In my last post I shared the wonderful birding date my wife and I had on the Great River Walk where we saw many bird babies. The Dusky Woodswallows and White-plumed Honeyeaters were not yet fledged. Last weekend we drove away from the furious bushfires inland to the city of Wagga Wagga for my B’day or more accurately what became a Birday weekend. We visited my wife’s family there, staying with her sister who was recently widowed. Her sister’s home overlooks Lake Albert. As I mentioned last week, the presence of an abundant source of food near fresh water is an excellent location for nesting. I awoke early to the melodious call of the Grey Shrike-thrush family communicating to one another. At first I thought there may be a nest nearby the house, but later saw the juvenile waiting for food, as the parent went across the road to the trees by the lake to catch insects to feed its youngster.
The fledgling was calling to its own reflection in the window next door, which would occupy it for some time, till the parents told it to get back in the backyard where it was safe.
Grey-Shrike-thrush juvenile shadow singing
One adult stood watch while the other hunted for food, but they maintained their call constantly throughout the day, as they communicated their whereabouts.
There was often commotion in the tree by our bedroom window which turned out to be an aggressive little adult White-plumed Honeyeater which was trying to drive the Shrike-thrush family away from hunting near its young chicks, as these could easily become part of its current diet. Notice the size of the white plume on the juveniles compared to the adult feeding them.
two juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
I love rising early when I stay there, while it is still very cold, to do an early morning bird walk around part of the lake where many birds nest and live. Here the Woodswallows are in their next stage of being fledged, but still keeping close to the nest area and being fed by parents.
Both parents are coming and going as they feed their youngsters with insects quickly acquired as they glide from tree to tree. The youngsters are able to fly quite well from tree to tree, but staying in the view of the parent.
On the lake a small flock of what appeared to be Common Tern were fishing the lake, with their usual diving technique. These birds were not diving in the same manner as the Crested Tern we are use to on the coast. They fly closer to the surface and dive with less speed.
This Royal Spoonbill was busily scanning the shoreline also.
This pair of Black-winged Stilt were nearby, one wading and the other sleeping.
As I walked around the wetland reserve portion of the lake I spotted this lone Hoary-headed Grebe cruising peacefully.
As I looked along the reeds on the shoreline, excitement rose as I saw a bird which some distance away, appeared to be a unfamiliar shorebird. I quickly took photos. It was a parent Black-tailed Native-hen, a bird we seldom ever see, if ever on the coast, and never before here. A parent with two juveniles, a wonderful find, though one of the juveniles hid for most of the time.
It was great to see some of the inland birds we seldom see. The Great Dividing Range which runs from top to bottom of Australia separates many of the bird species from being coastal or inland species. Another inland specie I saw was a pair of Little Friarbirds which were in the process of nest building.
Red-rumped Parrots feeding on the grass seed by the lake is a common find here. The male has the bright red rump and the female a green rump, and is basically greenish.
But one exciting and beautiful find inland in this particular region (inland south eastern Australia) was the Yellow Rosella, which for some strange reason was recently sub classed under the Crimson Rosella species. It looked radiant in the early morning sunlight.
Walking past this old tree stump by the lake I noticed an interesting friendship between a lone Eastern Rosella with mutation and a Yellow Rosella, two different species flying and exploring as if they were a pair. Plumage colour mutations are common in the Parrot families, showing much diversity. When these birds finally flew off because of my presence they flew off and landed together.
The Magpie-lark (known also as Pee Wee, Piper, or Mudlark depending on which state you live in) family were also present nearby. This female Pee Wee had two juveniles it was coaching. These birds are easy to distinguish sex and maturity by their black facial lines and their eye colour.
Father Pee Wee
Mother coaching fledglings
This Crested Pigeon was displaying some beautiful colours. One would think were hand painted.
One of the highlights of our time away was this small flock of Superb Parrots, another mainly inland bird, we happened upon on the side of the road. The male has a bright with yellow face and the female dull green. Again superbly brilliant in the sunlight when in flight.
While there are always numerous pairs and flocks of Galahs, this one and its mate seemed to be digging deeply with their beak possibly for edible roots, with its eyes closed.
Another inland bird is the Rufous Whistler. It looks and sounds similar to its cousin the Golden Whistler which is more predominant along the coastal forests, having a rufous brown body instead of the bright yellow of the Golden species. These birds are always a challenge to photograph as they love to elude your gaze. This male was singing continuously in my wife’s niece’s garden.
Listen to its call. Like other Whistlers they are heard continuously throughout the breeding season of Spring and Summer, going much quieter during Winter months.
Also jumping about in the garden is this beautiful male Superb Fairy-wren, yes another superb bird! Oh, sorry this little guy was actually in the reeds by the lake, I did not include the garden ones.
This juvenile Australian Eastern Magpie was being cared for by a young relative, possibly a sbling from a previous year clutch. This illustrates the complex and well organised social family structure of the Magpie species, where by all close and extended family members assist in raising the young. Magpies are one of Australia’s most predominant and resilient birds, partly due to this reason as well as their very high level of intelligence.
As we drove home from this wonderful weekend away, a four and a half hour drive, my wife spotted a Wedge-tailed Eagle being attacked by a Magpie. This is a common sight during breeding season, where many smaller birds attack raptors. Two weeks ago I showed a Blacked-winged Stilt doing the same. There constant attack and back biting eventually drives the raptor to another area. If you have ever been attacked by an Australian Magpie, as I have, you will know they are a formidable force, and this is why survive so well, having very few predators. The missile like speed and force of their flight is remarkable, they know no fear, even the very aggressive Noisy Miner show them great respect.
coming in for the strike
preparing for another shot
Silhouette of the wedge tail
We can see that the breeding season creates many concerns for caring parents, especially when predator species which may threaten the safety of their young are also living in the vicinity. This tension is mostly only realised during the breeding season. There is constant tension, as you witnessed above. These last few days have seen horrific catastrophic bushfires burn hundreds of kilometers of prime forests, destroying over 200 human homes and now 4 lives. A thousand kilometer fire front with over 60 fires burn in our state alone, and that’s not including the fires in Queensland and now WA which is having a catastrophic day today. These fires have worsened and are spreading in many areas. These fires are of unprecedented extent and ferocity for this time of year never before experienced in Spring. The long drought, tinder dry forests with much dead or dying undergrowth, high Spring temperatures with very strong winds and fire bugs have placed our eastern states in a state of emergency. What is sooo sad is that most birds and animals are nesting or feeding their very young at this time. These fires normally occur at the end of Summer, when most can escape. The fires show no mercy as many thousands of birds and animals, over four hundred of our endangered Koalas are incinerated. If we do not get good rain soon, Sydney and other large cities may run our of water, and also be unable to stop the encroaching fires effectively. Many country towns have no water. Please pray for our country that the drought would relent and good rains would be sent to replenish and cool our land. Firefighters have come from New Zealand and other states to assist, to join with our volunteer fire brigade heroes to hold back the blazes. I have never seen my local birds have such long drinks at my bird baths as I have seen today. Funny enough our friends in Victoria and Tasmania are suffering under icy cold cyclonic winds, rain and snow. This is why our stay in Wagga felt so cool and wintery. Our state is due for another catastrophic period in the next few days, which may only worsen in the coming weeks and months as the greater heat of Summer encroaches..
Enjoy your week wherever you are and keep your bird baths topped up daily with fresh water. The more they see you caring for them, the more trusting they will become. Some of my birds are beginning to allow me within their buffer zone, as they trust me more. You may experience the same. How wonderful it would be if the fear of mankind which was given creatures after man’s rebellion to God, could be reversed to a loving caring trusting kind relationship. It was for their safety it had to be, as man’s selfish and hurtful nature can not be trusted at all times.
Though the Noisy Miner is disliked by many Australians for its noisy aggressive behaviour, it surprises many of them to discover that it is one of native birds endemic to our country. I have a friendly relationship with my visitors as you can see above, and they will bathe and drink, as will other birds, while I sit and watch them only a few feet away. I have found that having the smaller and larger bird baths next to each other under the large Bottlebrush tree with many low landing points around them is a perfect scene for the many birds to enjoy a quiet drink, a shaded wash and rest in the tree. When the larger Magpie or Currawong come they know to use the largest bath and the Miners move to the smaller. The Rainbow Lorikeets strangely enough also enlist great respect from the Noisy Miner, and they use the larger bath also. I am amazed that the Miners never attack the Rainbows. I have read that the Rainbow bite is ferocious as are their claws, so the Miners have learnt to live along side them.
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you. In famine he will deliver you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the wild animals. For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you.” – Job 5:17-23 (NIV)
You can purchase your copy of my book for immediate delivery by post in time for Christmas on my BirdBook page.
One of the great advantages of my wife having more days off during the week is that we can have more frequent birding dates together and explore new regions around Sydney. I was tipped off that the rarely seen Painted Honeyeater had been spotted around the Penrith Weir along the Great River Walk track. So early one morning we set off with camp chairs, thermos and packed lunch to check out this unexplored birding area at the foot of the Blue Mountains along the banks of the Napean River. Of course, in western Sydney there is always the possibility of seeing snakes sunning.
Amazing as it was, we spent the first 30 minutes having only walked less than 30 meters along the path, as we a multiplicity of birds appeared, and could be identified by their calls. The scissor sound and continual displaying of the Restless Flycatcher.
The chatter of the brilliant Red-rumped Parrot in the sun as he fed on grass seed
The abrupt scraping sound of the Red Wattlebird call.
However, the loudest, continuous and most noticeable bird call was that of the Bell Miner community which had taken possession of the trees in this small area. They had young ones they were feeding and caring for also. The Bell Miner, commonly known as the Bellbird, has a very complex and organised social structure and will usually aggressively remove any other Lerps and nectar eaters from the trees. They are usually: loudly heard but seldom seen, as their colour is leaf green.
This would explain why we found in their midst two Dusky Woodswallow nests in trees only a few feet apart. The parent Woodswallows were busily watching the nest from nearby, and fetching food. Last week I showcased the less common White-browed Woodswallow, this is one of the more common cousins to our area. Both nests had three nestlings, as you can see with my feature photo, and these. Enjoy! New life was a feature in this small neck of the woods.
Dusky Woodswallow parent
Dusky Woodswallow parent
Dusky Woodswallow parent
Parent guarding babies
Returning to nest
in the first nest
a rear view
In the second nest
feeding time but too much to swallow
Woodswallows are mostly insectivorous and have no trouble finding food as they glide around us in classic Woodswallow fashion. As with new human mothers, some of feeding is trial and error, and this was the case when a large winged insect was brought in, but none of the babies could swallow it, eventually the mother ate it. You will hear the Bellbirds in the background.
A little further along the path we found this male Dusky Woodswallow displaying for the nearby female, who’s attention he could not capture. There was a lot of butt shaking, which must be a real turn on for the female. However, after putting on a good show for us, within seconds jumped on the back of the unsuspecting female and mated with her. Bird mating in many species happens very quickly in seconds, and he is gone! Most male birds do not possess a penis, so it is amazing how such brief contact with both their openings does the job. Sometimes this may occur many times a day during breeding season until she feels the urge to nest. This is why it is difficult to determine the sex of young birds when they all look alike. I have a couple of funny stories about my children’s Guinea Pigs and Budgerigars when they were young. How I was always told by the Pet Shop owner that they were all female, I will let you work the rest out, and why I needed to build larger enclosures.
There was one Honeyeater which continually eluded the Bell Miners due to its speed and size and that was the White-plumed Honeyeater, which had built a well hidden and secret nest in the midst of the blossom of the eucalypt tree in a very clever format. It would dash back and forth to elude the Miners.
Honeyeater concealed nest
Another White-plumed Honeyeater had its nest hidden deep in a small bush, making it difficult to get good pictures of it feeding its nestlings.
watching the nest
While we kept seeing new life of Spring all around us, and the exuberant calls of joyful males celebrating and warding off intruders, one threat hovered above for a short time in this Nankeen Kestrel, which has a diet of bird babies and insects.
Yes, the signs of new life are all around us and we are in bird baby heaven. We look up into a tall CasuarinaTree and there is one juvenile Australian Raven waiting for its parent to return with food. It decides to spread its wings and perhaps at this stage wonder what they are used for.
Juveile Aust Raven
Testing wing spread
Further along by the river we saw this male Superb Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage followed by one juvenile baby. Notice it has no tail as yet. It was quite cute as it followed the father all over the place. The father had to ward off another breeding male which came briefly on the scene.
adult male in breeding plumage
adult Superb Fairy-wren
warding off an intruder
Nearby a female was secretly tending its nest, which was very inconspicuous and had a hidden opening. This morphing male was watching nearby, and was still changing into his breeding colours from his eclypse state. He is most likely the father to be.
female Fairy-wren nest builder
the nest visited
the nest visited again
morphing father to be
As we came near to weir of the Napean River, we were looking for the Painted Honeyeater, but saw this male Satin Bowerbird watching us from high in a tree.
By the river our Australian native Hibiscus was blooming.
A lone Little Black Cormorant sat on the weir watching the water flow over the weir. Special provision has been made for native fish and Trout to move up and down the river through the weir.
Woman’s Rowing Team were practicing on the river also.
This little group of Australian Wood Duck made for the water on our approach. These birds pair for life, so these are three pair with the male having the darker head with light grey body.
We finally crossed over this remarkable walking bridge in search of coffee on the other side. This special bridge is the third build across the river, the previous two were washed away by floods in the last two centuries. There was a seamless stream of ‘westies’ walking back and forth across this bridge, enjoying this very special river vista.
guess who’s on the bridge?
We finally found a coffee shop at the art gallery where I was almost swooped by an adult magpie which was caring for one hungry juvenile, which I failed to photograph. Yes the signs were there, not to mention this Eastern Water Dragon sunning himself by the river…
My wife had a sudden moment of excitement when she spotted this beautiful Chestnut-breasted Mannikin brilliant in the sunlight. Interesting that the crest is also chestnut rather than classic than grey, possibly a hybrid?
That’s all for this post, Oh, yes before we left, we returned to our starting point where we sat under the shade of a small eucalypt sitting in our camp chairs and ate our turkeyncrannysangers and had our cuppa from the thermos. It was a hot day and the birds came close as we sat in our open air theater watching them do life. We were so thankful for a most enjoyable day!
A Family, a sports team, a work place, a community all need to work together to move forward. The more effort each employs, and the more each maintains purpose, timing, effort and direction the better and faster their achievement towards their goal. The key is focused, willing co operation. It is like rowing or sculling together in a water craft. If some decides to do it differently it throws the whole purpose and goal into confusion and trouble. We all need to pull together if we want to achieve a good outcome in life. When we are all on the same page it makes life so much more enjoyable.
“…So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else… And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:12 -14 (GNT)
Have a wonderful week! if this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out my Home Page to discover more birding information and previous posts.
We are getting closer to publishing my two new books, possibly early next year, as proof reading continues. I am now writing a much more demanding work “An Introduction to Birdwatching for Young People.” which will complete the set. This will hopefully aim again at the Pre-teen and teen ages groups and be an easy reading book which will be packed with useful information for beginning a hobby or pastime in birding at any age. It will contain two sections, One: for identification of more commonly seen birds in each state and Two: containing information on the how, when, where and why of birding, the nuts and bolts. It is another exciting project the Lord dropped into my mind last week.
Since the 2nd Edition will not be published this year, why not purchase a copy of the first edition as a Christmas gift, it will change the life of the young reader in a positive way. This is the testimony of many who review my book. My wife said to me yesterday that each time she reads it it uplifts her spirits. Counselors Doctors and Teachers have shared with me how this book helped change depressed and disadvantaged young people, and older people also, encouraging them to have a positive and healthier outlook for their lives. You can purchase it here online through secure PayPal so that it arrives for Christmas. Many of my blog followers have already purchased it for their children and grandchildren and shared how it blessed them. If you are concerned, there are no religious connotations or suggestions apart from my one verse in the Introduction as to why I wrote it. It has been embraced by people of several different belief systems and various cultures, as the principles described apply to all peoples. It will also give you a better understanding of our Australian birds.
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.
Australian Black-backed Magpie with several Caterpillar in beak
Last weekend we had the privilege of having my grandson Joel stay with us. One of the enjoyable experiences with him was taking out to explore our beautiful local birds. An even greater plus was that he said he actually enjoyed the outdoor experience or adventure as he called it, and was soon standing alongside my wife and myself with a pair of binoculars aimed at our friends the waders, down on the Georges River mudflats. A Budding Birder: Like Grandfather, Like Grandson, you might say!
Thankfully on the day most birds were on cue and appeared in their usual areas. Of course my little friends the Bar-tailed Godwit were patrolling the waters edge and made a great start for the session. Especially watching how when they find/extract a tiny mudcrab from the sand they run off with it, as they are aware the others around them are watching.
Bar-tailed Godwit with a crab
Bar-tailed Godwit with crabs
Their fast and sometimes humorous movement is highlighted in this short clip using Henri Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” music from the 1962 movie Hatari which in Swahili means ‘Danger’.
As we approach slowly closer there is this sudden move to the water, as we begin to enter their safe buffer zone.
In some of the males a tiny remnant of their orange breeding colour could be seen on their under body.
The occasional submerged head technique is quite interesting, that’s a long way down into the sand, it must be a sure thing…
Also sharing the beach was this small flock of Australian White Ibis, actually feeding in their natural habitat. I say this because in recent years this bird has become a pest in Sydney, where it has become known as the ‘Bin Chicken’ because it has learnt to find food in garbage bins, making a mess everywhere.
Australian White Ibis
Australian White Ibis
My grandson was also intrigued by the many Light-blue Soldier Crabs marching on the mudflats, and scuttling away from our approach.
Also on the beach the Pied Oystercatcher was also checking out the crabs.
We drove to our next viewing spot on the other side of the river, hoping to find the Eastern Curlew, and yes it was exactly where we expected to find it. My grandson was able to see out largest and most shy wader.
A recently improved walk along the river included these art form images of birds seen here…
This Australian Black-backed Magpie was collectingseveralCaterpillar in its beak, possibly to take to its nest to feed its wife and/or young ones. Thankfully it saw me as a friend, as I frequently walk quite close to him, like 1 foot away.
Lastly, my wife thought there might be just the off chance that the tiny Red-capped Plover previously seen at Bonna Point Reserve, way over on the other side of Botany Bay at Kurnell, near where Cook first landed, might be walking the shoreline, and to our delight he and two others were doing just that. Of course we sat and had our ice-cream first, watching the jets coming and going from the airport, as they passed overhead. The Red-capped Plover is one of our smallest waders, and is found all over Australia and Tasmania, even in the hot inland, but usually near water. So Joel saw both the biggest and smallest waders all in one afternoon. The amazing thing about this little bird is that if you are not looking for it, you will probably not notice it, as like other plovers, it moves quickly and stops, moves quickly and stops, blending in with the weed and dross on the shoreline. Its like blink and you might miss it.
This the major problem we are experiencing with our wildlife in our state as the Government allows the big companies to come in and totally destroy our old forests, calling it selective clearing. As they are not interested in, or even looking for the wildlife, it does not exist to them. Koala habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate and there is a call to upgrade them to endangered or by 2050 they may be extinct. Read about it here.
Picture from ABC article link above
One of the responsibilities God handed man when he entrusted him with the privilege of having dominance over his other creatures was to care for his planet and its creatures. Greed and selfish ambition have become more the case as we see mankind move away from a recognition of God and his loving and caring agenda. We were intended to be his representatives on the earth, being made like him i.e. in his likeness
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
After the world flood which destroyed most of the earth as it was known in pre-history, and from which our fossils and many rock formations were formed, God reasserted Noah’s authority over the creation, handing him as mankind’s representative to be a responsible carer for his creation, however now there would be fear in the hearts of the creatures, as they may now become food for mankind. This is what we birders experience, as do many of us when approaching our wildlife creatures.
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
It is great when we can re establish a peaceful trust relationship with our birds and animals. Some of us have bird feeders to assist them through cold winters, and some like myself have bird baths to assist washing and watering the birds. The even greater experience comes now that the birds have come to know we care for them and mean them no harm, is that they will provide entertainment for my wife and I as we sit only a couple of feet away eating lunch as they dive, wash and shake. We have a smaller bath for small birds such as Noisy Miner and Grey Butcherbird and a large one next to it for larger birds such as Magpie and Currawong.
Have a wonderful week and enjoy the change of seasons. We remain in drought, and pray for rain, as many farm communities run out of water, and we head into possibly the worse bushfire season on record. This has a huge impact on our trees and wildlife, where for the first time in Australia our rainforests are actually burning.
If this is your first visit to my blog and your interested in birding as a recreational pursuit, why not check out the rest of my birding website, starting with my Homepage. You may be looking for the perfect Christmas gift for your grandchild or child or nephew or nice. Why not check out my book What Birds Teach Us and purchase it securely here online. Ideal for children 7 to 12 years of age, and it will continue to encourage them to make good life choices throughout their lives.
This week to my great delight and relief, my wader friends, the amazing Bar-tailed Godwit, have returned from Alaska again, and this time with a few more in the family making 13 in all. I found them on the Georges River mudflats on a beach where they usually are not found.
They flew off and I followed them to their usual beach, as the tide was quite low and there was plenty of area for them to forage on. It was late afternoon so there was significant yellowing due to pre-sunset light. They all looked healthy and good for their 16,000 km direct flight across the Pacific Ocean over their 8 day non stop flight. This Silver Gull liked getting in the photo also.
The mudflats are great for tiny mud crabs, and as the sand is wet and soft they can press their designer built beak well down to pull them out, sometimes with their entire head underwater.
The Bar-tails have a slightly upturned beak compared with the very straight beak of the Black-tailed Godwit, which we seldom see in these parts. The female is larger than the male, and they have all lost their breeding plumage, and ready for Summer in Australia. I could not detect any juveniles from their recent clutches, so they may stay till next season and make their first journey next year. Some appear to be 2nd year that may have made their first or second.
I am looking forward to getting better pics when the tide and sun are coordinated better. The above pic is probably the better of the bunch. Something spooked the flock and they took off quickly to another beach across the bay. They will be back. I was starting to get very concerned when it reached the 1st of October, as these little guys are usually here by then. I am so happy to see them back again on their same beach.
Often people swim and fish and look for bait on the mudflats while this little tight knitted flock wonder about not far from the them. Interesting that most people using this beach no nothing about these birds or their amazing endurance journey they make twice a year some 32,000km. They just look like sea birds among the sea gulls and offer no great interest, as from a distance they are small and the beauty of their wing patterns are hidden beneath their wings, only revealed in flight. My friends and family notice my excitement every time I see them, and become suddenly amazed when they are told about my little wader friends. They attract little notice, and yet are one of the world’s most remarkable birds. There is a life lesson in this for me that it is not the loud, noisy and showy people that necessarily that have much to contribute, but often the quiet, humble and unassuming.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – James 4:6
Have a wonderful week!
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info. Check out my book “What Birds Teach Us”, a great easy to read gift idea, which continues to get good reviews where people share how it has helped them and how it is a unique book. If you are concerned, it has been carefully written for all cultures and beliefs and does not preach or recommend any particular belief system, but is a counselling tool that encourages good life skills by using the birds and beautiful photos of them to relate to us. People from other cultures and beliefs different to my own, have shared how they love the book. You can purchase your copy here
We are moving through our state’s driest and warmest Spring on record, with out of control bushfires raging already, water shortages due to extended drought conditions and gale force winds in the last few days with no rain relief in sight. Massive seas have beaten the coast as can be seen below.
With the return of Spring comes the yearly return of my favorite waders, the Bar-tailed Godwit. Yesterday I set off to the George’s River mudflats to see if they had made an early return, but the small flock had not yet returned. They are probably in the air doing their amazing 8 days non stop flight across the Pacific Ocean directly from Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.
It was interesting also that this year no immature Godwits stayed behind, they all flew north. Braving the very cold strong winds yesterday I found a lone Pied Oystercatcher on the mudflats.
It is also interesting that a few Eastern Curlew, which are also migratory birds have stayed the Winter here, usually one per beach. These our largest waders, are extremely shy of humans, as many have been killed for their meat as they travel the Asian coast when migrating. I always find this guy grazing no matter what the weather conditions.
Plastic bag, not good eating!
Seeing no Godwits, I made my way to the mudflats on the other side of the bay where again I saw one lone Eastern Curlew foraging, and catching a crab. The light was not in a good place and was diffusing significantly reducing colour. You can see from this clip how their long curved beaks are ideal for extracting crabs from the mudflats, though it can be a drama trying to swallow them as they have no teeth and swallow their prey whole.
Moving to my next stop, which is hidden behind mangroves, and often gives me choice views as very few birders ever go there, again I find one lone Eastern Curlew, but this one is a younger one.
Also on the mudlats as per usual in their usual spot is a small family of Australian Pelicans resting. You will notice the classic sleeping position of birds, resting the weight of their head on their back, and tucking their bill under their back feathers with just their eyes visible. Many birds, unlike us, can turn their heads 270°. Waders will often stand on one leg to rest the other, and change at intervals as they spend most of their lives on their feet and may never sit with their long legs, usually only when sick or nesting.
While I was making my way to the mangroves I passed this beautiful Red Wattlebird with wattles glowing in the sun. It posed for me and allowed me to take several excellent shots. These are our largest honeyeaters and are quite aggressive to other birds when the nectar is on. The Banksia tree in which it sits is one major source of nectar on the coast most of the year, particularity when in Winter most native trees rest from flowering. As you can see this tree has finished flowering and has produced seed cones, which provide food for the seed eating birds such as the Cockatoos.
This male and female Australian ‘black backed’ Magpie were having a quiet time together on the grass. This is the window where we see the male and female together, just before Spring nesting. This is because the female will remain on the nest the entire nesting period while the male feeds her and the relatives protect the nest. When the nestlings fledge it is the male Magpies that watch over and train the young, leaving the female to have a break on her own. The male has the pure white rear neck where as the female’s is more dirty looking.
Male and female Magpie
This Galah was grazing on clover on the grass nearby, as the wind blew up his beautiful head comb.
Finally, I would like to share a series of shots taken during the high seas whipped up by the strong winds. A lone Pelican for some unknown reason, thought it wise to sit in front of the huge waves breaking onto Cape Banks (see photo above to view how huge they were). This Pelican almost got pounded and could have drowned if it had not acted as fast as it did. But the question remains, why did it choose to sit in such a dangerous place when it could see where the waves were breaking? View this slideshow and see how narrow its escape was, at one stage it was lost from view under the wave.
The interesting muse concerning this Pelican was that soon after it had escaped with its life it went back and landed in the same place again, with facing away from the wave and in front of it.
I figured we are all a bit like this Pelican at times, especially when we try to get our own way and go against what we have been told and know to be best for us. The Pelican knew it was a dangerous place but in the moment when it landed (the quiet break between waves) it appeared alright to sit and watch the coastline. We warn our children to be careful when going out at night or participating in risky practices because we are aware of the dangers that lurk there. They may not be there all the time, but can appear when least expected, especially if one chooses to not be on the lookout, but just goes along with the group or just ignores parents warnings. This was reported on the news of a young girl going to school recently, her parents told her to wait and they would take her, but she refused and went on her own and was abducted. For us older ones it is more like ‘we know what is good for our physical, emotional and spiritual health, we have been around long enough to know, but we sometimes choose to ignore the warnings and sit in front of the looming wave. This is of particular importance as we try to make sense out of life itself.
“For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became foolsand exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” – Romans 1:21-23 (NET)
Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 (NET)
“Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore chooselife so that you and your descendants may live!” – Deuteronomy 30:19 (NET)
If you have managed to read this far, you will remember from last weeks post that I mentioned that I am writing a Second Edition of my first book release, while my second book is in the editing process. This may be your last opportunity to purchase a copy of my first book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ as the book is almost out of print and the last 10 copies for sale online are up for grabs. If you have not purchased yet ( though many of you have) or you want a gift for Birthday or Christmas that will keep on giving, this is your opportunity to purchase here online, as other outlets dry up their supplies.
Go to my BirdBook page here to view more info and reviews. This is a unique book which is non religious and is a family counseling book targeting 8 years and older, using the birds as a teaching tool.
Have a wonderful week despite the wild weather and unseasonal conditions! Our great need for rain is not just for us with our dwindling water supply, but also for the many birds, animals and trees suffering, including many blazing forests. Many native birds are not nesting in their normal places due to the drought, and native animals withholding giving birth. We all need to pray for rain and a breaking of this extreme drought here in Australia, despite many having turned away from acknowledging our Creator as our provider.
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
Last week my wife and I took a road trip to the Mid-North Coast of NSW to visit our dear family and friends as well as celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a Happy Birday birthday, as you guessed birding is always an important part of our travels, and an excellent opportunity to share the outdoor experience with those we visit. It is interesting how our passion and knowledge shared stimulates new interest in those we meet. Above is pictured one of the best gifts my wife received from her Heavenly Father, a lifer for us, this Painted Button-quail, a bird endemic to Australia, discovered foraging in the Littoral Forest on the cliff edge walk in Forster. I had to feature this beautiful bird, though it soon moved away so the following shots are not as good. You can see how its beautiful plumage acts as an excellent camouflage. Click on photo to enlarge it.
This bird is not a member of the usual quail family, but as a button-quail it is found in dry forests and numbers are reducing yearly due to destruction of habitat and ferule cats/ foxes. These bird, in a similar but not the same way to the Logrunner, forages for insects and worms by spinning around and digging a small bowl in the leaf litter (a platelet). Unlike many birds, the female courts and then mates with a male, makes the mound, lays the eggs and walks away to repeat the process with another male. The male then incubates the eggs and feeds the young for about a week or so, and they go off on their own, a bit like Australian Brush Turkey style.
Our first stop was to visit friends in the inland cattle farming area of the Barrington valley near Gloucester, along the Barrington and Gloucester Rivers. After a wonderful lunch provided we were taken out birding on quad bikes, which added somewhat excitement and increased heart rate to the afternoon, but we survived as we hung on crossing rivers and negotiating steep hills.
a view to the Bucketts mountains in the valley.
aussiebirder preparing for the ride of his life!
One of the birds we saw was a large Wedge-tailed Eagle, which I had trouble getting a clear shot, but as you can see the tail is the ‘tell-tail’ identification. This is our largest eagle having an adult wingspan of 2.3 meters or more.
One of our wonderful finds was this male Restless Flycatcher, resting from his restlessness so I could share him with you.
Of course there are always Eastern Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Rosellas out here. Notice the juvenile with its mottled plumage. Sadly, the Eastern Rosella is a very shy bird and escaped my camera so I have included some previous shots from a recent post.
The Straw-necked Ibis is a bird found in large numbers out west, pressing its long beak into areas of moist earth to extract insects and worms. They occur in large flocks, often circling high above in search of grazing areas, moving around farm paddocks, and roosting in what could be called an ibis tree. Their plumage glistens with colour in the sun.
Ibis roosting tree
Juvenile (left); adult (right)
Straw-necked Ibis adult
This young Grey Butcherbird looked quite cute with his soft downy breast plumage.
Of course you will always find a Kookaburra watching with its amazing eyesight from a tree nearby, hoping you will turn up something worth eating. After a night in Gloucester we fair welled our friends and drove toward the coast to Port Macquarie where we will continue our journey in next week’s post.
Most farms and country back yards are host to the common domesticated fowl or ‘chook’ as us Aussies call it. It seldom if at any time is featured in birding posts, there are more of it than most other birds in any one populated country, with over 19 billion world wide. This humble creature provides daily food to its carer, yet it seldom has its story featured or told. This is often the case, as most of these humble workers are hens or moms, quietly providing for the needs of others in the background. They seldom get honored or featured, but for one day a year. Moms need our love and we need to express it in real terms by how we treat them, yes treat, if you catch my pun, and more importantly when we wrap our arms around them and tell them how much we love them. It is too late when your mom has passed, as mine has now for many years.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12 (NLT)
“For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.” – Proverbs 4:3
“So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” – Proverbs 23:25
Have a wonderful week ! As the seasons change so do some of our birds. If you are new to my blog and want to know more about birding, visit my Home Page menu for birding tips and interesting information which deals with the mindful and healthy recreation of bird watching. Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift, check out my book on my BirdBook page.
The Little or Fairy Penguin, native to Australia and New Zealand and is the smallest of Penguins.
One bird that is seldom posted in bird blogs is the humble Penguin. The main reason being that they live in the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean and thus habitate areas not easily accessible by most and often uninhabited by humans, only coming to land at night, after sunset, and returning to the sea early in the morning. Many of us forget that they are classified as birds though often in our mindset see them as something like a seal or other water creature, but they have their place as another one of our Creator’s avian wonders (in the words of my blogging friend Lee).
This is the only breeding Penguin on Australia’s mainland and can bee seen from the north Coast of NSW down the coast to South Australia and Tasmania, where in some places nightly Penguin spotting tours are held. Red light is used to spot them as it does not damage their eyes. Flash photography or any form of bright light should never be used, especially at night as it can blind them for days and cause them to drown or injure themselves. Here is some footage of a Little Penguin tour on Bonnet Island near Strahan in Tasmania.
The Little Penguin nests in a burrow and when the babies are born they will stand at the entrance and call for their parents. The parent can identify their own baby amid the many. This the purring like sound they make.
I managed to get this clip of a Penguin building its nest and pulling dry grass into its burrow. These Penguins breed around the southern coast of Australia, and some communities and schools have helped b building burrow boxes to help them nest. Locals in these areas will tell stories of how these birds will try nesting under their homes and how noisy and smelly that can become. They are relocated, and their burrows patrolled to stop domestic cats and dogs and foxes from taking the babies, but for many it is too late.
The only decent photo I have of a wild (but tagged) Fairy Penguin is this. It is difficult to do so in the dark. This flash was taken while its head was turned away. I do remember engaging quite abruptly years ago with some young German tourists who totally disregarded the warning signs to not use flash, and were taking repeated flash photos of a poor Little Penguin trying to find its burrow. The Penguin eye is super sensitive to light allowing it to see in the dark and make its way home at night, so bright light is extremely painful and disorientating.
Sadly only a few years later on my return to this particular island I was told that there were no more Penguins left, only a few saved in captivity for tourists as that night, my wife and I witnessed the very last tour on the island, where no penguins returned. The main reason for the decimation and drop in numbers around South Australia and southern Tasmania is the increasing population of the vagrant New Zealand Fur Seal at one end of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Tour guides have shared how they watched as these large seals grabbed the Little Penguins as they made land, with all the tour people watching horrified at what they saw.
NZ Fur Seals fighting over the high rock place of honor.
So many NZ Fur Seals
New Zealand Fur Seal looking mean
We recently visited our local Sydney SeaLife Aquarium where we were able to see live Little, King and Gentoo Penguins. They structure the viewing as a boat ride to Australia’s southern most island, Macquarie Island where the Penguins would be seen. Here is some footage firstly of the Little Penguin swimming…
The King Penguin is the second largest to the Emperor Penguin. It is found in seas around Tasmania and surrounding islands and south of Australia, with over 100,000 breeding on Macquarie Island (third largest colony), they do not build a nest but incubate their egg by standing over it for about 55 days. Both parents share incubation and walking for miles and catching food to bring back to the colony. Penguins on Macquarie Island are subject to 5 main enemies. They can be eaten by Elephant Seals, Leopard Seals and Killer Whales, their young and eggs can be taken by birds such as Skuas and Giant Petrels.
The Gentoo Penguin was another one featured in the aquarium, also found on Macquarie Island with less than 5,000 breeding pairs. Most Penguins feed on fish, squid and krill and bring home food to their young which they regurgitate from food swallowed into their stomachs. Special enzymes in the adult gut allow the food to be preserved for days at a time before they return to shore. They can then dispatch the easily digested food into the mouths of the young.
Penguins have wings but they swim with them rather than fly, and quite fast . So you might say they fly under the water, in fact the King Penguin can swim at 100 meters and has been seen at 300 meters depth. They can use their flippers, feet and body shape to propel themselves sliding over the ice on their belly like a snow board or toboggan. They are well adapted to ocean life where they hunt and play with ease, rather than life on the land or in the sky.
Fairy Penguin, clumsy on land but fast in the water.
While Penguins can swim but can not fly with their body design, many ocean, fresh water and shore birds can do both, including these White-fronted Terns seen diving and swimming beneath the water as they follow a school of fish. They then rise out of the water back into the air.
White-fronted Terns diving and hunting
White-fronted Terns swimming beneath water with their wings
We all experience limitations on what we can accomplish in our bodies. The above photos cause me to consider, how this bird of flight knows that it can hold its breath and swim underwater. So many other birds would not dare to try. Some will drink, wash or catch surface prey by skimming the water but without diving beneath, yet some species swim as well underwater as they fly in the sky. It is interesting how humankind has pushed beyond its established limits in so many areas of life to achieve what once seemed impossible. In medicine, sport, science, technology and many other areas the achievements of many brave and unperturbed people was rewarded as they chose to courageously press beyond what was once believed impossible. Many suffered rejection, humiliation and scorn, until they proved they had pushed the boundary further with their achievement to eventually win acclaim as inventors and innovators bringing blessing to many, which was once believed impossible.
“Keep your lives free from the lust for money: be content with what you have. God has said: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.We, therefore, can confidently say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5,6 (JBPNT)
Have a most enjoyable weekend! If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
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
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.