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!
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info. Check out my book “What Birds Teach Us”, a great easy to read gift idea, which continues to get good reviews where people share how it has helped them and how it is a unique book. If you are concerned, it has been carefully written for all cultures and beliefs and does not preach or recommend any particular belief system, but is a counselling tool that encourages good life skills by using the birds and beautiful photos of them to relate to us. People from other cultures and beliefs different to my own, have shared how they love the book. You can purchase your copy here
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!
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info
One of the advantages of being home writing my second book is that I get to spend more marriage time with my dear wife on her day off. So off we went last Wednesday on a birding date to Royal National Park, our local park, on a beautiful clear warm winters day, after several days of torrential rain (much needed). Though the rain had eroded much of the track, but it was so good to hear and see running water in the creeks again, and hear the sound of birds that had recently fallen silent because of the long drought. While having coffee at the cafe before our walk, this Noisy Miner had quite an organised operation going, checking the tables for crumbs and left overs while keeping watch.
While we sipped our coffee and talked as we enjoyed sitting in the warm winter sun I caught this Currawong sitting above a Kookaburra, which made the Kooka a little curious.
We were so relaxed and thankful that we could have a day together in the middle of the week, it was so special to my wife, as weekends can be busy, plus, the National Park is usually crowded with the noise of families walking and talking loudly as they stroll the walking tracks. We walked on toward the rainforest on Lady Carrington Drive and were amazed how many lone birders were out with their large lenses blazing. The only native nectar flower blooming was Heath Banksia, and honeyeaters were visiting its bright heads frequently. Click on photo to enlarge it.
along the track
Banksia flowers, native nectar source
The only honeyeaters present at this time of year are the Yellow-faced Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater and the Eastern Spinebill. The sounds of the Yellow-faced honeyeater ring out continuously, as large family groups play in the sub canopy of the tall eucalypts.
New Holland Honeyeater
It was a great delight to hear and see the Eastern Whipbird again in his usual area not far from the now flowing creek, we had not seen or heard him for months. The rain makes such a difference. Sadly, he eluded my camera. But this Grey Fantail nearby almost eluded me as it flitted about constantly fanning its tail and checking us out, as they do.
But out greatest delight was to watch this tiny Brown Thornbill chiming its classic tune as it climbed over small trees by the track. This insectivorous territorial bird is not as affected by drought and is found in some of the driest forests.
Over all we had a wonderful time out together enjoying moments of mindfulness as we stopped to take in the rainforest with each of our senses. How I love the smell and aroma of the forest after rain it is so refreshing.
Passing by the remains of a Liquid Amber tree’s fallen leaves, it reminded me of the loving kind and generous people in the past of my life who have now passed on and fallen from the tree. Though they have died and are no longer alive and green, they leave a colorful legacy together, among the many brown leaves, making for beautiful memories and laying down a glorious carpet of path for me to follow and walk upon, as I draw upon their memory with appreciation and thankful praise.
Have a wonderful week, and keep warm!
If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on mywebsite HomePageon birding and counseling tips.
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.
The Little or Fairy Penguin, native to Australia and New Zealand and is the smallest of Penguins.
One bird that is seldom posted in bird blogs is the humble Penguin. The main reason being that they live in the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean and thus habitate areas not easily accessible by most and often uninhabited by humans, only coming to land at night, after sunset, and returning to the sea early in the morning. Many of us forget that they are classified as birds though often in our mindset see them as something like a seal or other water creature, but they have their place as another one of our Creator’s avian wonders (in the words of my blogging friend Lee).
This is the only breeding Penguin on Australia’s mainland and can bee seen from the north Coast of NSW down the coast to South Australia and Tasmania, where in some places nightly Penguin spotting tours are held. Red light is used to spot them as it does not damage their eyes. Flash photography or any form of bright light should never be used, especially at night as it can blind them for days and cause them to drown or injure themselves. Here is some footage of a Little Penguin tour on Bonnet Island near Strahan in Tasmania.
The Little Penguin nests in a burrow and when the babies are born they will stand at the entrance and call for their parents. The parent can identify their own baby amid the many. This the purring like sound they make.
I managed to get this clip of a Penguin building its nest and pulling dry grass into its burrow. These Penguins breed around the southern coast of Australia, and some communities and schools have helped b building burrow boxes to help them nest. Locals in these areas will tell stories of how these birds will try nesting under their homes and how noisy and smelly that can become. They are relocated, and their burrows patrolled to stop domestic cats and dogs and foxes from taking the babies, but for many it is too late.
The only decent photo I have of a wild (but tagged) Fairy Penguin is this. It is difficult to do so in the dark. This flash was taken while its head was turned away. I do remember engaging quite abruptly years ago with some young German tourists who totally disregarded the warning signs to not use flash, and were taking repeated flash photos of a poor Little Penguin trying to find its burrow. The Penguin eye is super sensitive to light allowing it to see in the dark and make its way home at night, so bright light is extremely painful and disorientating.
Sadly only a few years later on my return to this particular island I was told that there were no more Penguins left, only a few saved in captivity for tourists as that night, my wife and I witnessed the very last tour on the island, where no penguins returned. The main reason for the decimation and drop in numbers around South Australia and southern Tasmania is the increasing population of the vagrant New Zealand Fur Seal at one end of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Tour guides have shared how they watched as these large seals grabbed the Little Penguins as they made land, with all the tour people watching horrified at what they saw.
NZ Fur Seals fighting over the high rock place of honor.
So many NZ Fur Seals
New Zealand Fur Seal looking mean
We recently visited our local Sydney SeaLife Aquarium where we were able to see live Little, King and Gentoo Penguins. They structure the viewing as a boat ride to Australia’s southern most island, Macquarie Island where the Penguins would be seen. Here is some footage firstly of the Little Penguin swimming…
The King Penguin is the second largest to the Emperor Penguin. It is found in seas around Tasmania and surrounding islands and south of Australia, with over 100,000 breeding on Macquarie Island (third largest colony), they do not build a nest but incubate their egg by standing over it for about 55 days. Both parents share incubation and walking for miles and catching food to bring back to the colony. Penguins on Macquarie Island are subject to 5 main enemies. They can be eaten by Elephant Seals, Leopard Seals and Killer Whales, their young and eggs can be taken by birds such as Skuas and Giant Petrels.
The Gentoo Penguin was another one featured in the aquarium, also found on Macquarie Island with less than 5,000 breeding pairs. Most Penguins feed on fish, squid and krill and bring home food to their young which they regurgitate from food swallowed into their stomachs. Special enzymes in the adult gut allow the food to be preserved for days at a time before they return to shore. They can then dispatch the easily digested food into the mouths of the young.
Penguins have wings but they swim with them rather than fly, and quite fast . So you might say they fly under the water, in fact the King Penguin can swim at 100 meters and has been seen at 300 meters depth. They can use their flippers, feet and body shape to propel themselves sliding over the ice on their belly like a snow board or toboggan. They are well adapted to ocean life where they hunt and play with ease, rather than life on the land or in the sky.
Fairy Penguin, clumsy on land but fast in the water.
While Penguins can swim but can not fly with their body design, many ocean, fresh water and shore birds can do both, including these White-fronted Terns seen diving and swimming beneath the water as they follow a school of fish. They then rise out of the water back into the air.
White-fronted Terns diving and hunting
White-fronted Terns swimming beneath water with their wings
We all experience limitations on what we can accomplish in our bodies. The above photos cause me to consider, how this bird of flight knows that it can hold its breath and swim underwater. So many other birds would not dare to try. Some will drink, wash or catch surface prey by skimming the water but without diving beneath, yet some species swim as well underwater as they fly in the sky. It is interesting how humankind has pushed beyond its established limits in so many areas of life to achieve what once seemed impossible. In medicine, sport, science, technology and many other areas the achievements of many brave and unperturbed people was rewarded as they chose to courageously press beyond what was once believed impossible. Many suffered rejection, humiliation and scorn, until they proved they had pushed the boundary further with their achievement to eventually win acclaim as inventors and innovators bringing blessing to many, which was once believed impossible.
“Keep your lives free from the lust for money: be content with what you have. God has said: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.We, therefore, can confidently say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5,6 (JBPNT)
Have a most enjoyable weekend! If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
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.
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.
Following our Australia Day holiday tradition, my wife and I set out early Monday morning to catch the ebb tide on Long Reef Aquatic Reserve, Collaroy (on Sydney’s northern beaches), to once again visit the waders of the rock platform, many of which migrate here each summer from the northern hemisphere. Sadly the day was overcast which detracted from clear colourful shots. The beautiful Pacific Golden Plover (see above) was displaying its magnificent plumage, which would have shone for us had the sun been out. However we launched out onto the massive wide slippery wet rock platform. By the way I will be sharing a pretty amazing and undocumented bird finding by one of my blog followers Cathy Sexton, make sure you do not miss it. Click here to visit page . Click on Photos to enlarge.
Our first sightings were of the usual small flocks of Silver Gull and Crested Tern, and the Pied Cormorant sharing the usual Cormorant rock with a Great Cormorant at the far end of the reef. But we were keeping our eyes peeled for much smaller reef runners which we did not see as yet.
The Crested Tern are the most commonly seen Tern on the east coast, within in the following small flock you will notice an immature with brown specked plumage, which serves as a protective camouflage from the air. You will also notice the difference in breeding (complete black crest) and non-breeding ( partial or spotted front of crest).
Crested Tern (non breeding)
Juvenile Crested Tern
Terns are beautiful in flight as well as when they land and extend their very long wings. It is a joy to watch them fishing as they dive to the water from great height, plunging beneath and rising with fish, but sadly they were only resting on the reef while it was low tide.
Where is he going in such a hurry!
But this was my favorite shot of the day.
Another favorite we always see here in good number is the Sooty Oystercatcher, endemic to coastal Australia breeding on offshore islands and headlands such as Long Reef. Like its cousin the Pied Oystercatcher, they are usually found in breeding pairs and small family groups. It uses its powerful beak to pry open shell fish.
Sooty Oystercatcher with Ruddy Turnstone
Watch the tide there Sooty!
A breeding pair
As we slowly moved to the centre of the reef we started seeing the amazing tiny Red-necked Stint, which gets its name from the red neck it develops during breeding plumage across the other side of the world in Siberia and Alaska where i spends our Winter. It returns each year to the same reef to feed, with its young and without its red neck. These fast moving reef runners as I call them, are extremely timid of humans, and photos usually have to be taken from some distance away, which is challenging to focus on such tiny birds.
We also saw foraging in perfect peace with the other foragers , a small family flock of Ruddy Turnstones, another migrant here for the Summer, breeding on the coasts of northern hemisphere countries. which always look spectacular in flight. While it is difficult to turn stones on a solid sandstone reef, they have no trouble foraging for aquatic crustaceans and insects.
Sooty Oystercatcher with Ruddy Turnstone
Of course the Pacific Golden Plover was present in breeding pairs, another Summer migrant escaping the cold of the arctic tundra of Alaska where it breeds during its warmer months.
We usually see a raptor of two passing over but not on this occasion, however we had an enjoyable time, and left in time for a lovely lunch with some friends.
It is interesting to reflect on the fact that we arrive at the reef exactly one year from our last visit to find the same birds (plus new young) revisited, having flown some 8 to 16,000km to the northern hemisphere and then the same distance returning back with a new family. The unknowing human just sees the same birds, as if they are always here, but come March-April they will be gone. Look how tiny these Red-necked Stints are, compared with this already small Golden Plover.
The yearly migration of so many birds is an amazing feat of endurance and determination, faced with dangers and difficulties. Many die in the process every year due to weather and even more as a result of humans reclaiming their feeding grounds for development. If these birds arrive at a feeding spot they have been using for thousands of years, and they do not get enough to eat to finish the journey, they fall exhausted into the ocean and die. Organisations such as Birdlife Australia and Birdlife International are constantly at work to save our waders, of which several are critically endangered, with less returning every year. Click on the above links and discover exactly what is causing the problem.
We can revisit people we know and meet, and like the migratory birds, we may not be aware of the difficulties and achievements they have had to deal with in their life to survive and prosper since the we last saw them. It is not till we take the time to hear their story that we realize there is so much more to each person. We can easily make judgments on the very little we think we know, and many do, including myself at times, only to discover we did not take the time or effort to uncover their story.
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance’ – Proverbs 1:5
‘You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.’ – Psalm 10:17
‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.’ – Titus 3:1,2 (NIV)
A personal friend, Howard, shared this link showing how the Comb-crested Jacana (‘Jesus bird’ because it appears to walk on water) carries its young to safety. I featured these birds in post last year from Far North Queensland. Click here to view.
If this is your first visit, Welcome! and do not go without checking my website Homepage for more birding tips and links, as well as my book release. Have a wonderful week and stay cool through our extreme heatwaves and drought.
To celebrate my recent birthday, my wife and I spent a weekend at Serenity Diamond Beach resort nearby my daughter and family. The resort fronts onto the pristine Diamond Beach and backs onto Khappinghat Nature Reserve where we would walk early morning and late afternoon to take in the many bird sounds and bird activity in the reserve at the rear of the resort grounds. Birders know these times as the morning and evening chorus being the best time to go bird watching, as birds are in their largest number feeding and calling, and much easier to spot.
The prominent bird feeding on the native flowers was the White-cheeked Honeyeater, a bird I had never seen in such abundance in one place. We could hear the chatter of the birds calling to one another in small feeding flocks. I love this little guy preening and calling in the clip below, making sure he does not miss out on being in the conversation.
This honeyeater looks very similar to its New Holland Honeyeater cousin, except for its white-cheeks, and also resides mostly in the coastal forests and scrubland of the east coast of NSW and Victoria, though there is a race also in the far south west WA. My wife was delighted when she spotted this immature White-cheeked Honeyeater resting alone and watching its relatives busily feeding and calling to one another. You will notice the white cheeks are still developing. Click on photos to enlarge them.
White-cheeked Honeyeater immature
White-cheeked Honeyeater adult
The occasional sound of the Eastern Whipbird was heard, at first we searched in the scrub as this is mostly an elusive ground feeding bird but when we could not find him there, my wife spotted him high in the eucalypt tree I was standing beneath.
Latest research has suggested that birds get a high (endorphin hit) from singing their songs, and one could believe this if they were standing where we were in the early morning. This Superb Fairy-wren male joined the chorus with his high pitched call which was much quieter than the other surrounding birds.
This Red-browed Finch was too busy feeding on this length of grass seed to join in the chorus.
Being Spring the sound of the Olive-backed Oriole could be heard and spotted calling also. This Summer immigrant is usually easily spotted when it calls as it is usually hidden in thick under canopy.
One of the common honeyeaters of the coast here, the Little Wattlebird were also seen, though I did not record any of their sound on this occasion.
One of my favorite bird calls is that of the Pied Butcherbird which is found on the north coast, we only have the Grey Butcherbird, which has a joyful laughing call making me smile when I here it each morning. The Pied has a more melodious chiming call.
We were immediately on alert with camera in hand and racing outside our resort villa when we heard a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo pass over and landing on a native tree to feed on Banksia cones near the beach. There distinctive call can be heard.
The Grey Fantail was flitting about, though not fanning his tail, and you can also hear the call of the Yellow-tails in the background.
In a tree in the back yard of my daughter’s home was this female Tawny Frogmouth. Unusual to find them alone this time of year, though it may be still a little immature and not yet breeding. The females have the ‘tawny’ or rufous colored plumage, particularly on the shoulders, while the males are more grey-brown.
On the beach front while sharing time with my daughter’s family we saw these Humpback Whales breaching far out at sea, but my birding lens managed to capture these pics.
If you have read this far in my post for this week I thank you. In recent weeks I have noticed a significant drop in my website/blog stats so I take this moment to ask if you would kindly comment and tell me what you think I could improve on or do differently if you have helpful suggestions. I am considering changing my blog posts to reflect my next book which I will be writing soon after my current research period. I believe God is bringing a new season to my blog, but it may begin in the new year, when my employment situation changes again.
Have a wonderful week! Happy Thanksgiving to my dear American friends! We could do with a holiday in Australia to give thanks for the wonderful things we enjoy because of God;s goodness to us. It is a time to celebrate our wonderful God with passionate joyful praise and appreciation.
“Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving! Let’s shout out to him in celebration!” – Psalm 95:2 (NET)
If this is your first visit to my blog, I welcome you and invite you to check out the rest of my website at my Homepage.
If you have not purchased my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ check out my BirdBook page and find out more. This book sells at this time of year as a wonderful Christmas gift to give young people from the age of 7 to 12 years.