Sydney is Australia’s largest city, and is growing daily, sprawling westward, having already sprawled north and south. I have shared many of the birding delights from in and around our city, and this week from the fringes of the south (Royal National Park) to the north (Warriwood Wetlands). The great delight for the birder is finding the unexpected bird or birding experience in a frequented park or reserve. Above is the beautiful vista of Pitt Town Lagoon, near Windsor, with the Great Egret gracefully taking centre stage. It was here that my latest lifer was seen the Australian Spotted Crake. I have prayed recently that I might see my first Crake and Bittern, as these birds have so far eluded us, being as shy as they are. This lone Spotted Crake was grazing alongside a lone Red-kneed Dotterel, but they were unfortunately some distance away, and would duck for cover when they saw me approach. My Victorian blogging friend, David of Birds as Poetry blog has posted some clearer pics this week of the same species, as well as Baillon’s Crake.
No matter how poor the photos, until better ones are shot down the track, this is a birders record of having seen the bird in the wild. It is a small bird as you can see in comparison with the small red-kneed Dotterel.
The Red-kneed Dotterel was quite stunning in the sunlight also. Click photos to enlarge them.
As you saw from my first photo this beautiful Great Egret was gracing the lagoon.
This White-faced Heron has one of the whitest faces I have seen in this bird.
After a walk around Narrabeen Lagoon with friends and had an unusually birdless experience though we did see this Cattle Egret beginning to don breeding plumage.
We drove to nearby Warriewood Wetlands and there we saw this Australasian (Purple) Swamphen. Notice how these water foul flick their tail as they walk around. The Spotted Crake does this also but not as much. Other water foul such as Dusky Moorhen also flick their tail while moving about.
My friend who was sharing the day with us, mentioned how difficult it has been to actually see Bell Miners (Bellbirds) in the trees. This is a dilemma many birders and non-birders have. They can hear a cacophony of bellbirds calling in a forest, but can not see them. This is because they are a sub canopy dweller and are small and green, matching the leaves. Like the Whipbird, their call is amplified off the eucalypt leaves. Bell Miners, like other miners are a community bird (pack bird), and will gang up on other birds and chase them out of their forest. For the first time we were able to show him the elusive bird, because we knew how to look for them. This is the bell sound we heard this community make.
While we were shooting these photos at Warriewood Wetlands we had the added bonus of watching the Bell Miner removing the lerps from the eucalypt leaves. Lerps are the casings of the tiny psyllid insect that inhabits the back of the eucalypt leaf. The Bell Miner, in the same way as the Spotted Pardolote, using their tongue, skillfully remove the outer sugary casings from the insect without harming it. Here are some photos capturing the Bell Miners removing the Lerps from the leaves.
This young Grey Fantail saw us with our camera and was trying to get some attention by fanning its tail and making a racket.
The next day we had a really great big breakfast at the Audley Dance Hall cafe in the Royal National Park (where my book can be purchased) and had a morning walk where we captured. We went looking for the Azure Kingfisher but they flew off before we could catch them. We think we found their nest in the bank of the river. We did however briefly catch this Sacred Kingfisher.
In the Hacking River we find another Great Egret fishing…
This Sulfur-crested Cockatoo was enjoying the cone from the Norfolk Pine trees planed in the park. As were many others in the flock…
But the feature of our southern fringe birding experience on this seemingly birdless day was this Black-faced Monach, a winter migrant that has returned for the summer to the same place in the forest each year. This bird has distinctly beautiful call, not unlike the whistlers.
The Yellow-faced Honeyeater continues to grace the park during the summer months. This bird is found here all year round.
This Olive-backed Oriole is another migrant that has returned to breed during the summer. It chooses to call from the very top of this dead branch. It looks uncomfortable but it continues to call from here.
Nearby another summer migrant is seen flying about in pairs, this Dollarbird, which gets its name from the white round marking on its wing which someone reckoned resembles a dollar. Common Miners have a similar white marking on their wings. You can see the markings below.
Finally, you may have been wondering how the baby Tawny Frogmouth is going which we also found in the Big Fig Flat which I highlighted on my Something Special on my Home Page. As you can see the baby has fledged and the nest is left empty, and what a flimsy simple nest it is…
Have a wonderful week as you prepare for Christmas, when we celebrate the coming of the most important person in history, Jesus Christ. What I do with this man will effect my life forever.
“keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” – Jude 1:21
If you are new to my website check out the various pages on birding info and tips.
If you want a last minute Christmas gift that will go on giving you can order my beautiful bird book from this website through the security of PayPal
We finally made our way down the mountain from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington NP alias ‘bird heaven’ to the hinterland at around sea level on the beautiful Gold Coast of Queensland. We set out to find some birding gold, searching the wetlands behind the coast in search of the Magpie Goose and the Comb-crested Jacana. Interestingly enough, last weekend a friend said while doing a walk with me, that he was told that Australia had no goose. The Magpie Goose is mostly prevalent in the far north of Australia whereas the Cape barren Goose only on the far south of the mainland, Maria and Kangaroo Islands.
Cape Barren Goose
I quickly corrected him informing him that we have two geese, the Magpie and the Cape Barren which most Australians would never have seen because their numbers were depleted and they chose to live away from humans. He was surprised and now has to inform his friend who gave him the spurious information. They are on the comeback and are starting to be seen again breeding in safety. We struck gold at the Emerald Lakes Wetlands, where there were reportings of Jacana and magpie Geese. We saw no Jacana but were blessed with Magpie Geese nesting.
We were able to see the goose fly and land in a tree, later followed by another goose. These were not the nesting geese they were quite safe and content sitting on the nest out in the lake among the beautiful water lilies. The Magpie Goose gets its name because it is basically black and white in colour, like the Magpie.
This movie clip will give you a better idea of this large bird.
Standing alone by the lake was this beautiful Royal Spoonbill decked out in breeding plumage.
Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage
This lone Australasian Grebe was also present.
There was also gold in the trees surrounding the lake with honeyeaters including the Blue-faced and Brown Honeyeater. Click on photos to enlarge them.
But the special gold was this Striped Honeyeater parents tending their nest, after all it was Spring. The tiny nest was a sack made of spiders web and small twigs knit cleverly together with an upper opening. The parents came back and forth feeding the young inside. It gets its name from the stripes on its head and neck.
Other Gold included this Rufous Whistler, infact the area near another nearby lake was alive with the sounds of many male Rufous Whistler calling. Spring is the time the Whistlers are most noisy in song. Here is a sample of what we heard.
Some of my birding friend will recall my research into the leap of faithof small passerines, taking off from a branch. This Rufous Whistler is a good example captured leaping with closed wings and opening wings a second or two after the leap.
Other birds seen include the Brown Thornbill, Pied Butcherbird (with its beautiful song), Noisy Friarbird, Little Egret, Olive-backed Oriole and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.
The bird that stole our delight for quite a while was this brilliant dazzling Sacred Kingfisher. We were in search of the Collared Kingfisher but this beautiful Sacred made up for it. The only difference between the two is that the yellow-brown colouring on the lores and chest is not found on the Collared. He was so beautiful in the sunlight, and though a fair way off in the bush I managed to get some decent shots as he was not threatened by us.
Thank you everyone who gave comment on last weeks controversial topic concerning the pros and cons of caging and feeding wild birds. It was a great response. I forgot to include this beautiful Grey Goshawk, a raptor which hangs around the Birds of Prey show, hoping to score a feed. This is a free and wild bird and is not part of the show. The show presenter usually feeds this bird a chicken before the show to keep it satisfied.
This ends our series on birding the Gold Coast and next week I will have some special local treats for you, one of which is a lifer for me. If you have not yet checked out my new feature on my Home Page yet on nesting Tawny Frogmouths now is the time as this will change soon. Also, with Christmas around the corner now is the last chance to bag my beautiful bird book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ as a wonderful inexpensive stocking filler for that budding birder or bird lover from 8 years and upwards. I am so encouraged by the many who have recently purchased here online and in the many shops which now stock it. You will not get it at as cheap as here online using the security of PayPal. Read the Blurb and Reviews & Purchase from my BirdBook page.
As many of you know God is an important part of the birding experiences of my wife and I.We have experienced amazing blessings as we let our loving Heavenly Father be a part of our birding exploits. We find Christmas so over exploited by money making businesses that the true meaning is being lost altogether from it. Jesus is no longer a part of it, and this Santa image has taken his place. This has been done to embrace all religions and beliefs residing in our country, and keep the holiday alive with meaning. Despite all this, Jesus will always be the reason for the season. We celebrate Jesus every day of the year because we have made HIM our personal friend, and his Spirit abides in us and guides us in our daily life. If you do not know Jesus or what he is about, maybe you can take this Christmas as an opportunity, as I did, many years ago, as a teenager, to check it out for yourself by reading the New Testament account in easy reading English. God will reveal Himself to all who seek Him, He promises to do this, as He did to me.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“For Godsoloved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
” All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me,but raise them up at the last day.For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6: 37-40
Jesus prayed this prayer for you and me:
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:25
Ash Island is part of the extensive Hunter Wetlands National Park, and while it includes the breeding grounds for several water birds and passerines, it is also houses south-eastern side, the worlds largest coal loading facility. The drought conditions have been drying up the many lakes and ponds leaving salt marsh conditions which has made the Red-necked Avocets more visible as they scoop the mudflats of the remaining marshes. Usually the Black-winged Stilt is found with the Avocets here, but they were no where to be seen, as the water levels were probably too low for them.Click on photo to enlarge it.
This juvenile Avocet is noted along away from the close knit flock. Notice its grey/brown head, this will turn red as it matures.
This footage shows the upward and/or sideways scooping action of the Avocet’s very unique beak. God has designed this bird’s beak to sift out small crustaceans (known as Brine Shrimp) from the moist salt layered mud.
This small family flock of White-faced Heron grazed further back from the road undisturbed.
Across the road high in this electricity tower an Osprey nest had activity, though the Osprey did not like me watching them.
This beautiful bright Yellow Thornbill was seen and heard moving the trees by the road nearby the Osprey.
Lastly, nearby this beautiful male Superb Fairy-wren called from the tall grass by the road.
The amazing thing about this visit to Ash Island was that all of the above was viewed within a 100 metres, from the road. My wife and I have found on our travels, if you just park by the road anywhere birds are sighted, watch and wait, often you will be surprised by what is there. You also need to remember to look up. This immature Whistling Kite was being pursued by this lone gutsy aggressive Noisy Miner which shows that its not about size but courage. Fear brings defeat before the battle begins, but faith and courage can defeat enemies far greater that fear can ever realise.
“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
Even the weakest, small in stature, seemingly insignificant person can achieve great things in life with faith and courage that is grounded firmly in God’s strength, which is freely ours trusting in Jesus as we access his Holy Spirit power. Check out Jesus for yourself. Don’t get led astray thinking you need to go to a church to find him. I found him from reading his story in the Bible in a plain English translation and later prayed to him, asking him to forgive, restore, renew me and come into my life. It was the best decision I ever made, and he has been the best for my life and my wife also.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
Check out my Birder Sanctuary page for more information on how you can have a more peaceful and courageous life learning from our birds.
Walka Waterworks Reserve is a beautiful family picnic area set north of Maitland, Newcastle. Historically it is the original steam pumping station for the water supply to Newcastle from the Hunter River. We had a family picnic there hoping to see water birds, such as the Great Crested Grebe , you may remember we posted over a year ago, but the passerines were the feature of the day.
Scarlet Honeyeaters everywhere at eye level, not high in eucalypts as they normally are, but feeding from the many species of Grevilea flowering around the reserve, situated around large man-made lake. Notice in this footage how the male tweets after each nectar feed. There are males everywhere but no females.
The Australasian Figbird male was seen and heard calling in the same eucalyts the honeyeaters were combing.
Of course where ever you go the male Superb Fairy-wren is not far away, and its sounds can be heard in the tall grass and reeds nearby the track.
Hey, but we finally spotted a female Superb. How strange to only see males. Possibly the females are on the nest, as this is what is the norm for spring.
The lovely song of this juvenile Rufous Whistler caught our attention and drew us to a tree where we watched it move about alone for some time before it flew away. It is quite different from the mature bird and somewhat resembles the female Figbird.
But one of the features of our weekend was the discovery of a lifer, this Rufous Songlark in full song. He kept us busy for some time as he moved from tree to tree, very easy to follow by his call.
The humble Welcome Swallow even gave me some good shots as it rested on the roof of a shelter.
The White-browed Scrubwren is always easy to identify by his noisy angry calls.
The beautiful bright Yellow Thornbill always is a glowing delight, as it makes its way with its classic call through the tree looking for small insects.
Not far away, but on the lawn is the Yellow-rumped Thornbill. This one took a fancy to this bird feather, which I think it was considering incorporating in its nest, but had some trouble deciding. You can see how it gets its name.
But a feature of our day occurred just as we were leaving the reserve, when I heard the sound of a Babbler. The classic sound drew my attention up a tree where the unexpected find of one lone Grey-crowned Babbler was moving about, illuminated as the sun was low in the west.
Next week I will show you more birds from this amazing reserve. The conclusion is that if you plant nectar rich plants such as Grevilea and Bottle Brush you will attract the honeyeaters and other bird species.
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” – Luke 12:24
Have a great week birding! Check out my website if you are new to my posts.
Sydney is an amazing city for bird life. Not only is it surrounded by several national parks it has several wetland lakes and pond areas right in its heart. One being the Sydney Park Wetlands which was a jointly funded project of Sydney City Council and the Federal Government to convert a large area of land which once hosted a huge brickworks, of which only remains the historical relic of the original chimney stacks and brick kilns.
Chimney stacks stark against the well established park forests
The large acreage of the clay extraction area, later becoming a rubbish tip. It is amazing to see the beautiful transformation into large grassed recreational areas, small forests of trees, flowing water features, water controlled wetland and reeded areas, gardens, bridges and walking tracks. This unique project to recycle rainwater, clean it and use it in the man made ponds and creek structures from where it is released back into the environment is an experiment which may be expanded in the future to even more sustainable projects on a larger scale.
Pacific Black Duck with spring ducklings
Many water birds and waders have made Sydney Park their home, and breeding areas are fenced off for their protection, as many hundreds of people frequent this place sharing it as they walk their dogs and introduce their children to many bird species. Wahen my wife and I recently visited the park our first bird encountered was this beautiful Olive -backed Oriole, recently returned from migration, giving me unusual free photographic access as he watched.
On the large northern lake several species of waterbirds swam or strutted the waters edge.
Little Black Cormorant
Australian White Ibis
Of course there were many Eurasian Coot, Pacific Black Duck , some Chestnut Teal, Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen which are not pictured here. Breading pairs of Australasian Grebe were present with full breeding plumage.
Flitting and swirving about over the water of course was the usual Welcome Swallows as they pluck insects from the air on the fly. However, I caught them resting on their flight break.
However, the greatest attraction drawer was the single swan gosling of the two proud Australian Black Swan parents, carefully and lovingly guarded it from the other sometimes aggressive waterbirds such as the Eurasian Coot, which has become like the Noisy Miner of our lakes. Notice how the parents surround the baby near the coots. There normally have a clutch of about 5 to 10 chicks, so maybe they have lost some already from predators etc. This little guy will experience several plumage changes as it matures before it finally becomes adult black, which makes it easy to determine the approximate age of the young swan.
The Swan Family
Protecting the baby from the Coots
Other features of the park were this tortoise sunning itself and the eucalypt flowers of spring. This Brown Wanderer butterfly was an additional capture.
Our greatest find here was the result of a search for a very elusive and rarely seen wetland shore bird which was sited here recently Latham’s Snipe, which would have been a lifer for me. However, as I kept looking into the reeds and grassed wetlands I finally did see a bird dart undercover, so my wife and I patiently waited for about 20 minutes and we finally saw a bird similar to Latham’s Snipe but more colourful, a Buff-banded Rail. It was a challenge to track its movement among the grasses and reeds, but I did get some reasonable shots.
So there it is for now, as we await the return in the coming weeks of our migratory waders from the northern hemisphere. We are also seeing reports of the return of the passerine migrants, including the cuckoos who will be breeding here soon. This week our hearts and prayers go out to our dear suffering blogger friends in Florida, that the Lord will have spared you from much of the damage and danger of the recent hurricane.
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” – Psalm 86:5-7
Strange as it may sound we had a busy weekend , without our usual birding walk. Canberra Saturday and Sydney city Sunday, with only brief moments where we saw birds to observe and photograph. It was a roadside stop in a suburb of Canberra that we saw Straw-necked Ibis quietly grazing in a nearby paddock. This was an unexpected bonus find, considering this was not the purpose of our stop. The juvenile teenager was grazing with the parents in a small flock.
Parent and juvenile
On our return journey, with only a few minutes to spare we dropped in at Canberra’s Jerrabomberra Wetlands on Dairy Road for a quick look and were delighted to find a male and female Australasian Shoveler, shoveling beneath the water, by disturbing the soil and filtering the water for the small micro marine organisms they feed on. Continually the pair bottomed up as they worked the lake. In the footage below the female swims up to male and soon after the male chases away a Pacific Black Duck he felt was intruding. Click on photos to enlarge.
Superb Fairy-Wren are always found near the bird hides and I managed to get these beautiful shots of both male and female in the afternoon winter sunlight. There was a young non-breeding male pictured below also.
On Sunday during a walk through the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens, me camera-less, our friend Chrissie caught the following footage on her mobile phone of this pair of Rainbow Lorikeets washing and having a ball of a time in one of the fountains in the gardens. Notice how they enjoy the experience together, as these birds like other parrots and cockatoos pair for life.
That is all I have for you this week my birder blogger friends. We continue to pray for God’s comfort and support for our blogging friend Tiny of TinyLessonsBlog as she negotiates the grief of the recent losses of both her husband and father within two weeks of each other.
If your interested and have 22 minutes to spare you can view my science video on Intelligent Design, which presents a teaching alternative to the purpose and function of life as we know it. Have a great week!
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:21-26
My eldest son and I had a father and son catch up day together in the city of Sydney. In answer to my question “What can I give you for this birthday milestone in your life?” he said he would love to spend a day hanging out with me, which really touched my heart. So during the week, we took a train to the city and walked through the Sydney Botanic Gardens down toward Circular Quay, where we would catch the River Cat up the Parramatta River to the Armory Wharf Cafe in Olympic Park for lunch. As we walked through the park we saw this pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo getting a drink from their usual bubbler. One right on top of the statue…
The other being more dignified and of class, from the side fountain.
When we arrived at the pond just before the waterfront we found a tree on the central island completely full of nesting Little Black Cormorants. You may remember a couple of posts ago I showed nesting Pied Cormorants and Australian Darter. You will notice the Sydney Tower in the background (tallest building in Sydney) not far from there, showing that life goes on for the wildlife even in a busy city.
As I had not brought my heavy birding lens, my photos were not as good as I would have liked, but you can see the babies. The Little Black Cormorant, like other Cormorants, Ibis and Spoonbill nest together for safety and support. These birds are found throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania, on rivers and lakes, except in central desert regions.
In a similar regularity to the Darter babies these nestlings constantly entreat their parent for food. The continuous sound in the background is all the babies calling. They build a simple stick nest, which the male repairs from time to time, by bringing in fresh sticks. Sorry for the poor video as this was not my birding lens.
We made our way past the opera house down to the quay, and caught the River Cat up the Parramatta Rive passing under the Harbour Bridge, having a good view of the Opera House. Click on photos to enlarge.
These will be lit up tonight, with many of the cities buildings for theSydney Vivid Festivalheld this time each year. People fly in from all over the world just to see it. Here is a sample of last years while we dined on the waterfront.
As we enjoyed lunch at the Armory Wharf Cafe we noticed this Noisy Miner couple dining in the table next to us. Surprisingly many Australians are not aware that this bird is a native honeyeater endemic to our country, and not to be confused with the introduced pest, the Common Myna or Indian Myna as most know it. The Noisy Miner is a noisy bird, and a ‘pack bird’ being quite aggressive to other birds and animals, with quite advanced military organised aggression skills. They know there is power in numbers and will often gather a dozen birds to attack one bird and remove it from their territory. I have seen eagles, cats, dogs and even humans attacked by these birds on occasion.
It was double interesting that we saw this little group of Little Black Cormorant resting by the water inlet for the Newington Nature Reserve at Olympic Park. Notice the juvenile fully fledged and brown in colour, as it has not yet gained its black adult plumage.
Juvenile Little Black Cormorant
Juvenile Little Black Cormorant
Juvenile Little Black Cormorant with parents
This Little Pied Cormorant had joined the group, as they tend to do.
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant with Little Black Cormorant
We had a wonderful bonding day, which we never get to do because we live in different cities. As this post is short I have included some of the birds from Oatley Park which we saw last week also. This Purple Swamphen looked quite colourful.
But this family of Australasian Grebe were a special feature, as their young ones were with them. As I have said in previous posts, the only time I usually see two Grebes together is when they are breeding, other wise they are usually loners in the centre of some pond somewhere. The bird with rufous back of neck is loosing breeding plumage. The younger ones have a white throat, and are more fluffy and tub-like. I love how the little one reflects in the dirty pond water.
These pictures show the parents with young one.
My last bird which graced the dirty ponds recently refreshed with rainwater from the storm water drains of the town, is this Great Egret, fishing in the pond, but coming up empty most of the time.
So there we have it for this week, and the word of encouragement I leave with you is simply Enjoy your children, even when they are adults. Geographical distance can be a hindrance, so cherish every opportunity you get to bless them, encourage them and love them.
“Childrenare a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” – Psalm 127:3
Have a great week, check out my web site for more birding information. I will showcase some very special bird findings in my next post which my wife and I were greatly blessed to discover.
It was a beautiful warm Autumn afternoon and my wife and I went for a walk by Georges River along the waterfront at Dolls Point. We were quite surprised to find a small flock of about eleven Bar-tailed Godwit. These birds would normally by now have migrated to the Alaska and Siberia where they are breeding and feeding in the food-rich polar seas. However, a number of birds, particularly young ones, having recently fledged, may miss a migration or two and remain in Australia throughout the winter.
The journey to the Northern Hemisphere is quite grueling and requires maximum ability to make the 16,000 km journey. You may notice the bird on the far right having darker plumage and more distinct under body markings. This is possibly a young bird transitioning to adult plumage or a young female who is showing some early signs of breeding plumage, though she will not be breeding this year. I displayed in a previous postthe full on breeding plumage of this bird which starts appearing just before they leave Australia. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
The bird is surprisingly small when compared with a Silver Gull (Seagull). These gulls were quite amused at this highly active little group. The interesting thing is, the gulls can eat the same food as the Godwits, but because of their small beaks, can only pounce on the tiny sand crabs when they are on the surface, but the Godwits walk around them injecting their long beaks deep into the wet mud.
Silver Gulls watching Godwits
A lone Godwit among the Gulls
This Godwit was being chased by a Silver Gull, who tried to steal his deep sand extraction.
In the next few days I took a visit to Olympic Park, a place I like to visit a few times a year, especially at this time of year, to see what water birds, shore birds and waders have stayed for the winter. It was great to see the Darter and Pied Cormorant nesting. Interesting enough the latest field guide shows a reclassification of the Darter to the Australasian Darter which was Anhinga melanogaster but is now Anhinga novahollandiae.
Australasian Darter with nestlings
Australasian Darter with nestlings
Australasian Darter with nestlings
It is always interesting to watch the long necked snake like nestlings actively seeking food in the nest. In the pic below you will see them placing their head inside the mouth of the other, thinking it is the mother with food.
In the movie clip below the parent feeds the nestlings as she allows them to push their whole head and neck down into her gullet. The Darter lives primarily on small fish, similar to the Cormorants, diving for its food. It swims very low in the water, with often only the neck showing.
In the native Casuarina trees near the lake several pairs of Pied Cormorant were also nesting alongside the Australasian Darters. This is how it is here each year, these similar birds tend to nest together here. Ibis and Spoonbill often find security in different species nesting together in community. This Pied Cormorant below continues to bring sticks for the nest while the female sits on the nest. He lovingly checks her frequently to see she is OK, as he will feed her. He is a quite devoted expectant father.
Pied Cormorant breeding pair
Pied Cormorants with young one
Pied Cormorant landing with twig in mouth
Pied Cormorant returning to feed female on nest
This Pied Cormorant and Little Black Cormorant share this branch together in the Autumn sun, displaying the unity the Cormorant species share with each other.
An immature Pied Cormorant was catching some Autumn sun. Notice the brown plumage which is changing to black as it matures.
It was lovely to see an immature Black Swan resting on the lawn near the lake, is only a few months old, and will eventually gain its black plumage in about a year.
This Royal Spoonbill and Red-necked Avocet were taking a nap, as were other birds including Black-winged Stilts. Notice how they classically press their beaks into and under their back plumes, and stand on one leg.
On my walk to the large lake, I caught a look from a distance of this beautiful White-faced Heron decked out in full breeding plumage.
From the bird hide I was able to get a good idea of the present waders, including many ducks and Teals. Red-necked Avocet and Black-winged Stilts were sweeping the shallows, while Masked Lapwings and tiny Black-fronted Dotterels were dottering about on the shoreline. These birds remain throughout winter, though the Avocets may move as a flock around various local ponds and lakes. The Stilts tend to breed and remain here all year. These birds have a mutually friendly relationship with each other, and are often found living and feeding together, as was the case here. I have seen in the past, a Stilt defend a placid Avocet, which was under attack from a large White Ibis, in an attempt to take over the feeding area. The persistent Stilt succeeded in driving the Ibis away, allowing the Avocet and itself to continue feeding quietly together.
Red-necked Avocet pair
Black-winged Stilt juvenile
Black-fronted Dotterel with Masked Lapwing (size comparison)
Immature Black-winged Stilt
Bird Hide on the main lake
Red-necked Avocet reflecting
You may wonder how these unusually shaped beaks actually work for these Red-necked Avocets. In a similar way to the Spoonbills, they sweep the water back and forth catching small marine organisms as they go.
This immature Black-winged Stilt demonstrates the foraging action of its beak design.
However, it is the classic foraging walk of the Dotterel that amuses me, being very similar to that of Plovers and Pipits, where they run a short distance stop, feed, stand still, run again, feed, stop and look, hoping not to draw attention to themselves.
This Great Egret was an amazing poser for me, and is usually found near the water inlet for the lake, ready to catch small incoming fish. When they feel threatened they stretch their neck up to make themselves appear larger and more threatening themselves.
Great Egret spreading wings
Though there were many Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Duck present, this pair of Grey Teal caught my eye, as I do not get to showcase them often. All of these water birds, shorebirds and waders are winter residents which are seen locally throughout the year.
But the day was rounded off with the gift of this beautiful non-breeding male Superb Fairy-wren, who posed for me quite curiously in front of the bird hide. These birds morph (eclipse) to the bright blue and black plumage when breeding, and retain only the blue tail when not breeding, otherwise looking similar to the female, but more grey in colour.
It was lovely to see this pair of male and female Australian Wood Duck posing graciously for me. Wood Ducks are one of the most devoted parents in the bird world, with both male and female being totally committed to caring for and raising their young, as I have showcased in previous posts.
Australian Wood Ducks (female and male)
One of the greatest contributing factors to a stable childhood is a present and loving father in the family. This is so important for the confident and balanced development of children, especially the daughters, who gain much of their modelling and self esteem from the father. It has been said in counselling to parents, that if you want to see your children grow up loving and caring, then model this in your relationship with each other. Children learn how to live and love by watching not by being told. The bright green speculum on this male ‘shines’ and draws attention, and so will a good dad when he is a loving hubby, he will shine for his wife and children, by being the families hero – nurturer, protector and encourager.
Australian Wood Duck male non-breeding
When the father models love to his wife, their mother, he is giving life instruction to his children. If you want to be a good father, be a loving husband, and a good mother, be a loving wife. Paul puts it simply “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ”. If a couple truly love each other that will not be very difficult most of the time.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect..” – Peter 3:7
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” – Colossians 3:19
Have a great week, and enjoy birding. Check out the rest of the pages on my website for birding information and inspiration for living a enjoyable life.
We have just returned from ten day road trip to northern New South Wales, and due to the extensive flooding and road damage from recent heavy rains, did not visit all of the birding areas we had planned. We were searching for two of our rarer tall birds, seldom seen in our state, more so in far northern Australia, and we were blessed with a pair of each. Notice the female Jabiru (also known as Black-necked Stalk) has the bright white eye, the male has brown. A White-faced Heron was caught flying off as we approached. These birds stand about 1.1 to 1.3 metres tall, with the male slightly larger. They can be found in most states except South Australia and Tasmania, but are mainly found in any number in northern Queensland and far northern Western Australia. So it was with great excitement when my wife sited them unexpectedly in a wet paddock, on the new Kempsey bi-pass, causing me to quickly pull over on the busy highway.
These beautiful birds glisten in the sun as they look for small reptiles, snakes, frogs, fish, eels etc. They jab their prey with their powerful beak to kill it then swallow it whole. Maybe that’s how they got their name ‘Jab’ iru. Click on pics to enlarge them.
Jabiru pair in wet paddock
Jabiru pair in wet paddock
Later that day we stopped near a town where we had seen on eremaea birdline phone app. some weeks ago that Brolga were sighted north of Grafton, so I asked some locals in Maclean and they told me where to look among the sugarcane along the Clarence River (the largest river in mainland Australia, a few days before, flooding the town of Lismore). Lo and behold! my wife again called out with excitement, when we sighted a pair of Brolga in a cow paddock near the sugarcane. We saw many raptors along the river, on the way, but they will be for another time.These elegant birds are known for their beautiful dancing and calling.
The locals told us they do not like being around when it is too wet, but this is the remains of a larger flock which left during the heavy rains. We guess these are male and female. The Sarus Crane is a similar looking bird but has its red extend further down from its face to its neck. It is almost identical otherwise, except smaller. The Brolga stand about the same height as the Jabiru to about 1.3 metres but has a slightly wider wingspan at 2.4 metres. As with the Jabiru, the female is slightly smaller.
We returned a few days later and found the same birds in a nearby paddock in the same area. This time they flew off into the distance. Brolgas are omnivorous, eating bulbs, leaves, seeds, roots, frogs, crustaceans, insects and lizards. They are seldom seen this far south, and this was our first sighting of this bird in the wild.
Brolgas near the sugarcane
Brolgas near the sugarcane
Brolgas flying off gracefully
Brolgas flying off gracefully
In the fields nearby was another tall bird which we do not see much in our home areas, the Straw-necked Ibis. We see many of its cousin the Australian White Ibis, which we also saw in our travels and here. This bird is found in small to large flocks in fields eating mainly large insects, especially grasshoppers, aquatic insects, mollusks and frogs.
These birds also have a beautiful iridescent sheen in the sun on their wings. These birds get their name from their breeding plumage which is rough straw-like neck plumage seen remaining in small amounts on occasional birds, as the summer breeding season has passed. Note this in the bird on the right in the following pic, comparing it to the one on the left. These birds are found throughout mainland Australia.
Straw-necked Ibis with remains of breeding plumage
There are taller birds than these including the Spoonbills, Egrets and Heron. We saw all of these on our trip at various times, which will be featured at another time. However, the largest and tallest Australian bird, which is flightless, we also saw several times on our trip in pairs, and that is the Emu.
The Emu stands 1.5 to 2 metres tall and runs extremely fast for long periods of time, dwelling mostly in arid and semi arid regions on grassland plains and farm paddocks, which is where we found ours. One pair left immediately we stopped on the Gwydir Highway, they are just so good runners. The above is female Emu.
Note the difference with this pair, the male at the rear has more exposed facial and neck skin than the female. Below is a male.
Emus are a common sight out west of the ranges in the more arid grassland plains areas, where we were driving, but are found generally throughout mainland Australia, but not Tasmania. The Cassowary is the next largest bird, but was not seen on our trip as it is only found in Far North Queensland, and has been featured in blogs of previous years. This poor female Emu was trapped behind a fence and could not escape. We saw others there in the background and wondered if this was an Emu farm.
As Australians having celebrated ANZAC day last Tuesday, this trapped bird brings to mind the many who suffer unfair incarceration in various parts of the world, purely because of their beliefs and ideologies. Most are loving caring people, trapped by cruel, controlling regimes. Look at the closing photo my wife took of this Brolga in a paddock. We give thanks to God for our freedom, and to those like my dad who gave the best part of their lives to keep it, because they value family life and the loving rule under a God based society, which is rapidly being eroded away, again. As I learnt in my first lecture in history ‘the only thing we learn from history, is that we don’t learn from it.’
But their is a greater freedom than this, which Jesus speaks of and which brings a peace to heart and mind which no man can touch: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be freeindeed.” – John 8:36
Have a great weekend, and some great birding moments. Check out my book if you have not yet done so.
In recent years with the development of large sewerage systems in most cities, sewerage setting ponds have become the new habitat for many native water fresh water birds in Australia. In fact, several rare species can be found in these seldom visited places, such as these Blue-billed Ducks. In some cities lovely nature reserves and picnic areas have been established around the waters from sewerage ponds, creating a tourist attraction and recreation areas for families and birders. Laratinga Wetlands Centre in the Adelaide Hills SA is a great example of how local councils have produced award winning facilities using sewerage ponds as a feature. Settling ponds do not stink, but are full of nutrients which assist the growth of water weeds which the ducks eat. If you are a birder, sewerage settling ponds are excellent places to check for water birds.
It is a birders delight to spot this extremely elusive bird, and even more delightful to capture clear images of it. The above male and female Blue-billed duck were taken from some distance. My wife would walk around the pond and they would swim away from her but closer to me ‘ducked down’ (excuse the pun) behind the tall grass. I stand up and photograph when they are close enough. Many Australasian Grebe are also present.
Blue -billed Duck having a meaningful conference with two Australian Grebe
The Blue-billed Duck is accompanied by the Pink-eared Duck, another not so common fresh water duck. This bird filters the water with its unusual beak to extract minute water creatures as well as insects. It is able to let the water pass through the beak, only capturing the minute food particles.
Pink-eared Duck with Blue-billed Duck
There are many other ducks including Pacific Black and Hardheads. Below pairs of Hardheads are seen with the male having the white eye ring.
Hardhead male and Blue-billed Duck male
In my early birding days, from a distance the Hardhead could mistaken for a Blue-billed Duck. More so the female Blue-billed Duck with that of the female Musk Duck. Notice how low the Blue-billed Duck lies in the water.
Compare two ducls
Australasian Grebe is another elusive bird, which appear in the middle of lakes and sewerage ponds, keeping well away from humans. This pair show breeding plumage.
Have a wonderful week! Autumn has finally arrived!
Remember this Passover that: The Son of God became the Son of Man so that we the sons of men may become sons of God.