These beautiful warm winter days, with clear blue skies, have been excellent for birding in the Sydney area, so off I went to my favorite walk in the Royal National Park which is only a 20 minute drive for me. The National Parks shop at Audley is another place where you can purchase my book. Because the birds have been low in number, I decided to quietly stalk the river bank in search of the Sacred and Azure Kingfisher. This is easy to do when you are alone. Click on photos to enlarge them.
To my great delight a beautiful Azure Kingfisher flew from across the river directly into a tree I was standing behind. These birds are very human shy, and this was the first time I had ever been this close to one. It was surprised to find me standing so close, so it flew into an even better sunlit position. It was so beautiful, with the sun enhancing it’s iridescence. This bird is found from top to bottom of eastern Australia, including the west coast of Tasmania. The more rufous bellied race are found at the top end of the mainland in far north Queensland and NT. They mainly stay by fresh water creeks and rivers hunting yabbies and very small fish. They are a beautiful flash of orange and blue when they fly past. They are very fast fliers.
The Azure Kingfisher did not like my attention so it flew across the river and rested on a rock. Finally, it dived into the river, beneath the water, caught a small fish and emerged all in a matter of a few seconds, and then landed back on the rock where it sat with fish in mouth for several minutes without moving. Kingfishers have binocular vision like eagles, and also have eyesight that corrects for light refraction in the water, allowing them to accurately target their prey. They do not have good eye movement within the socket and need to move their head more. Please forgive the poor images as the poor lighting and distance over river impair the image quality.
Cockatoo squadron meeting. with guards standing watch.
I was just starting my bush walk away from the river, and my attention was drawn to the raucous racket of over thirty Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. These birds are always noisy, all day long. But my attention was then drawn to this war room meeting of the flight commanders. They even had guards standing watch on each corner of the meeting room. I think I managed to work out what they were saying.
Soon after this there was more screeching and off most of them flew in a swarm of flapping wings. I don’t think their plan impressed the park rangers at the visitor centre enough to bring about what ever changes they mat have been considering.
As I walked I noticed the bush to relatively quite, the Golden Whistlers and many other birds go quiet during winter, and start calling again in Spring when they are courting and breeding. The birds are still there but you won’t see them as much because they are quietly moving around the tree canopy. The only honeyeaters I saw were the New Holland and the Yellow-faced, with an occasional glance at the Eastern Spinebill, which I have previously captured feeding from the native Banksia ericifolia flower heads.
I could hear the call of the Lewins Honeyeater but did not see it. This is winter birding at its best. The beautiful winter flowers bloomed along with early wattle.
This beautiful eclypsing Variegated Fairy-wren caught my attention and was a delightful addition to a seemingly birdless walk. Again I heard the Lyrebird calling in the valley, and saw its scratchings, where it had passed recently, but did not see it on this occasion.
Tawny Frogmouth (female)
Tawny Frogmouth (female)
Tawny Frogmouth (female)
Tawny Frogmouth (male)
Tawny Frogmouth (male)
So I left after a good long walk, refreshed and thankful for the beautiful gift of the Azure Kingfisher. Afterwards, I drove to Oatley Park Reserve to check on the Tawny Frogmouth pair that I posted recently, and on this occasion the female looked right at me for some time, and the light was not too bad, as you can see above. Females of the east coast race strigoides differ from male having rufous shoulders and malar markings. They can be quite rufous coloured at times, as . Then later went back to sleep. The male remained sleeping the whole time, mimicking a tree branch, as they do so well. He has no rufous but long dark streaking on neck and chest also being paler grey than female.Notice one of the frames above, how difficult it can be to spot them in the dark canopy of a eucalypt tree, which their plumage resembles so remarkably. It can be also difficult to determine the sex of these without good lighting, which leaves me with the thought of how important light is to revealing the truth and true nature of a creature or object. The Bible declares that “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – John 3:20,21
If we live in the light of God’s wisdom and Word we have nothing to fear or be embarrassed about both now and on the last day. Jesus is the Light of the World and came to earth to bring us back into the light of God’s truth to embrace Him as our true loving Heavenly Father.
Jesus spoke saying: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” – John 8:12
Check out the rest of my website and also my entries for the Art Exhibition Show next month at the Oatley West Public School Community Festival 25th – 27th August. This is a major event in our area each year, and I am thankful that I can display some of my photography of Oatley Park birds and reptiles as well as sell my book. Don’t forget my book “What Birds Teach Us” can be bought here online at the best price, which may soon rise in price due to its popularity. Have a great week birding!
If you know of a private book shop or book seller who would stock my book, please get them to email me from my Birdbook page.
The warmth of the winter sun is so welcome, and the brisk freshness of the mountain air, beneath a deep blue cloudless sky make winter birding a pure delight. We begin our afternoon walk in the Royal National Park as Rainbow Lorikeets prepare to nest during the winter months in preparation for spring fledging. They now claim their tree holes in preparation, though some are already underway.
Sulfur Crested Cockatoo make a raucous commotion as the small flock are sent into alarm due to a passing raptor. Notice how their sulphur crests (cones) flare up when they are alarmed, this is meant to deter their aggressors. They will soon be pairing to nest also. Click on photos to enlarge them.
We brought a friend along for the walk and she was quite confident that it was fine to walk into the tall grass because it was winter and the snakes were already in hibernation. However, she was surprised when I told her that the Red-bellied Black Snake, a common venomous reptile, did not necessarily do so. She seemed quite brave till she jumped with fright as she saw right next to her a large Red-bellied Black Snake basking in the winter sun beside the track. After a photo shoot we continued on, as they were getting concerned that the snake was taking interest in them. This snake, though venomous is not usually aggressive, unlike the Brown and Tiger Snakes. The second photo show some of the underlying red belly.
Red-bellied Black Snake
Red-bellied Black Snake, showing red belly
As I have mentioned previously, winter birding can be disappointing due to inclement conditions and simply fewer birds, due regional and international migration. One of the gifts we were granted on this occasion was this beautiful male Rose Robin. We could not find a female in the vicinity, but he was simply a winter delight, as these birds and others move north to escape the cold winter of Victoria, which is why we do not always see them. I sometimes call winter Robin Time.
Of course our Eastern Yellow Robin stays with us throughout the year, and is often the only Robin we will see, as it is a curious bird, and will often come quite close to check you out, as this one did.
We did not see any Lyrebirds on this occasion as many people were noisily walking and bike riding along the track, but we could hear them calling in the valley. I almost ran into an Eastern Whipbird as it was about to come out onto the track, the bird and I both got a surprise.
This Brown Gerygone was a gift winter bird we do not always get to photograph as it stays hidden among the lower brush, and is another immigrant spending winter with us. This a small insectivorous bird similar to a Thornbill.
One bird we saw many of during our walk was the beautiful Eastern Spinebill. This honeyeater was everywhere extracting nectar from the Bottlebrush and Banksia flowers in the bush by the track. These flower heads along with Mountain Devil, are the sustaining source of nectar during the winter months till spring flowers start to arrive in August.
The Scarlet Honeyeater was also present high in the eucalypt canopy, but eluded me of photographic evidence, and it was joined by the Yellow-faced Honeyeater in great number also at this time.
The Australian King Parrot sat quietly in a tree and went unnoticed till I heard the male call. It is not often that I get to capture the elusive and shy female, who often flies off immediately she is spotted. The male has the bright red head and chest. The female flight shot was another gift. It is the time of year when the red birds increase and stand out against the green backdrop.
Male King Parrot
Female King Parrot
Male King Parrot
Female King Parrot
Male King Parrot
Female King Parrot in flight
The chattering staccato call of the Lewins Honeyeater is heard continuously as we walk. They are also in large numbers at this time, though rather than feeding on nectar, they feed on the ripe figs at Fig Flat off the great fig tree at the beginning of our walk. Here are some shots of one eating this ripe fig piece by piece. Australia has over 100 varieties of native fig which provide food for many of our native birds. These figs ripen at various times throughout the year providing a constant food source. Most of our rainforest pigeons, bowerbirds, parrots and catbirds as well as honeyeaters enjoy a ripe fig when they are available.
Some of the flowers we saw apart from the early wattle were the Spider Grevillea and the huge stems of the Gymea Lilly about to open.
In the opening of the rainforest this interesting pandanus like fan palm makes a beautiful sight.
We returned from our walk and sat by the river as the sun slipped behind the mountain, and the cold air drifted into the valley. We watched this pair of Australasian Grebe reflect off the still water. After our prayer and thanksgiving time together we were granted a reappearance of the Rose Robin, but he left before I could retrieve my camera, besides the light was fading quickly.
The faithful Laughing Kookaburra are always present in the same areas of the park, just watching all the human activity and waiting for a food opportunities. As the sun slipped behind the mountain we made our way home.
My thought for the week comes from this faithful pair of Tawny Frogmouth that spend each day sleeping in the same eucalypt tree, returning from their night food hunt. They sit snuggled together in a tree fork.
Tawny Frogmouth sleeping
However, on one occasion the male noticed my presence and started to take on a form of camouflage and quite instinctively made himself look like a part of the tree by raising his head. It is interesting that he thought he might disappear from my sight while he took on this camouflage, but he was still visible, while I watched, having already spotted him.
Had I not already known where to find this bird I probably would not have noticed it. In fact I have previously walked past this tree many times before and never noticed it. It was a friend who told me the exact location. This reminds me how important it is to be wise to and aware of the tricks of the devil (our enemy) in our lives. If we walk around unaware and not alert, we can be taken by surprise and find ourselves regretting bad decisions and bad attitudes and bad behaviour. We need to take Solomon’s wise words to heart: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” – Ephesians 6:10
Have a wonderful week and enjoy the birds. Check out my website and book.
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One of our favorite birding walks is in the Royal National Park on Lady Carrington Drive. We always get a nice surprise, and with this perfectly beautiful pre winter weather, it is pure delight. Interestingly enough, the birds were rather quiet, though moving through the tree tops. Many of the song birds are most vocal in Spring when breeding, and can become quieter during winter months. Many over hanging trees shade most of the walk, which basically travels through the centre of the park. If you want to see a Superb Lyrebird, your chances are fairly good on this walk.
The Royal is the second National Park in the world, it was called National Park but later called the Royal because the queen came past in a train carriage in 1954. It is only 20 minutes from home, and has a lovely cafe and shop (which sells my book). On most walks the first bird I hear is the Golden Whistler, though on this day he and his partner were rather quiet. The males are often pictured looking up into the canopy. Here is another example of a small bird leaping before opening its wings.
A surprise find on the day was a small flock of Noisy Friarbirds. They sound similar to a red wattlebird, but I noticed the difference and started filming.
The Red Wattlebird was also around sporting his beautiful red wattle in the bright autumn sunlight.
Bush Fuchsia is still out in flower as many of the wildflowers have finished, various types of Banksia are still in flower.
These provide nectar for the honeyeaters, especially the Eastern Spinebill which is commonly seen along the track inserting its ling curved beak deep into flowers.
Another honeyeater found here this time of year is the Yellow-faced Honeyeater.
The elusive Scarlet Honeyeater moves high up among the canopy, and is always difficult to photograph. I never seem to see the female much at all. He is easy to spot, with his bright red head, and is quite stunning in the sunlight, even high up in the eucalypt canopy.
The Lewins Honeyeater is also common this time of year here, and is marked by its loud chattery call which you can hear in the background of the movie clip of the Striated Thornbill I posted last week. As you can see Australia is the land of the honeaters, and we have sooo many different varieties.
Of course there is always an Eastern Yellow Robin, the classic rainforest bird following you along the track quite curiously, somewhere.
We always hear and sometimes see the Eastern Whipbird in one particular place along the track. Similar to the robin these birds are territorial and can be found in the same local area all year round. The male whip call signals to the female but also warns other Whipbirds to keep in their territory. If I use the Whipbird sound in the bush it will drive them away, rather than attract the bird.We were blessed to see an adult and a juvenile on this occasion. Notice the juvenile has less white under chin. The male usually rises a foot or two up out of the foliage to make his call.
One of the greatest blessings when walking this track, as I mentioned earlier, is to see and hear the Superb Lyrebird, and that we did, a couple of times. This male saw me coming on the track and made his getaway. The males tend to be more shy than the females. Notice the beautiful elaborate tail feathers used to court the female with the mating dance. One of the most exciting experiences as a birder is to see the male perform the mating dance, and to hear it mimic the calls of many birds.
The noisy chatter of the Yellow-throated Scrubwren can not go unnoticed, as he tells me in no uncertain words to leave the area, possibly because of a nest nearby. I had to correct my identification of this bird as I had it wrongly labelled a White-browed, though he does have a white brow, he also has a yellow-throat and not the white throat that goes with the white-browed Scrubwren. Thanks Malt from the Gap Year and Beyond blog for informing me of my error, as I do not normally see this bird this far south.
One tree that always draws my attention on this walk is this Angothora, growing out over this sandstone rock. It reminds me of life, how we start so keen to move forward and get ahead, shooting upwards. We have times however, in our life, when due to poor choices or difficult circumstances, we may move horizontally away from our goals. After a time we realize our shortcoming and come back online to move forward again. Similar to the tree below, we are not necessarily moving forward from the same place we left off, but have grown in wisdom and life experience from our detour, which has shaped our life differently to what would have been expected at the onset. These diversions can occur at any time in our lives due to unforeseen events and challenges. We grow as we rise above adversity and continue upward reaching to the heavens. The getting of wisdom in this way, makes us more empathetic and understanding of the pain and difficulty others encounter on their journey, so we can be an encouragement and comfort to them. Wisdom is found in our Creator God who wants us to know him as Father.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.” – Proverbs 3:13-18
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
Have a great week, and check out my website for more birding info.
As I mentioned last week, the latest and most comprehensive Australian Bird Field Guide is now published for you to purchase.