Continuing with features of our recent road trip through western NSW ( as we had been restricted to travelling outside of our state due to Covid) I will feature some of the the most notable aspects which stood out to us as a result of making our trip in Spring. Last week saw birds nesting and defending their nests, bringing out the less admirable features of particular birds. This week we will see how Spring also changes the behaviour of many birds and our environment for the better, and for a birder’s enjoyment.
While visiting the town of Gunnedah while searching for Koalas (as this town, years before the drought, was known as the Koala centre of Australia) we came across huge flocks of noisy colourful Musk Lorikeet (it gets its name from the musky smell the males give off which resembles the testosterone-linked pheromone androstone, also found in Musk Duck males), feeding from the many flowering eucalypts in the town. The noise and flashes of colour as these birds made as they fed and moved from tree to tree was amazing.
The feature photo above shows a pair (they also pair for life) resting, notice how their tail plumage matches the eucalypt leaves. The funny thing you heard in the video above was, that when the locals saw us photographing up into a tree they thought I had sighted a Koala, and were quite excited because they had not seen one for many years in town because of the drought. The Lorikeets feed on the nectar laden eucalypt blossom as well as on lerps.
The noise is actually volumes of communication and instruction coming from each bird. It is bird language. Recent research has been able to demonstrate that bird communicate in a similar way to us humans, their calls are very specific, and use far less syllables than we do, which requires a fast processing intelligence to comprehend the meaning. Birds think, act and speak faster than us. When one of the flock put out an alarm call is heard and processed in a millisecond from the very first note it is given.
The high pitch and intent communicate it, followed by details which they pick up while they respond, all in a second or two. Wow! It has also been found that many of their calls to mob or flee are actually learnt behaviour from watching other birds and their responses. The alarm call of one specie of birds as well as its call to respond in a particular way, may also warn other bird species that live in their area, including animals. Each bird has its own alarm call which most other birds sharing that habitat respond to when they hear it because they have observed and learnt the alarm protocol from the other bird species. Here is a family of young Little Wattlebirds having a conversation, we saw while on a cliff-side walk with my daughter’s family.
Have you noticed how these birds throw their whole body into the call. This is because song birds have their syrinx in their chest (some call it a lower larynx) and not in the throat (as a larynx) as we do. I love the way the tail rises when they perform their classic call with the click ending, which you saw in the above clip.
Two of the great features of Spring out west, especially when my wife and I visited the Pilliga National Park (the largest remaining forest in NSW) are the wildflowers and the Rufous Whistler (cousin to the Golden Whistler, I showcase often and which is featured in my book). In a similar way, as the Golden Whistler is doing here in our coastal rainforests the Rufous Whistler is heard continuously everywhere throughout the open woodlands of the dryer west, and I mean just that. This bird just sings its heart out throughout Spring dawn to dusk. Recent research on bird bird neurology reveals that birds get a feel good endorphin high from singing heartily which may help explain why Australia’s songbirds sing so much.
The immature male begins looking like the female and then gradually develops the white bib and black markings. Notice how he already sings like his dad, whereas his mom remains quiet, and her hubby can be heard calling in the background nearby.
Here are some stills of the Whistler. Please note that the male is very shy of the camera and it was difficult to get a photo of him on every occasion. As soon as he spotted me he would instantly move to a hiding place.
Listen as this male calls in the early morning just outside the door of where we were staying the night.
Another bird we saw which spoke of Spring was the Little Friarbird.
We also saw his larger more common cousin the Noisy Friarbird who is much louder and has a more raucous cry, fitting to its name.
It was quite humorous to observe this young Noisy Friarbird try to remove the screw from the sign thinking it was an insect. The sign reminds one a little of his nasal hump,. Maybe it thought the sign was in bad taste, as I am sure it was when it tasted it.
Later on we saw these two Noisy Friarbirds having a very noisy argument.
As I mentioned earlier, the fields of Spring wildflowers were a feature of the Pilliga forest and here is a small perusal of some of them:
The devastating bushfires late last year destroyed much of the Pilliga forest, but many wildflowers have come back to life, as is the nature of the unique Australian bush.
Some of the Spring birds we saw were the Common Bronzewing, which flew from the track to a tree to allow the sunlight to illuminate its beautiful wings as we walked the wildflower walk. Quieter birds, such as Pigeons, Doves and Bronzewings, communicate their alarm call through the intensity of their very audible wing movement as they flee the presumed danger.
The beautiful song of the Grey Shrike-thrush was also heard along the track. This bird has only just started singing in our coastal forest at home this Spring. The immature birds (striped front and brown) were present with the grey adults. Listen to their call:
One specie of bird that kept popping up along the journey, a bird we never see in our forests at home is the Jacky Winter, who apparently acquired its name from its loud, fast call which sounds like: ‘jacky-jackie-winter’. I did not hear it call on any occasion, but was amazed at how this bird just shows up and you just notice it watching you. Here are some of my shots.
A highlight was to see a Jacky Winter on its tiny nest. You would wonder how it could ever have young in it, their nest is just so small.
That is as much as one could digest for this week. Next week I will conclude the series with some very special photos and footage to conclude our birding venture. There are far too many birds and adventures to include in the series so I have tried to show highlights. We had no lifers that we know of but were very thankful for what we did see and experience.
Enjoy your week ! Daylight savings has started here so we get to stay out longer in the evening which many of us enjoy doing. We continue to pray and have concern for the many who remain in lock-down due to the selfish and rebellious attitudes of some in our states continuing to spread the virus. May they come to their senses soon.
Take a careful look at the above photos and notice how sparse they are of large trees and that the remaining trees are all blackened from the firestorm that consumed the Pilliga some months ago. The resilient Aussie bush is coming back to life, heralded by new life and a gorgeous floral prelude. All the beautiful forest here is gone but for the surviving burnt trees that are shooting with fresh green foliage, and the new Grass Trees emerging from the baked ash dust, not singularly as per usual, but several spears at a time.
Out of devastation and much loss, new life and hope. The Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, several species of Woodswallow and Jacky Winter all nesting amid the charred remains gives even greater hope to the re establishment of this once magnificent forest. It will be a new normal, just as ours will be Post Covid (PC) from the loss and devastation we all have experienced.
To have hope and share hope is one of the most life giving and encouraging acts a human can do for another human, just as the forest and birds are doing for their local environment. To replace one’s fear (which is a false belief that one is alone in the world and unable to cope) with loving practical encouragement and support. My book gives hope in this way and many have shared how it has turned even the lives of suicidal people around for good. There are many ways and means to bring hope into the lives of those we meet each day. The positive attitude of gratitude, peace and acceptance because we know and believe we are loved and safe, trusting not in the present subjectivity of fears and anxiety exuded by the world around us, but trusting in the objective unshakable truth and love of the One who cares and provides for us all, and accepts us as we are. There is always hope of a new beginning while there is breath in our lungs. If you would like to explore this more and “Learn from observing the birds” as Jesus the birdwatcher exhorted his followers to do click here.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18 (NIV)
“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear [trust/rely on] him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,” – Psalm 33:18
“… those who hope in me [the Lord] will not be disappointed.” – Isaiah 49:23
“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” – Job 14:7
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
‘So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.