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.
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.
This week I am showcasing two of Australia’s most amazing and unique birds, the Superb Lyrebird and the Albert’s Lyrebird, both of which are endemic to the east coast of the Australian mainland. Their name Lyrebird is derived from the long tail plumage or lyrates of the mature males, which resembles the musical instrument by that name. You can imagine the fine lace like plumes to be like strings, as seen above. The more common Superb Lyrebird is found in the rainforests of far south eastern Queensland, all the way through eastern NSW to south eastern Victoria.
The mature male tail plumage takes up to six years to fully develop, making it sometimes difficult to discern the young male from the female which lacks the lyrates and lace plumage. Click photo to enlarge it.
This bird has many similar characteristics with the Satin Bowerbird in its long egg incubation (40-45 days), long period for male maturity (six years), life long practice of males learning to dance and perform mimicry song to impress and win mates. The Bowerbird male also includes lifelong practice at building a bower. The juvenile, similar to the female has a rufous throat, as seen in some other rainforest birds such as the Logrunner.
Female Superb Lyrebird
Female Superb Lyrebird
These birds seldom fly, though they can, but usually only very short distances, as they are territorial and tend not to leave the protection of their rainforest area. Their elaborate tail plumage is more for gliding than for flying any distance. They only fly to escape predators and humans, and to fly over rivers and streams. Under the tall tree canopy of the rainforest they have little need to fly. Most of their time is spent scratching in the leaf litter on the dark forest floor in search of worms and other insects, which is their main diet. This bird is the emblem of NSW National Parks.
In Australia’s early British settlement years, thousands of these birds were needlessly shot by so called ‘Naturalists’ who enjoyed bringing home animals and birds, but many were wasted and a few stuffed and sent back home to museums. Eventually this barbaric practice was outlawed and now the camera is the only shooting allowed. My grandson stands next to a stuffy of the Superb Lyrebird, showcasing my book which is sold in the Royal National Park gift shop. This bird is one of the many included in my book which is for purchase here online through secure PayPal. Many of my readers have already purchased it and have shared delightful reviews.
So from a young age the male practices his courtship dance and song, dancing to his own beat. It is very special to witness this in the wild.
We will share some of the very special moment, when we witnessed for the very first time, a male practicing behind some bush in the Blue Mountains NP. Now we often see them there each visit to Evans Lookout. Listen to the different bird calls of the Currawong, Cockatoo, Whipbird and Parrot. He spreads his tail up over his head as a covering in a similar way to the Peacock and dances and displays continual bird mimicry with amazing accuracy. The courtship ritual involves the male building and earthen mound about 15 centimeters high, which is like a stage where he performs his song and dance for the female. He may have many of these within his territory. This month being Autumn will mean that he will be busily preparing his mounds and fine tuning his choreography for the mating season. It is thought they breed in the Winter months because food sources are more plentiful at that time.
They can copy perfectly chain saws, jack hammers, camera shutters and any sound they hear. Look carefully to the bottom right of the spread tail feathers and you will see the mouth of the Lyrebird moving. I have heard a Lyrebird copy a chain saw, and it was a brilliant and perfect copy. This is the special moment my wife and I witnessed our first Lyrebird concert ever in the wild.
Listen to this sound file of another male sounding off. This is practiced as he puts together his song which he will present to his female hopeful when the times comes. The “Tch, tch, tch, tch” sound you occasionally hear in between the mimicry of other bird calls is his own sound, and this helps me identify him from other birds. This is a beautiful mindful experience, even if you can not see the bird, just to stop and hear its amazing repertoire and appreciate this amazing creature.
In recent years these birds have been decimated by reduction of habitat through land clearing for pine forest plantations and more so by domestic cats, ferule cats and foxes, especially in Victoria’s Sherbrooke Forest NP where these birds were almost completely wiped out by domestic cats. Locals have to chip and cage their cats to own them or heavy penalties apply. You can read more about it here.
Other predators which are often not thought of are reptiles such as this Lace Monitor. I found this one in the Royal National Park climbing a tree, to most likely check for any bird eggs. Surveys have shown that areas which have resident Lyrebirds have a significant reduction in bushfire intensity. It is thought there is some connection with them digging through leaf litter and reducing weed undergrowth propagation.
The Albert’s Lyrebird a much rarer bird and seldom ever seen by most Australians, living deep inside the rainforests found in the mountains bordering NSW and Queensland. The Lamington NP is the easiest place to attempt to see them, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Canungra is the best. Similar to the Superb, they are more timid, and mature males are seldom seen. Here is a juvenile male.
They have a shorter tail than the Superb, with less impressive lyrates. There are differences in the male courtship ritual, which very few have ever witnessed in the wild. They are only found in this very small region of Australia, protected by the dense rainforest and difficult altitude. These birds can effortlessly disappear down almost vertical cliffs and gullies. They can also mimic but not as much as the Superb and have a different sound of their own.
These birds forage in the same way as the Superb by scratching in the leaf litter. They have a lovely chestnut brown wing plumage, and both sexes have the rufous chin.
If you should ever visit The Royal National Park or any of the rainforest regions around the Sydney area you may encounter a sighting, or at least a hearing of this remarkable bird. If you find me there we can share the experience, and a bird’s eye view…
The latest research on bird calls, in particular their repetitive sounds, is that they make their sound exactly the same pitch and strength without variation every time. If a human was to say the same word or sing the same line over and over, the pitch and duration of sound can be plotted to deteriorate and become longer and lower due to wearing out. The lyrebird in its continuous flow of mimicry does not weary or change, but reflects perfectly what it has heard on each occasion. Children are like young birds, they listen and repeat what they hear and see, and with surprising accuracy. This is always a warning to myself to be extra vigilant around children and now especially grandchildren which are sponges for learning to be like adults.
“As children copy their fathers you, as God’s children, are to copy him. Live your lives in love—the same sort of love which Christ gives us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us in sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 5:1 (JBPNT)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
“Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21 (NIV)
Thank you for sharing this time with me and our beautiful birds. Have a most enjoyable week, experiencing the changing season. May it bring refreshing change in you as you be still and take it in.
If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
As Autumn begins, my favorite migratory wader, the Bar-tailed Godwit begins to show signs of breeding plumage as males begin to orange up and the females start to show dark chevron markings on their underside. They have begun a daily gorging frenzy at low tide to fatten themselves up in preparation for the long 16,000 km journey back to Alaska where they will have their next clutch.
Young Godwits during our 2017 Winter chose to miss a year or two of migration to mature.
Many of the young ones that returned last year will stay a year or two through our Winter months to mature, before taking the journey to Alaska. Above is a male in breeding plumage carrying a crab, escaping from a Silver Gull in pursuit. He eventually eludes his pursuer, allowing him to enjoy his find. The female is larger than the male and has a slightly longer beak. The photo below was taken in Spring shortly after their migration to Australia.
To understand why this bird has my heartfelt appreciation you need to understand the nature of its yearly journey back and forth from top to bottom of our planet. In a Godwit’s lifetime it will have traveled the distance from the earth to the moon two and a half times.
This remarkable bird is featured in my book “What Birds Teach Us” for its endurant character, which is an encouragement to us humans, who are often tempted to give up too soon, before completing what can be sometimes a very difficult time in our lives. We need to press on till we achieve our goal and enjoy the delight and satisfaction that achievement brings, even if it is not all we thought it would be, savor sweet success.
As they fly they form their single file flying order
It is interesting that unlike geese, ibis and ducks, Godwits fly single file and not in formation, which makes the journey even more difficult. However, they are the 9th highest flying bird in the world flying above in the thermals of about 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) which assists their flight considerably.
Established flight is single file led by the alpha male.
So a visit to my usual wader viewing beach at low tide, the mud flats of the Georges River in southern Sydney, where the same waders return every year to forage, shows the males are already well into breeding plumage. Note the last photo in the series below showing the chevrons on the body of a female depicting the early stages of breeding plumage. Click on photos to enlarge them. This is what I saw…
This little guy seemed smaller than the others as you can see when compared with this Silver Gull.
A few days later I was able to catch these shots on a sunny day before sunset, catching the westerly perspective of light, highlighting the plumage colour change so much better. It is sad in a way as I know in a few weeks they will be gone from the beach and only a small flock of youngsters will remain. At least they will see me through the Winter till the rest return.
It was also interesting to find a lone Eastern Curlew starting to show similar signs of breeding plumage. This is the largest of our migratory waders and sports a breeding plumage of a mild rufous coloring which is noticeable on this bird. These birds will also do their migratory flight soon to Russia and northern China. Sadly Curlews have a great dread of humans and will not allow you to get anywhere near them. So many have been killed for food in Asian countries on their migration journeys is it any wonder.
Then their is our non migratory wader the White-faced Heron who will be daily found on the same mud flats all year round except while breeding, where it will fly inland to nest high in a tree. This bird is non breeding.
During late August onward it will begin displaying breeding plumage similar to examples below.
White-faced Heron with breeding plumage
White-faced Heron with breeding plumage
Of course there are many other migratory and non migratory waders we see, but these are the only ones I found on this visit which have the most stunning transformations.
It is interesting how this Silver Gull was trying to fit in with the Godwits, but realised he lacked the equipment to penetrate the wet sand to achieve what they were achieving so easily. Notice the middle Godwit looking with interest out of the corner of his right eye, while the gull stands alongside the female Godwit which is in the process of extracting a crustacean from beneath.
Each of us need to feel accepted and loved as a member of a family, community or social gathering, and we succeed in being an authentic member if we can contribute in a meaningful and productive way. With birds the design and shape of the beak or bill is essential for the foraging of their specific food types. The Silver Gull can eat the same food as the Godwit, but must use a different method to do it, such as chasing the crabs on the wet sand, as seen in the following clip..
We are each gifted with different abilities, being equipped with skill sets from different backgrounds. It is not in the copying or imitating of another that makes one an authentic contributor, but the sharing of one’s personal attributes and skills to complement and strengthen the community or family. In this way we should never consider ourselves inferior or lesser than others because we can not do what they do, the way they do it. Examining ourselves to determine where our strengths and weaknesses lie can help us work at doing better the things we do best, and also to be humble and wise enough to know our limitations, thus feeling free to ask for help and assistance when the need arises. That is the underlying strength of good family and community. It is based on love: I give my best of what I can contribute, trusting that you will do your best to return the same commitment in your different but needed contribution to me.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)
“Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. ” – Romans 13:10
In the Christian Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an example of how a loving caring sharing community works as God intended.
Have a very enjoyable week as you watch several bird species and bird numbers change for the approaching season. If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
Last weekend, my wife and I drove to the Hunter Valley Wine Region for our wedding anniversary, where we not only enjoyed beautiful valley views, fine food, tasting luscious wines, but of course as per usual, birding was included. Click on photos to enlarge.
aussiebirder ready to bird
View from our accommodation.
Nearby was the Werakata National Park, one of the feeding areas of the rare and endangered Regent Honeyeater, which my followers would know I have blogged in past posts. The Spotted Gum eucalypt trees were in flower which would have been ideal for them to feed, however we did not see any Regents on this occasion.
But we did see an unexpected family of another inland bird the beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater female with juveniles. The juveniles lack colour intensity, lack the throat band which has not yet formed and lack the tail streamers. This bird lives in hot arid areas and dry forests and spends the Summer months down here, flying back up to Far North Queensland during Winter, after the cyclones of the wet season. The females have two short tail streamers (see below) and the male has longer streamers.
adult female Bee-eater
To our delight as we walked to breakfast, we found a small flock of Musk Lorikeet feeding on the Spotted Gun flowers nearby our accommodation. This bird is found inland and is often difficult to photograph and well camouflaged as they are usually deep in the tree feeding. The blue head cap and the red head markings are usually all you can detect. This birds gets its name from the male which during breeding season emits a musky odour from an oil gland on its rump. This acts as a pheromone attracting females to mate.
Musk Lorikeet feeding
The Eastern Rosella is another inland bird checking the gum trees also. A beautiful but very shy bird.
It was lovely to see several new season juvenile birds and hear their monotonous hunger chirps as the family try to feed them. This juvenile Noisy Miner was getting attention next to our room.
Adult Noisy Miner keeping watch
Juvenile Noisy MIner
One of the best treats for me coming here was to hear again the sound of the Pied Butcherbird, my favourite songbird, which I miss hearing from my years of living up the coast in country NSW. This bird is not found as far south as Sydney, but its cousin the Grey Butcherbird sings his beautiful song to me each morning as he drinks from our birdbath. Listen and watch as this bird’s morning chorus rings through the valley.
One hot afternoon while enjoying a swim in the pool, we heard a commotion in the nearby eucalypt tree as several Noisy Miners were being very noisy and appeared to be looking at something and scolding it in the tree. At first we all could not make it out, but my wife donned her binoculars and sighted the cause of the trouble, a young Lace Monitor was on a branch high in the tree in search for bird eggs. The Noisy Miners harassed him with noise but it was the brave and more brutal Blue-faced Honeyeater that dared to come close, causing the lizard to move away.
Blue-faced Honeyeater are another bird found mainly in northern NSW and also Queensland. As with other Australian honeyeaters competing for nectar, this bird is aggressive and often sports what appears to be an aggressive look which is in it’s favor for warding off adversaries.
While we were enjoying coffee at the Chocolate Factory, we looked out to a distant paddock where my wife sighted a Wedge-tailed Eagle going to ground. It was a long way off and barely visible and spent several minutes down. I walked smartly to the car to retrieve my camera and returned waiting at the fence. Eventually it arose and flew toward me, almost over my head and then into the distance. It appeared to be carrying its prey under one talon, which on close observation appeared to be either a native possum or small fox.
This is Australia’s largest raptor sporting a wingspan of around 2.3 meters (7.5 feet), and it is always a buzz to see them since their numbers were decimated in the last 100 years due to the 5 shilling bounty on their heads. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered needlessly. Farmers complained that they carried off lambs as prey. This is the most persecuted eagle in the world. Today there is a $8,000 fine and imprisonment in most states for killing this now protected bird as this bounty has since been lifted, and numbers are very slowly returning, but will never be as they were. The eagle can carry up to 5kg (11pds) prey which is heavier than its body weight of 3.5kg. We also spotted a Whistling Kite passing over silently.
On our visit to Hunter Valley Gardens which is the largest floral display in Australia, we were met by many Superb Fairy-wren families bobbing in and out of the beautiful and extensive rose gardens. As roses are introduced species and lack nectar, they do not attract native honeyeaters birds but only the tiny insectivorous Superb Fairy-wren. This bird is a small fast moving territorial bird found in many flower gardens and parks in eastern Australia. Some males were morphing into eclipse after the breeding season, and others were still donning their brilliant breeding plumage which looked spectacular in the sunshine when it came out. The female looks plain brown and has a reddish marking around her eyes.
The other bird we saw many of, but had a challenge to photograph, was the another insectivorous inland bird I posted recently, the Yellow Thornbill.
We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration away in the vineyards, bringing home some very enjoyable wines. One of the vineyards, the Mistletoe Winery, appeared to have giants present though we did not see any on our visit, but she had left her shoes in the garden.
You might consider this above photo to be a trick with perspective, but no the shoes are as large as they appear, by simply observing the branch in the foreground. Yes, it is a sculpture, one of many at this winery. This sculpture reminded me that sometimes the truth can be right before my eyes, but because it does not line up with what I know and understand of it in my world, I may doubt its authenticity, and consider that someone has fiddled the foto and fiddled the facts to make a false observation appear like truth. In this age where deception, lack of trust and loss of integrity is on the increase, it reminds me that I need to be alert and wise to check out the details of boldly postulated assertions, particularly from minority groups, but ever increasingly from government and media. What is so called politically correct or currently socially acceptable may not be truth and therefore good or safe to enter into. With our looming elections in coming months I and all of us need to be able, as difficult as it has become, to discern who is telling the truth, and what the facts really are for the ongoing good of our families and community.
Jesus said: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd [alert, intelligent, astute, clever, observant, perceptive] as snakes and as innocent [not guilty of causing crime, offense or suffering] as doves.” – Matthew 10:16 (NIV with added meanings)
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12
Enjoy your week as we eclipse into changing seasons, for some autumn and others spring. It is a time to be wise with our health as the temperatures change. It is also time in the next few weeks for our migratory waders to be on the move again, which I will be sharing more of in my next post.
If this is your first visit to my blog be sure to check out my birding website for more birding info and helpful hints for body mind and spirit. Enter into the refreshing mindfulness of birding, lower your stress levels, and live a healthy happy life.
This week our attention is drawn to a very colorful bird which many of my followers adore seeing on my blog, the Rainbow Lorikeet, or Rainbows to the locals, a bird we hear daily in small flocks calling to each other in excited raucous communication, feeding from the nectar rich flowers of our Endeavor Bottlebrush tree in our courtyard just outside the back door. This a very old tree and is covered in blooms most of the year. If you want to attract native bird, plant native flowering bushes such as Grevillea, Bottlebrush and Banksia. Thousands of these birds are common and live around the Sydney area and while they are easy to photograph feeding, they are such rapid flyers it is a challenge to get a decent flight shot as can be seen above.
They nest in the hollows of the Angophora costata or Sydney Red Gum, competing with the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, also in great numbers for the same holes. They do nest in eucalypt trees also if they find a hole. I have seen these birds using their strong beaks to chip away at tree holes to make nest with the lady looking on. These two birds and the Noisy Miner make up the most numerous birds around the east coast Sydney region. They guard their nest from attacks of Kookaburras and Butcherbirds that do the rounds when the nest is not guarded. Both are devoted parents, as do other omnivorous birds.
guarding nest from possible threat
watching the nest
Checking the nest
guarding the nest
nest on Angophora tree
The Noisy Miner is an extremely bold and aggressive native honeyeater which gains control of whole areas and trees by using the ‘pack method’. One or two birds start harassing and physically attacking an intruder to their territory and put out the call for help. Immediately many Noisy Miner will fly directly to the cause, and assist driving the intruder out with continual biting attacks to the unwitting victim. They particularly pick on weaker honeyeaters and pardalotes that also enjoy eating nectar, flowers and lerps. It is the sweet sugary lerps that miners (both Noisy and Bell) relish and harvest. Unlike Miners, Lorikeets and Cockatoo have beaks designed for eating seed, which they extract from seed cones on native Banksia and Casuarina trees.
Extracting seed from a native Casuarina tree
Each different species of eucalypt has its own different specie of lerp producing psyllid. I have shown in previous posts birds licking lerps from the back of eucalypt leaves. Interesting enough, while Noisy Miners have been seen chasing in flock cats, dogs, massive eagles, large meat eating birds able to eat miners and even humans, they do not bother the Rainbow Lorikeet. It appears there seems to be a sort of agreement between them, as I watch them feeding from the same Bottlebrush, both calling to their mates but both sharing the same flowers in turn without aggression. I have read that Rainbows in flock together also can be quite aggressive to Miners and inflict a more savage wound than the miner due to their much stronger hooked parrot beak.
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on Lilly Pilly fruit
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
One of the features I highlight in my book “What Birds Teach Us” about Rainbows is the fact that they mate with one partner for life. It is almost impossible to tell the male from the female except the male may be slightly larger. It is one of the saddest things to observe when one of the pair is dead by the roadside and the other trying to get it moving. They grieve long and deep. So it is you seldom see one bird but two or three (one being a juvenile). You will see them in small flocks moving from tree to tree, though you usually hear their loud chatter before you see them. They often are hidden in the colorful flowers they feed from. I have sold several copies of the first of the next series as a canvas print and have one on the wall at home. See how they preen and care for each other as true devoted lovers.
My wife and I were concerned a couple of months ago when for several weeks we neither saw nor heard a Rainbow. After some thought, and a search in my field guides I realised that they were all nesting at the same time, well away from our home, usually in the Reserves and National Parks around Sydney where the nesting trees are found. Almost at the same time last month they started appearing and their welcome excited feeding frenzy chatter was heard once more. You might remember the juvenile bird I photographed a few weeks ago with its parent as the feature photo in my post The Mindfulness of Birding.
Notice the juvenile features of dark beak, eye and reduced orange vest.
To give you a good Rainbow experience after recent rain (hey! isn’t that when you see after rain, rainbows?) I will share this video of one feeding only a meter or two from me on the back step. They get so into it that they often don’t notice you as long as you remain perfectly still. Listen to the chatter, the continuous communication from one mate to another, each knowing the voice of the other over the other birds. This again is one of the neurological wonders of our Aussie parrot species, their ability to learn language, even human, as those with domesticated Australian Budgies and Cockatoos already know. They can adapt to different flock languages with this ability which may save their lives in difficult climatic and physical threats.
We can learn that faithfulness in relationship is a very important trait. Sharing and caring together is what God intended for man and woman in a loving and trusting relationship. From this may come offspring, harmonizing and concreting that love into tangible expressions, that will hopefully continue to propagate and grow that same love in the generations that follow. The parent, the child’s most influential person, is the primary mentor, exhibiting through their own loving example between parent and parent.
Birds of a feather
As family counselors teach:
Parents, if you want your child to grow up with healthy self esteem with loving caring affection and a trust worthy obedient spirit, simply and honestly love each other and they will learn from your example and mimic the same, it is not so much what you say that is important, though positive and loving words certainly are, but even more important, is what you do by example in their presence and hearing. The old saying is ‘it is seldom taught, than caught’ or ‘Seldom telt, than felt.‘ (Older English). Children are sponges looking to those who know how to live, so that they to can learn the same, just as birds do. Good parent mentoring coupled to a trusting, obedient child brings blessing to both.
“Grandchildren are like a crown to the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents.” – Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)
“The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him.” – Proverbs 20:7
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” – Proverbs 14:26
“A new commandment I give to you, that you loveone another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” – John 13:24
Have a wonderful week! I seem to be slowly on the mend. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes, it is heartening and encouraging that you my dear blogging friends express your concern and care for my health.
The last few weeks I have been recovering from an illness which has limited my birding exploits. One area I have been discouraged this season is the shorebirds and waders, as numbers are reducing each year. We know that hundreds are perishing each year during their migratory journeys as humans interfere with their feeding grounds (filling in and developing wetlands for industry and housing), as well as snaring and killing them for food. This is occurring mainly in the Asian countries where these birds stop off for refueling to complete their amazing 12 – 16,000 km flight.
One Critically Endangered species, we are seeing less of each year is the Eastern Curlew (see above). Our largest migratory wader. Is it any wonder it is the shyest of waders, and will take flight when it sees a human moving towards it even at a great distance, sounding its classic alrm call as it goes. This beautifully patterned bird is a delight to capture with camera. The camera is the modern rifle for notching up captures or kills, and our photos are now our trophies, and ‘no animals were harmed in the making of this film.’
How beautiful are these birds. I make my usual viewing visits at low tide to nearby Taren Point Shorebird Reserve on the banks of the huge Georges River which flows into Botany Bay. These mud flats are a rich source of crustacean food for these birds using their long probe-like beaks to penetrate into the wet sand below. Click on photos to enlarge them.
The other reason I have been slack with posting waders this season is the tides, and my ability to catch the low tide when I am not working, they do not often align, so I have to make the most of my days off. The other commonly seen migratory wader in reduced numbers on our river banks this year is the Bar-tailed Godwit. The small flocks are reduced to several pairs.
Bar-tailed Godwit curious
Bar-tailed Godwit in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
I also use to see occasional Grey-tailed Tattler, but saw none, but did see this uncommonly seen Whimbrel smaller than the Curlew in size and beak.
One common shorebird is always the Grey-faced Heron…
Both the Sooty and the Australian Pied Oystercatcher are seen from time to time, either resting on the beach or prying rock oysters in the river banks.
It was interesting watching this scene play out between a flock of Silver Gull (Seagull) and a flock of Pied Oystercatcher (rarely seen in this number). At first the Silver Gull were resting on the shore and then small numbers of Pied Oystercatcher began gathering nearby. Initially one lone Pied Oystercatcher was sent packing back to his flock…
Gathering the troops the flock of more dominant Pied Oystercatcher marched on the gulls and placed themselves right next to them. No scuffles broke out.
Marching on the gulls
Marching on the gulls
More troops arrive
Some of the Pied scouts discovered fresh water flowing from a storm water drain onto the beach, which attracted the attention of many other birds on the beach, including an immature Silver Gull which felt somewhat outnumbered and alone.
scouting team discover fresh water
fresh water and an immature gull
Pied Oystercatcher drinking fresh water from storm water outflow
Of course we can’t leave out the Australian Pelican, an often seen inhabitant on the river. It is a delight to see them gliding so gracefully, sometimes circling to very great heights, One strange position is seen in a photo below with bill pointed upward, not quite sure what that was about, maybe something was caught in its throat…
Speaking of gliding, on the North Easter which blows cool air off the ocean each Summer afternoon (thank God!) I saw this flock of Silver Gull just hanging in formation for long periods in the strong breeze without moving, it was almost a spiritual experience…
Gulls gliding on NEaster
Gulls gliding on NEaster
The expression on this gull caught my attention and became a favorite of mine…
I moved to another position behind the mangroves and heard noisy cries of what I knew to be Little Terns. They were a fair way out with the tide so I had to wait till I got home to interpret what was happening. It appears a Little tern was being harassed by an immature Crested Tern, trying to steal its freshly caught fish, which it wanted to feed its babies waiting on the beach.
The Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill and Masked Lapwing, are also birds seen here on the river banks from time to time.
Royal Spoonbills WORKING
I am thankful that I managed to see all of the above during the last couple of months of severe weather, unsuitable tides and persisting illness. Wader numbers appear on the decrease, as fewer return from migration to forage the same beach areas each summer. Nothing stays the same.
Each of the above birds have been equipped with beaks and bodies that allow them to extract a particular kind of food from the river and shoreline. Each bird obediently observes and follows the parent as it learns how to forage for itself, and master to tools God has equipped it with. Each different kind of bird is in a parallel and not an evolutionary series of progression. This is obvious to anyone who studies biological science, and follows the latest in neurological studies in birds and their behaviour. As the Bible says God created each after its own kind and just as we see here on the riverbank they share the same area and forage together according to their kind. The facts are right before our eyes. Modernists and charlatans try their hardest to convince the world of a no God world view but it does not answer the questions of life or the purpose thereof nor give a viable or believable substitute.
“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:21
“He created them male and female and blessed them.” – Genesis 5:2
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ” – Psalm 139: 13-14 I suggest reading the whole of Psalm 139.
“Givethanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1 (NIV)