Last weekend, early in the morning, on our hottest day ever recorded for January in Sydney, my wife and I went in search of the very rare Pied Currawong with leucism. Our young media connected family and friends showed us a photo of the bird, and after reading the articles, which had spread world wide, we got a little excited wanting to see it. We drove to the Sydney Botanic Gardens and entered just after they were opened, while still in the cool of the morning before the heat of the day. Next to the harbour, these gardens make a beautiful diversion from the glass and steel of the noisy city nearby.
We walked around the entire gardens for around 2 hours and did not see the bird. We had been told it had been nesting and that she was raising two normal coloured Pied Currawong babies. As we walked around the gardens we saw many families of normal Pied Currawong grazing the mowed lawn for insects. Similar to the Magpie the pied aspect is expressed in the black plumage with white in the wings and tail feathers, but not on its outer plumage as with the magpie.
Leucisim (leuco = white) is a genetic mutation which very rarely occurs in some birds and animals. Leucism results in a reduced amount of natural colouring in the plumage and thus appears blochy white, with only traces of black. It is not albinism (albino) which is a complete lack of pigment or melanin. The most important distinguishing feature is the eye colour. Albinism has red eye and the leucism normal eye colour. Albinism is all white but Leucism has blochy patches of natural colour, as seen in the female leucistic Pied Currawong. The sunfowers were stunning as their faces pointed toward the morning sunlight.
Disappointed we were just about to leave the gardens and my wife prayed, as she does in these situations, “Father, we don’t deserve to see it, but we know you show you love to us regsrdless.” Just then we met a family of Danish tourists photographing the Kookaburras with us. As we chatted we both saw a flash of white fly past about 30 metres away and we were suddenly in pursuit, and what a blessing with a visual of the bird and its babies. Strangely enough, the garden tour guide we spoke with earlier, knew nothing of this rare bird residing in the park. Here are some of the many photos I was blessed with as we followed the bird and its hungry babies. At times she tried to escape their pestering behaviour, but you will see in this very shaky video clip (due to long lens extension without tripod) she feeds them grubs from a rotting tree root.
As you will see I managed to get photos of the bird in many positions as it moved arounf the gardens. The Danish family followed with excitement.
New babies was the bird theme of the gardens with parents feeding and training throughout. The immature Pied Currawong, like many juvenile and immature birds has a dark eye. The immature Currawong also has a light grey mottled chest and a distinct yellow gape (a marking between beak and eye). Mature birds have the yellow eye.
This Rainbow Lorikeet was continually squawking to its parent which was trying to ignore it. I had to enhance the lighting as it was under the tree.
But interesting as it was, the Kookaburra families were the main attraction at the gardens. Kookaburras. The garden tour guide said that it was amazing how the Kookaburras, which had not previously been in the gardens had come in large numbers and were breading there.
However, these birds are very territorial, and their laughing call, which was happening continually on and off during our time there, was probably due to families competing for territory. The immature bird has an all dark beak and the mature has a lighter coloured lower beak.
This was further confirmed by the way they chased each other around the gardens in quite vicious pursuit.. Several Kooka babies were seen, learning to call. How strange to see so many in one place, possibly the extreme hot weather may have attracted them to the large shady trees there, and fresh water ponds necessary for nesting. Here is some footage of a baby trying to get the attention of an older Kooka.
Again please excuse my jumpy video as I had left the monopod in the car. Here is a pair calling to another family across the field, the youngster sits and watches as they declare their territory.
It was interesting to watch this young Grey Butcherbird who flew from the tree he was calling beautifully from, to lie on wood chips in the hot sun. It is thought that when birds do this they are helping to spread their preening oil throughout their feathers and more so for passerines to expose any lice or irritating insects to the sun and so cause them to leave. Ants sometimes will come and help remove the lice, as the birds spread their wings over warm sand.
The magpie is known to do this, and I have seen Pied Butcherbirds do it when I was in Queensland recently. Here we see two young Pied Butcherbirds copying their parent spreading their wings in the hot sun.
We left the beautiful botanic gardens very thankful and rejoicing at God’s kindness in allowing us to find and then photograph this rare bird, which amazed our young when they saw the evidence that we had actually seen it when many had failed, because it lived in a section of the gardens seldom visited. e crossed the road for a swim in the Olympic Pool, which was quite refreshing in the by now, heatwave conditions.
Take a look at this picture of a pair of Kookaburras. On first view you might think they are a breeding pair of adults, but on the basis of the facts I shared earlier, examining their beaks, you would conclude that they are a pair of juveniles, and the picture below them might be their parents.
How easy it is to assume what we see is what we want to see, when without the wisdom to apply these facts we can get it awfully wrong. So it is with our understanding of life and the facts concerning our origins and destiny. The issue is never with the observable facts ( true observable science) but with how we interpret them and what we try to make them say (the philosophy behind the hypothesis). As a scientist it is so important to not declare something fact which is based on assumption, but to have the integrity to say “I really don’t know, but these facts may possibly fit my philosophy in some ways but not in all ways.” Science can only measure observable events and material evidence in the present, everything else is postulation. Have a wonderful week exploring God’s beautiful garden… our earth.
“ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20-22
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” – Proverbs 1:7
“God alone understands the way to wisdom;
he knows where it can be found,
24 for he looks throughout the whole earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 He decided how hard the winds should blow
and how much rain should fall.
26 He made the laws for the rain
and laid out a path for the lightning.
27 Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it.
He set it in place and examined it thoroughly.
28 And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’” – Job 28:23-28