This week has been Wild Wet Windy Weather, and quite cold, a good reason to stay inside. So I continue with a walk I did deep into the rainforest last week, where I went to clear my mind to walk and talk with my Father in his Rainforest Garden, in the Royal National Park. Last week I featured the female Superb Lyrebird, this week the male (above). The male with the beautiful tail. I saw both male and female Lyrebirds foraging quietly, and they allowed me to come close, which is unusual. I was only 2 feet away from one and it was not alarmed. How wonderful that they trusted me. These are birds that feed deeper in the forest away from most human traffic, and are more trusting. If you want to see Lyrebirds, find where visible recent scratchings are on the track and be in that area, early morning after sunrise when they are having breakfast.
The other two rainforest floor dwellers along with the Lyrebird, that I mentioned in the above video are the Bassian Thrush and the Australian Logrunner. These two are very secretive birds and difficult to both find and see as they are found on the dark forest floor among the leaf litter where they find their food. They have excellent camouflage and will stop dead still when they see you. Check them out and you will see what I mean. The Logrunner is a very small bird and often heard before seen, as it flicks the leaf litter with its legs, leaning back on the tail.
Australian Logrunner (male and female)
If you do hear a Logrunner calling and communicating with partner it may sound like this:
If it is a territorial dispute it will sound more like a squeaky toy (a rubber ducky being repeatedly squeezed quickly).
The so called Naturalists from the early European settlement here in the 1800s, invaded our forests with rifles in the name of science (or today scientific research as with the whales Ha Ha). The so called bird loverJohn Gould dined on Australian birds and bragged about it, as he claimed fame for his 7 volume work on our birds in 1848. They killed thousands of Lyrebirds to stuff for display back in the homeland, eat, extract their tails from for display and just for the fun of it… don’t that make you a little upset ?
Eventually the Conservation Movement stopped the meaningless slaughter of these and many other native species, some now extinct. Now the ferule cats, domestic cats and foxes continue the slaughter, both here and in the forests near Melbourne, especially Sherbrooke Forest where the population was almost decimated by domestic cats. Local residents by Law now must keep their cats caged.
Last week, my wife and I also visited one of our western Sydney birding spots, as we delivered a book shipment to a warehouse nearby, but most of the birds were gone, that once were in abundance. I have noticed that many left during the months of bushfire smoke late last year. Here’s what we found.
The New Holland Honeyeater is found in abundance in the southern Sydney National Parks and Reserves, especially along the coastline heath. This bird is featured in my book: “What Birds Teach Us” for its Diligence, here is a sample page:
The good news is, the final part for my lens has arrived and the camera should be ready by Saturday and this era of movie filling up my website storage may end. It has been like having a best friend in hospital, and you can’t visit, having my lens out of action for four months. Though my wife has enjoyed having her photos receive encouraging remarks for my dear blog followers.
Thank you to those of you who have purchased my recent release 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us”, some purchases are still making their way through the slower than usual Corona time, especially in the USA, but we are keeping track. We are working at present on new Promo videos and preparation for a book launch at a group of private schools.
Koorong Books has the 2nd Edition now in stock and is available online and in store. Koorong have stores all over Australia, mainly in the larger cities. Sadly, my previous best sellers, NSW National Parks Visitor Centres are still closed due to Covid. However at present the best price is to buy here online.
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” – Hebrews 6:11
Have a wonderful week birding… and….
My Mission: To encourage all people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
Last week my wife and I went for a longer than usual walk into the rainforest in the Royal National Park. We have been enjoying these long walks in the fresh sunny Autumn weather, and it has been therapeutic emotionally and physically as I continue to come to terms with social distancing, accepting retirement, my camera still being repaired and my book promotion put on hold.
Continuing from my previous post we left early in search again for the female Superb Lyrebirds nesting, as Autumn is the time when she builds the nest and lays her eggs, while the male continues to do his song and dance performances to woo his female fans for mating. Click Here for some of my previous footage, which some of you have seen, to give you an idea how they dance to their own beat, and use their repertoire of mimicry to impress the female.
Male Lyrebird performing mimicry
Male Lyrebird dancing to his own beat.
Like the Bowerbird, the males spend most of their life, and time practicing their performance for that short period of several weeks when they mate. Notice the female photo above (again the work of my dear wife, who wants to thanks those who complemented her for her beautiful Fairy-wren photo featured last week)) has an ordinary feathered tail and a rufous throat, unlike the beautiful male tail. As we walked deeper into the forest we noticed increased scratchings by the track, and soon we started finding the females preparing their nests and just very quietly foraging for food.
It was not long before we found what we were looking for, a female collecting sticks and moss for the nest. Again, she was very careful to not give away the location of the nest. I watched how particular she was collecting the correct stick. She would stop, add to the bundle, pick it up and move to her next pick up.
This particular day we saw no males, though the following week I saw 3 males and 3 females. As we made our way through the forest our stress levels fell and we felt more relaxed.
We started hearing and then seeing the White-throated Treecreeper ascending a tree, silently. Usually you only find them by hearing their loud repeating call. This is a female, because of the orange spot on her ears.
As she ascended you will hear in the background the sound of another Treecreeper climbing, foraging for grubs and insects in the bark of the eucalypt tree. This is a bird seen in greater number during the colder months.
The Golden Whistler is quieter during the winter months also. The males are usually hard to spot during Winter months, as they are shy and not singing as much as they Sing in Spring. The females on the other hand are very curious and will come close to get a good look at you.
One bird you will always hear in our rainforest all year round is the Lewin’s Honeyeater. Their call is similar to the Treecreeper but much faster in staccato. You may remember the call from a previous post, it was also in the background of the female Golden Whistler clip (above).
On this occasion I was able to get closer. Most of our Honeyeaters migrate around following blossom, and avoiding colder weather, but the Lewin’s is a rainforest Honeyeater and is usually territorial remaining all year round, similar to the Miners and Wattlebirds.
One of the encouraging signs after the drought beginning to break from recent rains, is the sound of the many Eastern Whipbirds, which went very quiet during the driest part of last year, as they forage on the forest floor turning moist leaf litter for grubs and insects, in moist gullies. They are very elusive birds, and in my early birding years had me standing for hours trying to catch a glimpse. This one eluded us also.
Eastern Whipbird sees us and plans his escape
Eastern Whipbird making his gettaway
As we finished our 9 km walk we noticed this Australasian Darter resting, and doing an excerpt from some Bird Ballet for a few seconds.
My contemplation for this week comes from the following film clip during my rainforest walk this week. The National Park was spared the horrific bushfires this past year, but has been burnt out years ago in 1994 with a horrific fire click here to see some of the photos. This tall straight forest hardwood in the thick of the rainforest was burnt out but continues to grow strong, because enough of the vital cambium layer just under the thick bark, which feeds the tree, survived the intense heat and fire.
This tree reminded me of me, when years ago I suffered burn out from being too busy and too stressed from the demands of job, family and life itself. Thankfully with God’s provision and help I survived and managed to to come back even stronger, like the tree, which spurred me on to study family counselling and write the books. While I remain connected and rooted firmly to my Life Source I can continue growing and enjoying life, having learnt how to avoid further burn out. My birding walks help achieve this,in a mindful way, like Adam (the first man) I can walk and talk with God alone in his beautiful garden, and be at peace, because I have come to realize his faithful love and provision for me. If you feel safe to check out my Birder Sanctuary pages you will see some of the principles that helped me through the difficult times, and continue to. Interesting enough God used birds to teach, help and even feed man many times throughout history, and Jesus mentions them more than any other animal.
Enjoy your week, and especially enjoy a fresh appreciation of freedom, food, family and friends and our beautiful country as we begin to navigate a new normal as we hopefully come out of the Covid Crisis.
My Mission: To encourage all people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
One day last week to set off early to miss the walkers and walk through Royal National Park and search for Lyrebird we knew was nesting near the track, as unlike most birds they nest in Autumn and Winter. We had only just stepped out of our car and we heard the Superb Fairy-wren family twittering right beside us. We always see them in this area, where I researched them for my book. A beautiful male in eclipse or female-like non-breeding plumage was happily twittering and drawing our attention away from his wife and children who were escaping behind him. He stayed as his curiosity gave me some lovely footage, but notice the speed of his every movement, which shows how much faster their thought processes and metabolism is to ours.
The lovely feature photo at the top of the page was my wife’s, as I continue to await my lens repair, which is meant to be concluded this week, however the part has not come in yet. Here is a photo in his breeding plumage last Spring:
Since the Covid crisis my wife and I have been taking longer walks deeper in to the rainforest areas of our National Park to get much needed exercise, to refresh our spirits and distance ourselves even further from the dramatic increase in walkers due to the virus restrictions and the need to exercise. However, walking but no loitering or picnicking allowed. As you can see below the Cafe is closed and the picnic benches taped over, as the people-less grounds will soon be joined by a leafless introduced tree as it approaches the Covid winter of my life.
Royal NP Cafe outside empty
Picnic tables taped over under a changing introduced tree.
Walking amid the coastal rainforest of eastern Australia is one of the most beautiful and refreshing experiences, especially when one enters pockets of constant bird song, as mixed feeding flocks feed on nectar rich native flora which at this time of year is limited mainly to Banksia ericifolia, which helps carry them through to early Spring.
Our main mission which moved us further into the forest, this particular walk, was to search for the female Superb Lyrebird building her nest. You may recall in this recent previous post the male Lyrebirds have recently been performing to attract females to mate with, as is their custom this time of year. Now the pregnant female is gathering sticks, moss and soft foliage to build it’s unique dome nest. When looking for Lyrebirds one looks for fresh track-side scratchings. These became more extensive the further we moved into the forest away from people.
Evidence of a recent Lyrebird foraging
Keeping my eyes ever looking ahead, I finally spotted a male foraging quite some distance ahead on the side of the track. This explains the poor quality of video.
The easiest way to discern the sex of a Lyrebird is by it’s tail. The male has the beautiful streaming tail with streamers and net like frills, and the female has a shorter, simple dull brown-grey feathered tail, as does the juvenile.
As we walked further we saw evidence of moss being gathered, and then to our surprise, as well as the female Lyrebird’s, we caught her carrying moss to her nest, though she made sure we did not find the nest.
We heard the sound of a male Eastern Whipbird calling as he made his morning rounds, but there was no female response. He could be a young male who may find a mate and breed early Spring.
The female response always immediately follows the male whip call. It is only a second after his, how amazing is that. When she hears him she waits and calls precisely after his call. This is what it would sound like if she were there foraging nearby:
It was interesting to find this single male Yellow-tailed Cockatoo calling from a tree. This bird is always found in flocks and pairs, so this fellow either lost the flock or maybe lost the plot as he seemed disorientated. This time of year we see flocks of this bird on the coast exploring the cones from the many pines planted, especially Norfolk Pines planted along the coast.
While we were walking, the flock eventually flew over but without this guy. Listen to their unique call. Birders get excited and run outside with their cameras when they here this sound, especially if a large flock is passing over, they are so loud, even at a high altitude.
The tiny constantly moving Brown Thornbill, an insectivorous local is always seen year round calling and moving through trees, often in MMFs (Mixed Feeding Flocks), delights us with his classic call.
The Sulfur-crested Cockatoo have usually finished breeding in the south, but because of the warm Autumn some are breeding here, as if they are far north. This guy is on nest-watch.
A companion breeder to the Cockie is the Rainbow Lorikeet who competes for tree holes since they often share the same trees at the same time. However, the Rainbow Lorikeet can breed all year round, producing 2 eggs each time, where as the Kookaburra breeds only in Spring. This pair may be checking out this white-ant nest, which has been traditionally the nest of the resident Kookaburras, and has previously caused controversy between the two over the years, which I did show on a previous post last year. Notice how one stands guard while the other looks inside. Not sure what is happening here, whether they are using it at present, before Spring arrives later in the year, or just doing a pre-auction inspection, as this is prime luxury real estate.
Later before leaving we heard the loud sound of many Rainbow Lorikeets in an Angophora tree. We focused our lenses high up in the tree to discover that these birds had discovered a small pool of water sitting in a bowl formation upright in the tree. This unusual tree, which I have shared about many times, is an important part of this bird’s habitat, due to its unique branch formation, and branch ejection system, leaving pockets and holes which birds use to nest in or in this occasion to drink from and bathe in after rain.
Rainbow Lorikeet flying in for a drink, scattering the others.
One bird we always look for along the river before we leave the park is the Azure Kingfisher. We usually spot him zipping in and out of the river. Though it would appear to a brief onlooker he is just resting, he is actually hard at work looking into the water for his next catch, which he will pluck out of the water with precise accuracy and speed, returning with it to the same perch.
The Kingfisher family (of which the Kookaburra is the largest member) have binocular vision, to enable accurate distance assessment using triangulation. In addition they also have the ability to correct for light refraction in water, which enables them to accurately target and catch their prey. It is interesting that what can appear to one person from the context of their own experience to be resting or non-active is actually quite the opposite. It is only when one studies, observes and investigates the facts fully, they can make an informed decision otherwise a false assessment can easily be made, by making a comparison with ones existing knowledge. The chapter on the Australian Raven in my book sheds light on this also. It is one thing to gain knowledge (to know what), and even greater to gain wisdom (to know how to use knowledge) but the greatest treasure one can procure is understanding (to know why wisdom works). The wisest man King Solomon says:
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” – Job 12:13
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5
If you have not done so already please take advantage of my Book Launch Special Offer discount. Find out more about my book and purchase safely online:here.
Thank you so much my dear Blog Following Friends who have already purchased my book, and some have purchased several copies. A school teacher who bought several of my books, exclaimed how much better it was to the first edition, which was very encouraging.
We have planned to have my official book launch at a special Primary School assembly Post-Covid. I did a presentation at this school a couple of years ago and they loved it and sold many books of which $5 from every book sold went to the school. The same school has already purchased 2 books for its library. Find out how your school or club can benefit also if you live in NSW here.
Please, if you have purchased, write a review on your website (as some of you did for my 1st edition and I was most appreciative) or in the Comments field at the foot of my BirdBook page or send it by email and I will publish it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy your week and stay safe!
My Mission: To encourage young people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
One bird that is being seen each year in decreasing numbers is the Pardolote, in particular the Spotted Pardolote. It is one of Australia’s smallest birds and resembles a gum leaf, having the body shape and the size, making it difficult to detect when feeding in the dark canopy high in a eucalypt tree. It feeds mainly on insects and Lerps. Because it feeds also on the Psyllid larvae as well as the Lerps (which is very sought after bird candy covering of the Psyllid larvae) it is attacked brutally and often killed by larger more aggressive birds, in particular the Bell and Noisy Miners.
Bell MIner eating Lerps from a gum leaf. Notice the brown spots where the leaf has died due to the Psyllid larvae.
This is because the Miners are known to harvest Lerps as a family industry, preserving the larvae to produce more Lerps. They have coalitions of police Miners to mark their territory to harass and attack intruders, thus keeping the Lerps and other foods to themselves. Sadly because the Miners have learnt to lick the lerps and leave the Larvae, eucalypt trees can suffer stress and even die due to excessive guarding by Miners.
The Spotted Pardolote numbers are reducing each year as a result of bird aggression towards them, and their nesting holes being destroyed. Since they nest in soil embankments, making small tunnels which they fly into and out of, they sometimes build nests in soil piled at construction sites which later gets moved or used, thus destroying their nest, and sometimes both birds.
Here is a recent slideshow video honoring this amazing little bird. Enjoy:
Don’t miss out on the Book Launch offer while it is still on. Thank you to those both in Australia and overseas who have already purchased the 2nd Edition. If you want to know about the book “What Birds Teach Us” click here. If you want to take advantage of the special Book Launch Offer (only for a short time) click here.
Stay Safe and enjoy any opportunity to get out and about that you can to stay sane.
My Mission: To encourage young people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
In response to an email from NSW National Parks, my wife and I made our way to our local Royal NP for an exercise walk, after a week in isolation at home. It was interesting to see the police and ranger presence, but even more interesting was that there were more people present on this beautiful Autumn Sunday in the NP than I have ever seen at one time, and I am a frequent attendant. It was impossible not to pass another person, but of course always maintaining the 1.5 m distance. It was the most therapeutic option for us locals given the circumstances. Families playing together enjoying the sun on the grass, bike riders peddling past, and many couples and families walking the trails and dodging the many mud puddles along the way, evidence of recent good rainfalls. The creeks and waterfalls were all flowing again. At the start of our walk on each occasion we always scan the banks of the river where 80% of the time we spot the Azure Kingfisher (or its cousin the Sacred, or both). Sure enough my wife spotted it across the river on the far bank.
This beautiful little bird is always a delight to watch fly and fish. Funny to watch is his head as it bobs up and down every time he moves it. My wife is again the photographer of the stills, and these shots were from some distance away, I could not see the bird at all. As we walked we noticed how quiet it was with very few bird sounds, like last week. My wife was cautious, looking out for the Red-bellied Black Snake again, that we saw a couple of weeks ago. Sure enough it was again on the side of the trail hidden in the grass catching the warmth of the sun, hiding from all the passers by, and thankfully quite unperturbed by our presence.
Red-bellied Black Snake sun bathing
It was lovely to see many of the local Gymea Liliy plants preparing to send up stems. This park is known for them as they are a native plant endemic to the coastal areas around Sydney. We even have a town nearby called Gymea which the lily is named after. This healthy specimen has sent three stems up which will be flowering soon.
This is what the flower head will look like when it opens…
Since we were here last week the Banksia ericifolia flowers have started coming to full bloom, which becomes one of the main nectar sources for honeyeaters during the early Winter months, as does the Bush Fuchsia, flowering also at the moment. This Lewins Honeyeater is enjoying a feed.
We often would hear the high fast staccato call of this bird as it seemed to follow us down the track. You will get to see it calling in a later video in this post, and how it involves its whole body. Finally, we arrived at Bill’s Rock as us locals know it. This is where Bill a large male Superb Lyrebird flies up to from across the river, to make his way up the embankment on the other side of the track. The amazing Angophora tree is growing on top of the rock, where we and others sometimes sit and wait for Bill.
Bill’s Rock with Angophora costata tree growing on top of it.
Lo and behold, we were both confronted with the sounds of several Golden Whistlers calling to one another nearby, quite out of character for the season, though they were communicating and the male was not delivering his courting and nesting warnings, as that season had passed.
We looked for them and finally laid eyes on both a male and a female. My wife took the lovely photo of the male featured at the beginning of this post. They called continuously to one another the whole time we were there. There may have been a youngster also as there were several callers.
Lo and behold again! We could hear Bill calling from below near the river, practicing his display for his courting dance and song, which consist of a repertoire of mimicry formed from the sounds of neighboring birds and noise making things. Listen as I identify some of the sounds in the following video. At this stage the Superb Lyrebird male is performing out of sight in the bush below the cliff face. He will have his tail feathers up over his head and will be dancing to his own music.
Here is another recording to listen to…
Finally, as we both stood together on Bill’s Rock, we saw him in the bush scratching for worms and insects in the leaf litter.
While he was calling continuously, our Lewins Honeyeater who was following us came to take a look at us. You will hear the Lyrebird calling in the background and at the end of the clip see and hear the call of the Lewins Honeyeater as he declares his presence.
We also caught a glimpse of this Eastern Spinebill, another nectar eater common to the park, usually in great numbers during the Summer months, but numbers are reduced due to lack of nectar producing flowers.
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OR Continue and discover lessons we can learn which have been gleaned from today’s post. If you proceed please be aware, at times quotes from the Christian Bible and other sources are used with reference to my own personal faith context:
My Personal Bird Reflection for this Week
Several times I have posted the following photo when visiting the Royal NP because of the beauty and aspect of this Angophora tree as it hangs over the bend in the Hacking River. It is one of my favorite pics.
These remarkable trees seem to grow in the most unexpected and impossible places, where other trees could not survive. The weight and size of the tree make one marvel at this tree, which almost crosses the river with its topmost branches, as it remains solidly fastened to the rock base. These trees appear to grow out of the rock. See also the tree on Bill’s Rock previous.
Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum)
It is in times like the present, when many of us are having our ability to stand strong and secure tested, that we need to ensure we are firmly and securely planted. Many would say we need faith to ride the storm, but faith is of no use if it is not in something that is strong enough to hold us as we lean or falter. It is not faith that saves, but the object of our faith, what we are believing in that has the saving or securing power we seek that brings peace. Even as we lean perilously out over deep river, it is not our ability to hold on that saves us, though it is an important factor, it is the solid, secure, unmovable rock my roots are fastened to. Yes, it is the platform or base upon which our faith is grounded that holds us safe and secure, bringing peace in uncertain times. Jesus explains this using a parable comparing the house built on sand and the house built on rock. When they are tested, or put under trial, only one remains.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” – Psalm 40:1,2
“The Lord has become my fortress, and myGod the Rock in whom I take refuge.” – Psalm 94:22
Enjoy your week ! Stay Safe! We commence our staycation this week and will have to decide which part of the house we will travel to, since we are not travelling over seas as was the plan.
My Mission: To encourage young people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
White-throated Treecreeper quietly creeping up the tree
As we move into lock down and the new terms self isolation and social distancing now become part of our vocab, as well as the latest catchphrase: ” Stay Safe!”, like Leut. James Cook, we chart and map new waters and places we have not been to before in this pandemic plague. Since midnight we are now discouraged strongly from venturing out into our local national parks, which are now closed with staff forced to take leave, so this post comes from my wife and I last Friday, where we socially distanced alone in the forest of our local Nasho (i.e. Royal National Park).
Of course from today this is now changed, and many of us are figuring out how to navigate the coming weeks with the government’s imposed changes. This will have some impact on birders and birding blogs. Thankfully this is a time of year when bird numbers and species are fewer in our area. It may mean for some, photographing the birds they can see from their homes, such as these Kookaburras who called on the TV areal next door for the first time ever, having been chased by a coalition of Noisy Miner. Notice the aggression, finally they both left. Now I know why we never see them here anymore.
Last week I mentioned how my wife and I noticed the spooky quietness of an usually noisy bird filled forest as we walked together in the Nasho. However, returning a week later we discovered why. It was not that the birds were not there, they were just not singing or calling to one another, they were quiet, which is customary during non-breeding season for many honeyeaters and whistlers to mention but two. We found small pockets of birds at a time where very few native plants were flowering or fruiting. I spotted this White-browed Treecreeper climbing and foraging in the bark for insects and grubs. It is usual to hear its loud call as it ascends the eucalypt tree, but no sound was heard. Notice his bark flicking technique as burrows for insects and grubs.
You can see why this bird is difficult to see, and usually only detected by its call, so I did well to find it. My wife took the still shots, as my lens is still coming, like a lot of other things including life as we have known it, put on hold at present.
Here is an example of what this bird would normally sound like.
Walking further my wife spotted a male Golden Whistler, who usually sings his heart out while courting and nesting during Spring and Summer, but is now quiet, shy and difficult to find. His female partner turned up also, but she is not as timid, and as per usual, came close, landed and looked at us out of one eye, and left. Here is the male.
Here is the female. Notice as with many birds the mature adult male has the bright coloration, which is the hallmark of the species and the female the more earthy brown, green or grey plumage which affords protection when nesting, giving camouflage protection from would be predators.
As we walked we did hear the call of the Lewin’s Honeyeater which we always hear here, but did not see it. I noticed this tiny yellow object sitting high in an Angophora tree, near a hole, which is a classic of this tree used by cockies, lorikeets for nesting and owls for living. Usually this resident Eastern Yellow Robin would greet us as we passed by and sometimes follow or lead us along the track, but not today.
These unique holes form when the branch dies inside and falls, as the tree repairs itself. This tree known as the Sydney Red Gum has a nickname to the early European settlers as The Widow Maker because when the branch fell, there was no warning of it breaking, it just silently fell out of the hole, killing anyone below.
As we looked through the trees another silent inhabitant, the Eastern Water Dragon, was sun bathing in the warm afternoon sun over the river which follows our track.
We were hoping the Rufous Fantail had returned for Autumn, but no sign as yet. This is the palm forest we usually find them flitting about in.
As we returned, we noticed a flock of Australian Wood Duck, usually seen grazing on grass seed beside the Hacking River. They are very tame and carry on eating while we stand right next to them. These birds pair for life, and have the father assists the mother duck throughout nesting and fledging.
Our last observation was this small family of Magpie, dad, mum and the juvenile. Interesting there is only one this season, as this couple usually have two or three young. A human family are having fun playing together nearby as they social distance themselves, while a Magpie family help themselves to picnic leftovers. Notice the aggressive behaviour of the father to junior.
Magpies in small family groups tend to be successful breeders, as they hold their territory and do not have the complex social structure of the magpie clans that also exist. This magpie family have held this choice area for some years, which is a credit to the male. The next territory is about 100 meters away. Because the pickings are so good here, everyone appears to tolerate each other well.
The juvenile is still learning the craft of Magpie wisdom and would be a product of the last Spring. Most of the young of our large black or pied omnivorous birds have brown plumage with dark eyes and beak. They will undergo changes for the next 2 to 3 years to full black and white adult.
Juvenile Aust. Eastern Magpie
On a different note:
Silvereye trapped in netting (photo by Tony D’Abrera)
You may remember I quoted from Psalm 91 a couple of weeks ago, which Moses is attributed to writing: “Surely He shall deliver you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence…” The Fowler trapped and caught wild birds as an occupation, to sell or eat for food. My brother-in-law Tony in Canberra, showed me this photo of him holding a little Silvereye, which he had found entangled in the netting (seen in background) to protect his fruit tree from birds and bats.
A bird in the hand. You would think this bird was his pet. The bird does not look distressed. This bird was set free from being trapped, which is the direct opposite to that of the action of the Fowler or enemy that seeks to destroy our lives. This is the beautiful illustration of how God saves us, out of the enemies snare, and holds our life in the palm of his hand. Many at this time, in our current circumstances, are turning to Psalm 91 as an appropriate prayer of faith. Another beautiful aspect this photo depicts is how God:
“For I am the Lordyour God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…” – Psalm 139: 5,6
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” – Psalm 139: 9,10
This pandemic is an opportunity for many to pray and seek God, who is Love, and has taken the initiative to breach the broken relationship we each have with him by sending his son Jesus to suffer on our behalf, so that we can become his friends again and establish a relationship of peace and trust that enables us to have the hope and assurance that he is with us through this pandemic storm, as Moses declared in Psalm 91 when he describes God to be like a large bird, protecting its chicks under its wings.
Interesting as it is, Jesus referred to the obstinate and rebellious Jews of his day, who trusted in their own selfishness pride rather than in God’s saving power, as chicks:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34
There are at present, at this unprecedented time, more podcasts and online presentations by churches and people of faith than ever before in internet history. As we are confined to our homes there is time for us to take a break from our busy lives, reflect, contemplate and explore the meaning of life. You may like to explore my Birder Sanctuary Portal through which one can discover how Jesus, also a birdwatcher, used birds to relate aspects of faith for living the best life possible.
Enjoy your week as best you can. Stay Safe and Stay Sane!
As we globally enter the season of social distancing and voluntary isolation, life as we have known it has changed. Thankfully, we do have our National Parks and Reserves to escape to, to bring healing and some normalization to our lives at this uncertain time in history. Though this also could change in the coming days. My wife and I continue to escape when we can to these havens. Last week we visited Dolls Point to see how our wader friends the Bar-tailed Godwit are doing, as they eat incessantly to fatten themselves for the journey north, which I thought they may have already flown. But with the warm weather remaining longer, they may leave in the next week or two.
As you can see they are at various stages of breeding plumage, with the male in this clan brightest orange and the females now showing a much fainter orange. There are also some not showing any breeding plumage which may be immature.
This Godwit below is possibly a female, showing the lighter breeding plumage. The females are also slightly larger and have slightly longer beaks.
A small company of Light-blue Soldier Crabs marched across the mudflats.
As we watched the Godwits to our surprise my wife noticed this small bright green object, which stood out like a sore thumb on the sand. We knew it was a native bird of our country, and suspected it to be an escaped pet as Green Parakeets are American birds. It appeared quite tame and came right up to us, but was not in any distress, but just rested on the sand with other birds nearby.
One think I have learnt as a birder over the years is that birds of the Parrot family as pretty and innocent as they look, are not to be reckoned with lightly by other bird species. They have one of the most painful bites. Even the Noisy Miner gives respect to the Rainbow Lorikeet here in Sydney. Watch how this much larger Silver Gull responds when he approaches this lovely little Parakeet.
Well if you think that this was an unexpected find, so was the much larger bird resting on the shoreline which caught our attention. Yes, it was a Kelp Gull, a bird we seldom see here on our beaches. The lipstick bottom beak identifies and differentiates it from the total lipstick beak of the almost identical Pacific Gull found in southern Australia.
On Sunday afternoon we walked in our local Royal National Park (or Nasho to the locals) , and found not only sparsity of people but also of birds. It was so quiet, as I kept saying to my wife, “It is so quiet! Autumn is usually quiet, but this is too quiet!” As we walked the streams, creeks and waterfalls were all flowing, which was a wonderful sound we have not experienced for a long time. As searched for the Azure Kingfisher beside the river we were greeted by a family of Pacific Black Duck, which are actually brown, not black as named. Yes, these are my wife’s pics, as I continue to wait from my lens repair.
Pacific Black Duck
Pacific Black Duck
This Dusky Moorhen stood by the water flicking its tail, a feature of some waterbirds, including the Australasian Swamphen. There are several ideas as to why they flick their tail of which I find too diverse to settle on one. We do know it communicates to other birds of the species, some say it may mean a warning or even intention to mate among other suggested reasons… mmm!
Soon after a young pair of Australian Wood Duck were strolling by the river eating grass seed, as this is what many grazing ducks and other passerines are eating at the end of Summer as the seasons change. Also, on this occasion the Kingfisher eluded us and flew some distance down the river.
As we walked quietly along the trail we were surprised there were no scratchings of the Lyrebird, nor any sounds of them. Since the months of smoke from bushfires I have not seen or heard them. It is disconcerting, as at this time of year the male will be preparing his mound and beginning to display for the females and mate, as Lyrebirds nest during the winter, unlike most birds. Suddenly, we heard a chattering nearby. It was a single Red-browed Finch, a fast moving little a seed eater.
I had to slow down this video clip so you could see him.
At this time of year there are the least number of nectar producing wildflowers, which means less birds, as most honeyeaters follow the blossom. Even the Banksia were all finished, and as Mountain Devil is not usually seen in the park, the Bush Fuchsiar flower was present in small numbers, which provided food for the non migratory Noisy Miner, which many find hard to believe it is actually a honeyeater, so here is the proof.
The tingling of the Eastern Crimson Rosella also caught our ear as it proceeded to feed from native berries above our head. On seeing us of course it tried to make itself unseen.
Another unexpected surprise for this time of year was to see a juvenile Black-faced Monarch. These birds usually migrate north to New Guinea and Northern Queensland during our winter months, so this one, born here in the park has not yet left. So we knew the parent was nearby. We saw the parent but it eluded any decent photo. The immature Monarch has much less black on its face. As it matures so the black increases. I slowed down the video so you could see its face before it flew. They are very shy birds, and don’t like their photo taken.
Here you can compare the juvenile and immature with the adult bird. There bright orange underbelly makes them easy to spot. These birds have a beautiful song which often makes them easy to find, but they were not chiming on this occasion.
Black-faced Monarch juvenile
Black-faced Monarch immature
Black-faced Monarch adult
Last of all as we turned to return to our car, my wife saw this Red-bellied Black Snake slithering away beside us on the trail. These are venomous but usually a shy snake,and and seldom cause any problem. They are the most common snake seen in the Sydney area. Unlike other more aggressive venomous snakes, Red-bellies do not need to hibernate through the Winter months. Often to the surprise of many international visitors to the Nasho they can be seen basking in the warm winter sun on the trial. If you approach stamping your feet, usually they will slither into the grass, as they have very poor eyesight and like most snakes have sensory devices on their body to detect ground vibrations. If they stand erect and challenge you, it is usually because they have young with them or you are standing between them and their nest, so just leave.
To top off the walk and having asked God to show us something special in the quiet forest, my wife potted a large entwined object hanging far out over the river, from a dead tree. It was a large Diamond Python, a beautiful harmless snake which many Aussies have as a pet. They are excellent mousers and ratters, far more effective than cats. Though my son’s little Toy Foxy dog was also better than cats as a mouser. It just slept in the afternoon sun, away from any contact. It must have heard the Prime Minister’s speech about practicing social distancing.
One of the important lessons from this virus plague is that it stops us in our busy tracks to consider how we are doing life, and how we might do things better. As from our two outings above, things were different, some were unexpected intrusions or inclusions. How we view change affects our emotional and physical well being considerably. The uncertainty of the untraveled path we are all travelling causes some anxiety for many, but one thing which I have come to know and believe over the years is that there is a Treasure in every Trial to be gleaned out. So I often say to those who ask for help: Don’t Miss the Treasure in the Trial. God may speak to us through our times of suffering and difficulty, and sometimes it is just a nudge to tell us he is there for us so just trust him and lean on him to take you through it. Unexpected change can bring good things into our lives also, we need to be looking for them with an attitude of gratitude as we all take notes in the Master Life Instructor’s school room of life.
Enjoy the rest of your week and stay safe as best you can.
The Red, Little & Yellow Wattlebirds, our largest Honeyeaters
While I continue to wait for parts for my lens to come from abroad, and as the weather begins to cool down, and transition into our most bird less time of yea, my wife and I walked through our favorite reserve in the eerie quietness of what appeared to be a birdless forest. Then unexpectedly came the harsh grating throaty cough-like call of the Red Wattlebird. Ahh! there is a bird here and it is very obvious who it is!
So I decided to showcase this uniquely Aussie bird family, the Wattlebirds of which there are three distinct kinds. However there is a subspecies of the Little Wattlebird, now known as the Western Wattlebird found only in south west WA. These birds make up the largest of our honeyeaters and similar to the Noisy Miner featured last week can be at times just as aggressive. In the photo above sitting side by side you will notice the wattle which is the pendulous appendage hanging from the neck on either side. The Little Wattlebird (also known as the Brush Wattlebird) has such a small wattle that is is not visible, maybe it should be the Invisible Wattlebird. So let’s start:
The Red Wattlebird
This is the most widely spread of the three and most commonly found in the southern most coastal parts of the southern states, except Tasmania.Where there is open dry woodland and forest with flowering trees and shrubs. They have the perfect curved beak for probing flowers for nectar. They also eat insects and berries.
They are very aggressive to other birds when caring for their young. As you can see below the juvenile lacks the red wattle and the red eye, which come with maturity. The Red Wattlebird below is of the south western WA race, photographed by the Swan River in Perth, race woodwardi which has a broader rounder wattle to our local race curunculata.
Hungry baby begging
Baby being fed
The Red Wattlebird will not be harassed, but will defend its territory and food sources against other birds, considering it is the larger honeyeater, and it packs a painful bite to the tail of other birds. It also has technique of diving at very fast speed, toward other birds to chase them off. Being a territorial honeyeater similar in operation to the Noisy Miner they often have brawls with other honeyeaters. The red wattle never grows longer than a 2 to 3 centimeters.
The Yellow Wattlebird
This is Australia’s largest honeyeater and is endemic only to Tasmania. This bird develops quite pendulous wattles and is happier as a flock bird. It likewise feeds on native blossom from eucalypt trees and insects it finds around the flowers. Notice this younger bird with its developing wattle, swallowing a worm.
Now compare this much older bird, and see how those wattles hang.
The Little Wattlebird
The Little or Brush Wattlebird is found mainly on the coast east of the ranges in south east QUE, along the coasts of NSW and Victoria, south coast of SA and parts of eastern Tasmania. The Western race (or Western Wattlebird) is found only in the south west tip of WA. The feature watching this bird is how it hangs its tongue. Australian Honeyeaters have brush-like tips to their long tongues which they can extend quickly from an almost closed beak. The brush-like tip soaks up nectar using capillary attraction and is drawn up into the mouth. They can rapidly move the tongue in and out of their beak, with it only open a very little. Hence the name Brush. However, of the honeyeaters the Little (or Brush) appears to show its extended brush-tipped tongue more often. Watch this video and see.
Note tongue hanging out. This is a feature of honeyeaters when they are busily feeding. They leave the tongue out ready for the next flower.
One of the distinguishing and beautiful features of this bird is its unique chest plumage, which I think looks like a hair brush, but that is not where the brush name came from, it is the brush tipped tongue.
The juvenile lacks this frontal plumage, which develops with maturity, as it looses its orange head plumage.
Juvenile Little Honeyeater.
Little Wattlebirds have an interesting landing posture at times, showing a curved back.
The call of the Little Wattlebird is quite distinguishable to the Red.
I love these captures of a pair of Little Wattlebirds .
To conclude look at this very special photo, can you detect what is special about it…
Yes, a Red Wattlebird is actually sharing the same Bottlebrush flower head as a Little Wattlebird. They are just drawing from opposing sides. Sharing like this is very rare among these birds. Even more interesting is what eventually followed in this next photo, when the Little guy moved the flower with its leg.
The more aggressive and larger Red left the Little to the flower. It makes one wonder whether each realised the other was there, as they were so engrossed in extracting nectar. We normally appreciate sharing is a caring and loving attribute, however with this recent world spreading killer virus COVID-19, even shaking hands and standing in the same room with someone can be a risk, let alone sharing flower nectar. Hand sanitizer and masks are out of stock everywhere, and many are panic buying food in case they have to isolate themselves from the community for either reason. Fear hyped by media dramatizations has gripped many. But in the midst or eye of the storm their is peace for those who want it. A shepherd boy David once wrote, referring to his love for and unflinching trust in his God which brought him peace in many difficult and life threatening situations he experienced throughout his life:
“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 23:4
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not explore my birding website via the HomePage which has had a recent face lift with some additional pages and changes in preparation for the next book release. Learn about the value of installing a Birdbath.
A new Young Birders Page will be available soon targetting 8 to 12 year olds and will have a special place where they can learn about our birds. If you would like to preview it you may, and if you know children who might be interested tell them. This will be geared toward my schools presentations and book sales.
Birding for Beginners is now a more complete compilation of my birding hints and instruction, in one place. It might be worth an explore if you have not explored before.
This is now the second week that my camera and lens has been at the hospital having surgery and joint replacement, so this blog post will be quite different from the usual having all but the above picture photographed from my mobile phone (iphone 5s) whilst walking with my wife yesterday at Carss Bush Park near where we live. It was late afternoon, and the flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo were returning to the park, with loud raucous calls, as they do, to roost in the tall eucalypt trees for the night. At first we saw a small flock of Cockies grazing quite peacefully on the lawn by the path, and a huddle of Noisy Miner nearby, which seemed to be in planning mode.
Several of the Cockatoo flock, were standing a little away from the others, acquired our curiosity, as their behaviour seemed somewhat unusual.
It appeared that the main leader of the flock was having a conference with his peers, and Special Agent Noisy Miner was listening in to gain intelligence for his coalition assembled nearby. What could they possibly be discussing with such serious concern?
Nearby two members of the flock were having a stand off which may have precipitated from a disagreement concerning opinions as to how to address their concerns. Note the Noisy Miner again trying to be covert in the background.
A brief scuttle broke out between a pair of teenagers who wanted to assert their authority and deal with the problem their own way.
A Cocky expert was flown in to give advice on this unusual occurrence that had befallen the flock.
They formed a huddle around him as he shared his wisdom and then out of the corner of her binoculars my wife sighted the reason for the unusual concern, as you can see from the above photograph(top right). A lone Long-billed Corella had joined their flock, and has caused concern, as it looks and behaves quite different to them and has yet not learnt their language. Notice there are now two Miner agents listening in, as interest mounts.
It soon became clear of the centre of interest as the Cockies gathered in a circle around the Corella, watching it with concern and curiosity. They were thinking: ‘It looks like us but is different, and Oh, that bill is so long and dangerous, I would not want to have that in my back’. The Corella showed some concern but continued graizing. Corella, like most birds of the Parrot family pair for life but when they loose their partner through death or separation from a flock they often find safety by joining another flock. However, these Cockatoos are quite familiar with the Little Corella which is often found grazing with them in the Sydney area, but not this Long-billed species. Note the key differences, the longer bill and the pink under chin of the Long-billed species.
A LIttle Corella pair
A Long-billed Corella pair
The Corella is actually a small Cockatoo and therefore would find some companionship with them. This is the reason most birds from the Parrot family in Australia can be taught to talk, as this ability to copy and pick up language is a survival technique for birds such as these, on joining a different flock, where they find safety in the flock. This is especially important as many of our parrot species inhabit dry desert places, where finding water and food often requires a group effort. Finches are likewise arid dwellers who do the same.
The flock were unperturbed by my slow approach to get a closer look. My wife stood back as passersby were amazed at how close these birds allowed me to come to them without stirring. The lonely little Long-bill looked at me, also curious, as the Cockies kept a distance from it.
Bare in mind that most birds no matter how aggressive, including Noisy Miners do not usually attack birds of the Parrot family due the wound they can inflict with their heavy sharp beak, so they like Rainbow Lorikeets (featured last week) have few predators and feed alongside the Noisy Miner. They are also aware that these birds are not carnivorous. Oh! Look! the Secret Agents have reported back to the Noisy Miner coalition (this is the name for highly organised Miner squadron which protect the perimeter of their flock territory). Now the coalition has taken interest in the new visitor, carefully advancing and observing intently, till they are satisfied it offered no threat.
The conclusion appeared to be now settled as the alpha Cocky approached the foreigner and greeted it, welcoming it to the flock. He was accepted as one of them, as he chose to join them and trust them. therefore posing no threat. He now would become a special point of interest, whereby they may learn from this bird new lessons that may be helpful for the flock. Now everyone could take it easy and get on with a peaceful life together.
We can learn so much about life from this little flock as we live in our multicultural world and are confronted with people living and moving about us from many different countries and cultures other than our own. When alone in a foreign land among foreign people, of a different language and culture it can be very scary at first, as it is for the many single young adults who come to Australia to find work. They would feel like our Long-billed Corella, somewhat out of place. Looking for that smile and warm acceptance and respect we all crave for more than anything else throughout our lives. Each one of our human kind, are loved and valued by our Creator. Each one of us requires acceptance, unconditional love, and respect to live a healthy life, regardless of our differences. As the alpha Cockie realised, the multicultural aspect brings with it new knowledge, new foods and new friends. Our Creator Father reminded Israel many times, who were often very prejudiced against non-Jews, calling them Gentile dogs, the reason they need to consider how they treat foreigners in their land, for they had previously experienced it themselves:
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Exodus 23:9 (NIV)
It is an interesting read in Luke 4:24-30 to see the anger that arose among the Jewish leaders when Jesus the Christ made reference to several occasions in their history where God had blessed foreigners and included them as key players in his plans rather than Jews, so much so that they tried to kill him. Jesus identified the fact that God loves us all and blesses all who come to him.
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Also after Jesus healed TEN men (see Luke 17) from the terrible infectious disease Leprosy when they approached him for healing (which was both illegal and punishable to do at that time, as they were always to stay outside the city), after healing them, this was his comment to the Jewish leaders watching him when ONLY ONE returned to thank him:
“Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:18
Have a wonderful week! It is so good to get cooler days and rain again! We give thanks to our Most Gracious Creator for his mercy at this time, for answered prayers. Several major fires have finally been extinguished. There is much cleaning up to be done, and much of our wildlife that have escaped the fires are being supported with human assistance for survival as they face starvation due to lost habitat and their injuries are being nursed. We give thanks for caring people involved in their many different capacities.
My 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us” is at the test print stage after final draft was approved yesterday. Check it out here.
If this is your first visit check out therest of my website at my HomePage menu for birding info and lessons we can learn from our beautiful Australian birds
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear (a survivor)
We rejoice and give thanks for the recent rain and cooler days we just had, though some areas experienced powerful lightning bolts (which destroyed our NBN router), powerful winds bringing down trees and destroying houses and cars. Our national capital Canberra had a massive hail storm being pelted with golf ball sized hail which destroyed or damaged many cars and houses, taking out many windscreens. Other areas were flooded causing damage and accidents, while in other areas the fires continue their uncontrollable destructive course. Ah well! at least we got rain, as sadly many drought ridden areas got none or very little. This created another serious problem massive 300 km wide dust storms, lifting our choice dry top soil into massive clouds and creating an eerie night for many towns in the middle of the day. Here is a photo of Australian top soil staining the ice, having been blown over 2,000 km (1,200 miles) across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand in 2006 and was deposited on the Fox Glacier on the South Island. On top of all this our holiday season tourist trade has suffered a great loss, as have many businesses burnt down, cattle, orchards and farms wiped out all due to fire devastation, and its not over yet.
Australian soil on the ice of the Fox Glacier
Now to a brighter note, where we live in Sydney, the last week we have had cooler weather, the smoke has cleared and much appreciated heavy rain for a couple of days making the grass green again. While many parts of our burnt nation grieve their losses, we also grieve the many wildlife and forest losses, and the possibility that many birds and some animals may either now be extinct or on the brink of extinction.
Regent Honeyeater critically endangered species
Many of our rarer bird species are found in sometimes in very small pockets of forest making their existence very vulnerable to destructive fires. The truth will be revealed later in the year. For now the urgent cry to governments is to get active to exterminate the ferule foxes and cats which are killing the surviving suffering wildlife. Koalas have been declared, in many parts of our state as functionally extinct. Meaning that due to the extreme and total loss of habitat (eucalypt tree leaves their only food) in large areas, the surviving rescued animals cannot be placed back there, but have to be relocated to the remaining unburnt forests that have the tree leaves they require. The poor creatures do not know what to do or where to go without our help, as you can see below…
As the summer school holidays continue, we had the privilege of having our grandson Jesse stay a few days. With binoculars, camera and hat we made our way into the Royal National Park, which thankfully is one of the unburnt areas of our state. On arrival at the gift shop and cafe Jesse noticed an important item and drew my attention to it.
At first we decided to walk along the river in search of the Azure Kingfisher which we always love to show our grandies, and lo and behold he was just where we looked, fishing for his next meal, so we watched while I captured the sequence below. This is a small brightly colored and very human shy bird found mainly along freshwater rivers and lakes. It is stunning when flying in bright sunlight.
Azure Kingfisher looks over the river
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear
Sees fish and takes a dive
down beneath the surface it captures fish
emerges with fish in beak
flies back to tree
rests with fish in beak
quickly consumes fish and sits waiting again
What a treat for Jesse! On our walk along the forest road we noticed how dry everything was, and how we hardly heard or saw a bird, which is unusual for this time of year when the forest is usually full of song especially from the Golden Whistler which was no where to be found. I mentioned that we would usually see the Eastern Yellow Robin about here, and lo and behold there it appeared, a young one.
We saw a juvenile Grey Fantail also. I mentioned to Jesse that both these birds have a habit of following you along the track being very curious, but also hoping we will cause food to appear by our movement along the track.
We were hoping to see and hear a Superb Lyrebird as that would have been a real treat for him but there were no sounds or even signs that they had recently been on the track. Possibly like many of our birds they had fled due to the thick smoke of previous months or the dryness of the drought. As the rainforest floor dries out (something never heard of previously) their food source diminishes causing the, the Bazzian Thrush and the Logrunner to go deeper into the moister forest floor for food. However, as we rested we sighted this most unusual looking bird the Top-notched Pigeon. Take a look at its appearance, its hairdo and makeup. We thought there were only two, but when it flew off another twenty followed. These are native fruit eaters, and may be finding it difficult to find food as many trees are stressed and not flowering or producing this year.
Of course there is always a Superb Fairy-wren on our visit to the Nasho, and it always heard right next to where we park the car, almost on every occasion. He draws us away from his family, with his bright breeding plumage.
We discovered this Eastern Water Dragon female resting on a log. It was not at all concerned by our presence or passers by. The males have a bright red/orange chest which intensifies during breeding season.
One feature which reappeared during Jesse’s stay was that of our Australian Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie, which I continually gave him instruction and quizzes on during his stay. Here are some interesting photos we took of a juvenile Magpie morphing its plumage to an immature. Notice how one side of the bird is changing at a time (last photo). Important changes to look for in identifying juvenile birds is dark eye and beak color, often fluffy marbled bellies and brown or tawny plumage.
Juvenile Aust. Magpie tuning in his senses
Immature Aust. Magpie with morphing plumage
Immature Aust. Magpie from one side
Juvenile Magpie molting to Immature
While Jesse was watching a pair of our resident male Australian Magpies (note: alpha male on right and almost mature male on left). This series was shot by Jesse with his camera, as the Magpies, quite conscious of our interest, continued to perform their ablutions unafraid. This highlights the fact that these Maggies know and trust me as their friend, though he did keep an eye out occasionally.
Meanwhile, Jesse just kept clicking away as the alpha male took his bath and then preened himself before leaving. Those studying this bird, like myself, may have interest in some of these images. The male on the smaller bath just sat and observed the whole time and was not sure if it would indulge itself.
Let us now trace the washing preening sequence Jesse managed to capture. We believe the reason these birds came, being as intelligent as they are, they knew that this water was frsh rain water that had fallen yesterday and not the less desirable town water which has been chemicalized. I know the difference because when I lived on a property some 20 years ago we had only rain water for drinking and washing, and the difference is amazing,
He starts by just standing for a short while in the large bath, which he knows is his.
He then proceeds to wash his beak thoroughly. Remember that Magpies do not hunt their food in trees, they are ground feeders and are constantly thrusting their very sharp steel like beak into the hard earth to find food, so it gets quite dirty. Meanwhile the lesser male continues to stare into the water.
He then follows by fully amercing his front and sides, constantly shaking off water to ensure thorough cleaning in under feathers as well as remove pests and loose feathers etc…
He then lifts his upper wing plumes to wash his back and secondaries…
This takes a little time as he ensures he is fully wet.
He then leaves the water to rub his beak clean on the back of our metal courtyard chairs…
He now looks quite beraggled and disheveled and prepares for the next stage…
The washed male now pokes his beak into his preening gland at the base of his tail where he draws an oily waxy substance.
He now proceeds to run his tail feathers through his beak coating them with the substance, which he does to condition his plumes, waterproofing them and helping strengthen them from becoming brittle.
This process takes a few minutes, where on this occasion he concentrates on his long tail plumes.
Having finished some preening he is ready to leave. But take a look at the complex and neatly packed and folded wing and tail arrangement. Only intelligent design could have created such a marvelous flight machine. He flew into the Frangipani Tree giving me his thank you look indicating that he will be back same time tomorrow for more to be sure, and with his understudy in toe leaves.
Then the Noisy Miner comes for its turn, but only after our neighborhood’s most powerful and dominant bird has left. It is amusing to watch how all the other birds scatter when the alpha male flies in. The Miner checks that it is safe before getting wet.
Here is some live footage Jesse captured. Oh, I forgot, the understudy finally took the plunge just before he left. I think he may have waited as a sign of respect, or possibly still learning how to bathe the Magpie way as all their behaviour is learnt over a 3 to 4 year period.
The Second Edition of Book 1 is with the publisher and almost ready to check its first draft. The following link will take you to a page which I will update as we move closer to launch date. Click here to view information about both the Second Edition of Book 1 and also Book 2.
It was interesting that just before the alpha male got quite wet, the lesser male started communicating to another Magpie in the distance, to which the alpha male joined in briefly. Magpie communication is one of the most complex of any language or call, and some scientists have devoted their life work to studying it. These birds during their warble are able to move between two octaves in a millisecond.
Magpies are known to warble for sometimes over an hour to one another from a distance, in this case the distant call was was inaudible to us humans. Magpie and most all bird hearing is so much more acute than ours, which is why they may fly off at the slightest sound. These birds can be taught to talk human words and phrases, as many of our birds can mimic. It is interesting also that the Magpie made a choice to place communicating above his bathing ritual, which was a most enjoyable experience in fresh rain water. It can not be stressed enough that the priority of good communication is the most important principle to any relationship following that of trust. Like the Magpie we must first prime our ears to silently listen carefully before replying. We need to make sure we understand what is being said, and if we do not ask for explanation. Most relationship breakdowns are over poor communication skills being employed. The most successful and proven way of listening well with empathy and to gain understanding, used by counselors, is Active or Reflective Listening.
Magpies wait for the other communicating Magpie to finish when communicating to another, they do not interrupt but wait their turn (of course when they call together in the morning chorus this is not the case). This is a skill not easily becoming to us men as we tend to want to fix everything with our answer. It is a lesson constantly being learnt by myself and my male friends.
‘Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey.
‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is to listen to what others have to say.’ – Bryant H McGill
‘We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.’ – Epictetus
‘Everyone should be quicktolisten, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ – James 1:19