the people we meet each day, including strangers.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine” – Proverbs 17:22
This special post shares firstly my latest lifer the Swift Parrot (pictured above) and secondly the interesting relationship of the Miner and the Parrot family in regard to harvesting lerps. This post was partly inspired by a young lady I met at The Australian Botanic Gardens, near Sydney, while viewing the Swift Parrot, Natasha who has recently become a birder.
Sadly, the Swift Parrot which is endemic to south eastern Australia including Tasmania, is listed in our state and Tasmania as Endangered, but Critically Endangered in Victoria, due mainly to massive habitat and nesting area destruction, be allowed to continue at an alarming state by the current state government. These small parrots are a challenge to get decent images of due to their colour, their swift and rapid flight and the fact that they usually rest under the canopy of the highest eucalypt trees. Thankfully the ones I saw were resting in a tree near their water source. These birds normally nest in the holes in dead trees and branches and feed on eucalypt flowers, nectar and seeds as well as lerps. In flight they display a beautiful flash of bright red on underside of wings and rump, sadly my flight photos were unsuccessful due to cloud.
I felt so blessed to find this small flock as I had no idea I would find the tree let alone the bird. I followed an Eremaea Birdlines tip off and walking around I found Fred, another birder who had just seen the Swifts as a lifer for him, and he guided me to Raquel a local, who was actively viewing them and had seen them in this place before.
It is interesting how many of us are not aware of the importance of Lerps and the Psyllid insect (also known as Plant Lice, Leaf Insect or Jumping Plant Insect) as a major source of carbohydrate food for Australian passerines. These insects suck sap from the trees like lice. Lerps is like crystallized sugar candy to them, it is the protective coating for the Psyllid insect (pronounced sillid) they are crazy over it, so crazy that some bird species fight to exclude other birds from areas of trees which they claim as their own property. You can read more about Lerps on this link.
Lerps makes up an enjoyable additional of food for many tree birds in Australia including honeyeaters (which includes Miners), thornbills and the parrot family. It is the main diet of the Pardolote which also eats the Psyllid as well as the Lerp coating which makes it vulnerable to attack by other larger aggressive birds, such as Miners who try to preserve the Psyllids to produce more. Note the Spotted Pardolote looking for lerps in photos below. Note also the brown spots on the leaves where the insect is killing the leaf with the leaf toxic substance it emits. Note the white spots, this is the lerps.
When this tiny bird feeds in the darker under canopy it actually looks like a eucalypt leaf which makes it very difficult to see. This an non enhanced shot, but close up, imagine it from a distance.
Sadly the Bell Miner is allowing our forests to die, as the Lerps insect emits a substance that kills the leaf it is on (see article mentioned above), and work is being done to attempt to reduce the threat. As you can see below the colour of the Bell Miner makes it difficult to see in the tree canopy, eluding most novices to birding by their failure to actually see this bird, making such loud chiming noises continuously right next to their ears. It is an amazing experience to stand in a forest over run by Bell Miners, as they dart about patrolling and playing in the under canopy.
Bell Miner feeding juvenile
Caring for young one
watching the young one fly off
Bell Miner in the sun
The Bell Miner (similar to Noisy Miner) are community birds (as mentioned in my book “What Birds Teach Us”) or ‘pack birds’ as they gang up on other bird species and aggressively attack and bite any that enter their territory of real estate, including birds much larger than themselves, capable of killing and eating the Miners. This is partly for protection of their young but also for protection of a sustained food source. Interesting as it is, the Miners both Bell and Noisy appear to have an agreement with the Parrot family which includes Parrots, Lorakeets, Rosellas which also eat Lerps not to attack as much. Here you can see photos of both Bell Miner and Swift Parrot eating Lerps from the back of eucalypt leaves. The Miners have developed a way of licking the lerps without harming the insect.
Swift Parrot licking lerps
Removing lerps from beneath gum leaf
We now know from all our observations and recent neurological research that ‘bird brain’ is now a complement not an insult, as some philosopher once postulated in his ignorance many years ago, demeaning birds, falsely concluding that the size of the brain governed the level of intelligence, but he got it wrong. We now know the number of neurons and and the ability of various parts of the brain to grow and develop due to learning and ability to solve problems, equips birds to be in many ways as intelligent and in some areas even more that humans. This is one of the reasons birds have survived so well, they adapt and plan and map in ways we are only just starting to understand.
You may not like the aggressive Miner family, but you have to hand it to them, they are not unlike humans in the way they govern, protect and administer their environment, providing for their young and future. The way they have learned that there is power in numbers. You may remember this example of the Noisy Miner from a recent post.
youngster male finds food
The youngster stand off
The attack of adult males in defense
One Miner attacks unsuccessfully a larger bird. It puts out the call for troops, and immediately there is a response and many Miners become a Major problem for the bird, which soon departs sometimes sore and sorry. The aggressive bite of the Parrot or Lorikeet can hurt Miners also, and it has been suggested that Miners tolerate them more in their territory because of this, as they also are a flock bird, usually travelling in numbers. As I have shared recently Miners will attack with aggression, courage and boldness even humans, dogs, cats, large raptors and anything they see as a threat. You may remember this photo of a single courageous Noisy Miner relentlessly chasing a huge Whistling Kite, what an example this is to us all of the need to be relentlessly courageous. Such courage enables ordinary people to accomplish great things, greater than they ever thought possible. Though one may not aspire to greatness, one can be great in their own right. This small Noisy Miner put its life on the line to protect the young of the flock and drives away the impending danger of the huge Kite single. We can do great things with God’s help.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
“Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” – Deuteronomy 31:6 (NET)
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently unemployed, but have been greatly inspired in the last few days, with the mantle having fallen on my shoulders, to write my second book which many have encouraged me to pursue. My first book is almost out of print due to its wonderful sales record, and the support from those who have loved it, and encouraged others to buy it or place it in their local school libraries. Waking through the night with ideas and having to dive out of bed to write them down has been a challenge, but is encouraging knowing I am being led by a higher power of much more wisdom than myself. My wife is pleased that I have been doing jobs around and to the house while I am more available. Have an extraordinarily wonderful and satisfying week, till my next post, that may be a long week!
The Laughing Kookaburra is Australia’s most iconic bird, and possibly our most popular. It generally is a very placid natured bird relatively trusting of humans, co habitating especially if fed by them. They can become a problem like many Australia’s wild birds if they become regularly dependent on human’s feeding them. It is found throughout the forests of eastern Australia and far south west WA. The ‘Kooka’ as most of us know it, is a territorial bird like many of our birds, and can be found in the same geographical area most of the year, which makes it easy to locate.
Kookas are known for their loud laugh like call, which is often sounded in a family group from sunrise, various times through the day and sunset, where several birds will call together for periods of twenty seconds to several minutes, often being led by one bird. It became known to the early European settlers as ‘The Settlers Clock’ because the birds will sit in a tall eucalypt tree facing east waiting for the first light of the sun and then begin marking their territory, often moving from area to area repeating their call and marking their boundary, warding off other Kooka families. Listen to the morning call of several Kookas…
Listen to this one Kooka as he idles his laugh which usually results shortly after in the group sounding off again.
Here is a capture at sunset…
The same may occur several times through the day, but more importantly just before sunset they may be found facing west and putting out a final call for day as the sun is about to set. Thus in the early days with isolation and lack of accurate Eastern Standard Time for many in the bush, the call of the Kookaburra would wake the farmer in the morning to commence his day, and also alert him to sunset and the need to get back to house quickly to light the lamps for the night.
One of the great delights of living in Australia is the sound of the Kookaburras first thing in the morning. My wife and I always get excited to hear their call when they stray into our area, as we do not have resident ones, possibly due to the extremely aggressive nature of our local Noisy Miners. Kookas are one of the few birds that will tolerate being attacked by Miners, but will move on if too many persistently attack and bite, but not moving too far away.The Kookaburra mainly feeds on worms, insects and the flesh of snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals, by pouncing on their prey from a branch or perch. They are known for killing their prey with their very thick strong beak by bashing the prey against a tree to kill it. Even if you feed it dead meat it will still go through the process of ‘killing’ it by beating it to death. They are often seen doing this to snakes.
Blue-winged Kookaburra female
Blue-winged Kookaburra male
In Australia we have two species of Kookaburra, the Laughing and the Blue Winged. Though they both have blue on their wings, the Blue Winged has much more, is a slightly smaller bird and is only found in far north Australia. Its call is not at loud and regular as the Laughing Kooka.
Kookaburra are large tree Kingfishers, being a similar bird, of the same genus Dacelo, having amazing better than average binocular vision which allows for very exacting triangulation. The main way to discern the breeding male from the female is that the male has a bright blue colored rump (central back feathers) whereas the female and immature both lack this.
I have witnessed several times a Kookaburra fly through an open air cafe and remove the meat portion of a hamburger while the patron is left holding the bun and lettuce. If you are gardening they will sit on the fence right next to you and silently watch as you dig, then suddenly plunge down right in front of you and grab a worm you did not even see was there.
The Kookaburra makes its nest in the holes found in trees and more often will bore a hole into a termite or white ant mound and make a simple nest there. In a similar way to the Magpie, the whole family may assist in the incubation, building and care of the nest. This Kookaburra is defending its white ant nest hole against an intruding Rainbow Lorikeet.
approach of Rainbow Lorikeet
Warning beak and sound given from nest
Kooka attacks lorikeet with zeal
Kooka in pursuit
This juvenile Kookaburra is fed by the parent worms and small lizards, until it is able to fend for itself.
Here are some rare shots of a male Kookaburra diving completely into the water of a fresh water lake. The question it raises is: washing or fishing? I have since wondered if this Kooka is attempting to copy the Cormorants it would have watched fish, diving beneath the water and emerging with a fish. Maybe he was trying his hand (or claw) at it. It was an interesting and rare capture regardless.
In my book ‘What Birds Teach Us‘ I sight the Kookaburra as an example for us of Punctuality due to its predictable sunrise and sunset call. I have lived for years believing the myth that many of us were told when young that Kookaburras can predict rain and as a result I have been both amazed and also let down (embarrassed) from this belief. This myth may have some truth to it, but does not follow for every occasion. I often hear them call when an impending storm of dark Cumulonimbus clouds can be seen on the horizon, this may also be a coincidence.
This may be my last weekly blog post for a while as I consider my future. My job has been terminated and I am currently seeking God as to my next step. Due to the low numbers in local birds (caused mostly by drought) and having not traveled recently I have no new material. I am considering if this is the time to commence writing my second book. Thank you my dear bird blogger friends for your warm encouraging support. I will continue to post occasionally until I am properly sorted.
“Bestillbefore the Lordandwait patiently for him…” – Psalm 37:7 (NIV)
Enjoy your week and please pray for the best outcome for our Federal Election next Month.
Continuing our birding birthday journey, my wife and I stayed with friends who have now retired to Port Macquarie on the beautiful Mid-North Coast NSW. While there we visited the coastal littoral rainforest area known as Sea Acres (another location where my book is sold). The variety of bird are more varied in the coastal habitat as it includes rainforest, dry forest, heathland, beaches and ocean scape. My above feature photo is of a Musk Lorikeet in flight, which I will share more of later. It is rare to get such a clear shot of these very fast busy birds as they feed furiously on eucalypt blossom. Sea Acres had been greatly affected by the drought, as much of our state has, so bird numbers were low on our visit. But we did see and hear the usual and much loved Golden Whistler, both male and female.
And of course I love to share the morning call of the Golden Whistler as they communicate with each other in their territories. I managed to get them all calling while I was there. You can hear the female responding at times and the call of the Lewin’s Honeyeater in the background with its staccato chattering call.
The Eastern Yellow Robin is our most common rainforest Robin always curiously checking us out.
But the seldom seen and difficult to photograph in rainforest, is this Crested Shrike-tit moving as a pair with a Mixed Feeding Flock or MFF. My wife becomes like an excited little girl when she sees this bird, as she did when we sighted the Noisy Pitta which was feeding in the leaf litter out of photographic sight. She waited and waited and waited hoping to get a better look, but it kept trying to stay out of sight as it foraged on the dark forest floor, hence no photos to show.
Crested Shrike-tit feeding on native fruit
Later walking near local wetlands we saw these juvenile Royal Spoonbill, they are small and do not yet have their full yellow eye ring.
In our friends back garden we saw this encounter with one aggressive young Noisy Miners and this young Eastern Magpie. I love the stand off of the two, followed soon after by the support of both male parents, with the bold and brave aggressive Noisy Miner attacking in the way they are known for, their pack mentality which makes them a force to be reckoned with by every bird and animal they choose to attack.
youngster male finds food
The youngster stand off
The attack of adult males in defense
Leaving our friends we made our way down the coast to Diamond Beach near my daughter and her family where we saw this young Black-shoulded Kite sitting high on the top of this pine. It was some distance off but I was able to catch the eye gleam at times. It amazes me how raptors can turn their heads a full 180° as you can see in the last pic. Sadly, it did not take flight, but felt quite safe sitting way up there.
Nearby this Pied Butcherbird was hunting, as I managed to deviate from the Kite to catch these shots.
This is a recording of them calling in the morning.
In the morning we love to go birding near the beach where we find White-cheeked Honeyeaters in large number, feeding on the native Banksia heads which are one of the few winter nectar sources flowering, other than some eucalypts. Unfortunately, the Superb Fairy-wrens were not easily seen on this occasion.
I only managed one shot of this Brown Honeyeater.
Next we went a little further south to the town of Forster where my brother and his wife live overlooking the beautiful One Mile Beach, where we saw these Little Wattlebirds and Lewin’s Honeyeater from their balcony as they fed from palm fruit and Grevillea flowers. Juveniles were making their hunger known as they were watched by parents. Notice the orange around their neck. Look carefully and you will see their tubular (straw like) tongue extended from their beak.
Little Wattlebird feeding from Grevillea flowers
Little Wattlebird feeding from Grevillea flowers
Lewins Honeyeater feeding on palm fruit
Lewins Honeyeater feeding on palm fruit
juvenile Little Wattlebird
juvenile Little Wattlebird
As you can see from this movie clip, Little Wattlebirds and most honeyeaters use their 4 sectioned straw like tongue to extract nectar from flowers without having to open their mouth. See if you can see its tongue which it leaves extended even between feeds.
It was on one of the nature walks my brother took us on that we saw the Painted Button-quail I showcased on last weeks post. We also noted some sea birds including a pair of juvenile Australasian Gannet and Caspian Tern cruising the coastline.
While walking the beach before sunset we watched the immature Australasian Gannet fishing, first diving beneath the water for sometimes up to 20 seconds and then arising . It was some way out to sea but I managed to get reasonable shots.
One of the highlights before leaving was a visit to the Frothy Coffee cafe on the water of Smiths Lake where there was a stand of tall flowering eucalypts in the nearby park. The trees were alive with the noise of excited Lorikeets including Musk and Scaly-breasted. They were joined by a flock of very noisy honeyeater known as the Noisy Friarbird. My feature photo [commencing this post] is of the Musk Lorikeet which gets its name from the musk like scent the male exudes from its rear gland to attract the females to mate.
Noisy Friarbird in flight
Interesting it is to many unacquainted with our birds and their feeding habits, these birds when feeding are not only eating from the blossom at the top of the tree but also feeding on the very delicious sugary lerps found on the back of eucalypt leaves. Each species of eucaypt has its own species of psyllid insect, which the birds lick its protective coating from with delight. This lorikeet is feeding on lerps. Most species of Australian passerines include lerps in their diet, some eating both insect and lerps as the tiny Pardolotes do, being most of their staple diet. Whereas other honeyeaters such as the Miners just harvest the lerps, often attacking Pardolotes and other birds preventing them eating from THEIR trees. Sadly it is to the detriment of the trees, as eventually they may be overcome by the insect and die a slow death.
Musk Lorikeet feeding on lerps
Finally, while viewing the ocean from my brother’s balcony we were visited by both young Kookaburras and young Magpies, followed by an adult keeping watch from a distance. It was a wonderful experience being surrounded by these birds, all hoping for a feed. Listen to this young Magpie already street smart having learnt to sing for his supper, hoping we will comply.
Unlike birds of the northern hemisphere where snow impedes food finding and assistance feeding can be helpful, Australian birds, being the most aggressive and competitive for food are best only to be watered and not fed as their dependence on human feeding can cause very serious problems to both human and bird alike, depending on the species.
Adult male Magpie
immature male Magpie
We daily fill bird baths for birds to drink from and wash in but never feed them, they have more than enough food in the wild. Birds have wings and can relocate to better food sources as they need to. God has provided in the many species of insects, fruit, lerps and nectar blossoms that their is always figs fruiting and native blossoms flowering throughout the year.
Laughing Kookaburra at different stages of maturity.
Laughing Kookaburra up close
flying right at you!
Finally, it is the ferocious brazen, courage and boldness of the Noisy Miner that attracted my attention several times while on our time away which caused me to ponder. This photo shows one Noisy Miner pursuing a large Whistling Kite raptor, quite capable of killing and eating the Miner. This Kite passed by several times back and forth with this one bird in constant pursuit, determined to chase this bird from the area. The Miners do not desist till they have achieved their goal, they are an excellent example of what persistence and courage can together achieve. They bite the back of the birds if they catch up to them. I have seen eagles, all manner of birds, animals and even humans attacked by Miners. I was once attacked protecting a girl’s dog it had been attacking. Such a small bird can achieve great victories through its courage and persistence and so can I when I refuse to give up even when the task seems huge and daunting, but trusting in God for assistance, I pursue my goals with passion and purpose.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
“But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end.” Hebrews 6:11
May you enjoy a most interesting and peaceful week. If this is your first time to my blog, please take the time to explore my website menu & homepage at aussiebirder.com
Last week my wife and I took a road trip to the Mid-North Coast of NSW to visit our dear family and friends as well as celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a Happy Birday birthday, as you guessed birding is always an important part of our travels, and an excellent opportunity to share the outdoor experience with those we visit. It is interesting how our passion and knowledge shared stimulates new interest in those we meet. Above is pictured one of the best gifts my wife received from her Heavenly Father, a lifer for us, this Painted Button-quail, a bird endemic to Australia, discovered foraging in the Littoral Forest on the cliff edge walk in Forster. I had to feature this beautiful bird, though it soon moved away so the following shots are not as good. You can see how its beautiful plumage acts as an excellent camouflage. Click on photo to enlarge it.
This bird is not a member of the usual quail family, but as a button-quail it is found in dry forests and numbers are reducing yearly due to destruction of habitat and ferule cats/ foxes. These bird, in a similar but not the same way to the Logrunner, forages for insects and worms by spinning around and digging a small bowl in the leaf litter (a platelet). Unlike many birds, the female courts and then mates with a male, makes the mound, lays the eggs and walks away to repeat the process with another male. The male then incubates the eggs and feeds the young for about a week or so, and they go off on their own, a bit like Australian Brush Turkey style.
Our first stop was to visit friends in the inland cattle farming area of the Barrington valley near Gloucester, along the Barrington and Gloucester Rivers. After a wonderful lunch provided we were taken out birding on quad bikes, which added somewhat excitement and increased heart rate to the afternoon, but we survived as we hung on crossing rivers and negotiating steep hills.
a view to the Bucketts mountains in the valley.
aussiebirder preparing for the ride of his life!
One of the birds we saw was a large Wedge-tailed Eagle, which I had trouble getting a clear shot, but as you can see the tail is the ‘tell-tail’ identification. This is our largest eagle having an adult wingspan of 2.3 meters or more.
One of our wonderful finds was this male Restless Flycatcher, resting from his restlessness so I could share him with you.
Of course there are always Eastern Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Rosellas out here. Notice the juvenile with its mottled plumage. Sadly, the Eastern Rosella is a very shy bird and escaped my camera so I have included some previous shots from a recent post.
The Straw-necked Ibis is a bird found in large numbers out west, pressing its long beak into areas of moist earth to extract insects and worms. They occur in large flocks, often circling high above in search of grazing areas, moving around farm paddocks, and roosting in what could be called an ibis tree. Their plumage glistens with colour in the sun.
Ibis roosting tree
Juvenile (left); adult (right)
Straw-necked Ibis adult
This young Grey Butcherbird looked quite cute with his soft downy breast plumage.
Of course you will always find a Kookaburra watching with its amazing eyesight from a tree nearby, hoping you will turn up something worth eating. After a night in Gloucester we fair welled our friends and drove toward the coast to Port Macquarie where we will continue our journey in next week’s post.
Most farms and country back yards are host to the common domesticated fowl or ‘chook’ as us Aussies call it. It seldom if at any time is featured in birding posts, there are more of it than most other birds in any one populated country, with over 19 billion world wide. This humble creature provides daily food to its carer, yet it seldom has its story featured or told. This is often the case, as most of these humble workers are hens or moms, quietly providing for the needs of others in the background. They seldom get honored or featured, but for one day a year. Moms need our love and we need to express it in real terms by how we treat them, yes treat, if you catch my pun, and more importantly when we wrap our arms around them and tell them how much we love them. It is too late when your mom has passed, as mine has now for many years.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12 (NLT)
“For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.” – Proverbs 4:3
“So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” – Proverbs 23:25
Have a wonderful week ! As the seasons change so do some of our birds. If you are new to my blog and want to know more about birding, visit my Home Page menu for birding tips and interesting information which deals with the mindful and healthy recreation of bird watching. Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift, check out my book on my BirdBook page.