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
Superb Fairy-wren (male non-breeding or eclipse plumage)
Winter is here in Australia and like us, birds are adjusting to the seasonal change. Some decide to fly north to the warmer climates of Queensland, possibly seeking a good winter holiday package like us in a few days, some fly further north to Asia and Siberia/Alaska to breed and return in early Spring. Others develop breeding plumage, stay and breed during Winter months, while others like the male Superb Fairy-wren pictured above, loose their breeding plumage, stay and do not breed again till Spring. Each bird species has its own unique breeding patterns, which over all are governed by seasonal changes. Just as we change the clothes we wear for each season so do many of the birds.
Many bird species such as the above male, moult to form a plumage similar to the female, during their non-breeding months. This plumage is known as being in eclipse. The tell tail blue tail remains, as his male sex marker when spotting him in the wild. The bright Blue Wren that we all know when breeding is incognito now till Spring for most males of this species, though there are still many breeding late due to our unusually warm Autumn. The Superb Lyrebird, of similar name, however, is most likely seated on its nest or with nestlings as they breed during Winter when more food source is easily available to feed their young from the rainforest floor.
Some birds such as this lone Royal Spoonbill have breeding plumage somewhat out of season, appearing to remain late. The head dress plumage and red forehead markings declare this. The nest would normally be with other similar large shorebirds, such as Ibis, but would be abandoned if we were to approach it. See how it sifts the water for small marine creatures.
These Pied Cormorant in Sydney Olympic Park are breeding out of season also possibly due to a warmer than usual Autumn. Usually there would be between 10 and 20 other birds nesting but only a few nests are active as the others have finished and flown. Late nesting can make breeding more vulnerable to predators, without the safety in numbers rule these birds usually employ, as can be seen as this Australian Raven contests a nesting parent, attempting to get her off the nest to steal her eggs or babies, but she stands her ground or should I say sits her ground and like a true parent ain’t gonna move for no one.
Pied Cormorant staying off Aust. Raven
Pied Cormorant with late nestling
Lastly, this cute little Yellow Thornbill was jumping around the mangroves and casuarina trees beside the lake enjoying its lone adventure. It appeared to be not only just maturing but is an example of one of the many territorial non migratory birds that remain through all the seasons and do not show any marked plumage differences when breeding.
This has been a quick post as I have just left hospital yesterday and have had some health issues to rectify which we have suddenly become aware of, from which treatment will now be ongoing. Thank you to those praying for me and sharing your kind thoughts it is much appreciated. Like these birds we have our seasons in life. The worlds wisest man King Solomon who wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible explained this fact. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You may remember The Byrds music group back in the 60s singing a popular Pete Seeger folk song formed from this passage. ‘To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn.’
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (NIV)
The key principle Solomon is sharing is that we need to realize and accept the fact that throughout one’s life there will be times or seasons of good and enjoyable experiences and what appear to be bad or unpleasant ones, both are the normal part of life. It is when we accept this truth we can have peace and draw courage and strength from seeing them as positive and necessary changes for our life, character and maturity, rather than anger and resentment blaming God or anyone else for their unfulfilled expectations. This is what gave me contentment this last week as I felt peace and rest in the midst of the storm my health experienced in this new life season I am presently in. Knowing that there is always Treasure in the Trial. We just have look for it, with wisdom, as you would for any treasure.
“We know that in all things [both good and bad life experiences/seasons] God works for good with those who love him…” – Romans 8:28 [ added and explained by me] (GNT)
Have a great week! My new book is now awaiting a first edit.
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info
Early last Sunday my wife and I took a drive out to Wianamatta Nature Reserve in search of the Red-capped Robin. We were not counting on it being one of the most foggy mornings on record, lasting into the afternoon. However, this did not put us off, it only made viewing very difficult at times, especially photography. Sadly, the Robins did not make an appearance nor did many other birds, but those that were impaired by the darkness and obstruction of the fog. The fog gave some interesting vistas.
After spending some time walking around the reserve our most frequent sighting was that of the Double-barred Finch. Finches are a flock bird, often in flocks of hundreds which are known as ‘charms’.(i.e. A charm of Finches). Finches prefer the dryer inland areas of Australia where they spend much of their time grazing on grass seed, or sitting together in the shade of a tree. There are two subspecies: race bichenoviiEastern mainland Australia (NSW & QUE) having a white rump and race annulosa Far North-Western Australia (WA & NT) having a brown rump. As you can see below the white rump race as expected were present.
The white butt of the Eastern race
Hey guys take a look at that chicky babe!
Other birds included the Yellow Faced Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Grey Fantail (catching insects mid air, the fog did not seem to affect its accuracy) and New Holland Honeyeater addressing its youngster. Notice how the fog affects both colour and clarity, with the brightly diffused background lighting further impairing my photos due to the silhouetting.
New Holland Honeyeater with juvenile
Rainbow Lorikeets flying past
Grey Fantail catching insects on the fly
Having had no success finding the resident Red-capped Robin family, we decided to go away to a nearby suburb for lunch and return later for one last try, as we were over an hours drive from home and had traveled 3 toll roads to get there. On returning at about 2pm the fog had lifted and a blue sky began to appear. Once again the Finches dominated our attention, with still no sign of the Robins. The charm truly did charm us as they flew in flock from ground to tree and back. They were so small and quiet blending in with the grass that it was easy to almost walk on them, giving you a fright as they suddenly took flight.
The safety of the flock reminds us of the importance of community and how it has been so important for mankind’s survival and propagation. This encourages us to gain an appreciation for those who voluntarily give up their time and effort, often at their own expense to provide aid and assistance to others in the community, as a gracious choice. Those of like interest flock together to bring assistance and help to particular areas of the community. The Volunteer Fire Brigade, the SES, Lifeline, Street Reach, The Smith Family, Vinnies, the Salvos, various service clubs, disability support and aid organisations. The satisfaction of giving freely showing unconditional love has personal rewards of satisfaction that far exceed the cost of ones resources.
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your selfish nature. Instead, use your freedom to serveoneanother in love.” – Galatians 5:13
Have a great weekend! My new book is nearing the final stages and being prepared for a first edit. I am in the process of receiving treatment for a heart condition which was a surprise.
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info
I ventured out birding on Tuesday, to get a break from writing, in search from a reported sighting of a Black Bittern, which to my disappointment I did not find, though this is often the case when stalking these secretive sleuths. However, on a visit to Bushell’s Lagoon, usually a waterbird paradise, there was unusually little to be found. However, to my delight there was one lone photographer/birder where normally there are several, presently in search of the elusive Australasian Bittern, though appearances have become less due to the roadside reeds being knocked over by recent rains, and the birds feeling safer at a further distance where they can hide. We were however able to capture the Golden-headed Cisticola flitting about and a few shorebirds.
The delight came when talking with Vas, and sharing our bird findings around Sydney, that he happened to live near Wianamatta Nature Reserve and had become acquainted with the behaviour of the Red-capped Robin family that live there, which I had only seen on one occasion with my wife, but had pursued previously on many occasions, posted here. From the feature photo above you can clearly see that Vas kindly took me to the Reserve and showed me the places and behaviour pattern of this bird, for which I was truly thankful. On cue the male and female Red-capped Robin appeared, just as he said they would with their classic Robin curiosity checking us out. Robins are non migratory and territorial and therefore very predictable and easy to find most of the year, if you know where they hang out. They are basically insectivorous but unlike most other Robins, enjoy foraging in dry open forest areas including desert regions. It has, along with the Hooded Robin, the largest geographic distribution over mainland Australia of any Robin.
Unfortunately, the female of the species is very shy and is difficult to get good clear images as she perches under the cover of a tree. The male however boldly stands out on a bare branch. The female has only a light patch of red on her head and not on her chest.
Red-capped Robin (female)
Red-capped Robin (female)
The name Robin was taken originally from a female girl’s name in the 15th Century as the European Robin was then known as Robin Redbreast, and was later shortened to Robin. Of course the European Robin actually has an orange breast, for the colour orange had not yet described. This only occurred when the fruit was discovered by the ocean explorers who brought oranges back to Europe from China and India. Before this it was called yellow-red. We know that when the British ornithologists gave English and Latin names to Australian birds, they were actually confronted with truly red breasted Robins, in fact 5 varieties, each with different shades and intensities of red, one of which is the above bird. I endeavour to do a post on all of these Robins at a later date.
Not long after the Robins appeared for us and I caught the above images, they suddenly became scarce and did not appear at all. Even the usual finches were not present. As we walked through the reserve in search, we found the possible reason. A Brown Goshawk was resting in a nearby tree nearby and is a great threat to the safety of the bright and easily detectable Red-capped Robin, which would make a nice meal. We soon left and made our various ways home. This underpins the blessing of meeting and talking with other birders, and the wealth of information that can be gained as well as shared. If you would like to view some of Vas’s amazing bird images, especially his flight shot specials go to Instagram at vs_images or click here.
Have a great week birding and stay warm! I have completed the text of my second book and am now discussing with the publisher the choice of format which means more work to do. If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info.
My inspiration this week came from this music video I saw in a coffee shop while out birding, made by Jason Mraz “Love is Still the Answer” I was quite moved by his performance and reminds me how important everyone is in our life and around about us, and how they need to know and feel love, just as we do. Love brings peace and security and is the opposite of fear which produces the inner turmoil and insecurity that reveals itself in lies, prejudice, hated, injustice, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness.
“Be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other.” – Ephesians 4:2 (GW)
“No fear exists where love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love.” – 1 John 4:18 (GW)
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.
It is difficult to believe, but true, when last Saturday afternoon, while celebrating the birthday of my step-daughter, a single small bird flew into a deciduous leafless tree in the backyard near where we were eating. My wife noted it in the afternoon sun and called me over. To our surprise and delight this Southern Star Finch turned out to be the fourth lifer in four weeks, and it came to us! My wife quickly got her camera clicking, as mine was home and these were some better of the few shots we took. The bird sat in the tree quite unperturbed by our presence and I was told that it returned the next day. What a gift! and we did not have to go on a birding expedition. It came to us!
To top it off, this is also the yellow/mango mutation of the southern race which normally has a red face, and is very rare. This mutation is also known as a Budda Star Finch. There is also a grey and cinnamon faced mutation that occurs in the Star Finches. Sadly, I received an email today from Birdlife Australia informing me that these birds are now classified as probably extinct due to loss of habitat from cattle overgrazing, restricting the grasses from seeding, as well as limiting the native varieties. The Southern race was only found on the east coast of Queensland and northern NSW, but now mostly restricted to a smaller region in Queensland. The Northern race is classified as Threatened and is found along the top end of Far northern Australia. Finches survive mainly on native grass seed and insects.
On a day through the week I took my wife out on a birding date back to see the Australasian Bittern, which she was keen to see. There were already about five other birders looking for the bird and reported that one had flushed and flown a distance across the lake to their disappointment. These birds hide in the reeds and move so stealthily that they can be right next to you and you would never know till they take flight, as they are extremely shy of humans. They are very difficult to detect due to their ability to move through the reeds and tall grass without even moving the surrounding reeds. See if you can find it in the third photo below?
The wonderful opportunity that afforded us on this occasion was that we actually got flight shots of the birds as they moved from one area of the wetlands to the other and back to the original area again, with us birders in hot pursuit. Click on photos to enlarge.
It is not hard to see why these birds are so difficult to locate in among the reeds. They are known for standing their necks upright as they survey their surrounds, appearing like part of the reeds. The vertical neck is all you would have seen in the previous photo if you succeeded in spotting the Bittern, as it is seen closer in the last photo below.
While we were watching the many other waterbirds including Egrets, Ibis and Heron, we also saw this cute Little Grassbird which we had not seen for a long while.
Of course if there are reeds present, and there are, the Australian Reed-Warbler will most likely be present with its loud call, and it was.
This Swamp Harrier is seen each day continually scanning the entire wetlands. There are several different raptor species seen frequently at Bushell’s Lagoon including Nankeen Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite. The white marking at the top of the tail is a helpful identification marker for this bird, as it was some distance away.
It has been an interesting journey for me the last month, at home writing my second book. My wife and I have enjoyed more quality time together and she has enjoyed having a home husband to look after the things at home she does not enjoy doing. We are a team and it is always helpful for us to remember that in a marriage there are three entities not two. The Husband, the Wife and the Marriage Relationship. This is what we share and bring to the table when we discuss our relationship, which we have an agreement today every 3rd of each month, which is our anniversary date for our wedding. It is good for us, even in our mature years to ask each other ” How are going in our marriage? What do we change or do better?
“Be devoted to oneanother in love. Honor oneanother above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15
Have a wonderful week and stay warm, Winter has hit the eats coast with its mighty force yesterday, and the birds have run for cover, though the warble of the worshiping magpies in the torrential rain and wind continues regardless from the TV antenna outside my window as I write. What a blessing!
If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on my website HomePage on birding and counseling tips.
Last Tuesday I followed another lead to discover our third lifer in three weeks, yes that’s a lifer a week within a two hour drive of Sydney. This is fairly birdless time of year for passerines due to the drought and lack of flowers, so to get these birds is a great blessing. Other birders had already arrived and despite the many Egrets, Herons and Grebes in Bushell’s Lagoon our attention was trained on the reeds by the road.
We had heard that an Australasian Bittern was seen here on several occasions. Sadly, we missed the opportunity as one flew off in the distance landing about 400 meters away. It was in the reeds quite close to us all the time, and finally flew. These birds are seldom seen by birders, or anyone as they are masters of stealth, camouflage and very slow covert movement through the reeds, to the point that they can move without moving the reeds in a noticeable way.
The Stealth of the Aussie Bittern
Other birders arrived and one younger man suddenly noted a Bittern in the reeds near where the other had flown. This was a great find as it confirms that at least two are there, and possibly a breeding pair. Quickly we took our positions and started tracing the birds extremely slow stealthy movements through the reeds, as it kept one eye on us most of the time. Thankfully this one did not fly off, but just hid itself for short periods and then moved on. So we stood for a couple of hours trying find where it would emerge. As you can see it can move right in front of you and it is invisible to your sight, and it is not small by any means at between 65 to 75 cm..
Australasian Bittern with head up
The Australasian Bittern or Brown Bittern is a member of the Heron family, found in south eastern Australia, Tasmania, south western WA and New Zealand. In Australia it is a Threatened species and has the amazing ability to move through reeds without moving them, crouching and skulking, rarely coming out into the open. They often poke their head up and look like reeds, even swaying in the breeze, but with one eye trained on investigating. It hunts by the waters edge similar to other Herons eating small fish, insects, crabs, frogs etc. They are easily identified by their repetitive deep booming call.
Australasian Bittern with head up
Australasian Bittern head
We were all thrilled to actually see the bird in good sunlight, which is a rarity, even to actually see the bird is rare enough. So now I have to take my wife to show her, as this is our third lifer. We are so thankful to God that we are getting these opportunities at present as I write my book and being currently unemployed in between jobs.
There are many birds that can be hidden from our sight by their unique camouflage as they blend in with their surrounding habitat. The bird can be right in front of you but you can not see it because you do not know what to look for or where to look because you have never seen it before, as in my case. I walked up and down and looked in the same place over a week ago and did not see it. I needed the help of the birders who had experience at spotting this bird, which rewarded me and educated me as to how to spot the bird in the future. With this bird, just looking in a Bird Field Guide is not enough, you need to actually see it in the wild, the way it moves and ever so slowly slides through the reeds, without moving them, to appreciate the difficulty, as it is the Master of Stealth. As I ponder on this experience I realize the importance of seeking the wisdom of experience whichoutweighs knowledge alone. I am thankful that I could draw on the experience of others and grow in my understanding of this bird. One of the great delights in birding is that of sharing our knowledge and experience to assist those who are learning.
“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” – Proverbs 19:8 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week! If this is your first time to my blog, please check out the pages on my website HomePage on birding and counseling tips.
This special post shares firstly my latest lifer the Swift Parrot (pictured above) and secondly the interesting relationship of the Miner and the Parrot family in regard to harvesting lerps. This post was partly inspired by a young lady I met at The Australian Botanic Gardens, near Sydney, while viewing the Swift Parrot, Natasha who has recently become a birder.
Sadly, the Swift Parrot which is endemic to south eastern Australia including Tasmania, is listed in our state and Tasmania as Endangered, but Critically Endangered in Victoria, due mainly to massive habitat and nesting area destruction, be allowed to continue at an alarming state by the current state government. These small parrots are a challenge to get decent images of due to their colour, their swift and rapid flight and the fact that they usually rest under the canopy of the highest eucalypt trees. Thankfully the ones I saw were resting in a tree near their water source. These birds normally nest in the holes in dead trees and branches and feed on eucalypt flowers, nectar and seeds as well as lerps. In flight they display a beautiful flash of bright red on underside of wings and rump, sadly my flight photos were unsuccessful due to cloud.
I felt so blessed to find this small flock as I had no idea I would find the tree let alone the bird. I followed an Eremaea Birdlines tip off and walking around I found Fred, another birder who had just seen the Swifts as a lifer for him, and he guided me to Raquel a local, who was actively viewing them and had seen them in this place before.
It is interesting how many of us are not aware of the importance of Lerps and the Psyllid insect (also known as Plant Lice, Leaf Insect or Jumping Plant Insect) as a major source of carbohydrate food for Australian passerines. These insects suck sap from the trees like lice. Lerps is like crystallized sugar candy to them, it is the protective coating for the Psyllid insect (pronounced sillid) they are crazy over it, so crazy that some bird species fight to exclude other birds from areas of trees which they claim as their own property. You can read more about Lerps on this link.
Lerps makes up an enjoyable additional of food for many tree birds in Australia including honeyeaters (which includes Miners), thornbills and the parrot family. It is the main diet of the Pardolote which also eats the Psyllid as well as the Lerp coating which makes it vulnerable to attack by other larger aggressive birds, such as Miners who try to preserve the Psyllids to produce more. Note the Spotted Pardolote looking for lerps in photos below. Note also the brown spots on the leaves where the insect is killing the leaf with the leaf toxic substance it emits. Note the white spots, this is the lerps.
When this tiny bird feeds in the darker under canopy it actually looks like a eucalypt leaf which makes it very difficult to see. This an non enhanced shot, but close up, imagine it from a distance.
Sadly the Bell Miner is allowing our forests to die, as the Lerps insect emits a substance that kills the leaf it is on (see article mentioned above), and work is being done to attempt to reduce the threat. As you can see below the colour of the Bell Miner makes it difficult to see in the tree canopy, eluding most novices to birding by their failure to actually see this bird, making such loud chiming noises continuously right next to their ears. It is an amazing experience to stand in a forest over run by Bell Miners, as they dart about patrolling and playing in the under canopy.
Bell Miner feeding juvenile
Caring for young one
watching the young one fly off
Bell Miner in the sun
The Bell Miner (similar to Noisy Miner) are community birds (as mentioned in my book “What Birds Teach Us”) or ‘pack birds’ as they gang up on other bird species and aggressively attack and bite any that enter their territory of real estate, including birds much larger than themselves, capable of killing and eating the Miners. This is partly for protection of their young but also for protection of a sustained food source. Interesting as it is, the Miners both Bell and Noisy appear to have an agreement with the Parrot family which includes Parrots, Lorakeets, Rosellas which also eat Lerps not to attack as much. Here you can see photos of both Bell Miner and Swift Parrot eating Lerps from the back of eucalypt leaves. The Miners have developed a way of licking the lerps without harming the insect.
Swift Parrot licking lerps
Removing lerps from beneath gum leaf
We now know from all our observations and recent neurological research that ‘bird brain’ is now a complement not an insult, as some philosopher once postulated in his ignorance many years ago, demeaning birds, falsely concluding that the size of the brain governed the level of intelligence, but he got it wrong. We now know the number of neurons and and the ability of various parts of the brain to grow and develop due to learning and ability to solve problems, equips birds to be in many ways as intelligent and in some areas even more that humans. This is one of the reasons birds have survived so well, they adapt and plan and map in ways we are only just starting to understand.
You may not like the aggressive Miner family, but you have to hand it to them, they are not unlike humans in the way they govern, protect and administer their environment, providing for their young and future. The way they have learned that there is power in numbers. You may remember this example of the Noisy Miner from a recent post.
youngster male finds food
The youngster stand off
The attack of adult males in defense
One Miner attacks unsuccessfully a larger bird. It puts out the call for troops, and immediately there is a response and many Miners become a Major problem for the bird, which soon departs sometimes sore and sorry. The aggressive bite of the Parrot or Lorikeet can hurt Miners also, and it has been suggested that Miners tolerate them more in their territory because of this, as they also are a flock bird, usually travelling in numbers. As I have shared recently Miners will attack with aggression, courage and boldness even humans, dogs, cats, large raptors and anything they see as a threat. You may remember this photo of a single courageous Noisy Miner relentlessly chasing a huge Whistling Kite, what an example this is to us all of the need to be relentlessly courageous. Such courage enables ordinary people to accomplish great things, greater than they ever thought possible. Though one may not aspire to greatness, one can be great in their own right. This small Noisy Miner put its life on the line to protect the young of the flock and drives away the impending danger of the huge Kite single. We can do great things with God’s help.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
“Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” – Deuteronomy 31:6 (NET)
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently unemployed, but have been greatly inspired in the last few days, with the mantle having fallen on my shoulders, to write my second book which many have encouraged me to pursue. My first book is almost out of print due to its wonderful sales record, and the support from those who have loved it, and encouraged others to buy it or place it in their local school libraries. Waking through the night with ideas and having to dive out of bed to write them down has been a challenge, but is encouraging knowing I am being led by a higher power of much more wisdom than myself. My wife is pleased that I have been doing jobs around and to the house while I am more available. Have an extraordinarily wonderful and satisfying week, till my next post, that may be a long week!
The Laughing Kookaburra is Australia’s most iconic bird, and possibly our most popular. It generally is a very placid natured bird relatively trusting of humans, co habitating especially if fed by them. They can become a problem like many Australia’s wild birds if they become regularly dependent on human’s feeding them. It is found throughout the forests of eastern Australia and far south west WA. The ‘Kooka’ as most of us know it, is a territorial bird like many of our birds, and can be found in the same geographical area most of the year, which makes it easy to locate.
Kookas are known for their loud laugh like call, which is often sounded in a family group from sunrise, various times through the day and sunset, where several birds will call together for periods of twenty seconds to several minutes, often being led by one bird. It became known to the early European settlers as ‘The Settlers Clock’ because the birds will sit in a tall eucalypt tree facing east waiting for the first light of the sun and then begin marking their territory, often moving from area to area repeating their call and marking their boundary, warding off other Kooka families. Listen to the morning call of several Kookas…
Listen to this one Kooka as he idles his laugh which usually results shortly after in the group sounding off again.
Here is a capture at sunset…
The same may occur several times through the day, but more importantly just before sunset they may be found facing west and putting out a final call for day as the sun is about to set. Thus in the early days with isolation and lack of accurate Eastern Standard Time for many in the bush, the call of the Kookaburra would wake the farmer in the morning to commence his day, and also alert him to sunset and the need to get back to house quickly to light the lamps for the night.
One of the great delights of living in Australia is the sound of the Kookaburras first thing in the morning. My wife and I always get excited to hear their call when they stray into our area, as we do not have resident ones, possibly due to the extremely aggressive nature of our local Noisy Miners. Kookas are one of the few birds that will tolerate being attacked by Miners, but will move on if too many persistently attack and bite, but not moving too far away.The Kookaburra mainly feeds on worms, insects and the flesh of snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals, by pouncing on their prey from a branch or perch. They are known for killing their prey with their very thick strong beak by bashing the prey against a tree to kill it. Even if you feed it dead meat it will still go through the process of ‘killing’ it by beating it to death. They are often seen doing this to snakes.
Blue-winged Kookaburra female
Blue-winged Kookaburra male
In Australia we have two species of Kookaburra, the Laughing and the Blue Winged. Though they both have blue on their wings, the Blue Winged has much more, is a slightly smaller bird and is only found in far north Australia. Its call is not at loud and regular as the Laughing Kooka.
Kookaburra are large tree Kingfishers, being a similar bird, of the same genus Dacelo, having amazing better than average binocular vision which allows for very exacting triangulation. The main way to discern the breeding male from the female is that the male has a bright blue colored rump (central back feathers) whereas the female and immature both lack this.
I have witnessed several times a Kookaburra fly through an open air cafe and remove the meat portion of a hamburger while the patron is left holding the bun and lettuce. If you are gardening they will sit on the fence right next to you and silently watch as you dig, then suddenly plunge down right in front of you and grab a worm you did not even see was there.
The Kookaburra makes its nest in the holes found in trees and more often will bore a hole into a termite or white ant mound and make a simple nest there. In a similar way to the Magpie, the whole family may assist in the incubation, building and care of the nest. This Kookaburra is defending its white ant nest hole against an intruding Rainbow Lorikeet.
approach of Rainbow Lorikeet
Warning beak and sound given from nest
Kooka attacks lorikeet with zeal
Kooka in pursuit
This juvenile Kookaburra is fed by the parent worms and small lizards, until it is able to fend for itself.
Here are some rare shots of a male Kookaburra diving completely into the water of a fresh water lake. The question it raises is: washing or fishing? I have since wondered if this Kooka is attempting to copy the Cormorants it would have watched fish, diving beneath the water and emerging with a fish. Maybe he was trying his hand (or claw) at it. It was an interesting and rare capture regardless.
In my book ‘What Birds Teach Us‘ I sight the Kookaburra as an example for us of Punctuality due to its predictable sunrise and sunset call. I have lived for years believing the myth that many of us were told when young that Kookaburras can predict rain and as a result I have been both amazed and also let down (embarrassed) from this belief. This myth may have some truth to it, but does not follow for every occasion. I often hear them call when an impending storm of dark Cumulonimbus clouds can be seen on the horizon, this may also be a coincidence.
This may be my last weekly blog post for a while as I consider my future. My job has been terminated and I am currently seeking God as to my next step. Due to the low numbers in local birds (caused mostly by drought) and having not traveled recently I have no new material. I am considering if this is the time to commence writing my second book. Thank you my dear bird blogger friends for your warm encouraging support. I will continue to post occasionally until I am properly sorted.
“Bestillbefore the Lordandwait patiently for him…” – Psalm 37:7 (NIV)
Enjoy your week and please pray for the best outcome for our Federal Election next Month.
Last week my wife and I took a road trip to the Mid-North Coast of NSW to visit our dear family and friends as well as celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a Happy Birday birthday, as you guessed birding is always an important part of our travels, and an excellent opportunity to share the outdoor experience with those we visit. It is interesting how our passion and knowledge shared stimulates new interest in those we meet. Above is pictured one of the best gifts my wife received from her Heavenly Father, a lifer for us, this Painted Button-quail, a bird endemic to Australia, discovered foraging in the Littoral Forest on the cliff edge walk in Forster. I had to feature this beautiful bird, though it soon moved away so the following shots are not as good. You can see how its beautiful plumage acts as an excellent camouflage. Click on photo to enlarge it.
This bird is not a member of the usual quail family, but as a button-quail it is found in dry forests and numbers are reducing yearly due to destruction of habitat and ferule cats/ foxes. These bird, in a similar but not the same way to the Logrunner, forages for insects and worms by spinning around and digging a small bowl in the leaf litter (a platelet). Unlike many birds, the female courts and then mates with a male, makes the mound, lays the eggs and walks away to repeat the process with another male. The male then incubates the eggs and feeds the young for about a week or so, and they go off on their own, a bit like Australian Brush Turkey style.
Our first stop was to visit friends in the inland cattle farming area of the Barrington valley near Gloucester, along the Barrington and Gloucester Rivers. After a wonderful lunch provided we were taken out birding on quad bikes, which added somewhat excitement and increased heart rate to the afternoon, but we survived as we hung on crossing rivers and negotiating steep hills.
a view to the Bucketts mountains in the valley.
aussiebirder preparing for the ride of his life!
One of the birds we saw was a large Wedge-tailed Eagle, which I had trouble getting a clear shot, but as you can see the tail is the ‘tell-tail’ identification. This is our largest eagle having an adult wingspan of 2.3 meters or more.
One of our wonderful finds was this male Restless Flycatcher, resting from his restlessness so I could share him with you.
Of course there are always Eastern Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Rosellas out here. Notice the juvenile with its mottled plumage. Sadly, the Eastern Rosella is a very shy bird and escaped my camera so I have included some previous shots from a recent post.
The Straw-necked Ibis is a bird found in large numbers out west, pressing its long beak into areas of moist earth to extract insects and worms. They occur in large flocks, often circling high above in search of grazing areas, moving around farm paddocks, and roosting in what could be called an ibis tree. Their plumage glistens with colour in the sun.
Ibis roosting tree
Juvenile (left); adult (right)
Straw-necked Ibis adult
This young Grey Butcherbird looked quite cute with his soft downy breast plumage.
Of course you will always find a Kookaburra watching with its amazing eyesight from a tree nearby, hoping you will turn up something worth eating. After a night in Gloucester we fair welled our friends and drove toward the coast to Port Macquarie where we will continue our journey in next week’s post.
Most farms and country back yards are host to the common domesticated fowl or ‘chook’ as us Aussies call it. It seldom if at any time is featured in birding posts, there are more of it than most other birds in any one populated country, with over 19 billion world wide. This humble creature provides daily food to its carer, yet it seldom has its story featured or told. This is often the case, as most of these humble workers are hens or moms, quietly providing for the needs of others in the background. They seldom get honored or featured, but for one day a year. Moms need our love and we need to express it in real terms by how we treat them, yes treat, if you catch my pun, and more importantly when we wrap our arms around them and tell them how much we love them. It is too late when your mom has passed, as mine has now for many years.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12 (NLT)
“For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.” – Proverbs 4:3
“So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” – Proverbs 23:25
Have a wonderful week ! As the seasons change so do some of our birds. If you are new to my blog and want to know more about birding, visit my Home Page menu for birding tips and interesting information which deals with the mindful and healthy recreation of bird watching. Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift, check out my book on my BirdBook page.