While spending time with family in Canberra (our nation’s capital) last weekend we encountered small flocks of White-winged Chough (pronounced chuff)in pine forests on two occasions. Most Australians know little about this bird and often think it is a crow or raven when viewed from a distance, and so they never bother to investigate.
This bird is not in the Corvid family at all, and is in its own peculiar category Corcorax, having more in common with the Apostlebird as far as its behaviour. The bright red eye of the adult and curved beak, long tail, distinct white on either side of wing primaries (seen only in flight) and harsh raspy call make it quite identifiable.
Listen to their continuous call as this group communicate while foraging especially juveniles with adults. Sadly the loud cackling sound of the Noisy Friarbirds can be heard also in the background making it difficult to detect their raspy call.
These birds are always found in family groups of up to 10 birds, as are the Apositlebirds. They are ground grazers, feeding mainly on insects and seeds by foraging, flicking leaf litter with its beak. They seldom need to fly, except to escape danger. This footage was taken with my movie camera as my birding camera remains in hospital waiting for parts to arrive. The ambiance of the pine forest adds to the peace and tranquility of this place.
Choughs prefer to run away from human approach rather than fly, with flight a last option. They maintain a close group formation and never going far from each other, even though they spread out at times to graze. The Apostlebird does much the same, but remain closer together as a group. You may see both Choughs and Apostlebirds grazing nearby each other.
Both these birds are mainly found west of the Great Dividing Range in the warmer dry open woodlands in the eastern states but not Tasmania or WA. The juveniles have a dark eye and dark beak and are raised by the family group.
Research on these birds has studied the unusual behaviour of this bird, in how it may kidnap and take captive juvenile birds from other family groups nearby. These captive birds become slaves and are basically sequestrated into the family for the purpose of benefiting from their service. It has been found that Choughs need helpers to breed successfully. Very small family groups appear to fail to have successful nestings. These birds build a large mud nest in a tree fork, requiring 5 to 10 birds to build, protect nest and incubate the eggs. It is very much a family effort, hence their aggressive manner in acquiring captives when the opportunity arises.
Adult with immature, attentively learning to be a Chough
Similar to Magpies, during the first few years to maturity the young Chough will learn by watching intently the adult mentor appointed them. Note the eye of the immature slowly changing from dark to red. This eye colour may mean 1 to 2 years of age. Notice how it copies the adult preening, and is watching me out of the corner of its eye. Here you can see the hidden white wing tips revealed in the adult bird.
Adult and immature Choughs preening
There is often aggressive tension between family groups, as they attempt to drive away would be kidnappers, or attempt to add to their own group. Most aggression takes the form of display battles where the members of each group fly into a tree and line up along opposing branches. They then perform the wing-wave-tail-wag display in which they maximize exposure of the white tips of their wings and their fanned tails, engorge their eyes with blood, and call repeatedly for around 10 to 20 minutes, resulting one group being chased away by the other. (Rowley 1978).
Preparation for a territorial stand off, teaching the young how to perch together.
Before making our way home we stopped in to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, a place we visit most times when in Canberra. However the effects of the long drought had caused much of the wetlands to dry up and after recent rain weeds have grown up and choked the wetland causing the waterbirds to relocate, which is disappointing as we usually see some good birds here.
As we made our way home past the usually dry expanse of Lake George we were delighted to find much water due to the recent torrential rain. A little further along and we stopped near a pine forest, and it was here that we saw these Choughs and this Kookaburra quietly enjoying the ambiance of this beautiful vista. I love the light through these trees and the peacefulness. Walking among tall trees is beneficial for ones health, both stress relieving and blood pressure lowering.
The White-winged Chough and Apostlebird highlight the importance of family and community involvement for the survival and successful breeding of the flock. This is just as important in human welfare and survival also. While making slaves of the young is sometimes an essential practice of the Chough, it was also a practice of the wealthy in England during the industrial revolution days, taking advantage of the poor families, working on coffee plantations overseas or children in the poor houses crawling through coal mines in England. It is not a practice to be condoned in any way as acceptable today. We are thankful that caring Christian men and woman such as William Wilberforce in the late 1700s, and George Muller in the 1800s were devoted to helping liberate and give hope to the poor and disadvantaged. Many today forget that it was caring kind people like these that contributed to the freedom and lifestyle that many of us enjoy today. The greed of man not only enslaves and makes captive those who serve the wealthy, out of necessity to live, as is the experience of many today with mortgages and young families to support, but more so it enslaves the wealthy in the web of their own demise in breaking the 10th Commandment: The addictiveness of Covetousness. The issue is not that one is wealthy, for this is a blessing, but that one puts the attaining of wealth as their god and prime purpose. This is why: the love of money is the root of all evils and not money itself as many have misquoted.
My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” – Psalm 35:10 (NIV)
Isaiah the prophet’s message to Israel about 700BC warning them that though they appeared religiously and socially to be acting out all what they believed to be proper and acceptable behaviour, in daily life, under cover, many were oppressing the poor and taking advantage of them. God saw this and was going to address their duplicitous behaviour. The blessing of a nation in God’s eyes, rests on how it cares for widows, orphans and foreigners.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless…” – Isaiah 10:1,2
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out therest of my website at my HomePage menu for birding info and lessons we can learn from our beautiful Australian birds. Also check out my soon to be released 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us”. You can still purchase the last remaining copies of the 1st Edition if you want here.
Have an enjoyable week and stay safe! We are enjoying and giving thanks for the torrential rain we received recently, that after much prayer came unexpected since the gloomy long range forecasts saw none imminent. The experts had said no rain till May but God had other plans for his people because he does answer the cry of his people. Easing the heat, stopping the winds, filling our dams and putting out the fires.
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear (a survivor)
We rejoice and give thanks for the recent rain and cooler days we just had, though some areas experienced powerful lightning bolts (which destroyed our NBN router), powerful winds bringing down trees and destroying houses and cars. Our national capital Canberra had a massive hail storm being pelted with golf ball sized hail which destroyed or damaged many cars and houses, taking out many windscreens. Other areas were flooded causing damage and accidents, while in other areas the fires continue their uncontrollable destructive course. Ah well! at least we got rain, as sadly many drought ridden areas got none or very little. This created another serious problem massive 300 km wide dust storms, lifting our choice dry top soil into massive clouds and creating an eerie night for many towns in the middle of the day. Here is a photo of Australian top soil staining the ice, having been blown over 2,000 km (1,200 miles) across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand in 2006 and was deposited on the Fox Glacier on the South Island. On top of all this our holiday season tourist trade has suffered a great loss, as have many businesses burnt down, cattle, orchards and farms wiped out all due to fire devastation, and its not over yet.
Australian soil on the ice of the Fox Glacier
Now to a brighter note, where we live in Sydney, the last week we have had cooler weather, the smoke has cleared and much appreciated heavy rain for a couple of days making the grass green again. While many parts of our burnt nation grieve their losses, we also grieve the many wildlife and forest losses, and the possibility that many birds and some animals may either now be extinct or on the brink of extinction.
Regent Honeyeater critically endangered species
Many of our rarer bird species are found in sometimes in very small pockets of forest making their existence very vulnerable to destructive fires. The truth will be revealed later in the year. For now the urgent cry to governments is to get active to exterminate the ferule foxes and cats which are killing the surviving suffering wildlife. Koalas have been declared, in many parts of our state as functionally extinct. Meaning that due to the extreme and total loss of habitat (eucalypt tree leaves their only food) in large areas, the surviving rescued animals cannot be placed back there, but have to be relocated to the remaining unburnt forests that have the tree leaves they require. The poor creatures do not know what to do or where to go without our help, as you can see below…
As the summer school holidays continue, we had the privilege of having our grandson Jesse stay a few days. With binoculars, camera and hat we made our way into the Royal National Park, which thankfully is one of the unburnt areas of our state. On arrival at the gift shop and cafe Jesse noticed an important item and drew my attention to it.
At first we decided to walk along the river in search of the Azure Kingfisher which we always love to show our grandies, and lo and behold he was just where we looked, fishing for his next meal, so we watched while I captured the sequence below. This is a small brightly colored and very human shy bird found mainly along freshwater rivers and lakes. It is stunning when flying in bright sunlight.
Azure Kingfisher looks over the river
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear
Sees fish and takes a dive
down beneath the surface it captures fish
emerges with fish in beak
flies back to tree
rests with fish in beak
quickly consumes fish and sits waiting again
What a treat for Jesse! On our walk along the forest road we noticed how dry everything was, and how we hardly heard or saw a bird, which is unusual for this time of year when the forest is usually full of song especially from the Golden Whistler which was no where to be found. I mentioned that we would usually see the Eastern Yellow Robin about here, and lo and behold there it appeared, a young one.
We saw a juvenile Grey Fantail also. I mentioned to Jesse that both these birds have a habit of following you along the track being very curious, but also hoping we will cause food to appear by our movement along the track.
We were hoping to see and hear a Superb Lyrebird as that would have been a real treat for him but there were no sounds or even signs that they had recently been on the track. Possibly like many of our birds they had fled due to the thick smoke of previous months or the dryness of the drought. As the rainforest floor dries out (something never heard of previously) their food source diminishes causing the, the Bazzian Thrush and the Logrunner to go deeper into the moister forest floor for food. However, as we rested we sighted this most unusual looking bird the Top-notched Pigeon. Take a look at its appearance, its hairdo and makeup. We thought there were only two, but when it flew off another twenty followed. These are native fruit eaters, and may be finding it difficult to find food as many trees are stressed and not flowering or producing this year.
Of course there is always a Superb Fairy-wren on our visit to the Nasho, and it always heard right next to where we park the car, almost on every occasion. He draws us away from his family, with his bright breeding plumage.
We discovered this Eastern Water Dragon female resting on a log. It was not at all concerned by our presence or passers by. The males have a bright red/orange chest which intensifies during breeding season.
One feature which reappeared during Jesse’s stay was that of our Australian Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie, which I continually gave him instruction and quizzes on during his stay. Here are some interesting photos we took of a juvenile Magpie morphing its plumage to an immature. Notice how one side of the bird is changing at a time (last photo). Important changes to look for in identifying juvenile birds is dark eye and beak color, often fluffy marbled bellies and brown or tawny plumage.
Juvenile Aust. Magpie tuning in his senses
Immature Aust. Magpie with morphing plumage
Immature Aust. Magpie from one side
Juvenile Magpie molting to Immature
While Jesse was watching a pair of our resident male Australian Magpies (note: alpha male on right and almost mature male on left). This series was shot by Jesse with his camera, as the Magpies, quite conscious of our interest, continued to perform their ablutions unafraid. This highlights the fact that these Maggies know and trust me as their friend, though he did keep an eye out occasionally.
Meanwhile, Jesse just kept clicking away as the alpha male took his bath and then preened himself before leaving. Those studying this bird, like myself, may have interest in some of these images. The male on the smaller bath just sat and observed the whole time and was not sure if it would indulge itself.
Let us now trace the washing preening sequence Jesse managed to capture. We believe the reason these birds came, being as intelligent as they are, they knew that this water was frsh rain water that had fallen yesterday and not the less desirable town water which has been chemicalized. I know the difference because when I lived on a property some 20 years ago we had only rain water for drinking and washing, and the difference is amazing,
He starts by just standing for a short while in the large bath, which he knows is his.
He then proceeds to wash his beak thoroughly. Remember that Magpies do not hunt their food in trees, they are ground feeders and are constantly thrusting their very sharp steel like beak into the hard earth to find food, so it gets quite dirty. Meanwhile the lesser male continues to stare into the water.
He then follows by fully amercing his front and sides, constantly shaking off water to ensure thorough cleaning in under feathers as well as remove pests and loose feathers etc…
He then lifts his upper wing plumes to wash his back and secondaries…
This takes a little time as he ensures he is fully wet.
He then leaves the water to rub his beak clean on the back of our metal courtyard chairs…
He now looks quite beraggled and disheveled and prepares for the next stage…
The washed male now pokes his beak into his preening gland at the base of his tail where he draws an oily waxy substance.
He now proceeds to run his tail feathers through his beak coating them with the substance, which he does to condition his plumes, waterproofing them and helping strengthen them from becoming brittle.
This process takes a few minutes, where on this occasion he concentrates on his long tail plumes.
Having finished some preening he is ready to leave. But take a look at the complex and neatly packed and folded wing and tail arrangement. Only intelligent design could have created such a marvelous flight machine. He flew into the Frangipani Tree giving me his thank you look indicating that he will be back same time tomorrow for more to be sure, and with his understudy in toe leaves.
Then the Noisy Miner comes for its turn, but only after our neighborhood’s most powerful and dominant bird has left. It is amusing to watch how all the other birds scatter when the alpha male flies in. The Miner checks that it is safe before getting wet.
Here is some live footage Jesse captured. Oh, I forgot, the understudy finally took the plunge just before he left. I think he may have waited as a sign of respect, or possibly still learning how to bathe the Magpie way as all their behaviour is learnt over a 3 to 4 year period.
The Second Edition of Book 1 is with the publisher and almost ready to check its first draft. The following link will take you to a page which I will update as we move closer to launch date. Click here to view information about both the Second Edition of Book 1 and also Book 2.
It was interesting that just before the alpha male got quite wet, the lesser male started communicating to another Magpie in the distance, to which the alpha male joined in briefly. Magpie communication is one of the most complex of any language or call, and some scientists have devoted their life work to studying it. These birds during their warble are able to move between two octaves in a millisecond.
Magpies are known to warble for sometimes over an hour to one another from a distance, in this case the distant call was was inaudible to us humans. Magpie and most all bird hearing is so much more acute than ours, which is why they may fly off at the slightest sound. These birds can be taught to talk human words and phrases, as many of our birds can mimic. It is interesting also that the Magpie made a choice to place communicating above his bathing ritual, which was a most enjoyable experience in fresh rain water. It can not be stressed enough that the priority of good communication is the most important principle to any relationship following that of trust. Like the Magpie we must first prime our ears to silently listen carefully before replying. We need to make sure we understand what is being said, and if we do not ask for explanation. Most relationship breakdowns are over poor communication skills being employed. The most successful and proven way of listening well with empathy and to gain understanding, used by counselors, is Active or Reflective Listening.
Magpies wait for the other communicating Magpie to finish when communicating to another, they do not interrupt but wait their turn (of course when they call together in the morning chorus this is not the case). This is a skill not easily becoming to us men as we tend to want to fix everything with our answer. It is a lesson constantly being learnt by myself and my male friends.
‘Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey.
‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is to listen to what others have to say.’ – Bryant H McGill
‘We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.’ – Epictetus
‘Everyone should be quicktolisten, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ – James 1:19
Cattle Egrets with developing breeding plumage. They would normally be nesting now.
A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all! As you are aware from the many news reports our country is suffering the worst Summer season on record. A drought in its 4th year, strong winds, dry thunderstorms and merciless raging ravaging incinerating unstoppable firestorm bushfires have turned our holiday season into a state of emergency and declared catastrophic conditions. Millions of hectares destroyed, millions of wildlife incinerated, thousands of homes and properties and livestock destroyed and 17 humans dead, and we are only just into Summer. Many had their holidays terminated or cut short, and many more fled with their lives from their holiday grounds. It is just not safe to travel anywhere at the moment, as these fires can strike and move suddenly, without warning. Here is a brief video excerpt from On Demand News on YouTube.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the many homeless and now traumatized residents, where in some places whole towns have been wiped off the map. It has affected most of the east coast of Australia in populated areas, and the thick toxic smoke continues to be the daily norm for most of us, as it has been for over the last two months. It has affected the lives of most Australians either directly or indirectly.
The sun breaking through a smoke filled sky
So many brave firefighters from home and overseas have rallied to the fire front, including our defense force. These fires along with the drought are rewriting our Bird Field Guides for location and even for the existence of species in our country. It will not be known till further down the track if we have recently added more species to our critically endangered or extinct classifications. Our local Oatley Park Reserve’s main pond in one week has been gradually drying up as many birds leave with only a only a few remaining.
This pair of of Chestnut Teal are not worried at all. They have raised their young already, and now taking it easy in the murky ponds.
This male wanted aussiebirder to include him in his next post, so I obliged.
Other then the Teal and a few Australian White Ibis a single Great Egret and Royal Spoonbill stood together in the diminishing pond.
The Spoonbill had breeding plumage which I always find quite amusing, as well as their sweeping filtering bill action.
This photo best highlights there head dress. It is one which I have previously entered in an art show as a canvas print.
The reptiles, including young Eastern Waterdragons and Skinks are not affected by the drought and make their presence known in Summer as they bathe in the warm sun.
This little skink had a perfect place to hide and rest from the heat. When it saw me it quickly slid back into its hole in the tree. It needs to be careful, as Kookaburras and Pied Currawong check these holes for food.
As my wife and I walked through the almost deserted park trail, as normally this time of year many bird species would be feeding and calling, we heard one loud raucous sound which drew our attention. It was a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo being fed by a adult Pied Currawong. You may remember in my previous post on Channel-bills, that I mentioned how the Cuckoos migrate south in Summer and lay/plant their eggs in the nests of unwitting birds to be surrogate raised. Here is a great example, watch. The much larger Cuckoo has an insatiable hunger that keeps the poor Currawong flying off to find food.
As we continued back down the track we had a very exciting surprise as a pair of Buff-banded Rail ran across the track up ahead. They were fast so initial images were poor. We had reports of sightings of this bird but this is the first time we saw them here. The jerking of the camera was sadly unavoidable.
We later saw them again in more shaded bush.
As we walked further along the track the resident male Eastern Australian Magpie was foraging in his territory. This bird both knows me and trusts me, allowing me to walk right next to it. A lady passing by, caused it to run away, only to return beck next to me again after she passed.
I always see this bird every time I visit around the same area, usually with another male or female. My blogging friend David of the blog birdsaspoetry.com has engaged in his Magnificent Magpie 2020 Project, which will be worth following.
We are both enjoying Gisella Kaplan’s book The Australian Magpie which is to date the greatest work on this most intelligent and clever bird. As I write this I can here my resident alpha male Magpie calling to me. He usually does it after his bath in my birdbath.
A little further along the track and we could here another unfamiliar sound from a nearby eucalypt. It was difficult to see these two birds and make out what they were as the bright diffused light in the background and the smoke made it difficult, so again I apologise for the photos. They appeared to be 1st year juvenile Brown Goshawks waiting possibly to be fed. We did not see the adult, and the birds sat in the same spot watching and waiting. We had never had a sighting of this bird in the park that we know of so it is a new finding.
Approaching the creek which flows into the Georges River from the wetland, we saw these two birds. Now, on first observation one might think them two distinct species of Egret, but with binoculars it can be seen that they are both Great Egrets, one in full breeding plumage with turquoise lores, dark beak and fine streaming back feathers and the other with only very early breeding plumage yellow beak and back streaming feathers.
check out the neck extension
breeding with pre-breeding
Great Egret in breeding plumage
Great egret pre-breeding
Before I finish I would like to correct an identification on my previous blog post on Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga where I thought the flock of Terns I was viewing were Common Terns. On further observation and talking with other birders they are actually Whiskered Terns (previously known as Marsh Terns). These two species of Tern do look very similar, however the Whiskered has the darker belly and distinct white throat, which is seen here. These are predominantly fresh water Terns found on inland lakes and rivers where they mainly fly close to the water surface to catch insects over and on the water as well as dive for the occasional small fish and crustacean. The heavy smoke made it difficult to photograph them with clarity. Sadly, the waterbirds of Lake Albert’s wetlands I featured recently have gone, as the wetlands are also drying up as the lake diminishes and becomes more shallow.
As we move into 2020 and get a 20/20 vision of what lies ahead, entering a catastrophic period of uncertainty and a most unpredictable Summer, we ponder as to what the future holds, and what birds will be left for us to enjoy, and where they will relocate. Most of our native wildlife is territorial and non migratory, so it will be difficult for them to find new areas, as tension will arise with birds of the same species already established in unburnt areas.
Interesting enough a friend posted this reminder, that times such as these have occurred in the past, captured by one of our renowned poets.
My second edition of ‘What Birds Teach Us’ is now with the publisher and when it is launched I will have some changes to my blog post and website. I will also be available for talks and seminars in schools and organisations, especially targetting Primary School aged children. I am delighted that despite the bushfires ravaging our national parks, my 1st Edition continued to be purchased as they sold out in National Parks gift shops there is only a hand full left. If you want to grab one of the last click here. I am hoping to publish my second book, targetting 16 years to adult, later in the year.
The birds love it and love you for it and it is so simple to install. Eventually they will wash and drink and allow you to sit and watch them only feet away from them, as they trust you and know that you care about them.
small and large birdbaths in shade
large for larger birds Magpies, Currawongs Ravens
small for smaller birds Miners, Rainbows Butcherbirds
places for landing access
One of the best things we can do for our birds during this 4th year of drought is to install a birdbath or 2. My publisher and my sister both bought their family one for Christmas and are enjoying seeing birds come to drink and bathe. Our Australian birds are wild and aggressive around food, so it is recommended not to feed them, as they are best to gather their own, as they can become aggressive, demanding and destructive if they develop a dependence on your kindness, as many have found out the hard way. However, they do need and appreciate our contribution of fresh water. Your family can enjoy the experience watching the different local species come to your birdbath at different times of day. Children especially enjoy this. Just top up the bath daily and clean it our weekly and the birds will do the rest. Funny enough, when I arrived home from Wagga Wagga on New Years Day both birdbaths were depleted and no birds anywhere. I cleaned and filled both baths, walked up stairs and in seconds 7 birds came immediately and noisily drinking and bathing as if they had been watching and waiting for me to replenish it, as they know I do. Why 2 baths ( a small and large? because that allows both the smaller and larger birds to choose the best option and bathe at the same time. Also is is good as you will see in this photo to make sure the baths are shaded under a tree and have approach landing access, a tree, chair, post nearby, as they like to land and survey the bath before plunging in. Treat yourself to a birdbath, it will amuse and give you much enjoyment as it has us.😊
Last week my wife and I traveled up the coast to one of the worst fire ravaged areas on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Most of the fires were now out as the clean up begins, as miles of blackened burnt forest lies smoldering and smoking, lifeless of birds, animals and vegetation. Thankfully the resilient Australian bush will renew itself in time, and many of the larger trees will survive.
Fires still smoldering
Destroyed Road sign
For a week many spent their time waiting it out as the brave firefighters breached the impossible task of retaining the fires fanned by strong winds and high temperatures. Now the burnt forests lay ghostly quiet. See above how the intense heat destroyed road signs. The smell of smoke and burning was everywhere in the air as a major fire-front nearby continued to destroy forest, property and wildlife.
Many of our territorial birds had to relocate because of the fires destroying their habitat which had seen many generations of the species. Many birds and native animals could not escape the firestorm and were incinerated, including parents of nestlings and those sitting on eggs, who did not escape in time. Many species of our birds have been reduced in number, we may not know our losses till the coming year, as over 100 fires remain actively destroying our great forests, and have been doing so for months. This is the worst year on record. Meanwhile, after our long journey while we were having lunch outside with some dear friends at Hamilton’s Seafood Restaurantlooking onto the sandbar, I had my camera handy and managed to catch some action. This area is known as the Great Lakes region of NSW and the lake system is large and extensive. So as we surveyed the sandbar we saw several groups of resting birds. The Australian Pelican was our first waterbird.
Crested Terns, a few Silver Gulls rested along with a Caspian Tern (orange beak) as a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwit busily probed the wet sand nearby for small crustaceans.
Suddenly, the peaceful scene changed as alarm calls went up from various species sending the Pied Oystercatcher flying off. The Bar-tailed Godwit also took flight, but the Little Pied Cormorant was not concerned at all.
We knew we would find the answer if we looked up. The main benefactor of the bushfires are the raptors, as they catch small creatures escaping the fires and becoming exposed in the open. This area has a very high raptor population due to the lakes and the beaches, and up in the sky was a Brahminy Kite, beautiful in the sunlight, making its way to the sandbar to briefly land and then leave.
After it left the Bar-tailed Godwit returned to their work on the sandbar.
Not long after an Eastern Osprey female came over scanning the shallows, at least it did not cause too much concern as it is strictly a fish eater. You will usually see one of the family resting on the lamps on the bridge nearby.
The Osprey and her partner have a nest several miles away which we pass each time we visit this area, only this time it is on a man made platform instead of on a power pole. They appear to have only one juvenile in the nest they are feeding. The juvenile has a very wide brown neck band. Below the father sits opposite the juvenile on the power pole.
adult male and juvenile
adult male and juvenile
nest on platform
adult male osprey
After a lovely time with our friends we drove to our accommodation at Pacific Palm Resort where we heard the constant call of the Australasian Figbird in the several large fig trees that shadow the resort. The smell of smoke was in the air but not as strong as further north near the fires. Before we came, we were not sure if it would be safe for us to have this holiday, but our prayers were answered and we came on the best week of weather that this area had for a while. You can not mistake the male Figbird with its dark red warty eye ring. Most Australian birds are fruit eaters, and Australia has over 100 species of native figs which fruit at different times throughout the year, thus providing food all year round.
This is what the Figbird call sounds like:
The pristine beach of Booti Booti National Park’s known as Seven Mile Beach, near where we were staying, had burnt Eucalypt leaves along the shore. Booty means ‘plenty’ in our indigenous language, and to repeat the word means lots and lots of plenty. So this area represents a great feeding ground in both forest and sea. Thankfully this area was untouched by fire but it did come close.
Burnt leaves on the beach from bushfires
burnt remains of leaves on beach
Pristine Seven Mile beach
The following day was a hot smoky morning with a cool sea breeze. My wife wanted to explore Booti Booti’s beach, as last time we saw a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters there on the beach. On arriving at the same track I looked toward the beach, and lo and behold, there they were again, this year on the same dead tree, quite visible from the track. We approached and they eventually left, but we knew they would later return to the same tree during our morning beach walk, alone together in a beautiful place. Who would have looked for Bee-eaters here?!
As we walked I noticed up ahead a Black-shouldered Kite surveying the beach bush line for prey. It was not too perturbed by our passing. Then down it came and pounced on something in the bush nearby, and that was the last we saw of it. You can understand why I used the photo as my feature today.
Not long after this a beautiful adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over, also scanning the beach. Maybe, those escaping the fires and have managed to escape to the unburnt bush have contributed to these raptors having a feeding heyday.
After our wonderful peaceful walk we returned to our villa where we were welcomed by an Australian Brush-turkey, which had become quite bold and clever at trying to gain entry to the villa, after food. These birds are known for their greedy opportunistic attitude and cause problems for residents in many areas where they breed, dig up gardens and build their huge egg incubation mounds. There was a family of mum, dad and junior. Usually the Brush-turkey will walk out of the mound as a chick and immediately without any help or parental feeding, go off to fend for itself.
female brush turkey
female brush turkey
at the door trying to gain entry
I will continue with more from this area next post.
May you enjoy the rest of the week, and keep safe!
Sydney has fires nearby, and the smoke is as thick as heavy fog, and remains causing many to have breathing problems. The fires have now burned hundreds of kilometers of forest. One is heading to the cities of the central coast nearby after burning through 60 km of forest in the last month from the Wollemi NP, where people are evacuating their homes today. These National Parks contain rare plants, animals and birds, and will continue to cause great devastation while there is no rain and strong winds persist. Our state’s extensive forest system, and for the first time even our once dense green rainforests are ablaze. The fire front is so ferocious and the fires so remote and difficult to get to, they are constantly out of control, consuming homes and properties. Please join us and pray for rain and for cessation of these horrific fires and weather patterns.
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In my last post I shared the wonderful birding date my wife and I had on the Great River Walk where we saw many bird babies. The Dusky Woodswallows and White-plumed Honeyeaters were not yet fledged. Last weekend we drove away from the furious bushfires inland to the city of Wagga Wagga for my B’day or more accurately what became a Birday weekend. We visited my wife’s family there, staying with her sister who was recently widowed. Her sister’s home overlooks Lake Albert. As I mentioned last week, the presence of an abundant source of food near fresh water is an excellent location for nesting. I awoke early to the melodious call of the Grey Shrike-thrush family communicating to one another. At first I thought there may be a nest nearby the house, but later saw the juvenile waiting for food, as the parent went across the road to the trees by the lake to catch insects to feed its youngster.
The fledgling was calling to its own reflection in the window next door, which would occupy it for some time, till the parents told it to get back in the backyard where it was safe.
Grey-Shrike-thrush juvenile shadow singing
One adult stood watch while the other hunted for food, but they maintained their call constantly throughout the day, as they communicated their whereabouts.
There was often commotion in the tree by our bedroom window which turned out to be an aggressive little adult White-plumed Honeyeater which was trying to drive the Shrike-thrush family away from hunting near its young chicks, as these could easily become part of its current diet. Notice the size of the white plume on the juveniles compared to the adult feeding them.
two juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
I love rising early when I stay there, while it is still very cold, to do an early morning bird walk around part of the lake where many birds nest and live. Here the Woodswallows are in their next stage of being fledged, but still keeping close to the nest area and being fed by parents.
Both parents are coming and going as they feed their youngsters with insects quickly acquired as they glide from tree to tree. The youngsters are able to fly quite well from tree to tree, but staying in the view of the parent.
On the lake a small flock of what appeared to be Common Tern at the time, (but later confirmed to be Whiskered Tern) were fishing the lake, with their usual diving technique. These birds were not diving in the same manner as the Crested Tern we are use to on the coast. They fly closer to the surface and dive with less speed.
This Royal Spoonbill was busily scanning the shoreline also.
This pair of Black-winged Stilt were nearby, one wading and the other sleeping.
As I walked around the wetland reserve portion of the lake I spotted this lone Hoary-headed Grebe cruising peacefully.
As I looked along the reeds on the shoreline, excitement rose as I saw a bird which some distance away, appeared to be a unfamiliar shorebird. I quickly took photos. It was a parent Black-tailed Native-hen, a bird we seldom ever see, if ever on the coast, and never before here. A parent with two juveniles, a wonderful find, though one of the juveniles hid for most of the time.
It was great to see some of the inland birds we seldom see. The Great Dividing Range which runs from top to bottom of Australia separates many of the bird species from being coastal or inland species. Another inland specie I saw was a pair of Little Friarbirds which were in the process of nest building.
Red-rumped Parrots feeding on the grass seed by the lake is a common find here. The male has the bright red rump and the female a green rump, and is basically greenish.
But one exciting and beautiful find inland in this particular region (inland south eastern Australia) was the Yellow Rosella, which for some strange reason was recently sub classed under the Crimson Rosella species. It looked radiant in the early morning sunlight.
Walking past this old tree stump by the lake I noticed an interesting friendship between a lone Eastern Rosella with mutation and a Yellow Rosella, two different species flying and exploring as if they were a pair. Plumage colour mutations are common in the Parrot families, showing much diversity. When these birds finally flew off because of my presence they flew off and landed together.
The Magpie-lark (known also as Pee Wee, Piper, or Mudlark depending on which state you live in) family were also present nearby. This female Pee Wee had two juveniles it was coaching. These birds are easy to distinguish sex and maturity by their black facial lines and their eye colour.
Father Pee Wee
Mother coaching fledglings
This Crested Pigeon was displaying some beautiful colours. One would think were hand painted.
One of the highlights of our time away was this small flock of Superb Parrots, another mainly inland bird, we happened upon on the side of the road. The male has a bright with yellow face and the female dull green. Again superbly brilliant in the sunlight when in flight.
While there are always numerous pairs and flocks of Galahs, this one and its mate seemed to be digging deeply with their beak possibly for edible roots, with its eyes closed.
Another inland bird is the Rufous Whistler. It looks and sounds similar to its cousin the Golden Whistler which is more predominant along the coastal forests, having a rufous brown body instead of the bright yellow of the Golden species. These birds are always a challenge to photograph as they love to elude your gaze. This male was singing continuously in my wife’s niece’s garden.
Listen to its call. Like other Whistlers they are heard continuously throughout the breeding season of Spring and Summer, going much quieter during Winter months.
Also jumping about in the garden is this beautiful male Superb Fairy-wren, yes another superb bird! Oh, sorry this little guy was actually in the reeds by the lake, I did not include the garden ones.
This juvenile Australian Eastern Magpie was being cared for by a young relative, possibly a sbling from a previous year clutch. This illustrates the complex and well organised social family structure of the Magpie species, where by all close and extended family members assist in raising the young. Magpies are one of Australia’s most predominant and resilient birds, partly due to this reason as well as their very high level of intelligence.
As we drove home from this wonderful weekend away, a four and a half hour drive, my wife spotted a Wedge-tailed Eagle being attacked by a Magpie. This is a common sight during breeding season, where many smaller birds attack raptors. Two weeks ago I showed a Blacked-winged Stilt doing the same. There constant attack and back biting eventually drives the raptor to another area. If you have ever been attacked by an Australian Magpie, as I have, you will know they are a formidable force, and this is why survive so well, having very few predators. The missile like speed and force of their flight is remarkable, they know no fear, even the very aggressive Noisy Miner show them great respect.
coming in for the strike
preparing for another shot
Silhouette of the wedge tail
We can see that the breeding season creates many concerns for caring parents, especially when predator species which may threaten the safety of their young are also living in the vicinity. This tension is mostly only realised during the breeding season. There is constant tension, as you witnessed above. These last few days have seen horrific catastrophic bushfires burn hundreds of kilometers of prime forests, destroying over 200 human homes and now 4 lives. A thousand kilometer fire front with over 60 fires burn in our state alone, and that’s not including the fires in Queensland and now WA which is having a catastrophic day today. These fires have worsened and are spreading in many areas. These fires are of unprecedented extent and ferocity for this time of year never before experienced in Spring. The long drought, tinder dry forests with much dead or dying undergrowth, high Spring temperatures with very strong winds and fire bugs have placed our eastern states in a state of emergency. What is sooo sad is that most birds and animals are nesting or feeding their very young at this time. These fires normally occur at the end of Summer, when most can escape. The fires show no mercy as many thousands of birds and animals, over four hundred of our endangered Koalas are incinerated. If we do not get good rain soon, Sydney and other large cities may run our of water, and also be unable to stop the encroaching fires effectively. Many country towns have no water. Please pray for our country that the drought would relent and good rains would be sent to replenish and cool our land. Firefighters have come from New Zealand and other states to assist, to join with our volunteer fire brigade heroes to hold back the blazes. I have never seen my local birds have such long drinks at my bird baths as I have seen today. Funny enough our friends in Victoria and Tasmania are suffering under icy cold cyclonic winds, rain and snow. This is why our stay in Wagga felt so cool and wintery. Our state is due for another catastrophic period in the next few days, which may only worsen in the coming weeks and months as the greater heat of Summer encroaches..
Enjoy your week wherever you are and keep your bird baths topped up daily with fresh water. The more they see you caring for them, the more trusting they will become. Some of my birds are beginning to allow me within their buffer zone, as they trust me more. You may experience the same. How wonderful it would be if the fear of mankind which was given creatures after man’s rebellion to God, could be reversed to a loving caring trusting kind relationship. It was for their safety it had to be, as man’s selfish and hurtful nature can not be trusted at all times.
Though the Noisy Miner is disliked by many Australians for its noisy aggressive behaviour, it surprises many of them to discover that it is one of native birds endemic to our country. I have a friendly relationship with my visitors as you can see above, and they will bathe and drink, as will other birds, while I sit and watch them only a few feet away. I have found that having the smaller and larger bird baths next to each other under the large Bottlebrush tree with many low landing points around them is a perfect scene for the many birds to enjoy a quiet drink, a shaded wash and rest in the tree. When the larger Magpie or Currawong come they know to use the largest bath and the Miners move to the smaller. The Rainbow Lorikeets strangely enough also enlist great respect from the Noisy Miner, and they use the larger bath also. I am amazed that the Miners never attack the Rainbows. I have read that the Rainbow bite is ferocious as are their claws, so the Miners have learnt to live along side them.
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you. In famine he will deliver you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the wild animals. For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you.” – Job 5:17-23 (NIV)
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One of the exciting delights about holidaying in other states of Australia, or any other country in the world, is the different bird and animal wildlife one encounters. This week we highlight some of the birds common to Far North Queensland but not found, or very rarely found here in Sydney NSW. Above one of our favorite birds we love to see up there is the Comb Crested Jacana or Jesus Bird as some know it, because it appears to walk on water, but actually lily pads in reality. This tiny bird is easily missed unless the rained eye is looking for them, though the red comb gives them away at times.
There long toes and light weight enable them to transverse water lilies with little effort, with short flights across distant pads. These birds are rarely seen in southern Australia, but were common many years ago in northern NSW but increasing population and habitat destruction has kept them up north. These birds do not like being near noisy people. Watch this short movie clip of a Jacana foraging on the water lilies for insects.
If you are up in the Cairns area, the Cattana Wetlands is a great place to see these birds, and is a local council success story to form sustainable wetlands areas, which many Australian local councils have cottoned onto as a great tourist drawing and local recreation area.
The other very shy and rarely seen bird found with the Jacana, is the Green Pygmy-Goose. Here is the male and female and a small family, not pleased with our presence. The bird appearing to be a female is most likely an immature male tagging behind its dad, doing what typically hungry young birds do, repetitively calling and bobbing their heads up and down, but dad attempts to escape. As you know the immature males look similar to the female until they gain their mature plumage which gives them their breeding licence.
Green Pygmy-Goose male
Green Pygmy-Goose female/immature male
Green Pygmy-Goose male followed by ? youngster
Another bird which was more common here years ago but is seldom seen is the Magpie Goose, which is not technically a goose at all, but has its own peculiar classification. Many were killed for food, but thankfully they are protected and breed well in the wet tropics.
Walking along the Cairns Everglades boardwalk, which every birds in Cairns knows to do, just two hours before high tide, we saw this dark morph Eastern Reef Egret, a bird we never see in Sydney. We also saw what appeared to be the light morph nearby, though it could be an Intermediate as its legs appear more slender.
Back at Palm Cove where we did our daily bird walks through the local rainforest and well kept parks we saw several very commonly seen honeyeaters. The most common being the beautiful tiny Olive-backed Sunbird which is Australia’s closest version of Hummingbird. The mail has a brilliant metallic blue throat, and both have bright yellow under parts.
female Sunbird eating nectar
We watched this female Sunbird collect spider’s web to make her nest. They make a pocket or sock nest that is entirely held together with spider’s web.
The other two honeyeaters not so commonly seen were the Dusky and the Yellow which describes them by colour. As you can see above the flowering Mistletoe provides good nectar for most birds during this winter period, as it does down south. Notice the long curved beak of the honeyeaters for accessing deep into the tubular flowers such as the mistletoe.
Of course with the flowering Mistletoe comes the Mistletoebird which are also found in large numbers in the tropics. The brilliant red of the male stands out in the green tree. The female was quite shy and only one shot of her, she lacks the red on upper body. The last of this photo set is a favourite of mine with the male next to a red leaf.
The male and female Varied Triller is another bird not seen in out area. The male has the white chest and the female the striped., which is the case in the NE race leucomela.
A bird often heard calling from the canopy of fig trees was the Helmeted Friarbird which was just as noisy as its cousin the Noisy Friarbird, which we see from time to time down south. Notice the lovely almost low pile carpet light cap. We were blessed to see them out in the sunlight drinking from the gutter of a home near the park. They appeared to be a small family flock.
The Spangled Drongo would often join them feeding in the fig trees. These birds look brilliant in the sunlight with their blue sheen plumage, red eye ans classic tail shape which instantly identifies them.
There is always a special bird corridor spot on any birdwalk where you always want to go to and look and stand and wait for something to come along and the footbridge crossing the creek which led through the rainforest into the housing estate was our special spot. Along the creek my wife caught sight of the Orange-footed Scrubfowl which is endemic to northern Australia. We saw the bird in several other places also, scratching and foraging similar to the Lyrebird which is not found this far north. You know they are around as dawn and sunset they make their loud raucous blood curdling call.
But our most wonderful find here on the footbridge one morning and a wonderful gift to us, especially my wife, was this young Little Kingfisher. These birds are shy at the best of times but also very difficult to film as they usually are seen in rainforest only along rivers, such as the Daintree River where I got my first photos years ago, from a boat. This little fellow sat preening and just resting as we quietly observed. We were so delighted. I did not include the preening footage, but this shows its body bouncing as it moves its head.
This is Australia’s smallest Kingfisher, smaller than even the tiny Azure and again is endemic to northern Australia.
This footbridge across the creek through the rainforest each day gave us different and interesting birds, so it drew us back each day of our time in Palm Cove to be part of each walk. It crossed us over from the resort part of town to the residential area, a clear and noticeable change.
We cross many bridges in life’s journey, transitioning us from one season to another. The notable point being that we are transitioned to change. This occurs most frequently in times of grief and loss as well as in times of blessing and new beginnings (inheritance, job, partner, baby etc). Our acceptance and understanding of the transition will affect how we adjust to the change. As my wife and I discovered new revelations on this footbridge each day, so we have been blessed also with me being jobless at the same time as I discovered my heart problem and transitioned to a new season of lifestyle. During this time wrote a book, as I did on a previous transition some years ago, and many of you have purchased my book. The second deals more deeply with life using the birds to make it less confronting and more delightful to digest. However, I must patiently wait, which is difficult for me, and allow the editing and medical processes to take place, accepting it all as part of what must take place to bring us into our next season. King David of old recounts the blessedness of trusting and resting in God to take him over the many positive and negative life bridges he experienced in his very colorful and turbulent life journey.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23: 1-4 (NIV)
Have a wonderful restful and satisfying weekend enjoying the birds and getting out and about in the fresh air!
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Rainbow Bee-eaters in flight in Far North Queensland
After my few days in hospital sorting out the problem with my ticker, my wife and I took flight to the warm tropical weather of Far North Queensland to the Reef House at Palm Cove. We figured that we would find out what our winter migrant birds get up to while they are away. The beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater does not like the cold, and will return to our state in a few months when Spring arrives again. We did not have to look far to find these birds. We heard their zit zitting call as we walked from our room to breakfast. They occupied the same bare tree each morning for a couple of hours.
These insectivorous birds inhabit the warm to hot regions of mainly inland mainland Australia, including the deserts, but not Tasmania. They also migrate to Indonesia and New Guinea. The male has two long thin streamers extended from its tail. The female has short thick streamers. Juvenile Bee-eaters lack streamers and also the black marking under the chin. see examples below:
Rainbow Bee-eater pair: female on left, male on right.
The predictable nature of these birds when perched assists the photographer and observer, as they dart from the branch after insects in flight and return to the same branch. However, the speed of their flight and rapid wing movement make them a dazzling flash of brilliant colour, which can be a challenge to photograph if you are not using the sport burst setting on your DSLR. Here are some flight shots similar to my feature photo above. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Lastly, this slowed to half speed video of their flight.
In the next few weeks I will share more of the birds from Far North Queensland. As were in holiday rest mode we did not travel as extensively as usual, but we did lots of birding around our resort and were granted some wonderful gifts which we will share later.
Take a look at these photos. There are signs everywhere you go near water warning of the danger of Crocodiles and Stingers, but as you can see there is no fear here. Notice the stroller next to the sign and the children playing in the water. Crocodiles are mainly a threat after heavy rain, as they get washed down the rivers, where they live into the ocean and then end up on beaches. However, they can turn up at any time, which is just one of the risks of living here. The few who do get taken by crocs are usually drunk with alcohol and/or go swimming at night in the rivers without being aware of the danger. This is how it is in life. We are warned of many dangers to our health and safety, some we adhere to and others we filter out of our minds. These are the Crocs in our lives, that can lie just beneath the water waiting unseen to suddenly emerge. This was my experience when I recently found I had a heart condition, I did not expect it, but there were warnings which I did not pay enough attention to. We need knowledge and wisdom more than riches, but it is only of use to us if we actually employ it in our lives.
“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.” – Proverbs 8:10 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week!
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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!
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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.