As Autumn begins, my favorite migratory wader, the Bar-tailed Godwit begins to show signs of breeding plumage as males begin to orange up and the females start to show dark chevron markings on their underside. They have begun a daily gorging frenzy at low tide to fatten themselves up in preparation for the long 16,000 km journey back to Alaska where they will have their next clutch.
Young Godwits during our 2017 Winter chose to miss a year or two of migration to mature.
Many of the young ones that returned last year will stay a year or two through our Winter months to mature, before taking the journey to Alaska. Above is a male in breeding plumage carrying a crab, escaping from a Silver Gull in pursuit. He eventually eludes his pursuer, allowing him to enjoy his find. The female is larger than the male and has a slightly longer beak. The photo below was taken in Spring shortly after their migration to Australia.
To understand why this bird has my heartfelt appreciation you need to understand the nature of its yearly journey back and forth from top to bottom of our planet. In a Godwit’s lifetime it will have traveled the distance from the earth to the moon two and a half times.
This remarkable bird is featured in my book “What Birds Teach Us” for its endurant character, which is an encouragement to us humans, who are often tempted to give up too soon, before completing what can be sometimes a very difficult time in our lives. We need to press on till we achieve our goal and enjoy the delight and satisfaction that achievement brings, even if it is not all we thought it would be, savor sweet success.
As they fly they form their single file flying order
It is interesting that unlike geese, ibis and ducks, Godwits fly single file and not in formation, which makes the journey even more difficult. However, they are the 9th highest flying bird in the world flying above in the thermals of about 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) which assists their flight considerably.
Established flight is single file led by the alpha male.
So a visit to my usual wader viewing beach at low tide, the mud flats of the Georges River in southern Sydney, where the same waders return every year to forage, shows the males are already well into breeding plumage. Note the last photo in the series below showing the chevrons on the body of a female depicting the early stages of breeding plumage. Click on photos to enlarge them. This is what I saw…
This little guy seemed smaller than the others as you can see when compared with this Silver Gull.
A few days later I was able to catch these shots on a sunny day before sunset, catching the westerly perspective of light, highlighting the plumage colour change so much better. It is sad in a way as I know in a few weeks they will be gone from the beach and only a small flock of youngsters will remain. At least they will see me through the Winter till the rest return.
It was also interesting to find a lone Eastern Curlew starting to show similar signs of breeding plumage. This is the largest of our migratory waders and sports a breeding plumage of a mild rufous coloring which is noticeable on this bird. These birds will also do their migratory flight soon to Russia and northern China. Sadly Curlews have a great dread of humans and will not allow you to get anywhere near them. So many have been killed for food in Asian countries on their migration journeys is it any wonder.
Then their is our non migratory wader the White-faced Heron who will be daily found on the same mud flats all year round except while breeding, where it will fly inland to nest high in a tree. This bird is non breeding.
During late August onward it will begin displaying breeding plumage similar to examples below.
White-faced Heron with breeding plumage
White-faced Heron with breeding plumage
Of course there are many other migratory and non migratory waders we see, but these are the only ones I found on this visit which have the most stunning transformations.
It is interesting how this Silver Gull was trying to fit in with the Godwits, but realised he lacked the equipment to penetrate the wet sand to achieve what they were achieving so easily. Notice the middle Godwit looking with interest out of the corner of his right eye, while the gull stands alongside the female Godwit which is in the process of extracting a crustacean from beneath.
Each of us need to feel accepted and loved as a member of a family, community or social gathering, and we succeed in being an authentic member if we can contribute in a meaningful and productive way. With birds the design and shape of the beak or bill is essential for the foraging of their specific food types. The Silver Gull can eat the same food as the Godwit, but must use a different method to do it, such as chasing the crabs on the wet sand, as seen in the following clip..
We are each gifted with different abilities, being equipped with skill sets from different backgrounds. It is not in the copying or imitating of another that makes one an authentic contributor, but the sharing of one’s personal attributes and skills to complement and strengthen the community or family. In this way we should never consider ourselves inferior or lesser than others because we can not do what they do, the way they do it. Examining ourselves to determine where our strengths and weaknesses lie can help us work at doing better the things we do best, and also to be humble and wise enough to know our limitations, thus feeling free to ask for help and assistance when the need arises. That is the underlying strength of good family and community. It is based on love: I give my best of what I can contribute, trusting that you will do your best to return the same commitment in your different but needed contribution to me.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)
“Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. ” – Romans 13:10
In the Christian Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an example of how a loving caring sharing community works as God intended.
Have a very enjoyable week as you watch several bird species and bird numbers change for the approaching season. If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
We seldom go birding on the outskirts of Western Sydney, but with recent sightings of a Red-capped Robin family in Wianamatta Nature Reserve at Cranebrook, on The Northern Road, I just had to go, since this was on my lifer bucket list for this year. This nature reserve in past years, was the sight of a communications receiving station but now the abandoned concrete slabs and old granite roads where buildings and antennae once existed has given way to rejuvenating bushland, managed by NSW National Parks. The main entrance is lined with bird breeding boxes and I believe bird tagging is carried out here at times also.
Sadly the day was dull and showery and I did not sight the Robin, though a National Park ranger told me she had seen it come up to her late last year. However I was blessed to sight from a distance high in a dead tree, a pair of Australian Hobby, which may explain why the trees were quieter than usual. This small falcon is almost the size of a Kestrel, and looks similar from a distance to its larger cousin, the Peregrine Falcon. It preys on birds with vigorous swift flight, snatching them in mid air, and also, like most birds, feeds on insects. I was pleased with the shots I managed to get considering the lack of light and distance from the tree, as they did not let me approach. Click on photos to enlarge them.
It amazes me how raptors and other birds can rotate their head 180° without moving their body.
The noticeable lack of birds was apparent but there were a few good ones which we seldom see near the coast as well as the Hobby, including the beautiful Yellow Thornbill, of which I saw several families, but were difficult to see again due to the poor light. This tiny insectivorous bird can be heard with its high pitched call as it communicates to its mate while scanning the small trees.
I was delighted to see a Double-barred Finch, another bird seen more inland, in the arid areas where it feeds on grass seed. Australian finches are quite remarkable survivers, and are often seen in large flocks further inland, though this guy was alone. I had to include the flight shot as poor as it is, but not wings and legs tucked, he is like a missile in flight.
It was lovely to sight this juvenile Grey Fantail, who did not seem to concerned about me.
Grey Fantail juvenile
Grey Fantail juvenile
Grey Fantail juvenile
Grey Fantail juvenile
As usual there is often a curious bird, if not a Robin, Shrike-thrush or Fantail, it is a Whistler, and in this case what appears to be a lone female Rufous Whistler. Rufous Whistlers are found more in the west and the Golden Whistler more along the eastern coastal forests. I love the curious head turn that the above mentioned birds all do.
Rufous Whistler female
Rufous Whistler female
What about the fresh waterbirds of the westthis is where the rarer species are usually found, in the inland lakes, swamps and lagoons, where the water is still and water weed and aquatic food grows to feed them. Pitt Town Lagoon (Nature Reserve) as it is known, is a popular place north west of Sydney, especially after recent rains where it has refilled again. The local bird observers club have built a bird hide on one side of the lake, but the birds tend to congregate on the other side.
Many of our rarer native duck are very cautious and timid toward humans because of the long history of being hunted by early settlers, before government protection. Sadly this was the only shot I got of the rarer mainly inland dwelling, Yellow Spoonbill. On my approach I have to remain hidden, but as soon as I launch camera, this happens…
Great Egret and Straw-necked Ibis (non breeding)
Pacific Black Duck in flight
Both Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis were present. The name Straw-necked refers to the breeding plumage which is not present on these birds. These birds are not water birds as such but they forage on the banks and in the shallows by pressing their long slender bills into the wet mud for small crustaceans.
Straw-necked Ibis non breeding
Australian White Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis non breeding
Australian White Ibis
Two of the rarer mainly inland fresh water birds present are the Pink-eared Duck and the Australasian Shoveler. Both these birds have wide beaks specifically designed to sift the water for minute aquatic organisms which make up much of their food, including crustaceans and insects.
Australasian Shoveler pair (male on the right)
Female Shoveler in flight
Female Shoveler in flight
Female Australasian Shoveler
gathering of Shovelers
Male Shovelers in flight
They have a dabbling action as they sift the water, often moving in circles, or simply following behind other ducks with bills submerged as they swim and stir up the surface of silt and weed in the shallows beneath. This allows them to sift the food from the unwanted water.
Pink-eared Duck pair
Pink-eared Duck in flight
Pink-eared Duck family
There is always Australia’s most numerous duck, the Grey Teal. The Chestnut Teal was also present in my earlier shots.
The Australian Pelican is an amazing survivor, even out west away from the ocean. Other birds including the rare Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck have been seen here as well on occasions as have several species of waders (in my previous posts) and a family of White-bellied Sea Eagle. but not on this visit.
This photo shows a family of Pacific Black Duck in flight, but notice how the iridescent speculum feathers change colour depending on the angle of suns rays striking it. You could get the impression from this photo that the lead male was a different bird specie or a mutant, but in reality it is relevant to the perspective from which you view it coupled with the angle of the sunlight striking the speculum feathers.
Pacific Black Duck
On viewing this capture I was reminded in my spirit that we need to be careful not to make judgments and interpret what we see, without understanding. The modern media and the comments of others can easily colour and change our perspective in regard to a person, their character or an event. The leading Pacific Black Duck (which is actually brown) in the photo above may give us a false impression as to its true appearance seeing a purple speculum instead of the more commonly seen turquoise. However, it is what it is, and if we were to view that same duck in another light and angle it would also appear turquoise like the others.
Pacific Black Duck in flight
Having the understanding about speculums and how the feathers are structurally multi layered allows one to accept what they see, without going off on a tangent. This is a lesson to me to stop and try to understand before passing judgement, and to not believe everything I here or read on face value.
“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” – Psalm 119:66 (NIV)
“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” – Psalm 143:2
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” – Romans 14:13
One of my youngest blog followers shared this little snippet of truth regarding the difference between a BIRDER and a TWITCHER, as I know many have asked the question, and I have done a post on this in past years. The answer is simply $$$ dollars $$$ meaningthe twitcher unlike most of us birders is wealthy and able to leave their job or home on a bird tip off and travel anywhere in the world, to feed their obsession/addiction, as in the movie The Big Year
Have a wonderful week my dear birding friends, and thank you my dear ones for your kind and thoughtful regards to my health, which is slowly on the mend. Yes I am still working part time and also researching my next book which I have started, but just need time to seriously write it.
If this is your first visit to my blog be sure to check out my birding website for more birding info and helpful hints for body mind and spirit. Enter into the refreshing mindfulness of birding, lower your stress levels, and live a healthy happy life.
This week our attention is drawn to a very colorful bird which many of my followers adore seeing on my blog, the Rainbow Lorikeet, or Rainbows to the locals, a bird we hear daily in small flocks calling to each other in excited raucous communication, feeding from the nectar rich flowers of our Endeavor Bottlebrush tree in our courtyard just outside the back door. This a very old tree and is covered in blooms most of the year. If you want to attract native bird, plant native flowering bushes such as Grevillea, Bottlebrush and Banksia. Thousands of these birds are common and live around the Sydney area and while they are easy to photograph feeding, they are such rapid flyers it is a challenge to get a decent flight shot as can be seen above.
They nest in the hollows of the Angophora costata or Sydney Red Gum, competing with the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, also in great numbers for the same holes. They do nest in eucalypt trees also if they find a hole. I have seen these birds using their strong beaks to chip away at tree holes to make nest with the lady looking on. These two birds and the Noisy Miner make up the most numerous birds around the east coast Sydney region. They guard their nest from attacks of Kookaburras and Butcherbirds that do the rounds when the nest is not guarded. Both are devoted parents, as do other omnivorous birds.
guarding nest from possible threat
watching the nest
Checking the nest
guarding the nest
nest on Angophora tree
The Noisy Miner is an extremely bold and aggressive native honeyeater which gains control of whole areas and trees by using the ‘pack method’. One or two birds start harassing and physically attacking an intruder to their territory and put out the call for help. Immediately many Noisy Miner will fly directly to the cause, and assist driving the intruder out with continual biting attacks to the unwitting victim. They particularly pick on weaker honeyeaters and pardalotes that also enjoy eating nectar, flowers and lerps. It is the sweet sugary lerps that miners (both Noisy and Bell) relish and harvest. Unlike Miners, Lorikeets and Cockatoo have beaks designed for eating seed, which they extract from seed cones on native Banksia and Casuarina trees.
Extracting seed from a native Casuarina tree
Each different species of eucalypt has its own different specie of lerp producing psyllid. I have shown in previous posts birds licking lerps from the back of eucalypt leaves. Interesting enough, while Noisy Miners have been seen chasing in flock cats, dogs, massive eagles, large meat eating birds able to eat miners and even humans, they do not bother the Rainbow Lorikeet. It appears there seems to be a sort of agreement between them, as I watch them feeding from the same Bottlebrush, both calling to their mates but both sharing the same flowers in turn without aggression. I have read that Rainbows in flock together also can be quite aggressive to Miners and inflict a more savage wound than the miner due to their much stronger hooked parrot beak.
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on Lilly Pilly fruit
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
One of the features I highlight in my book “What Birds Teach Us” about Rainbows is the fact that they mate with one partner for life. It is almost impossible to tell the male from the female except the male may be slightly larger. It is one of the saddest things to observe when one of the pair is dead by the roadside and the other trying to get it moving. They grieve long and deep. So it is you seldom see one bird but two or three (one being a juvenile). You will see them in small flocks moving from tree to tree, though you usually hear their loud chatter before you see them. They often are hidden in the colorful flowers they feed from. I have sold several copies of the first of the next series as a canvas print and have one on the wall at home. See how they preen and care for each other as true devoted lovers.
My wife and I were concerned a couple of months ago when for several weeks we neither saw nor heard a Rainbow. After some thought, and a search in my field guides I realised that they were all nesting at the same time, well away from our home, usually in the Reserves and National Parks around Sydney where the nesting trees are found. Almost at the same time last month they started appearing and their welcome excited feeding frenzy chatter was heard once more. You might remember the juvenile bird I photographed a few weeks ago with its parent as the feature photo in my post The Mindfulness of Birding.
Notice the juvenile features of dark beak, eye and reduced orange vest.
To give you a good Rainbow experience after recent rain (hey! isn’t that when you see after rain, rainbows?) I will share this video of one feeding only a meter or two from me on the back step. They get so into it that they often don’t notice you as long as you remain perfectly still. Listen to the chatter, the continuous communication from one mate to another, each knowing the voice of the other over the other birds. This again is one of the neurological wonders of our Aussie parrot species, their ability to learn language, even human, as those with domesticated Australian Budgies and Cockatoos already know. They can adapt to different flock languages with this ability which may save their lives in difficult climatic and physical threats.
We can learn that faithfulness in relationship is a very important trait. Sharing and caring together is what God intended for man and woman in a loving and trusting relationship. From this may come offspring, harmonizing and concreting that love into tangible expressions, that will hopefully continue to propagate and grow that same love in the generations that follow. The parent, the child’s most influential person, is the primary mentor, exhibiting through their own loving example between parent and parent.
Birds of a feather
As family counselors teach:
Parents, if you want your child to grow up with healthy self esteem with loving caring affection and a trust worthy obedient spirit, simply and honestly love each other and they will learn from your example and mimic the same, it is not so much what you say that is important, though positive and loving words certainly are, but even more important, is what you do by example in their presence and hearing. The old saying is ‘it is seldom taught, than caught’ or ‘Seldom telt, than felt.‘ (Older English). Children are sponges looking to those who know how to live, so that they to can learn the same, just as birds do. Good parent mentoring coupled to a trusting, obedient child brings blessing to both.
“Grandchildren are like a crown to the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents.” – Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)
“The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him.” – Proverbs 20:7
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” – Proverbs 14:26
“A new commandment I give to you, that you loveone another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” – John 13:24
Have a wonderful week! I seem to be slowly on the mend. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes, it is heartening and encouraging that you my dear blogging friends express your concern and care for my health.
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.
Royal Spoonbills WORKING
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)
As the year begins, and following on from my post last week on Mindful Birding, it is an opportunity to review,and put into action these skills, particularly for those new to birding, the 5 Steps to Better Birding. You will learn how we spotted this rare sighting in an unexpected location, as I share how you can get the most satisfying birding experience. This will be especially helpful if you are a novice birdwatcher becoming a fully fledged birder. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Initially, before you start, it is important to decide what kind of birds you want to find, and best LOCATION where you are likely find them. Local and learnt knowledge is helpful as well as The Australian Bird Guide and Finding Australian Birds both obtainable from CSIRO Publishing.
These books will help locate where particular species of bird are found in Australia and what habitat you are most likely to find them in, Other factors may involve the time of day (low tide for viewing waders, or night time for owls), the time of year or season (for migratory species) and the current weather (very hot, very dry, very windy or very wet conditions can have a negative affect). Otherwise, many of us just do a pot luck bird walk through National Parks, Reserves and State Forests and be thankful for what we might see, often surprised when we find the unexpected bird or birding experience. For our example I will take my daughter and two grand children ( one pictured above) on a stroll through Oatley Park Reserve on a pot luck bird walk. Because many Australian birds are territorial and non migratory, you can usually predict what birds you are likely to see in any given location. The Bird Field Guide will help with the geographic location of each bird (where in which States) including any races (subspecies) that a particular specie may have.
My first instruction to my accompanying family is to quietly listen for bird calls as they walk along the bush track. Most of the time you will hear a bird before you see it. Australia has one of the largest number of songbirds, and many have a very distinctive call which identifies them immediately. One of the skills one gains from mindful listening is to identify each bird one hears from its call. The call can tell you where to look ( nearby or further on, in tree or on ground) as well as what the bird is actually doing at the time. There are Australian birds which are gifted with many different calls, and also the ability to learn and copy the calls of other birds. The Superb Lyrebird and Satin Bowerbird are but two good examples. Listen to this Lyrebird immitate at least 6 different birds, as well as make its own peculiar call.
Eventually, one can identify when mimicry is being displayed by a Lyrebird or other bird, by skillful listening. The greatest aid to the Australian birder is the Michael Morcombe eGuide iphone app. which I have listed on the BirdingInfoTips page of my website half way down the page under Helpful Birding Links. This app allows you to hear the calls of the different birds. Slowly move to where the bird call is loudest, stop moving if the bird stops calling, as it has probably seen you and become cautious, and LOOK for movement in the direction you last heard the call. This is a similar call to what we heard, and what drew us to discover the bird pictured above. We were drawn to a tree by the pond where we could here a strange buzzing sound which I knew from experience was a Satin Bowerbird call. You will need to turn your volume up to hear it.
Be aware that with some birds it will not be their call or song that will draw attention, but careful listening may detect bark being torn and stripped from trees (eg. Crested Shrike-tit, Eastern Whipbird and the Treecreepers), leaf litter being overturned (Logrunner, Whipbird, Bassian Thrush), scratching sounds (Lyrebird, Brush Turkey) or it may be the sound of crunching pine cones and falling debris from the Cockatoo and Parrot family.
One golden birding principle is that ‘If you wait (sitting quietly is best) the birds will come to you.’ Mixed Feeding Flocks (MFFs) are constantly moving through areas of forest and field, and many territorial birds (non flock birds) will also do a circuit and return through the same area several times a day.
You will know the birds arrive by the many birds twittering as they feed and communicate with each other. Our birds are able to learn to communicate in the dialects of bird species other than their own, thus MFFs are common with smaller insectivorous and seed eating birds, and brings the advantages of safety in numbers, and better food and water locating. So wait in a place where you find birds moving, you may find a birdway. Areas that pass near fresh water sources, around lakes and swamps are often the best. Just wait there for a while and LISTEN.
So on hearing the bird, one starts looking in the direction of the call. The most helpful tool at this stage are your eyes and your binoculars. The aim is to look for any movement at all in the vegetation and focus in on it. My grandchildren were spotting the bird high in a tree above the track but we could not see it well.
It sounded distressed because other birds such as Noisy Miners were attempting to attack it, as they are very territorial and this bird was strange to this part of the park, and in fact is not usually seen here at all. My observation revealed what appeared to be a juvenile Satin Bowerbird possibly a fledgling from early last Spring. It is probably checking out the park for food, as these birds are primarily native fruit eaters (figs, berries etc). Both immature sexes look like the female, as it will take seven to eight years for the male to mature to adult plumage but only two to three for the female. Bare in mind also that many birds go quiet and sit in the shade, mainly during the heat of the day. Also particular birds such as the Golden Whistler will go quiet during the Winter (non breeding months) and be heard almost continuously during Spring, making him much easier to find.
This is why early morning and evening are the best times to go birding, as these times are when most birds are calling as they actively feed and move about. Aussie honeyeaters (over 70 species) feed on insects, nectar, small native fruits and lerps. You may notice that particular songbirds sing less when overcast than when the sun is out, they seem to pick up their song as the sun re emerges.
Honeyeaters, lorikeets and Parrots are attracted to flowering eucalypts, Grevilea, Bottlebrush and Mountain Devil, so just wait about 10 to 20 feet from the flowers and birds should visit. Often you will see birds already feeding off nectar rich flowers, so just wait there and watch as different species visit. Birds are easier to see and often more exposed when feeding.
The next step is to LOCATE the bird so you can view it and/or photograph it. My wife is the ‘spotter‘ and I am the ‘shooter‘, so for me if I do not get a photograph of the bird I have not truly seen it. This is the case for many birders, we like to see the treasure we have spotted again at home. The value of doing this leads later to our last 2 steps. If you are using a telescopic lens, the secret is to pull back the focus and view in the general direction of the bird and then gradually extend the lens till you have it in focus. It is most frustrating to attempt to focus from a fully extended lens.
A bird will usually move away when it notices you watching it, so the idea is to remain very still and inconspicuous as possible. If the bird is in full sun, try and remain in the shade as you observe it so that it makes you less noticeable. Also remain very quiet and avoid using flash. I almost never use flash on birds as it alarms them and can affect the eyes of some birds such as owls and penguins. The improved ISO technology on my Canon camera allows me to get relative good photos even in reduced light. As we walked by the pond we found this clutch of baby Chestnut Teal resting.
We quietly passed so not to disturb their rest, though they noticed us they did not scuttle to water as they saw we kept our distance and were not threatening. You will find that each species of bird has a different distance of tolerance to another. For example I wan walk right up to a Magpie or Kookaburra and they will not show fear, where as an Eastern Curlew will sound the alarm and fly off if I get within 50 meters of it. Here is one of my best friends patting a Kookaburra he is feeding. The bird trusts him and permits him to enter his safety zone.
These Chestnut Teal (above) were easy to locate as they were visible, as many waterbirds and waders are, exposed near the water or on it, unlike passerines (tree birds) which can be more challenging to capture hidden in among the dark eucalypt trees. One of the reasons Australian bird photography is more challenging then elsewhere is that our trees are very dense and dark green, not allowing much light through, We noticed the difference when birding in Britain, how the lighter larger leaves allow more light in. Once the bird is in focus the photo can be taken. Sadly, most of the time I have to take Manual shots due to the small depth of field of my lens, to make sure the bird is in focus. Many times, people marvel at how I can get shots in very small windows between trees, and the only way is Manual with much effort. Considering my left eye has greatly impaired vision, I give thanks to God when I get a decent photo. Some birds are almost impossible to photograph due to their fast continuous movement or their ability to remain hidden beneath thick shrubbery. IT can take much patience and many hours stalking these ones before success is procured.
Many birders, similar to myself, have said that the greatest delight is going home after the birding adventure and opening their box of treasures, meaning viewing the photographs they have taken. Photographing birds is a very positive and useful way of logging and recording your bird finds in addition to simply recording your findings in a book. The date, place time of day and species found. Many birders keep year round records of their finds, becoming very tuned in to and mindful to various birding areas and their resident birds. So much so that one can take you to a particular bird with a greater than 80% probability. My log is my photos. Each birding outing is a named and dated folder containing my photo treasures, backed up on several drives. My lifers and better photos are also transferred to my Speciated Bird Album of Australian Birds, which is a massive collection of all the birds I have seen, a folder for each specie, on a 2T drive. I set targets for new birds I want to discover each year (lifers) and plan to visit their areas.
In addition to just viewing the bird photograph, it is a teaching tool familiarizing you with the bird appearance and physical features. I also like to capture sound files and video clips of bird behaviour to help me in learning about the bird specie. Each time I find a new bird (lifer), I have not seen before, I study it up in my Bird Field Guide to find out more about it, its characteristics, location, male, female and immature forms, how and where it nests etc. I will venture back out to attempt to photograph the complete set of male, female and juvenile if it is possible, though this is not always possible as lone birds often drift into our forests. So what do I learn from this juvenile Satin Bowerbird? I identified it as juvenile from my Bird Field Guide where it was described having dark patches on head and neck, less colour on chest and dark grey legs. Compare.
Juvenile Satin Bowerbird
Female Satin Bowerbird
Male Satin Bowerbird
Here by comparing my photos of a mature female with the juvenile I can learn to identify not just the bird itself, but its level of maturity, body shape, beak, how it sits on the branch, its calls and what it feeds on. I eventually will have a mind map of where I can find this bird locally as well as seasonally. The mature male is the most elusive of the family and looks quite different. This is the case with many birds. In many species the male will take longer to mature, and when it does its plumage may change to brighter or different colours to female.
Superb Fairy-wren (male in breeding plumage)
Superb Fairy-wren (female)
Superb Fairy-wren (eclypsing male)
Male Superb Fairy-wren in full non breeding eclipse)
The immature always look similar to the female till they mature as a protective form of camouflage. Most of the colour changes and breeding plumage changes all have to do with signifying to both females and males this bird is ready to breed and bring forth offspring. Some birds go through several plumage changes a year passing in and out of breeding (eclipse), the Fairy-wrens are a good example of this. The male retains his blue tail but looses his beautiful blue and black plumage. So finding this juvenile bird as we did, brought further learning and understanding of this species, and opened the way for more interest in birding to my grandchildren who love to accompany us on our birding adventures. last week’s post showed a juvenile Rainbow Lorikeet I discovered, with its parent. Having them side by side helps highlight the developing characteristics of the young bird.
Have a wonderful week and stay out of the heat!
If this is your first visit to my blog, please take a few moments and check out my website and the interesting pages on birding and life skills the birds can teach us. Also, check out my book. You can explore all this and more from my Home page
As I mentioned earlier birds tend to nest near a source of fresh water and a good food source, and the Bible notes this:
‘The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.’ – Psalm 104:12
“Look at [study intently] the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26
Strange as it is, it was only the above verse in the forward of my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ that stopped my book being used in schools and child psychology work, despite many educators loving its unique teaching method. Many local schools have put it in their libraries and some schools have supported it enough to have me come and speak and sell my book as a fund raiser. It shows how the enemy of our souls works through people’s fear and guilt.
How can one statement that gives hope and value to human life be the reason for not using a book which educators have said has great value for our youth? Sadly, this is the Secular Humanistic age we live in, where our freedoms are slowly being stripped away, and our children are being taught to believe in an empty god of science and evolution, being taught to be politically correct in a Post Christian world. The truth is God is not dead, and continues to make himself known to those who put their trust in him.
‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [power] to become children of God’ — John 1:12 (NIV)
As we all launch into 2019, many of us are using this time as a waypoint from which to examine our life journey and consider what things we can do better and improve on to make our life happier and safer, and thus more satisfying. A healthy attitude of gratitude and thankfulness is vital not only to our emotional health but also in maintaining a healthy immune system. Peace, love, joy and hope are experienced through good relationships, helping to wave off the unhealthy addictive behaviors and habits which may entangled one throughout the year.
Many use the New Year as an opportunity to ‘turn over a new leaf’. The tiny Australian Logrunner is one unusual and very rarely seen Australian rainforest bird which spends its life turning over old leaves, and as you will see is a very fitting bird to launch my blog into the New Year, revealing pearls of wisdom.
Male (white neck)
Female (rufous neck)
These tiny birds are endemic to the rainforests on the east coast of northern to central NSW and southern Queensland, and spend most of their life foraging in the leaf litter. They seldom fly, and if they do it is only to briefly escape danger. Their main protective features, which make them very difficult to see, other than the poor light under the dense canopy: is their size, their camouflage coloring which blends in with leaf litter and their ability to freeze and remain very still for some time when they sense danger nearby. See what I mean…
This makes detection very difficult, but can give good photographic moments. The movement of leaf litter on the forest floor and their unique call to one another may be the only clue to their presence, as they travel in pairs and small family groups beneath bushes, palms and shrubs.
My wife and I needed a walk on one very hot heat wave day last week, so we walked in the cool of the rainforest in the Royal National Park, one of my favorite places. As we approached the surrounding woodland, it appeared and sounded birdless, to our disappointment. As we walked into rainforest loop track near the creek we saw a tiny object flit across the path and soon discovered this pair. We had never seen Logrunners in this forest before, though they have probably always been there. Most Australians have never seen them or would even know there was a bird by that name. The male has a distinct white throat and the female an orange rufous throat.
These birds have a unique digging action whereby they lean back on their purpose designed tail which is reinforced with stiff spines, and rapidly use their legs to kick leaves out sideways. They often dig down in one spot disappearing into a hole beneath the ground hunting for worms and other insects under the moist leaf litter. They get their name as they are often seen on or near old logs or at the buttress roots of native ficus trees as they make their nests there in holes and by the roots protected and out of sight.
Many people who have purchased my book “What Birds Teach Us” have commented when seeing my photos of the Logrunner, that they never knew of this bird. The lesson I gleaned and share is to ‘choose what you need rather than what you want.’The Logrunner can fly if it so desires to, but it gets all its needs met by staying safe on the forest floor out of sight from the clutches of larger hunting birds. My book discusses the need to be wise in our decision making, being able to discern our true needs from the selfishness of wants, and the dangers of placing ourselves in vulnerable situations which may have future repercussions and possibly cause irreparable damage both to our life and the lives of others. As I shared earlier regarding the unhealthy results of addictive behaviour, it starts with placing desire to satisfy excessive wants above satisfying valid needs. The want may or may not necessarily for some thing evil or immoral but may be simply for food, drink or electronic media etc.
My wife and I have taken this first week to consider areas we can improve on in our relationships and our life style, and correct and make changes to improve our lives for a more satisfying 2019. Stay free of addictive, compulsive and obsessive behaviour by forgiving the people in your past who have hurt you and thus make a new start. Forgiveness therapy enables one to let go of the pain of the past which continues to distort their life and attitude causing depression and vulnerability to bad choices in life. Some may need the help of a counselor to do this but many of us can start 2019 determined and focused on changing our habits with the help of an accountability person. This may be your partner, family member, close friend or therapist, that is, someone you can share your progress with who understands your goal and cares about you. However, you might want to explore the forgiveness that brings complete healing and restoration of relationships, by knowing and accepting God’s free gift of forgiveness offered each man, woman and child through faith in Jesus Christ. You can read more about this here.
“Tell your sins to each other. And pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer from the heart of a man right with God has much power.” – James 5:16 (NLV)
“So I strive always to keep my conscienceclear before God and man.” – Acts 24:16
May you and your loved ones enjoy a truly satisfying and peaceful New Year. If you would like to explore more of the life skills we can learn from our birds visit my Birder Sanctuary page.
The Rufous Whistler singing. The Golden Whistler singing.
This will be my last post for 2018, and with it comes a sincere blessing to all my blog followers for a joyful, enjoyable and thankful Christmas experience. This is a special post unlike any others, for here I share my own personal experience of how one Christmas day became so important to the rest of my life. I have featured both the Rufous and Golden Whistlers in this post as examples of joy and thanksgiving since these two birds can be heard singing their hearts out non stop at this time of year bringing our bush alive with their joyful song. The Golden Whistler is featured in my book for this reason. Last weekend while in Wagga Wagga I took a short trip out to The Rock Nature Reserve, which Sue Taylor raved about in her book 100 Best Birdwatching Sites in Australia, but which we find disappointing each visit. My main goal here was to catch a glimpse of the Red-capped Robin, which I long to see, but alas as a storm moved in the only bird I heard was several persistent Rufous Whistler. The drought has caused many birds to desert this area for want of food and water.
But for their different colored chests (which give them their name) they look and sound similar. They are heard most only in the Spring and Summer while they chase mates and nest. Endemic to Australia, the Golden species is found mainly along the humid east coast of Australia, SW WA and Lord Howe Island. The Rufous is found all over Australia mainland and is more often seen in the dryer open woodland west of the ranges. Recent scientific research has discovered that many song birds sing so joyfully and with full on vigor for the pure delight of doing so, because it has an endorphin release in the brain that gives them a feel good feeling. Rejoicing and being thankful has a very positive and life giving effect in humans as in birds. This Christmas is a time for us all to take heed of these little songsters, and realize the health and social benefits of having a joyful spirit. It actually builds up our immune system and helps keep us healthy.
Listen to the several different calls of the Rufous Whistler…
In this video clip you will see (slightly out of focus) one of the amazing abilities of the Rufous Whistler with this repetitive call. All bird sing their most and best as sun rises and sun sets. Birders know this as the Morning and Evening Chorus. If you want to see and hear a bird joyfully communicating with its mates and thankfully enjoying its breakfast after a long sleep, morning is best. Then just as sun starts to set again they excitedly call and have their last feed for the day before finding their roost, usually moving to the top of the highest trees as the suns light diminishes.
As I explained in a previous blog post at the commencement of our Spring, the sound of the Golden Whistler is one such call that tells me here in Sydney’s Royal National Park that Spring has arrived and the Whistler is seeking a mate and/or nesting his mate. Note that I have only shown photos of the males, as they are main whistlers, they do communicate with each other as they foragein a similar way to the Whipbird.
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler male
Golden Whistler male
Golden Whistler (male) whistling
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler (male)
Listen to the song of the Golden Whistler, it also varies at intervals…
Again they call with such enthusiasm…
My last meditation for the year is in the form of my own personal testimony to how one Christmas at the age of 16 my life took a new journey. If you take the time to read it, it may encourage you to discover the joy I did and like the Whistlers…
“Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing! Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us and we belong to him;” – Psalm 100: 1-5 (NET)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7 (NET)
This is the true joy of having the indwelling Holy Spirit of Jesus who keeps us joyful in his peace and love even through the difficult times of life. Jesus is the reason for the season, so why not look him up if you have not done so already. Check out my Birder Sanctuary page for more spiritual encouragement and direction. As I shared in my AboutUs page, my wife and I are not religious we are grace and faith people who have come to believe in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
You can still purchase my book as a great Christmas gift for a grandchild or child on my BirdBook page.
Three weeks ago my wife and I visited the Southern Highlands region south of Sydney where we found many birds, in particular a lone Regent Honeyeater. The Drunk Parrot Tree in Wollongong Botanic Gardens is now deserted of birds as the blossoms are finished, assisted by the violent deluge (Sydney’s Super Storm) we experienced a week ago. A day after the rain I went back to check how the birds fared. A friend at a National Park office told me that many birds were brought in injured from the storm and many had died. You will remember I featured the above nest in my previous post with the female Dusky Woodswallow sitting proudly on her eggs. After the storm, my investigation found no Woodswallows anywhere around the nest area in the Budderoo National Park. In fact the forest was almost silent but for the call of an elusive Rufous Whistler. However the wild flowers benefited from the rain and were in full bloom both here and in Barren Grounds National Park where I visited later. Click on photo to enlarge it.
The sound of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo could be heard making it easy to find. The Eastern Bristlebird I would usually find was also gone as were many other birds.
Then I was charmed by the lovely call of the Grey Shrike-thrush, a bird that is normally quite brave and curious of humans, though this one was rather shy.
The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike watched as I poured my coffee from my thermos with the silent heath lands of the highlands all to myself. I love sitting in the silence with no man made machine or voice noises, just the sound of birds and wind blowing with the wisps of wild flower scent.
Another curious bird the female Golden Whistler came to check me out. I always love the way this bird turns its head to look at me in a similar way to the Robins. I could hear the male calling earlier so I knew he probably had a mate and was nesting nearby. Notice how plain looking she is compared to the stunning colors of the male.
female Golden Whistler
female Golden Whistler
male Golden Whistler whistling
This Eastern Crimson Rosella was a laugh as it shook its tail doing some kind of dance. It was some distance away and in the forest darkness.
I later made my way down the mountain to visit Wollongong Botanic Gardens to see how the Bowerbirds were going and on the way I sighted this male Superb Lyrebird foraging.
Finally I arrived at the gardens and noticed the absence of nectar eating passerines, but to my delightful surprise was greeted by several rainforest birds which are not commonly seen out in the open. This Bassian Thrush was sighted behind a bush but I only got one shot and it was gone.
My second rainforest gift was this Green Catbird, a beautiful specimen out in the open sunlight, something you seldom get to see. These birds are related to the Bowerbirds and are very elusive and hard to spot in a tree due to their colour and shyness. Their call usually helps find them.
My third rainforest bird was of course the Satin Bowerbird, and not just the male but this beautiful female with food in mouth waiting to leave for the nest, not wanting me to know where it is.
Female Satin Bowerbird
The Satin Bowerbird have such beautiful eye colour. The blue-black plumage colors are the product of light refraction in the surface feathers. The males were busy repairing bowers and collecting more blue objects to decorate the bower to make it attractive to fertile females. My book “What Birds Teach Us” features this unique Australian bird and draws on a lesson we can learn from its creative nature.
One of the several males was sitting up on a branch and calling to the females.
It was noted that the unusual double bower was still intact after the storm, though others had suffered loss.
This male kept his eye on me as he foraged and dug down under a bush, unusual behaviour.
But my greatest gift was to view through the bushes a rare glimpse of a mature male Satin Bowerbird teaching the immature youngster how to dance. He was training the youngster for the most important role that would occupy the rest of his life, building the bower, doing the mating dance and singing the mating songs (mimicry) to impress and get the females to mate with him. Only the the most creative and best performers get the girl. Recent studies show that this is a learnt process from a young age, and as with humans there are different degrees of intelligence, creativity and ability. Lyrebirds have a similar learnt process. Birds with long gestation and maturity times such as these have larger brains and more neurons in their learning regions. It takes over six years for a male to mature to full adult plumage. This is the only photo I managed to get through the bushes of this immature male, the movie clip was not suitable as it was too difficult to focus through the bushes.
Immature male Satin Bowerbird
The garden desert region had the beautiful native Western Australian Kangaroo Paw flowering in various colors.
In this world of constantly changing values and morals many are left confused and disillusioned. The lack of absolute truth and the lack of adherence to such by society in government, schools, churches and law courts has assisted in increasing depression, disappointment and lack of direction for living. This has caused Family and Personal Counselling to become the fastest growing industry worldwide today. In the same way if we do not follow the manufacturers instructions problems may arise, so it is with us. If we do not recognize or want to recognize the instructions of our Loving Creator for our best life scenario, and disregard them, we will strike problems and suffer the pain of guilt and disappointment in life.
We were ‘appointed‘ to live a righteous and enjoyable life in relationship with God the Father, so we become ‘disappointed‘ when we do life our own way, following the crowd of selfish amoral modern thought. Regardless of whether or not it is legal in society, that does not make it right. This is what my brother, a barrister, explained many years ago when I shared my disapproval with some of the judgments made in our law courts.
The point is that all the birds in our region experienced the deluge of Sydney’s Super Storm and the strong winds on the day, some fared well and some were injured and died, some stayed and suffered the storm as many were still nesting and others fled, possibly being warned instinctively to flee. We all have to make choices and if we choose to make choices that are not good for us we need to be prepared to suffer the consequences which may appear later in life. The other side of this today in our Secular Humanistic society is that we may suffer standing for what is right (what we believe to be Truth) and be persecuted by what is proclaimed legal in our new Modernistic Atheistic Society, where the government becomes the new god. The question in me and each of us is: How then will I fare, how will I withstand life’s storms?
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to bring charges against me now? Where are my accusers? Let them appear! See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! – Isaiah 50: 7-9a
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 15:23 (NLT)
Have a wonderful week my dear blogging birding friends as we prepare for the celebration of Jesus coming to earth as our savior. I just want to leave you with a lovely thought Brian Mulroney spoke at exPresident George H W Bush’s funeral:
“There are ships that sail the seas, but the best ships are friendships!”
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out the rest of my website aussiebirder.com!
What better Christmas Gift than a copy of my book, a gift that keeps on giving.especially for young people 7 to 12 years of age. It not only teaches an appreciation of Australia’s beautiful birds but integrates life skills as the unique characteristics of each bird teach us how to do life better. Many from all over the world who follow this blog have purchased this book, some have given reviews. Read them for yourself and purchase here online on my BirdBook page.
A lady bought 3 books two days ago, after reading it in a Dentist Surgery waiting room. She was so pleased she had found the perfect Christmas present for her grandchildren that she came back the next day and bought 2 more.
The Satin Bowerbird is a bird we have seen more recently as males attend their bowers and impress visiting females with the hope of mating with as many females as possible. To do this they seek to gain the prestige of having the most beautiful bower and trinkets, performing the most creative dance and singing the most skilful mimicry song. The male is blue-black and the female green and brown with a patterned chest, the juveniles are similar to the female but with less green and more brown in plumage.
Each male has spent weeks tirelessly building each strand of the bower from dried grass and sticks, collecting blue coloured objects (his jewels which match his own beautiful alluring colours) and positioning them in an impressive display. he has spent most of his life practicing building bowers and learning his own dance steps and peculiar song in a very similar way to the Lyrebird.
He knows there are several competing bowers in his local forest, and that these males may come at any time he is absent from the bower, to steal his blue trinkets or to ruin his bower. They all want the prize of impressing and mating with as many of the resident females as possible.
Female looks into bower, will she enter it?
Female examining bower
Female observes male and bower
Bowerbirds are endemic to the rainforest areas of the east coast of Australia and are primarily native fruit and insect eaters (mostly figs). Of our over 45 species of fig there is always one or more fruiting at any time of the year, as well as the fruit from both introduced and other native species. Similar to the Lyrebirds they are low flying birds and capable of mimicking other bird sounds.
The juvenile male looks the same as the female and takes seven years before it gains its mature black feathers and violet eyes. It is the refraction of light on the surface of the feathers that gives the glossy blue-black appearance.
Of our 8 species of Bowerbird (10 if we include our Catbirds which are in the same family) most build bowers and gather trinkets (some collect white or green objects, flowers or fruits to decorate their bower and attract female interest). Simply put, if the male is not smart, artistic and creative enough the female will notice it and fly off to view another bower. Males spend many hours repairing and improving their bowers as they search for blue objects. Researchers have found that when red objects are placed in the bower area, the Bowerbird will either remove them or cover them up.
All through Spring this flight of the females visiting bowers takes place, in a similar way men and women courting and dating, with ladies seeking out and ticking off the qualities they see in their aspiring suitors as they seek to impress. I had the amazingly rare opportunity to film the process of the female entering the bower and the male dancing for her. I apologise for the shaky camera as it is shot at quite a distance from the bower, up under a large tree (bowers are often hidden under trees or bushes). It was difficult to stabilise due to low angle I had to hold the camera.
Considering the the amount of time, great skill and creative effort that goes into the construction of the bower and the wooing of the female my thoughts are drawn to consider the difference between excellence and perfectionism. The pursuit of excellence is a healthy attitude to have because it is based on a realistic and positive understanding of who we are, accepting that we can strive to do better but it is OK if sometimes we make mistakes and or fail to meet our goals, we can learn from these and stay humble. However, perfectionistic attitudes, which are primarily bred in children from a young age, by perfectionistic, legalistic and negative parents and carers demanding a high level of performance and achievement in life, give the impression that one’s value comes from what they do and achieve, and is only acceptable when it is completed with perfection. As they constantly fail to reach their goal, even when they do exceedingly well, they are constantly under the stress of trying to achieve unrealistic goals to please their parents and themselves resulting ultimately in discouragement, depression and a sense of worthlessness. The child raised to exhibit excellence, however, can accept themselves for who they are, like a Bowerbird, as a teenager, he spends many hours practicing to build a bower, which will not be needed till years later. He makes mistakes but tries many times till he finally masters the art. He learns to dance and to mimic, knowing he may not be the best but he will give it his best shot, in the hope it will be acceptable when the time comes.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week and enjoy the birds. We put out a special call to our Aussie conservationists to help save our threatened Koala population click on this link.
If this is your first visit to my blog, please take a minute to check out my website Homepage menu and helpful birding and counselling info. My Special Sightings page has my rare bird sightings. Check out my unique book which can be purchased through secure PayPal here online on my BirdBook page.
This week as my wife and I were accessing difficult birding areas, I realised just how elusive and fearful of humans our fresh water birds are, and because of this how many non-birders would probably never laid eyes on some of the most beautiful and unique birds in our country of Australia. One such duck, the Pink Eared Duck (above) is a good example. These unusual ducks filter water for micro marine organisms and insects using their purpose built spatulated broad bill.
The Pink-eared Duck gets its name from a pink marking on the side of its head which is smaller or absent in females and absent in juveniles. They are mostly found in inland fresh water lakes throughout the Australian continent and is endemic to Australia. It is often found in large flocks of hundreds as we observed last weekend…
We were doubly blessed to see two juvenile Pink-eared Ducks for the first time ever. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Another rarely noticed fresh water duck which keeps its distance from humans (on the other side of the lake) is the Australasian Shoveler, also endemic and sports a very similar spatulated bill to our previous duck. The male is the more colourful and the female mainly brown. Note how it sweeps the water filtering it for its food, allowing the water to pass out. These are usually seen in small family groups.
Australasian Shoveler male
Australasian Shoveler male
Australasian Shoveler female
Australian Shoveler pair
One of the most popular freshwater ducks which are found in very large flocks in northern Australia and in some of our lakes and dams here in our state also, is the Plumed Whistling Duck. These are migratory as they return to the top end in the wet season of summer to breed.
Plumed Whistling Duck male
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
You may remember seeing this video clip from a previous post, highlighting the cacophony of sound the whistling of thousands of ducks can produce.
The most elusive and human sensitive duck we have encountered and laboured to see is of course the Blue-billed Duck. The bill of the males during breeding glows bright blue. The male is distinctly different to female, the female being very similar to the female and juvenile of the Musk Duck, another fresh water elusive duck, and can be often difficult from a distance to tell them apart. Both the Blue-billed and Musc Ducks share very similar characteristics which I will share later.
Males in foreground females in background
Hardhead male and Blue-billed Duck male
The Musk Duck gets its name from the musk like scent the male liberates from a gland on its rump, it sports an unusual leathery lobe, and because of its greasy grey appearance is always difficult to photograph from a distance.
The Blue-billed and Musc Ducks are often found together in family groups well away from human approach. These birds spend almost all of their life on the water, they sleep afloat (see Blue-billed photo above). Both birds are identified by the fact they float low in the water, they have large splaying tails which the males use to attract females, they both have long involved courtship displays and are endemic to Australia. I managed to get some pics (from a distance) of a male doing a courtship display with his followers looking on as he kicked, turned, rolled onto his back and splayed his tail in the water.
Courtship display by a male Musk Duck
Courtship display by a male Musk Duck
Courtship display by a male Musk Duck
The Australian Shelduck is a duck often only seen in family groups and not commonly seen on the coast being more of an inland bird to the southern part of Australia. We often only find the occasional bird at a wetland or lake but not in any number though their numbers are always increasing and are of little concern. In this case the white surrounding the eye is the female.
One duck most people here in NSW would not have seen because it only lives in the far north of Australia is the Radjah Shelduck which we have posted here in our far north travels earlier this year.
Two other birds only found in Far North Queensland that I also featured in previous posts are the Cotton Pygmy Goose and the Green Pygmy Goose which are extremely elusive, but are called geese rather than ducks, but are elusive, fresh water and seldom seen, so included them.
Green Pygmy-Goose pair
Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Wandering Whistling Ducks
The Wandering Whistling Duck, which lives up to its name, as it is not endemic to Australia, but is found in south-east Asia and moves about in northern Australia, occasionally seen as a vagrant here. It is found in large flocks similar to its Plumed cousin.
Wandering Whistling Duck
Wandering Whistling Duck
The Hardhead is an Australia’s most common diving duck (endemic to Australia) similar to the Blue-billed Duck (also a diving duck) but more common. It is not as shy as the above but can be. The male is identified by the white eye and the female by the brown eye. These birds do not swim as low in the water as Blue-bills but are often found with them and look similar from the distance. The Blue-bills keep their tail low in the water unlike the Hardhead.
Hardheads landing near Cotton Pygmy-Goose
The other ducks such as Australian Wood Duck, Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal and Pacific Black Duck are very common and not listed as elusive or rarely seen. The Grey Teal is apparently our most abundant duck. However, our most endangered and rare Duck is the Freckled Duck. Posted as vulnerable in our state, but is most endangered of all our ducks as it inhabits swamps and lakes inland, and when these dry up it moves towards the coast. It is only found in the southern part of our continent but not Tasmania.
All of the above ducks have had to photographed from a distance in a fresh water lake, swamp or lagoon, the Hardheads being the not so shy and more frequently seen. Many in the general public think ducks eat small fish and only small marine creatures, however, ducks are mostly omnivorous and feed on insects, seeds, grains, grass, water weeds, mollusks and what ever they can find. They do not normally feed on fish. As we saw above, those ducks that have been given purpose built bills such as the Pink-eared and Shoveler extract most of their nutrient directly from filtering the water, for crustaceans, molluscs, fresh water plankton and insects. Last weekend we saw many different species resting together in the middle of the lake all on friendly terms, as each kept its distance from the other.
There is safety in numbers and this was well demonstrated as we approached the lake. The first warnings alerted those who were sleeping and not facing our way. This caused some to give an alarm call and fly off, while others (the Pink-eared flock) took off and circled the lake several times, as they would for a raptor’s appearance and finally resettle in another lake nearby. Others would just swim further to the other side of the lake, keeping an eye on us. The flock is a safety structure for many reasons, especially in the harsh country of Australia. This is one reason why many of our birds can learn multiplicity of bird languages and can also be taught to speak words (Parrots, Budgies and Cockatoos) as they combine with other flocks and learn their local lingo. By pooling their resources they are able to stay safe and find food, water, companionship and mates especially in drought times. We do the same when we pool our resources as a family or community, whatever that may look like. Sharing our knowledge and experiences helps our family flock do life better. It is for this reason I exhort fathers in particular to share their life with their children while they are young, it is so important, and the children hunger for it. My book is just another way of helping dads do this well as it is full of Godly advice without being religious
“And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” – Ephesians 6:4 (Living Bible)
“A wise teacher makes learning a joy;” – Proverbs 15:2
“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Have a wonderful and restful weekend. We are facing a heatwave today with total fire ban which is not good for the many birds nesting after recent rains. Breeding numbers here remain down this year also.
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