Following on from last weeks post where I deviated from our birding date in the Royal National Park to birds in my backyard, we continue down the fire trail at Mount Bass where we see some the local common bush birds of the Sydney area. Sydney is surrounded by several large National Parks, some of which were burnt during the Summer fire storms, thankfully our local park has survived untouched so far. As we walk down the track listening to the sound of Red and Little Wattlebirds calling and flocks of Rainbow Lorikeet playing (photos lost to technology) we noticed that many wildflowers were already blooming, and it is mid Winter.
Australia does not have the same 4 seasons as the Northern Hemisphere. The original inhabitants (The Australian aborigine) will tell you Australia has 6 seasons that cycle each year. Our Spring is a couple of months earlier and Summer a couple of months later. These additional seasons are more noticeable in the northern tropics of Australia. As we walked enjoying the crisp fresh Winter air and warm Winter sun, and the quietness, and lack of noisy walkers, bikers and joggers, we came across several Grass Trees with actively flowering spear heads. These tiny flowers are source of nectar for the honeyeaters during the Winter months when nectar flowers are very few. Several Silvereye were going back and forth feeding from the tiny flowers.
This flower head had an unusual kink in it.
We walked further, hoping to find the Southern Emu Wren, but there was not sound or sight of such, but we did hear the Grey Fantail. This curious bird, in a similar way to the Eastern Yellow Robin will suddenly come so close to check you out, that your camera will be out of focus. These little insectivorous guys will sometimes follow you down the track. He was not actively fanning today. They seem to have fanning and non fanning tail days.
My wife noticed a distant White-bellied Sea-Eagle flying past.
One of the most common bush birds of the rugged coastal heath is the New Holland Honeyeater. This is one of the first birds to be named when the British began renaming the Australian birds. Australia was known as New Holland as it was the Dutch explorers who found it before the British and French. This bird is featured in my book for its industrious efforts.
It later received the name of Australia, or Terra Australis the great south land. As Sydney had the first British settlement, this bird would have been numerous in the Sydney area. This busy bird is seen flying at great speed all over the park in small flocks. It is a local resident all year round here. This time of year they are joined by the White-cheeked Honeyeater which looks very similar as you can see below, especially when they are flying in and out of trees at great speed..
Another common tiny insectivorous bush bird the Brown Thornbill is more often heard rather than seen due to its size and ascent up through the dark tree canopy. This bird can be a challenge to photograph as it constantly moves and is in the dark most of the time. We so enjoy listening to his beautiful purring call as he ascends the tree.
As we just about come to the end of the trail our excitement rose as we heard the unique call of the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, a bird occasionally seen in our area, especially in Winter months, eating the native Casuarina seed cones and gum nuts. A very large flock of these birds live in the west side of this park. We spent several minutes trying to locate these birds through the bush, but could not get close due to the thick scrub. We heard a few more calling and came to join them, it appeared to be a family flock. Note the male has the pink eye surround. They sat looking at us from a distance.
I tried to catch them flying over head but they were very close and it was difficult as they came so close.
So at lunch time we pulled out the thermos and the Leek and Sweet Potato Frittata my wife had made and watched the birds together, before returning home.
Another bush bird we frequently post which we both love hearing and seeing is the Golden Whistler. It tends to go quiet during the Winter months but becomes quite vocal during the Spring breeding season. Its joyous call is the reason this bird also features in my book. It is always a joy to see them both and hear them communicating to each other.
We saw both male and female of together today on our early morning birding date in the rainforest today. Sorry for the poor blurry shots as it was somewhat dark and difficult to capture them both in the moment.
I loved the way the light caught the eye of the male.
The heavy rain recently had flooded the river and the track in parts, and the waterfalls and creeks were rapidly and noisily flowing, a lovely sound to a land previously in drought for over 4 years. As we walked the mushy track we happened upon a very trusting immature Superb Lyrebird foraging by the track. We were only a few feet from as we passed and it was not perturbed at all. It is difficult to determine the sex accurately of the bird at this stage as they all resemble their mother until they begin to mature over the next few years, when the male develops his beautiful tail plumes and the female retains her tail and rufous throat colour. From close observation of the tail it may be a developing male.
If you want to find out more about why birds change their plumage several times during their lifetime: Check out my new YouTube video on my aussiebirder channel.
During the next few years, and for the rest of his life, if it is a male, he will compose a song list of mimicry and develop his own dance where he dances to his own beat similar to below, in preparation for displaying to females so as to attract them to mate with him, during the Autumn months.
The temperature in the mountain valley was only about 10°C so as the sun shone on the trees saturated with rain from the previous night this is what we saw…
This steam was quite visible, appearing at first like smoke, as it streamed from several trees that were suddenly lit directly by the warm Winter sunlight in the dark cold forest. This caused me to consider the fact that, if this occurred on a much warmer day in a well lit open woodland, we may not have noticed this steam (tiny water droplets illuminated) coming from the tree, yet it would be taking place exactly the same as we see here. The cold air temperature together with sunlight, has helped to expose and make visible what is normally invisible to our attention. This reminded me of my life growing up in a dysfunctional family. In that environment, life was modeled to me as my normal, and the best I could expect knowing later what what my parents had suffered from theirs, was from a young age, depression, fear of making mistakes, a low sense of personal value, a large love deficit and emotional pain.
However, as a teen I had the privilege of spending a day with a family who modeled practical love, joy and peace in both parents and children, showing continual gentleness, respect and encouragement. I was amazed and as a result, strongly longed for their normal, which like the warm sunlight shining on my cold dark tree, became visible to me. I wanted to know more of what they knew and thankfully I eventually did. I later was blessed with a family life where our children experienced the new normal that was revealed to me, by that family through God’s grace. When I see people living in my old normal, I want the love, joy and peace from my new normal to illuminate their lives and give them hope also. I thank God for the delight of being engaged with him in his transformation project in my life and that of those whom I have the privilege to share with.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – Ephesians 4:2
Enjoy your week, even if the only birds you can see in lock-down are out of your window or in your back yard. We give thanks daily and pray for you all for health and that our needs are met, as there are many who suffer great loss at this time and we pray for them daily. Stay safe and keep warm.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To encourage people to make good life choices,
using birds to teach important life skills.’
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.