Cattle Egrets with developing breeding plumage. They would normally be nesting now.
A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all! As you are aware from the many news reports our country is suffering the worst Summer season on record. A drought in its 4th year, strong winds, dry thunderstorms and merciless raging ravaging incinerating unstoppable firestorm bushfires have turned our holiday season into a state of emergency and declared catastrophic conditions. Millions of hectares destroyed, millions of wildlife incinerated, thousands of homes and properties and livestock destroyed and 17 humans dead, and we are only just into Summer. Many had their holidays terminated or cut short, and many more fled with their lives from their holiday grounds. It is just not safe to travel anywhere at the moment, as these fires can strike and move suddenly, without warning. Here is a brief video excerpt from On Demand News on YouTube.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the many homeless and now traumatized residents, where in some places whole towns have been wiped off the map. It has affected most of the east coast of Australia in populated areas, and the thick toxic smoke continues to be the daily norm for most of us, as it has been for over the last two months. It has affected the lives of most Australians either directly or indirectly.
The sun breaking through a smoke filled sky
So many brave firefighters from home and overseas have rallied to the fire front, including our defense force. These fires along with the drought are rewriting our Bird Field Guides for location and even for the existence of species in our country. It will not be known till further down the track if we have recently added more species to our critically endangered or extinct classifications. Our local Oatley Park Reserve’s main pond in one week has been gradually drying up as many birds leave with only a only a few remaining.
This pair of of Chestnut Teal are not worried at all. They have raised their young already, and now taking it easy in the murky ponds.
This male wanted aussiebirder to include him in his next post, so I obliged.
Other then the Teal and a few Australian White Ibis a single Great Egret and Royal Spoonbill stood together in the diminishing pond.
The Spoonbill had breeding plumage which I always find quite amusing, as well as their sweeping filtering bill action.
This photo best highlights there head dress. It is one which I have previously entered in an art show as a canvas print.
The reptiles, including young Eastern Waterdragons and Skinks are not affected by the drought and make their presence known in Summer as they bathe in the warm sun.
This little skink had a perfect place to hide and rest from the heat. When it saw me it quickly slid back into its hole in the tree. It needs to be careful, as Kookaburras and Pied Currawong check these holes for food.
As my wife and I walked through the almost deserted park trail, as normally this time of year many bird species would be feeding and calling, we heard one loud raucous sound which drew our attention. It was a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo being fed by a adult Pied Currawong. You may remember in my previous post on Channel-bills, that I mentioned how the Cuckoos migrate south in Summer and lay/plant their eggs in the nests of unwitting birds to be surrogate raised. Here is a great example, watch. The much larger Cuckoo has an insatiable hunger that keeps the poor Currawong flying off to find food.
As we continued back down the track we had a very exciting surprise as a pair of Buff-banded Rail ran across the track up ahead. They were fast so initial images were poor. We had reports of sightings of this bird but this is the first time we saw them here. The jerking of the camera was sadly unavoidable.
We later saw them again in more shaded bush.
As we walked further along the track the resident male Eastern Australian Magpie was foraging in his territory. This bird both knows me and trusts me, allowing me to walk right next to it. A lady passing by, caused it to run away, only to return beck next to me again after she passed.
I always see this bird every time I visit around the same area, usually with another male or female. My blogging friend David of the blog birdsaspoetry.com has engaged in his Magnificent Magpie 2020 Project, which will be worth following.
We are both enjoying Gisella Kaplan’s book The Australian Magpie which is to date the greatest work on this most intelligent and clever bird. As I write this I can here my resident alpha male Magpie calling to me. He usually does it after his bath in my birdbath.
A little further along the track and we could here another unfamiliar sound from a nearby eucalypt. It was difficult to see these two birds and make out what they were as the bright diffused light in the background and the smoke made it difficult, so again I apologise for the photos. They appeared to be 1st year juvenile Brown Goshawks waiting possibly to be fed. We did not see the adult, and the birds sat in the same spot watching and waiting. We had never had a sighting of this bird in the park that we know of so it is a new finding.
Approaching the creek which flows into the Georges River from the wetland, we saw these two birds. Now, on first observation one might think them two distinct species of Egret, but with binoculars it can be seen that they are both Great Egrets, one in full breeding plumage with turquoise lores, dark beak and fine streaming back feathers and the other with only very early breeding plumage yellow beak and back streaming feathers.
check out the neck extension
breeding with pre-breeding
Great Egret in breeding plumage
Great egret pre-breeding
Before I finish I would like to correct an identification on my previous blog post on Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga where I thought the flock of Terns I was viewing were Common Terns. On further observation and talking with other birders they are actually Whiskered Terns (previously known as Marsh Terns). These two species of Tern do look very similar, however the Whiskered has the darker belly and distinct white throat, which is seen here. These are predominantly fresh water Terns found on inland lakes and rivers where they mainly fly close to the water surface to catch insects over and on the water as well as dive for the occasional small fish and crustacean. The heavy smoke made it difficult to photograph them with clarity. Sadly, the waterbirds of Lake Albert’s wetlands I featured recently have gone, as the wetlands are also drying up as the lake diminishes and becomes more shallow.
As we move into 2020 and get a 20/20 vision of what lies ahead, entering a catastrophic period of uncertainty and a most unpredictable Summer, we ponder as to what the future holds, and what birds will be left for us to enjoy, and where they will relocate. Most of our native wildlife is territorial and non migratory, so it will be difficult for them to find new areas, as tension will arise with birds of the same species already established in unburnt areas.
Interesting enough a friend posted this reminder, that times such as these have occurred in the past, captured by one of our renowned poets.
My second edition of ‘What Birds Teach Us’ is now with the publisher and when it is launched I will have some changes to my blog post and website. I will also be available for talks and seminars in schools and organisations, especially targetting Primary School aged children. I am delighted that despite the bushfires ravaging our national parks, my 1st Edition continued to be purchased as they sold out in National Parks gift shops there is only a hand full left. If you want to grab one of the last click here. I am hoping to publish my second book, targetting 16 years to adult, later in the year.
The birds love it and love you for it and it is so simple to install. Eventually they will wash and drink and allow you to sit and watch them only feet away from them, as they trust you and know that you care about them.
small and large birdbaths in shade
large for larger birds Magpies, Currawongs Ravens
small for smaller birds Miners, Rainbows Butcherbirds
places for landing access
One of the best things we can do for our birds during this 4th year of drought is to install a birdbath or 2. My publisher and my sister both bought their family one for Christmas and are enjoying seeing birds come to drink and bathe. Our Australian birds are wild and aggressive around food, so it is recommended not to feed them, as they are best to gather their own, as they can become aggressive, demanding and destructive if they develop a dependence on your kindness, as many have found out the hard way. However, they do need and appreciate our contribution of fresh water. Your family can enjoy the experience watching the different local species come to your birdbath at different times of day. Children especially enjoy this. Just top up the bath daily and clean it our weekly and the birds will do the rest. Funny enough, when I arrived home from Wagga Wagga on New Years Day both birdbaths were depleted and no birds anywhere. I cleaned and filled both baths, walked up stairs and in seconds 7 birds came immediately and noisily drinking and bathing as if they had been watching and waiting for me to replenish it, as they know I do. Why 2 baths ( a small and large? because that allows both the smaller and larger birds to choose the best option and bathe at the same time. Also is is good as you will see in this photo to make sure the baths are shaded under a tree and have approach landing access, a tree, chair, post nearby, as they like to land and survey the bath before plunging in. Treat yourself to a birdbath, it will amuse and give you much enjoyment as it has us.😊
Last week my wife and I traveled up the coast to one of the worst fire ravaged areas on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Most of the fires were now out as the clean up begins, as miles of blackened burnt forest lies smoldering and smoking, lifeless of birds, animals and vegetation. Thankfully the resilient Australian bush will renew itself in time, and many of the larger trees will survive.
Fires still smoldering
Destroyed Road sign
For a week many spent their time waiting it out as the brave firefighters breached the impossible task of retaining the fires fanned by strong winds and high temperatures. Now the burnt forests lay ghostly quiet. See above how the intense heat destroyed road signs. The smell of smoke and burning was everywhere in the air as a major fire-front nearby continued to destroy forest, property and wildlife.
Many of our territorial birds had to relocate because of the fires destroying their habitat which had seen many generations of the species. Many birds and native animals could not escape the firestorm and were incinerated, including parents of nestlings and those sitting on eggs, who did not escape in time. Many species of our birds have been reduced in number, we may not know our losses till the coming year, as over 100 fires remain actively destroying our great forests, and have been doing so for months. This is the worst year on record. Meanwhile, after our long journey while we were having lunch outside with some dear friends at Hamilton’s Seafood Restaurantlooking onto the sandbar, I had my camera handy and managed to catch some action. This area is known as the Great Lakes region of NSW and the lake system is large and extensive. So as we surveyed the sandbar we saw several groups of resting birds. The Australian Pelican was our first waterbird.
Crested Terns, a few Silver Gulls rested along with a Caspian Tern (orange beak) as a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwit busily probed the wet sand nearby for small crustaceans.
Suddenly, the peaceful scene changed as alarm calls went up from various species sending the Pied Oystercatcher flying off. The Bar-tailed Godwit also took flight, but the Little Pied Cormorant was not concerned at all.
We knew we would find the answer if we looked up. The main benefactor of the bushfires are the raptors, as they catch small creatures escaping the fires and becoming exposed in the open. This area has a very high raptor population due to the lakes and the beaches, and up in the sky was a Brahminy Kite, beautiful in the sunlight, making its way to the sandbar to briefly land and then leave.
After it left the Bar-tailed Godwit returned to their work on the sandbar.
Not long after an Eastern Osprey female came over scanning the shallows, at least it did not cause too much concern as it is strictly a fish eater. You will usually see one of the family resting on the lamps on the bridge nearby.
The Osprey and her partner have a nest several miles away which we pass each time we visit this area, only this time it is on a man made platform instead of on a power pole. They appear to have only one juvenile in the nest they are feeding. The juvenile has a very wide brown neck band. Below the father sits opposite the juvenile on the power pole.
adult male and juvenile
adult male and juvenile
nest on platform
adult male osprey
After a lovely time with our friends we drove to our accommodation at Pacific Palm Resort where we heard the constant call of the Australasian Figbird in the several large fig trees that shadow the resort. The smell of smoke was in the air but not as strong as further north near the fires. Before we came, we were not sure if it would be safe for us to have this holiday, but our prayers were answered and we came on the best week of weather that this area had for a while. You can not mistake the male Figbird with its dark red warty eye ring. Most Australian birds are fruit eaters, and Australia has over 100 species of native figs which fruit at different times throughout the year, thus providing food all year round.
This is what the Figbird call sounds like:
The pristine beach of Booti Booti National Park’s known as Seven Mile Beach, near where we were staying, had burnt Eucalypt leaves along the shore. Booty means ‘plenty’ in our indigenous language, and to repeat the word means lots and lots of plenty. So this area represents a great feeding ground in both forest and sea. Thankfully this area was untouched by fire but it did come close.
Burnt leaves on the beach from bushfires
burnt remains of leaves on beach
Pristine Seven Mile beach
The following day was a hot smoky morning with a cool sea breeze. My wife wanted to explore Booti Booti’s beach, as last time we saw a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters there on the beach. On arriving at the same track I looked toward the beach, and lo and behold, there they were again, this year on the same dead tree, quite visible from the track. We approached and they eventually left, but we knew they would later return to the same tree during our morning beach walk, alone together in a beautiful place. Who would have looked for Bee-eaters here?!
As we walked I noticed up ahead a Black-shouldered Kite surveying the beach bush line for prey. It was not too perturbed by our passing. Then down it came and pounced on something in the bush nearby, and that was the last we saw of it. You can understand why I used the photo as my feature today.
Not long after this a beautiful adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over, also scanning the beach. Maybe, those escaping the fires and have managed to escape to the unburnt bush have contributed to these raptors having a feeding heyday.
After our wonderful peaceful walk we returned to our villa where we were welcomed by an Australian Brush-turkey, which had become quite bold and clever at trying to gain entry to the villa, after food. These birds are known for their greedy opportunistic attitude and cause problems for residents in many areas where they breed, dig up gardens and build their huge egg incubation mounds. There was a family of mum, dad and junior. Usually the Brush-turkey will walk out of the mound as a chick and immediately without any help or parental feeding, go off to fend for itself.
female brush turkey
female brush turkey
at the door trying to gain entry
I will continue with more from this area next post.
May you enjoy the rest of the week, and keep safe!
Sydney has fires nearby, and the smoke is as thick as heavy fog, and remains causing many to have breathing problems. The fires have now burned hundreds of kilometers of forest. One is heading to the cities of the central coast nearby after burning through 60 km of forest in the last month from the Wollemi NP, where people are evacuating their homes today. These National Parks contain rare plants, animals and birds, and will continue to cause great devastation while there is no rain and strong winds persist. Our state’s extensive forest system, and for the first time even our once dense green rainforests are ablaze. The fire front is so ferocious and the fires so remote and difficult to get to, they are constantly out of control, consuming homes and properties. Please join us and pray for rain and for cessation of these horrific fires and weather patterns.
If this is your first visit to my blog, then please check out my website from the menu on my homepage here.
You can purchase your copy of my book for immediate delivery by post in time for Christmas on my BirdBook page.
The Rufous Songlark displaying with his spring song
By carefully observing the above photo one can see that it is Spring at Bushell’s Lagoon. The budding fruit tree with a springtime bird, the Rufous Songlark displaying. When a male bird displays, it is signalling to prospective females of its willingness to mate. This courtship performance involves much song and a little dance. My wife and I sighted this Rufous Songlark in full song. This is a bird we hardly ever see, so it was like seeing a lifer for us. Listen and watch as he performs.
There is usually a pleasant surprise find at Bushell’s Lagoon, which makes it one of the most frequented birding locations in the Sydney region, tucked away among the market gardens and turf farms on the rich alluvial soils of the Hawkesbury valley river flats. As some of you know, we like to enjoy a birding date where we start in the morning at Bushell’s, have fishnchip lunch at Windsor and then finish at Wianamatta Nature Reserve. We were pleasantly surprised to find a pair of Glossy Ibis resting with the other shorebirds at the edge of the lake. They were some distance away so the pics are not wonderful, but the sheen of their plumage is noticeable.
As we watched a White-bellied Sea-Eagle came over and sent many of the birds, including the Ibis into a frightened frenzy. Note that the Australian White Ibis and the Glossy Ibis (which is not endemic to Australia) are flying together. This is a feature of Ibis, they tend to find safety together, both roosting and nesting.
The bold little Black-winged Stilt (possible nesting nearby) came to the rescue and singlehandedly attacked and chased off this large raptor, while the others flew off in fear.
Hear is a brief half speed view of one attack strategy.
One feature of this ruckus was to view a Great Eastern Egret in the same tree as a Little Egret.
As we passed the cattle in the nearby paddocks, the Cattle Egret were beginning to show their orange breeding plumage, which begins from the top of the head, and makes its way down to the whole body eventually.
This was a Great capture of one particularly Great Egret, especially with its elegant breeding plumage.
There was amazing activity in the trees lining the lane into the lagoon, as dozens of White-browed Woodswallow were displaying and mating and generally having a noisy game of chasings. It was a delightful sight watching them glide about overhead in classic Woodswallow fashion.
This Red-whiskered Bulbul is another migrant back to enjoy our warmer weather. It sat for some time with a moth in its mouth waiting for us to leave so it could take it to its nest. Many birds do this so they do not disclose the location of their nest to danger.
This place hosts many families of Superb Fairy-wren beside the lake in the thicket like scrub.
We found this juvenile Magpie-lark by the side of the road, it appeared somewhat lame, and was concerned at our presence, so we only briefly viewed it as its parents were nearby trying to distract us away.
As we were leaving Bushell’s Lagoon for lunch, we noticed this Black-shouldered Kite sitting quietly, and unafraid of us in a low lying tree. It allowed us come close, and then we noticed its right eye was not functioning, and had some injury.
After our most enjoyable fishnchips lunch we headed off to Wianamatta Nature Reserve, which is under the NSW National Parks care. There before our eyes on a bare branch as per its classic pose was the first Dollarbird we had seen this season, and it looked so colorful in the sunlight. These birds migrate from up north each Spring, returning in Autumn.
There was a notable absence of Finches, with most the usual birds not present, including the Red-capped Robin. So we walked to the creek, as there was still some water from the recent brief rain, and of course that was where the birds were keeping company, as were heard the sound of several species moving through the canopy of nearby trees. The Rufous Whistler was very vocal, but insisted on eluding me. I managed to catch a few shots of the Scarlet Honeyeater and Spotted Pardolote. As you can see the Pardolote body is the shape and size of a eucalypt leaf, making it hard to detect under a dark canopy.
We finally returned home after another lovely birding date together.
Here is a famous quote of Martin Luther in reference to dealing with temptation, something we all encounter from time to time.
It is true that we all experience tempting thoughts or suggestions from time to time to do wrong or cheat or try to get away with being dishonest. While these suggestions planted in our minds by watching others or by a devilish source, may come quite randomly and sometimes surprise us unexpectedly. We each have the power and ability to reject any thought or suggestion that we deem wrong or in conflict with our integrity and moral code, refuting it when it occurs. The better we identify and turn away these temptations, the less they will occur and be a possible threat to us. One of the feelings or sensations we need to be on guard for is that of the excitement or rush that comes from trying to commit crime or cheat the system. This sometimes euphoric sensation can arouse us to step out in a moment of weakness. To be a true role model living out a character of integrity, it is wise that we be like Luther, aware that temptations will come, fly around our heads, but we can reject them from taking roost or nesting in our minds to cause us to do things we will later regret. For when we act against our conscience it has a negative effect on our health, especially our immune system as well as our inner joy and peace.
William Shakespeare. In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says: “To thine own self be true.”
“Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Enjoy your week and Spring and Autumn birds, depending on where you live. If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out my website for more birding tips and info.
And YES there are still more copies of “What Birds Teach Us” if you want to get one or more for that special Christmas gift. It is very popular each year for Christmas, as it is a gift that keeps on giving.
Now here we are well into Spring, where we hear the father whistlers sing, announcing to the world they bring, their joy for a new and marvelous thing… new life ready to begin.
Spring is a beautiful time of year to go out birding. There is so much activity and song in the bush as new families are established. For some it is their first season, and others they have lost count, having brought possibly a hundred new lives into the world. This activity is centered around nesting, providing for the nest, protecting the nest and training the new nestlings/fledglings. In this post I will share some of these activities I noticed this week,
1. Nesting: Eggs are laid by female bird and then incubated as she keeps them warm and covers them with her body to protect them. Sometimes the male may help, depending on the specie. In many cases, such as with the Black-winged Stilt which are nesting in Olympic Park, Sydney, the male will keep watch to ward off intruders. The nest is a simple hollow on dry grass next to the lake.
Thankfully, special artificial islands were created for nesting well away from nosy birders, which have proven to be a great success. Yes blue-green algae has been a problem after a hot winter drought.
2. Protecting Nest, Nestlings and Fledglings: There is a lot of aggressive activity at the moment between species that usually co inhabit territories. We saw a few weeks ago the merciless aggression of the Magpie placing a 100 meter no go perimeter around its nest. Here I watched a Silver Gull continuously chase a Blacked-winged Stilt at the edge of the lake. The Gull was protecting its immature youngster but the Stilt was protecting its nest with his mate sitting on it by the lake. Both these birds are bold and can be aggressive. However, in the end the Gull moved its youngster away from the nest and peace prevailed.
After the ordeal, the Gull parents were confronted with a hungry junior, and try to avoid its cries. One of the joys of parenting no doubt! Note the classic bowing and bobbing of the youngsters head, seen in many species of water birds when begging.
The two most intelligent bird families clashed as this immature Australian Raven was attacked and turned away by this Australian Magpie male, obviously protecting its nest. Thankfully it did not see my wife and I as a threat.
3. Feeding the Nestlings/Fledglings: In many Australian species this is done primarily by the male and relatives, as is the training of the Fledgling, especially with the Magpie and Kingfisher. Here a Sacred Kingfisher catches a worm and waits for the juvenile to come to it and then passes it to the juvenile to eat.
Adult Sacred Kingfisher
Juvenile Sacred Kingfisher
4. Training: It is usually the male who models feeding and behaviour, which shows to us humans the importance of fathers being present and being good role models to their children. Children get much of their self identity and self confidence from the dad. These two juvenile Magpies are out on an excursion with their dad. As he feeds them they learn. Note how only one takes the initiative to follow dad and follows in his shadow. It so reminds me of my eldest son during his early years.
juvenile Magpies waiting in the shade.
one goes to folloe dad.
note juvenile is brown and has a dark eye and dull beak.
learning from dad
Here we see the youngsters decision to follow dad pays off as he gets a treat from dad as a reward for his following. I love the fact that no coercion is used in their training, those who want to learn do, and those who don’t there is later on when they are better prepared.
The Australian Wood Duck family is a beautiful example of the perfect family, with both parents faithful for life, devoted to each other and to raising their family together. The father leads the family to safety and to good feeding grounds. This clutch produced 14 live babies, and was one of two that I saw in the Royal National Park this week. The family strayed onto the road so dad and mum led them back down onto the green flats by the river. Thankfully, in this peaceful family, these ducklings learn to forage very quickly and less parental training is required.
As you watch the Wood Ducks come into their grazing area listen and you will hear an immature Laughing Kookaburra practicing his laugh. Unfortunately he eluded me for some time.
As an aside, this flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flew over at great height. It is always a treat to see this bird, and especially to hear its unique call. Listen as they fly over. You may see some touches of yellow on their ears and tail.
As I have shared in recent weeks some birds develop breeding plumage during their breeding season, and of course the Superb Fairy-wren is no exception, being in full colour which would lure any available female. His lady may already be sitting on the nest somewhere nearby as he hunts for food.
One of the delights of not having to work during the week is I get to see birds that may not normally be seen due to the high people presence in National Parks and Reserves during weekends. This pair of Wonga Pigeon are a good example of stumbling upon a great find. This rainforest pigeon is sometimes seen by the river banks at Wattle Flat in the late afternoon grazing, always the same pair. I love the arrow like markings on their under body. They are so quiet that you could easily miss them.
Wonga Pigeon pair
Finally, to conclude is this series of the very shy Kookaburra flying off:
The importance of good parenting and its ongoing effects well into the life of the child are emphasized in recent research. The child carries the experiences of their upbringing into the rest of their life having a considerable influence on their well-being. This includes physical, emotional, mental, sexual and social health, including longevity. This YouTube video from one of my studies sheds light on this, and the need to instruct our children and grandchildren with gentle kind love.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4 (MEV)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they be discouraged..” – Colossians 3:21 (MEV)
“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.” – Timothy 3:4 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week! If this is your first time visiting my blog, why not visit my Home Page and check out my birding website for more birding information and encouraging stuff. Yes, there are still more books left for sale to make a positive influence in the life of your special young person and for that Special Christmas Gift. I have just about finished editing my second and third book, but it will be next year for printing.
Continuing our birding birthday journey, my wife and I stayed with friends who have now retired to Port Macquarie on the beautiful Mid-North Coast NSW. While there we visited the coastal littoral rainforest area known as Sea Acres (another location where my book is sold). The variety of bird are more varied in the coastal habitat as it includes rainforest, dry forest, heathland, beaches and ocean scape. My above feature photo is of a Musk Lorikeet in flight, which I will share more of later. It is rare to get such a clear shot of these very fast busy birds as they feed furiously on eucalypt blossom. Sea Acres had been greatly affected by the drought, as much of our state has, so bird numbers were low on our visit. But we did see and hear the usual and much loved Golden Whistler, both male and female.
And of course I love to share the morning call of the Golden Whistler as they communicate with each other in their territories. I managed to get them all calling while I was there. You can hear the female responding at times and the call of the Lewin’s Honeyeater in the background with its staccato chattering call.
The Eastern Yellow Robin is our most common rainforest Robin always curiously checking us out.
But the seldom seen and difficult to photograph in rainforest, is this Crested Shrike-tit moving as a pair with a Mixed Feeding Flock or MFF. My wife becomes like an excited little girl when she sees this bird, as she did when we sighted the Noisy Pitta which was feeding in the leaf litter out of photographic sight. She waited and waited and waited hoping to get a better look, but it kept trying to stay out of sight as it foraged on the dark forest floor, hence no photos to show.
Crested Shrike-tit feeding on native fruit
Later walking near local wetlands we saw these juvenile Royal Spoonbill, they are small and do not yet have their full yellow eye ring.
In our friends back garden we saw this encounter with one aggressive young Noisy Miners and this young Eastern Magpie. I love the stand off of the two, followed soon after by the support of both male parents, with the bold and brave aggressive Noisy Miner attacking in the way they are known for, their pack mentality which makes them a force to be reckoned with by every bird and animal they choose to attack.
youngster male finds food
The youngster stand off
The attack of adult males in defense
Leaving our friends we made our way down the coast to Diamond Beach near my daughter and her family where we saw this young Black-shoulded Kite sitting high on the top of this pine. It was some distance off but I was able to catch the eye gleam at times. It amazes me how raptors can turn their heads a full 180° as you can see in the last pic. Sadly, it did not take flight, but felt quite safe sitting way up there.
Nearby this Pied Butcherbird was hunting, as I managed to deviate from the Kite to catch these shots.
This is a recording of them calling in the morning.
In the morning we love to go birding near the beach where we find White-cheeked Honeyeaters in large number, feeding on the native Banksia heads which are one of the few winter nectar sources flowering, other than some eucalypts. Unfortunately, the Superb Fairy-wrens were not easily seen on this occasion.
I only managed one shot of this Brown Honeyeater.
Next we went a little further south to the town of Forster where my brother and his wife live overlooking the beautiful One Mile Beach, where we saw these Little Wattlebirds and Lewin’s Honeyeater from their balcony as they fed from palm fruit and Grevillea flowers. Juveniles were making their hunger known as they were watched by parents. Notice the orange around their neck. Look carefully and you will see their tubular (straw like) tongue extended from their beak.
Little Wattlebird feeding from Grevillea flowers
Little Wattlebird feeding from Grevillea flowers
Lewins Honeyeater feeding on palm fruit
Lewins Honeyeater feeding on palm fruit
juvenile Little Wattlebird
juvenile Little Wattlebird
As you can see from this movie clip, Little Wattlebirds and most honeyeaters use their 4 sectioned straw like tongue to extract nectar from flowers without having to open their mouth. See if you can see its tongue which it leaves extended even between feeds.
It was on one of the nature walks my brother took us on that we saw the Painted Button-quail I showcased on last weeks post. We also noted some sea birds including a pair of juvenile Australasian Gannet and Caspian Tern cruising the coastline.
While walking the beach before sunset we watched the immature Australasian Gannet fishing, first diving beneath the water for sometimes up to 20 seconds and then arising . It was some way out to sea but I managed to get reasonable shots.
One of the highlights before leaving was a visit to the Frothy Coffee cafe on the water of Smiths Lake where there was a stand of tall flowering eucalypts in the nearby park. The trees were alive with the noise of excited Lorikeets including Musk and Scaly-breasted. They were joined by a flock of very noisy honeyeater known as the Noisy Friarbird. My feature photo [commencing this post] is of the Musk Lorikeet which gets its name from the musk like scent the male exudes from its rear gland to attract the females to mate.
Noisy Friarbird in flight
Interesting it is to many unacquainted with our birds and their feeding habits, these birds when feeding are not only eating from the blossom at the top of the tree but also feeding on the very delicious sugary lerps found on the back of eucalypt leaves. Each species of eucaypt has its own species of psyllid insect, which the birds lick its protective coating from with delight. This lorikeet is feeding on lerps. Most species of Australian passerines include lerps in their diet, some eating both insect and lerps as the tiny Pardolotes do, being most of their staple diet. Whereas other honeyeaters such as the Miners just harvest the lerps, often attacking Pardolotes and other birds preventing them eating from THEIR trees. Sadly it is to the detriment of the trees, as eventually they may be overcome by the insect and die a slow death.
Musk Lorikeet feeding on lerps
Finally, while viewing the ocean from my brother’s balcony we were visited by both young Kookaburras and young Magpies, followed by an adult keeping watch from a distance. It was a wonderful experience being surrounded by these birds, all hoping for a feed. Listen to this young Magpie already street smart having learnt to sing for his supper, hoping we will comply.
Unlike birds of the northern hemisphere where snow impedes food finding and assistance feeding can be helpful, Australian birds, being the most aggressive and competitive for food are best only to be watered and not fed as their dependence on human feeding can cause very serious problems to both human and bird alike, depending on the species.
Adult male Magpie
immature male Magpie
We daily fill bird baths for birds to drink from and wash in but never feed them, they have more than enough food in the wild. Birds have wings and can relocate to better food sources as they need to. God has provided in the many species of insects, fruit, lerps and nectar blossoms that their is always figs fruiting and native blossoms flowering throughout the year.
Laughing Kookaburra at different stages of maturity.
Laughing Kookaburra up close
flying right at you!
Finally, it is the ferocious brazen, courage and boldness of the Noisy Miner that attracted my attention several times while on our time away which caused me to ponder. This photo shows one Noisy Miner pursuing a large Whistling Kite raptor, quite capable of killing and eating the Miner. This Kite passed by several times back and forth with this one bird in constant pursuit, determined to chase this bird from the area. The Miners do not desist till they have achieved their goal, they are an excellent example of what persistence and courage can together achieve. They bite the back of the birds if they catch up to them. I have seen eagles, all manner of birds, animals and even humans attacked by Miners. I was once attacked protecting a girl’s dog it had been attacking. Such a small bird can achieve great victories through its courage and persistence and so can I when I refuse to give up even when the task seems huge and daunting, but trusting in God for assistance, I pursue my goals with passion and purpose.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
“But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end.” Hebrews 6:11
May you enjoy a most interesting and peaceful week. If this is your first time to my blog, please take the time to explore my website menu & homepage at aussiebirder.com
The last few weeks I have been recovering from an illness which has limited my birding exploits. One area I have been discouraged this season is the shorebirds and waders, as numbers are reducing each year. We know that hundreds are perishing each year during their migratory journeys as humans interfere with their feeding grounds (filling in and developing wetlands for industry and housing), as well as snaring and killing them for food. This is occurring mainly in the Asian countries where these birds stop off for refueling to complete their amazing 12 – 16,000 km flight.
One Critically Endangered species, we are seeing less of each year is the Eastern Curlew (see above). Our largest migratory wader. Is it any wonder it is the shyest of waders, and will take flight when it sees a human moving towards it even at a great distance, sounding its classic alrm call as it goes. This beautifully patterned bird is a delight to capture with camera. The camera is the modern rifle for notching up captures or kills, and our photos are now our trophies, and ‘no animals were harmed in the making of this film.’
How beautiful are these birds. I make my usual viewing visits at low tide to nearby Taren Point Shorebird Reserve on the banks of the huge Georges River which flows into Botany Bay. These mud flats are a rich source of crustacean food for these birds using their long probe-like beaks to penetrate into the wet sand below. Click on photos to enlarge them.
The other reason I have been slack with posting waders this season is the tides, and my ability to catch the low tide when I am not working, they do not often align, so I have to make the most of my days off. The other commonly seen migratory wader in reduced numbers on our river banks this year is the Bar-tailed Godwit. The small flocks are reduced to several pairs.
Bar-tailed Godwit curious
Bar-tailed Godwit in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
I also use to see occasional Grey-tailed Tattler, but saw none, but did see this uncommonly seen Whimbrel smaller than the Curlew in size and beak.
One common shorebird is always the Grey-faced Heron…
Both the Sooty and the Australian Pied Oystercatcher are seen from time to time, either resting on the beach or prying rock oysters in the river banks.
It was interesting watching this scene play out between a flock of Silver Gull (Seagull) and a flock of Pied Oystercatcher (rarely seen in this number). At first the Silver Gull were resting on the shore and then small numbers of Pied Oystercatcher began gathering nearby. Initially one lone Pied Oystercatcher was sent packing back to his flock…
Gathering the troops the flock of more dominant Pied Oystercatcher marched on the gulls and placed themselves right next to them. No scuffles broke out.
Marching on the gulls
Marching on the gulls
More troops arrive
Some of the Pied scouts discovered fresh water flowing from a storm water drain onto the beach, which attracted the attention of many other birds on the beach, including an immature Silver Gull which felt somewhat outnumbered and alone.
scouting team discover fresh water
fresh water and an immature gull
Pied Oystercatcher drinking fresh water from storm water outflow
Of course we can’t leave out the Australian Pelican, an often seen inhabitant on the river. It is a delight to see them gliding so gracefully, sometimes circling to very great heights, One strange position is seen in a photo below with bill pointed upward, not quite sure what that was about, maybe something was caught in its throat…
Speaking of gliding, on the North Easter which blows cool air off the ocean each Summer afternoon (thank God!) I saw this flock of Silver Gull just hanging in formation for long periods in the strong breeze without moving, it was almost a spiritual experience…
Gulls gliding on NEaster
Gulls gliding on NEaster
The expression on this gull caught my attention and became a favorite of mine…
I moved to another position behind the mangroves and heard noisy cries of what I knew to be Little Terns. They were a fair way out with the tide so I had to wait till I got home to interpret what was happening. It appears a Little tern was being harassed by an immature Crested Tern, trying to steal its freshly caught fish, which it wanted to feed its babies waiting on the beach.
The Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill and Masked Lapwing, are also birds seen here on the river banks from time to time.
I am thankful that I managed to see all of the above during the last couple of months of severe weather, unsuitable tides and persisting illness. Wader numbers appear on the decrease, as fewer return from migration to forage the same beach areas each summer. Nothing stays the same.
Each of the above birds have been equipped with beaks and bodies that allow them to extract a particular kind of food from the river and shoreline. Each bird obediently observes and follows the parent as it learns how to forage for itself, and master to tools God has equipped it with. Each different kind of bird is in a parallel and not an evolutionary series of progression. This is obvious to anyone who studies biological science, and follows the latest in neurological studies in birds and their behaviour. As the Bible says God created each after its own kind and just as we see here on the riverbank they share the same area and forage together according to their kind. The facts are right before our eyes. Modernists and charlatans try their hardest to convince the world of a no God world view but it does not answer the questions of life or the purpose thereof nor give a viable or believable substitute.
“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:21
“He created them male and female and blessed them.” – Genesis 5:2
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ” – Psalm 139: 13-14 I suggest reading the whole of Psalm 139.
“Givethanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1 (NIV)