We both needed a walk and being it Sunday afternoon we made our way to our local Oatley Park Reserve, of course a little birding was included as always. As I have shared previously, this time of year we have the least bird numbers as we move into Winter months and the migrant birds fly north to warmer days.
Royal Spoonbill clan – Resting between tides
Numbers are down also as a result of the previous drought, fires, smoke and heavy rain to name a few. However, it was to our delight to see the return of the Royal Spoonbill clan of about eight birds as the breeding season has finished and they return from hiding, as they demand great secrecy when nesting. The sight and sound of a human may cause them to abandon their nest. Our first noted behaviour as we watched with interest was this interaction of a meddling Australian White Ibis disturbing one of the clan.
As the tide was coming in on a creek, where these and several other waterbird species forage at low tide on the Mangrove mud flats, we spotted this little clan standing in rest mode (i.e. on one leg with head turned and bill pressed below the back feathers with just eyes showing). I wish I could turn my head around like that. Here is a little story concocted from what we watched as the clan stood together in the centre of the creek on the highest point as the tide quickly came in.
Spoonbills use a sweeping action with their partially open spatulated bills to feed as they wade through the water. As small aquatic insects, brine shrimp and tiny fish touch the inside of their bill they snap it shut and swallow. This pair were working the water previously. The bill limits them to work water about 40 cm deep, so as the tide comes and goes out in they must stop at a certain point and this is when they rest.
This action is shared in my first book, where the Spoonbill is showcased as being Time-wise. Not to be outdone by the Spoonies this Australian Pelican was demonstrating his solo stalking action on fish as he pushes a small school toward the bank of the mud flat and then scoops them up. Normally they do this as a clan or family group, but this bird is very clever and has many ways to catch a fish, as shared again in my first book, where the Pelican is showcased as Resourceful.
This grand Eastern Great Egret was standing in the creek by the mud flat alongside some preening Chestnut Teal.
Eastern Great Egret
Male Chestnut Teal
It was good to see our White Ibis actually feeding in the way they were meant on mud flats and wetlands instead of raiding garbage bins and messing in the suburbs of Sydney where they have become quite a problem being aptly named ‘Bin Chickens‘
Australian White Ibis ‘Bin Chicken’
As we walked along the track to the freshwater Ponds area we were amazed how quiet the trees were, with just the occasional Thornbill and the usual sound of the Grey Butcherbird and Noisy Miners making commotion in the eucalypt canopy. We did see several juvenile birds from last Summers clutches here in the park. This elusive juvenile Golden Whistler tried evading our view. It will resemble its mother until it adorns mature plumage in a year or two, as it could be male or female.
This juvenile Dusky Moorhen has been growing well each time we see it here. Again the earthy brown grey colours and the beak lacks the mature red and yellow markings.
We noticed this immature Kookaburra sitting quietly alone in the shade. Notice his lack of markings, lightly striped tail and the downy front feathers spreading over the branch, another past season product.
This lone Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was also a youngster from last season as it rests alone by its nesting hole. Note how he fluffs up his plumage around his beak, they do this when they feel content and cozy. If it was doing it being boisterous and moving its wings it would be feeling threatened and trying to make itself look larger in response.
Lastly, this pair of Rainbow Lorikeet appeared to be guarding their nesting hole, which is strange for this time of year, but with the seasons staying warmer longer anything is possible.
Before I finish I would like to share this photo of one of our local Crested Pigeons born in the Bottlebrush Tree which shades these birdbaths. This was an unexpected capture of the full wing spread.
Have a wonderful week everyone and stay safe.
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You may remember this quiet sleepy scene as the above Spoonbills rest between changing tides, but for the one keeping watch. In particular the one on the far left is soon disturbed from its slumber by a a very spacially unaware White Ibis who moves far to close to the Spoonbill on the left.
One increasing problem with young people today as well as an increasing number of adults, partly due to them being absorbed in their mobile phones and social media, blue tooth ear phones etc is an increasing lack of respect for them being spacially aware of others moving around them, In one store I remember an older woman berating a young women for colliding with her three times during the course of the time she was in the store, simply because there is this new idea that if I pretend that I am not mindfully present you will avoid colliding with me. People are killed and injured every year for the same reason when crossing roads. In the course of a year I have had six people collide with me because they were walking without watching where they were going. I see parents neglecting their children when their child desperately wants and needs them to play with them, absorbed and addicted lost in their cyber world. The solution of many parents is to occupy their children with digital media also, movies and games, with no parental interaction, which is so vital to their healthy development and relationship building. This is not a good sign for the future of parenting or for looking out for each other, which is the true Aussie Spirit. Like the Ibis above, we need to become more spacially aware of what is taking place in real time around us at all times. This is why our government has implemented Mobile Phone Detection Cameras over our motorways to catch out and fine those dangerously using their phones while driving. Sadly, despite advertising and fines many continue to do so and many continue to die and collide with the unsuspecting bystander unnecessarily for lack of consideration and respect for the safety of others.
“If you would be loved, love and be lovable.” – Benjamin Franklin.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner
“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” – Joseph F. Newton Men
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live atpeace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18
Last Sunday my wife decided it would be lovely for us to have a birding date as it was a beautiful Autumn day and we had not had much time during the week, so off we went west to Wianamatta Nature Reserve, a place we had not visited for many months. On arrival we had a cuppa and a bite as we sat in the shade and then proceeded to walk, hoping to find the many birds that left during the smoke of the fires early in the year, had returned, but it was very quiet with hardly a sound, until we heard this very high pitched chorus as 20 or more Double-barred Finches. These tiny birds moved in flock across our path and around us.
The strange cry you can hear with the high pitched call in the recording above, is that of the juveniles calling for food, which were sitting together in the shade, but well camouflaged. It was lovely to see they were still here. Finches are the great survivors, as I explain in my new book release “Flight of a Fledgling”.
Tiny as thy are, this fact along with their flock arrangement contribute to Finches being the best surviving bird in the desert regions of Australia. In fact the Zebra Finch, which I have featured in previous desert locations, is one of the most studied birds, and is bred for scientific study of bird behaviour, for their amazing abilities.
Walking further we saw the only flowering gum in the reserve being frequented by both the New Holland Honeyeater, hidden in the blossom (above) and the Yellow-faced Honeyeater (below) which are the most common Honeyeaters as we move into the Winter months.
Other than the usual call of the Australian Raven, which is found everywhere, the sound of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater and that of the Rufous Whistler were the only birds heard. There was no Red-capped Robin family, they had not returned after the smoke. The Yellow-faced Honeyeater calling…
The male Rufous Whistler was being elusive as was his female partner, as usual, but he stopped evading when he caught an insect. The Rufous and Olive Whistler prefer the dry open woodlands of the west whereas the Golden Prefers the moister rainforest of the coast, though both birds are found together in many areas.
His call is similar to the Golden Whistler and often faster with more staccato, with less variation.
Having exhausted our search we headed off to our favorite fishnchip shop in the historic town of Windsor, which boasts of having the oldest Pub in Australia, the Macquarie Arms Hotel, of which a distant convict ancestor was involved with establishing, having a street named after her behind the hotel. If you would like to read of the intriguing history of this Pub click here.
We sat having our lunching date in the park and watched the new bridge, which only a few weeks ago was under water as the Hawkesbury river was in one of its largest recorded floods. After an ice-cream and a look in at the markets, we decided to complete our birding date by driving to Bushell’s Lagoon nearby, which we have blogged on many occasions, but not much during Covid. We also realised after all the rain that the waterbirds would be reduced, and they were. We were told by a local that the water level rose 15 feet above the central road access during the flood. These immature Australian Black Swans, joined by a family of Masked Lapwing, were resting in the warm Autumn sun as their parents went out into the lake.
These Australasian Grebe were out for a day on the water. The bird on the left displays breeding plumage and the one on the right non-breeding (possibly an immature youngster). Both parents normally show breeding plumage and are capable of having up to three broods a year.
The bright green speculum of the Pacific Black Duck caught my eye as they preened together in a little family cluster. Many species of dabbling duck have an iridescent speculum on their upper-wing primaries, which changes colour depending on the angle of sunlight from green to purple.
So did this Eastern Great Egret alone on the lake, when usually there are many.
We watched for some time as this tiny White-plumed Honeyeater plunged repeatedly into the water and flew back into the thick reeds. We thought it may have been getting water for its young.
Sitting in the reeds nearby this Australian Reed-warbler was keeping it’s eye on us. It was in non breeding plumage.
This mother Grey Teal led here babies away when she saw us,
and this Willy Wagtail kept trying to get our attention as he did not want to miss being in Aussiebirder’s blog post.
This little Brown Thornbill got my attention with his little chirp.
So another lovely birding date, despite low bird numbers, and just to top the post off I will include some photos of our famous Rainbow Lorikeets feeding on the seed pods of our native Casuarina Trees in our local Nature Reserve.
Have a wonderful week and remember birding is healthy for body, mind and spirit as I mention in my Benefits of Birding page.
For those who have not explored my books yet, why not, it could not only be the perfect gift for a Birthday or just a gift to a loved one, or even for yourself, for I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. This book is selling in amazing numbers at present throughout and outside our state, and I have had several booksellers including National Parks and other visitor centres tell me it is their best selling product. Overseas visitors and bloggers were some of my best buyers pre Covid. The two book Special is still available here.
While I was walking alone quietly this week in my local reserve enjoying a mindful meditative moment, I was given the schema for my next book Australian Bird Reflections, Daily Meditations for Living. I was brought to realise the importance of this work and the need for a very simple but thought provoking daily meditation, being made aware that our busy Western society has lost the value and art of meditative reflection, which is an important feature for daily: personal emotional restoration; listening to God and responding to his thoughts; reevaluating our lives, relationships and behaviour; and regrouping our thoughts to make changes in our behaviour for success, This is practiced in many of the world’s cultures, and throughout the Bible. Again I would use the birds as a springboard. This work will have a practical spiritual approach, which will help to bring healing to various aspects to one’s busy anxious life. A non spiritual aspect of reflective assessment is discussed in my new book as a healthy life skill to adopt.
“If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” – Job 13:5 (NIV)
“Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and besilent.” – Psalm 4:4
“I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” – Psalm 77:12
Meditation can bring to fruition events of blessing to our lives as it did to Isaac when God brought his future bride to him:
“He went out to the field one evening to meditate,and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.” – Genesis 24:63,64
Last weekend my wife and I drove to Wagga Wagga to celebrate her birthday with her siblings who had congregated there, and catch up with extended family. As most of you are aware her sister lives on Lake Albert where we often go birding on our visits, for western birds not common to our area, of which there are few, especially during the present change of seasons and post heavy rains.
The main bird of interest was the Crimson Rosella of the yellow race, which was previously known as the Yellow Rosella, and rightly so, as there is very little crimson at all on the bird. I consider if you are going to change a name to group it with another it should at least look like the descriptive name. This beautiful bird is seen feeding from flowers in the bright morning sunshine on Resurrection morning. I love when it hangs upside down and looks at you.
Of course there are the usual waterbirds, but not many as the rise in water level meant the wetlands were difficult for waterbirds to feed on the weed below.
Australian Pelican resting in the morning sun
A pair of Australasian Wood Duck resting in the morning sun
The morning chorus always commences here with the resident Eastern Aussie Magpie clans calling in chorus to each other to remind each other of their territories and catch up on the latest news. We just sit on the verandah and take it all in.
This guy is listening for larvae which he can hear with his very acute hearing in the soil beneath the grass. This ability is taught to him as a youngster, and this food is a major source, which is another reason why we should not reed these wild birds. They actually protect our lawns from pests. These Crested Pigeons were also catching the morning sun as the morning begin to be cool.
Down by the lake the trees were buzzing with the sound of the Common Starling which breeds there. They do look quite beautiful iridescent in the sunlight.
Starlings resting in afternoon sun
This lone Red Wattlebird tried to join them but was not welcome by the clan.
As I walked around the lake I was pleasantly surprised to find this Grey Shrike-thrush under a bush foraging in the late afternoon light.
Also in the grass nearby as I sat on the grass and watched, was many Superb Fairy wren, hopping happily about close to the reeds, where they quickly find cover. Some were going through their first morph (coming out of eclipse to breeding plumage) as they can breed several times in a year, they are a very sexually active bird.
two young females exploring
the rear of the morphing male
Non breeding male
Feeding in the grass was this pair of Red-rumped Parrot, which we always see here. The male constantly checked that I was not a threat. Only the male has the red rump, the female has the green one. This bird can be mistaken for the Turquoise Parrot from a distance.
This Willy Wagtail, a true Aussie flycatcher, was busily communing with members of his family as I studied him.
This bird is features in my first book as a very brave little bird, which it is when nesting, and a bird that survives well because of this. It is amazing how effective this little bird is, as you might remember how it stands up to much larger birds which could eat it, such as the Magpie and Kookaburra.
Most of the day flocks of Galah constantly fed on the grass seed by the lake, which is normal custom for the Parrot family after Summer has passed and the grass has seeded.
One last western bird we always see here is the very tiny White-plumed Honeyeater, as it busily feeds on the flowers high on the canopy of the River Gums, as well as searches for available lerps.
Have a most enjoyable week and weekend !
If you have not done so yet check out my new book release Flight of a Fledgling and take advantage of the 2 book deal (Book 1 and Book 2) which is going for a short time. Both books are available on my website. Click on the picture below to go to the page.
All adults, and especially Young Adults and late teens, can benefit from this book and gain insights into the modern research on our amazing birds. Posted to your address. Thankfully for you overseas Followers, due to our current absences of the Covid, Australia is able to send to most all countries.
Lastly, I want to share an observation of my little mate ‘Butch’ the Grey Butcherbird who sings to me throughout the day. He decided to clean out our gutters on the garage, and found food there, including a skink. This caused me to later clean them out properly, as I did not realise till he threw out so much leaf litter, how clogged they were.
checking me watching
Butch with skink in beak
““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …” – Matthew 6:25-34
On our return trip we decided to check out the local sewerage settlement ponds of the area, as experienced birders are aware, these are often some of the best birding sites for waterbirds, and rare ones at that. The fact that these are often overlooked by the public and seen as undesirable places to be, the very shy and elusive water birds are often at peace and undisturbed here and even choose to stay and breed there. As they are settlement ponds there are no unpleasant aromas. As we started making our way around the large ponds the birds began paddling away, and a large flock of Pink-eared Duck took to the air and relocated to another of the four large ponds.
Pink-eared Ducks in flock
A pair of Pink-eared Ducks
Our excitement grew as we looked into the distance to view these birds, constantly escaping our view, as this is one of the very few places we get to find the elusive Blue-billed Duck which spends its entire life on the water well away from humans. Please be aware that these photos are all taken from a great distance and in fact at many stages I could not identify the species due to poor light or back lighting at times, thankfully my wife with her powerful binocs usually identified them for me. I had to wait till post production at home for the most excitement. However our first excitement came when I captured something I had been trying to capture for some time, as I watched this small group of ducks paddle out past the posts. In the photo below three ducks started to move in a large circle.
Beginning to vortex
We soon notice, as the group moved out, two pairs of the these ducks starting to vortex. This is a peculiar phenomenon to these birds which have these very specialized bills for sifting the water for micro marine organisms.
a pair vortexing
Those of you who have my first books will know this as this bird and the Australasian Shoveler both have similar beaks and feed in a similar way. The birds swim in a tight circle, can be two to twelve birds. with heads down in the water, beak to bottoms the bird in front stirs up the water with its feet as it paddles and the one behind sifts the water through its beak. Here is some brief action footage.
Sadly as I was holding my very heavy metal and glass L series Canon 100 – 400 mm lens, my thumb started to hurt badly as I tried to steady the device in the strong wind, as 400 mm extension made every movement affect the clarity. My thumb continues to be weak and sore and may cause me to finally sell my camera and lens and look for a lighter combo. I try to avoid a mono-pod as I find it too awkward with my height.
The flock having settled
Sure enough the Australasian Shovelers were not far away, but only a couple of pair and one juvenile. The male is leading with female following.
They tend to join the like beaked cousins as they forage the same way and can assist each other at times. You can see them here with the Pink-ears, and one Hoary-headed Grebe has joined them for company.
We continued in search of the Blue-bills moving from the front pond to larger far one, which is hundreds of meters from the road, and hidden behind an earthen wall. As we passed the first pond my eye noticed a tiny bird on the bank. It was a Black-fronted Dotterel a small plover. Then we also saw its partner nearby. It was interesting watching it turn its head, similar to a Kingfisher it would bob up and down as it turned.
Our next find was small flock of Hoary-headed Grebe with some juveniles.
Hoary-headed Grebe flock
and now they are gone
Hoary-headed Grebe juvenile
Hoary-headed Grede in full breeding plumage
We had our next excitement seeing families of Musk Duck, which are very similar in many ways to the Blue-bill but very different looking, usually when you find one the other is likely to be present. These ducks are difficult to photograph without very good light due to their shiny all black bodies. The male gives off a musk like aroma to attract females during the mating season from a gland on his rear. He has a black pendulous skin under his chin.
Male Musk Duck
Male Musk Duck
two juvenile Musk Ducks
Female with juvenile Musks
Male Musk Duck
Musk duck sleeping with splayed tail
The female Musk Duck looks almost identical to the female Blue-bill, except the beak. In the picture below a female Musk duck in the foreground is next to a female Blue-billed Duck. Both ducks lie low in the water.
We knew then as we saw a small heard of ducks swim out of hiding toward the middle of the pond we were close to finding our Blue-bills, and yes we saw several families of Blue-billed Duck with youngsters and the male bills were still beautiful blue breeding colour. Remember these birds are a long way away from us. Blue bills and Musks have up turned splayed tales and both sleep on the water hardly ever walking on land during their lifetime. It would be difficult to find a photo of these birds walking on land.
Blue-billed Duck family
Blue-bills sleeping on the water
several Blue-bill families
Blue-billed Ducks juveniles
Ducks like humans get lonely when on their own and believe their is safety in the flock. This why we see groups of birds with several species all moving together on the water. The Hardhead male and female are seen in small numbers. The male has a distinct white eye while the females is brown. From a distance it is easy to mistaken a Hardhead for a Blue-bill, but it does not lie as low in the water and has the white eye.
Hardheads with Blue-bills
two male Hardheads
Compare a Blue-bill with a Hardhead male
The Grey Teal is also present in some numbers, as this is one of the most numerous waterbirds found all over Australia.
The other numerous duck is the Pacific Black Duck which was onlu in very small numbers here.
We usually see small birds in the tall grass around the ponds and we did see a male and female Golden-headed Cisticola.
Some last Pink-eared Duck photos. The pink ear is on the mature adults, more predominant on males and lesser and almost absent on female and immatures.
Who would have thought sewerage ponds would be bird havens, but they are all over the country in each city, though often with restricted access, which is ideal for the rarer birds which have suffered being shot at by hunters in previous generations before conservation orders were placed on them. Some birders are granted access with conditions. Sadly some states still allow shooting at certain times of the year and our rarer ducks, such as Blue-bills are being shot also. This may explain their deliberate attempts to seclude themselves from humankind.
Have a wonderful week ! As I have already shared, my new book Flight of a FledglingGrowing Up and Leaving Home, is now released and available here online for purchase.
As we approach the time when many remember the suffering and death of the world’s most innocent and righteous man, who was framed and executed because of the selfishness, pride and jealousy of those who should have received and honoured him, my mind goes back to these sewerage ponds. It is our greed and destructive selfish attitudes, that have driven these beautiful innocent birds to so fear us and become recluse from us. Selfishness is an inherited part of us all by nature and contaminates our true self causing us, even with our best intentions, to make selfish judgments and do hurtful actions from time to time. It separates and breaks relationships. The more we break from relationship with God who made us, the more broken we become as people, and in relationships with others. This same concept applies in counseling people, which my new book explores, that how we understand who we are affects every aspect of our lives. God the Father reaches out to us all through Jesus, the man who made peace with God for us, offering his life for ours, on our behalf.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:9-13
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”‘John 3:16-17
Yes its that time of year again when I honor the bird featured in my previous book as our most endurant bird, the Bar-tailed Godwit, which many of you know is one of my favorites. Click on photos to enlarge them.
As the first tastes of Autumn have come in for an early Winter blast, these birds will be taking off this week and next on a 12,000 to 16,000 km journey via the Asian coastline to Alaska and Siberia, returning to this same beach next Spring. The Bar-tailed Godwit is one of the highest flying birds in the world, able to reach heights of over 6,000 meters (20,000′). They can fly very high in flock rising to travel on the upper winds.
In Spring they will fly back non stop across the Pacific Ocean to Australia and New Zealand, guided by the sun and stars, spending between 6 to 8 days in the air. In the photo above you will notice the rufous breeding plumage almost complete in this male, but the females and juveniles have no visible changes. The females may change later but not as intensely as the males, and the juveniles will in a few years when they mature.
You will notice the subtle differences in plumage differentiating female from juvenile below, as the youngsters have darker primary markings as well as a neck band similar to other juvenile bird species. It can be difficult as they look fully grown from a young age, but are seen trailing and keeping close to the parent during Summer months, but often staying back for a sabbatical non migratory year in Australia during the winter months, until strong enough to do the amazing flight. With the absence of adults, other juveniles will group together and forage each day in a tight little group. The female is slightly larger than the male and has a slightly longer beak.
So now the furious feeding race is on against time to fatten oneself up enough for the long flight. Sadly many of their feeding wetlands and beaches are being filled in along the Asian coastlines due to large land reclamation schemes, which is causing these birds much stress and threatening many species to extinction, as these birds will only stop at their historical places, taught them from generations of migrations. Check out the PDF articles on this problem posted by Birdlife International and our CSIRO here.
Notice above how these birds, with their long slightly curving upward beaks, will push it right down into the wet sand in search of food. The amazing thing is that this bird is slightly smaller than a Silver Gull, and my photos can be deceptive.These birds can be a challenge to locate on a low tide mud flat far out near the water line, as they blend in so well with the sand.
Here is an example of a family walking together with juveniles trailing. In this case the female has a crab and is not letting anyone take it.
Here is one furiously feeding male…
The Crested Tern family were unimpressed by all this activity, as they are non migratory and had recently fledged their young here. Several were in resting mode after an early morning feed.
Crested Tern resting
The other shorebird that I saw last week feeding from a creek that flows into the same the same river was the vary shy and elusive Striated Heron (previously known as Mangrove Heron). This bird has always quickly walked or flown away when it sees me viewing it from the walking bridge at low tide. I have to always view this bird from a great distance, which makes my photos of lesser quality, as I have enough trouble just trying to see its small shape blending so well with the dark muddy sand. I spent some time unnoticed and watched it catch and eat several fish.
First, we stalk the fish in Heron style…
Secondly, we wait by the water with those small beady eyes and pounce at lightning speed to catch the fish…
Thirdly, we bring our catch to the beach and work out how we will consume it, as we have to get it into position to swallow it whole…
Last of all, we need to stretch our neck as we swallow to allow it to travel down into our stomach…
That’s that, ready for the next process.
Have a wonderful week and hope you are able to get out and enjoy some birding. My book is now at the printers and we are waiting for it’s release.
If this is your first visit to my website and blog check out my home page and other birding pages, you may find them of interest.
I love watching these birds seek out their food, which lies deep within the sands of low tide river beds. They use their beaks to quickly press down hoping to feel a small crustacean or worm. Sometimes they press their whole head into the sand, or push their head below the water in search. They commonly use a jack-hammer approach to search.
The words of Jesus have been repeated by many a parent or teacher over the years, implying that those who seek and keep on seeking (which is implied in the original Greek text being in present continuous tense), will be the winners in the end to achieve their goal and destiny.
To have this mindset one must first of all: need what they are seeking and then believe or have a reason to hope that what they seek can be found.
Paul the apostle of Jesus puts it simply to the great Greek minds of his day in his famous Areopagus address on Mars Hill (a place we never got to see last year due to Covid):
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17: 24-28 (NIV)
Many have asked why Jesus, who for many, made trusting God so simple, yet for others made it so hard. Why speak in parables and answer each question with a question? It all comes down to the fact that he knew the hearts and intentions of those who gathered around him,
“because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” – John 2:25
In so many places in each of the accounts about Jesus, the writer mentions how Jesus’s response was due to the divine insight he had about each of the people who confronted him, and this is why he shows mercy and love to the underdog, persecuted and outcast but is harder and more serious with the corrupt and hypocritical temple (church) leaders of his day.
“But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?” – Matthew 22:18
This was the reason Jesus spoke in parables, which he explains to his disciples who ask that very question:
“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” – Matthew 13:10
It is here that he draws a definitive contrast between those who truly seek him for who he is and trust in him, as against those who seek to put him down and actually fear him because he reveals what they are truly like and thus is a perceived threat to their power and lifestyle.
The problem is the same today as it was then.
I can remember as a teen when I played in my first band at dances and concerts, we all admired the Beatles and each of us had our favorite.
Abbey Road record cover
Our take off of Abbey Road cover
I can remember when the Beatles went searching for meaning and spirituality in their lives, led initially by George and John. They tried various means and religions and drugs to find the answer. The songs Eleanor Rigby and Nowhere Man are excellent examples of that time. Above are photos taken during our visit to the place where the Beatles started their music career in the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
The Beatles original instruments displayed in the Cavern Club
The Beatles playing in the Cavern Club in Liverpool. From a photo in the club
Sadly the Christian church of their day in Britain did not communicate a relationship of love, peace and joy with Jesus nor the fulfilling life they were searching for, and eventually settled for an Eastern religious influence. Sadly many today continue to seek the experience and not the Person? My own personal experience was that I also was disappointed by the church of my day as a teen and was challenged to read the Bible for myself, and the words of Jesus spoke to me and that’s how I met him.
As in Jesus day,
Men again get in the way
Instead of living what they say
For Jesus himself said “I am the Way”
And comes to all who humbly seek and pray,
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
Last weekend my wife and I spent a few days in the Newcastle area to celebrate our wedding anniversary and have some birding time together, as well as birding time out walking and birding with my eldest son and his boys. One of the places we love to visit when there is the Walka Water Works near Maitland which seldom disappoints us, especially during Spring-Summer months.
the meaning of Walka
bird signs along the track
This old steam driven water pumping station has long been decommissioned and now used as a museum and function centre. The man made lake is home to many waterbirds, and surrounding forest around it houses many passerines. The walk around the lake is always a delight as you never know what you might see. As we were about to commence our walk this flock of Corella were spooked and took off in flock.
The bird we were most wanting to see on the lake was the Great Crested Grebe, with its young. The last time we were here in Spring we saw the mating dance as well as very young juveniles being carried on the backs of the father Grebe. I figured that on this late Summer visit we would see the next stage of juvenile development, and we did.
Several families were present and the young were at various stages of maturity.
Surprising as it is the grey striping on white does camouflage the babies from the air, where their main predator will come from. This lake, surrounded by grassed flood plain is an ideal raptor hunting area, and guess what the next bird that came over head was?… The majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle, our largest eagle, with a wingspan of about 2.3 meters (7.5′). I was so pleased that it came overhead to examine us.
As it soared away from us it was suddenly in pursuit by what appeared to be a Magpie, but due to the intense back-lighting of the clouds was difficult to confirm. Wedgies are often chased by brave smaller birds, displaying their commitment to their family’s safety. This cat and mouse chase went on for several minutes, as the eagle soared up higher and higher making it more difficult for its assailant.
Later we found the pair of Wedgies working a paddock nearby and swiftly left when their keen eyesight spotted us watching.
Wedgie pair leaving
Walking along the track we saw an amazing little incident with two Red-browed Finches. It appeared that the male was presenting the grass seed gift as a wedding ring followed by an acceptance and immediate mating. At first he mounted for a few seconds and now sexual contact was made, and then he mounted again and for several seconds there was intense movement as he watched the face of his partner. The movement helped to blur the photo. Then it was all over and he is left holding the grass. The female has a slightly narrower supercilium than the male. Now there is a word to explore!
First bring a grass seed gift to the female
Wait for it to be received
Mount the female like so
Proceed to mate watching to see she is OK
There that’s your sex education done
Walking further along we were charmed by the beautiful chime of the Pied Butcherbird, one of my favorite bird calls which brings back memories of living on my property years ago. He did get a little worried at one stage when a pair of Musk Lorikeets flew toward him.
Rapidly moving Grey Fantails, Silvereye and Yellow Thornbill were flying with an MFF (Mixed Feeding Flock).
We just caught a glimpse of a White-bellied Sea Eagle before it escaped our view, after it had just passed over the lake.
White-bellied Sea Eagle escaping us
It was surprising to also see a Spangled Drongo. These birds are usually found alone and migrate south from northern Queensland during Summer months, though usually not this far south. The fish tail is always a help in identifying it.
Just then we had another raptor moment when a Whistling Kite came over with a youngster in tow. Notice the adult always flies above the juvenile to make sure it is safe and not getting into mischief.
A pair of Hardheads cruised together on the water. The male has the white eye. A parent Dusky Moorhen was taking her two youngsters out for a cruise also, as a Little White Cormorant flew bye and a pair of Little Black Cormorant also were out together for a cruise.
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
After an enjoyable walk we made our way back to our accommodation, checking out Ash Island Wetlands on the way. We found most of the birds had left after the rains and as usual my wife prayed the prayer “What have you got for us here Lord?” as we were leaving, a large unusual bird with a long tail ran with head down across the road in front of the car, flying to a nearby tree some distance from the road with prey in mouth. It was a Pheasant Coucal a rare bird not usually seen here. We tried to get a better view but it hid in a Casuarina tree.
What a great way to finish an anniversary birding date. We were very grateful for a wonderful day out.
May you all have a wonderful week and get opportunities to get out and about. We are enjoying over 50 days virus free in our state and pray it continues as restrictions slowly lift. My new book is almost at the printing stage, looking at a possible April release, similar to last year.
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The Noisy Miner is one of the most aggressive bully birds in Australia, the cause of much stress, occasional deaths and nesting failures among many small birds. Above my friend Noisy leads his little coalition against my friend Butch, the father Grey Butcherbird who also frequents our birdbaths with his family. My second edition of “What Birds Teach Us” assists children to deal with bullies such as these. Occasionally the Miners will attempt to gang up and mob Butch or his family if he is too close to a nest, but Butch in this case is just ignoring them as he looks for insects in a Bottlebrush tree next door to us. Later he calls from the inside the other side of the tree after they left and could not find him.
Both these species provide a service to us. The Butcherbird sings and chuckles all day to me which I thoroughly enjoy and makes me smile inside and give thanks, while the bold Miners protect our yard continually from intruding vagrant, non native pest birds with their vigilant aggressive stance. We care for them both, though people would wonder why.
It is good to maintain a balance in relationships and show no partiality, accepting the person for who they are with a non judgmental attitude. If it is possible retain friendships with all people by showing respect, acceptance and understanding. We must however be careful to not take sides or enter into conversation that favors one side over the other, but simply listen and show empathy. If the person shows disrespect because you are friends with their opponent, step back and do not continue, but let them know you care and show no partiality for both parties. It does not mean you condone any inappropriate behaviour, or agree with it, but instead respect them and try to understand why they are doing what they do. You can only do this by developing a relationship, and spending time. It is in this context that we can be an instrument of positive change and healing to another person. We can eventually help them understand why they do what they do as they respond to our friendship and eventually trust us enough to share from their heart.
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but lovecovers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12 (NIV)
“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” – James 3:18
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” – Proverbs 17:1
Above my female (left) and alpha male (right) Australian Magpies give thanks as they carol by our birdbaths, as they do each morning in appreciation.
Thank you my dear friends for following my blog throughout turbulent 2020. This will my last word for the year. Interesting enough I went for a walk today to exercise, as Sydney is dealing currently with another Covid outbreak. After the rain and almost winter-like weather of the past few days it was very quiet in my local bush park, with very few birds and people. So I figured this last one will be simple and short. We are all very thankful that our government is very proactive and responsible to the health and well being of us all, and grateful that we have made it thus far in what is the most extraordinary year in our lifetime.
Australian Christmas Bush flowers
My Christmas card above features the Scarlet Honeyeater male, a bird that appears before Christmas, coinciding with the flowering of our native Christmas Bush, as well as, the call of the Eastern Koel in the early morning.
These among many other signs tells us that we approach the time for us all to kick back , relax and celebrate both the birth of Jesus and the coming new year, as we put the passing one behind. For many this will be a time of grief, suffering and sorrow. We pray for the comfort and recovery of the hundreds of thousands experiencing this in this moment. Every one of us has lost something or someone this year, we are all grieving at different levels. No one escaped loss, just as if it were a world war, and it is not over yet. As I walked along the quieter than usual bush track I stopped to watch and hear something very special and unique. A Grey Butcherbird conversing with a pair of Australian Magpies. In my recent studies and research I have learned that many of Australia’s intelligent birds can communicate between species, as they learn their languages by listening and observing intently. I apologise for the loud Cicada background, yet another sign of Australia’s bush Summer. I recorded this:
What one needs to be aware of it that the Butcherbird is quite capable of copying and speaking with the Magpie, as is the Magpie to the Butcherbird. The call of the Butcherbird in the above recording is not one of his usual Butcherbird calls, he is actually speaking in Magpie. For example, listen to this immature Butcherbird practicing, and recalling mimicry it has learnt from other birds.
This exercise between birds is not only good for improving relationships, but is very useful in times of emergency when either of the birds need assistance to locate and mob a common predator or warn to take flight. This brought me to think, what have we learnt this year? Great challenges are opportunity for greater learning.
Eleven lyrebirds can be seen in the image as a bushfire near Wollombi approached (Supplied: PJ Wallis for ABC News 30th Jan 2020)
Bushfire, drought, flood and Covid were all great challenges in 2020 from which many positive lessons were gleaned, to help us navigate the future. They rallied the community back to the mate-ship of the Aussie battler, that made Australia great back in our early post convict days when ex convict married ex convict and toughed it out in the bush to carve out a home and a family, because they could not afford to go back to Britain. My ancestors also married as ex convicts and established a town in NSW. For those interested rediscover the old the TV series “Against the Wind” to get an idea of the difficulties. These new settlers (all mostly ex convicts) learned to trust and assist each other through the difficult times of establishing a living from nothing, from which arose the Aussie mate-ship, which carried us into the world wars and helped make our nation famous for the ANZACS and the friendly warm helpful reputation we once received from other nations.
The Superb Lyrebird knew what to do to save itself from the firestorm, gathering their mates they fled to the dam. Many species managed to survive using amazing survival skills, learnt and possibly passed down from somewhere in the past.
The Australian Wood Duck has always survived well because both parents have their priorities always before them, keeping them faithful in both relationship with each other and care of the family. Many have rediscovered the importance of family and family relationships, and had to modify the importance of the peripheral things of life, such as job, possessions, sports and money, which for many had taken the place of THE most important – family relationships. The Covid made us all aware of our own fragile humanity, and that we are all vulnerable and all need each other to survive. We are not a rock or an island as Simon and Garfunkel once erroneously suggested. For our northern friends this song is set ‘in adeep and dark December’.
Thankfully we already had the technology to create such meeting places as Zoom to tide us over the Covid lock downs, and create new and more efficient ways to work from home, and have more family and home time. We began to carve out a new kind of normal. A list of new words arose which became common place in daily conversation, and a new awakened responsibility for one’s own health and the health of those in their daily life. The Australian White Ibis in my book “What Birds Teach Us” is an example of support, security and strength in community.
I wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas and a healthy, blessed and prosperous New Year. May it be better and may we all grow more resilient and mindfully learn to experience peace and contentment in what ever circumstance we find ourselves in so that we can be comfort and strength for others. Regardless of what popular opinion has become in recent years, and the removal of Christ from Christmas, he remains: The Reason for the Season. It still amazes me that one so loving and kind, who has brought so much good into our world and our culture, can be feared and despised by so many, even fear from declaring his name with respect, fear that even drives people to kill and injure people who love him and live the life of love he encourages, which continues to be the case in many countries in our world today.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 (NIV)
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
‘So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
Last weekend my wife and I traveled to Canberra to visit family and enjoy a 16 course degustation dinner at an exclusive restaurant, by a hatted chef. On our way we stopped for lunch at Kiki’s in the Grove. This beautifully located cafe/restaurant is situated on a hill overlooking an olive grove on the Federal Highway, at Collector on te way to Canberra. Unexpectedly (the unexpected is normal when I am around) I found a new market for my book and all of 10 travelling copies were immediately consigned, as this shop has a large throughput due to its location and wonderful food and coffee, and best of all the owners loved my book. We were both delighted with this blessing, which would later be followed bu another.
While in Canberra we took a walk briefly through their Botanic Gardens, which we had visited some years ago. It was very busy as the locals were making the most of the Spring sunshine. On arrival, before alighting our car, we were greeted by a pair of chorusing Australian Magpie (‘eastern black-backed’ race tibicen), as they communicated to nearby clans. The Australian Magpie is unique in it has two separate sets of muscle in the syrinx allowing it to produce two separate sounds at the same time one to two octaves apart, which gives it the chorus effect. When a family of Magpies do this together as a chorus it can be threatening to other Magpies and birds as they mark their territory against impending intruders. The Magpie is not a bird to take lightly, it is not only very intelligent but very powerful, fast and with a beak that can inflict deep wounds.
As we toured the various types of gardens we noticed this male Satin Bowerbird moving about in the trees around us, watching our movements. I knew that there must be a bower nearby, so I tested my theory by pursuing it with my camera, and each time it would move.
After a few minutes I was able to roughly triangulate where I thought the bower would be located, of course it would be hidden out of sight beneath a bush.
Sadly it was a very poorly kept bower, quite pathetic to say the least, which would explain why the many females touring around were not entertained there. We could hear him practicing his repertoire inside the bush. Not long after we saw several females moving about, as there were several bowers in the gardens.
As we walked through the rainforest section we were greeted by the noisy incessant chatter of a family of White-browed Scrubwren, a tiny bird that spends most its time foraging under small bushes as it chatters along. This family had several young ones, all chattering to one another as they foraged quickly.
Another rainforest bird the Eastern Yellow Robin was sitting quietly alone in the dark shade of some thick trees. I was hoping for a flight shot, but not today.
As I watched the Robin I looked in the distance through a hole in the trees to detect a male Australian King Parrot feeding overexposed in the brilliant sunlight.
A White-throated Treecreeper was climbing nearby. Then I noticed they were a pair.
This Eastern Water Dragon caught the attention of a group of visitors.
But this heavily banded male Superb Fairy-wren took the cake. Have you ever seen so many bands on such a tiny delicate bird ? How on earth did they get them on it, surely it must be uncomforable.
Which leaves us with this series on the Eastern Spinebill, a small honeyeater.
The next morning I heard the loud raucous call of several Channel-billed Cuckoo being pursued relentlessly by my own local Noisy Miner coalition being headed up of course by ‘Noisy’ himself. They had been called in by the nesting Pied Currawong to mob these sneaking birds, as they attempted to do a switch on their eggs. Almost every morning this process takes place, with the alpha male Magpie often included. Here’s what I got, sadly it was a bright diffused cloudy sky, so much work had to be done to master the photos from the silhouette. It may be an adult and immature, the smaller certainly did not look like a juvenile.
One of the three, possibly the father Cuckoo confronted the angry Miner who was left to stand guard, as the others had left. If they try to leave the tree they were driven into, the Miner wil give a mobbing alarm and in seconds the other coalition members and resident Currawongs and possibly Magpies will be there like rockets to drive them out of their territory.
Recent research into bird behaviour, where birds learn the alarm and mobbing calls of other birds, to enlist their assistance to remove a common enemy, shows that many species that normally dwell in a given geographical area or territory, actually work together, as we do in our local towns and communities. I have noticed that even at the bird baths there order and respect for each local bird species that use it, is being maintained in recent months. We see daily on news reports the unsung heroes of people who step in to help people being attacked or robbed. They respond with no thought of the danger they could face, as these offenders are often armed and desperate. This is very inspiring to us and to our children, as love places itself selflessly between the victim and the perpetrator, with no other reason than to help a fellow human in their moment of distress.
“He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.” – Psalm 18:18
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Have a wonderful week and stay safe. If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out the rest of my birding website from my Home Page.
There is still a week for you to purchase the unique and beautifulbirdbook “What Birds Teach Us”, the perfect inexpensive Christmas gift, that will continue to give to its reader.
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W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
‘So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
Spring brings change, with breeding and the promise of new beginnings for soon to emerge life forms, that will cement the relationship and activate commitment in bird pairs, in a similar way to humans. The above male Superb Fairy-wren is morphing into his breeding plumage, in anticipation of mating with surrounding females. After possibly breeding with several on heat females he will eventually transition into a faithful husband and father. Eventually he will resemble the male in full breeding plumage below, also shown with the female who shows now plumage change.
As we add the final part to our NSW western bird tour we will focus on the Fairy-wren, as it appeared so many times in so many places on out journey. I will share some footage we took will visiting a zoo. Interesting enough, we visit this zoo mainly to see the wild birds, and more interesting is the fact that this zoo has no caged bird exhibits at all. We purely look for the birds in the trees and parks within the zoo grounds and often find many interesting avian wonders.
These birds like many small birds appear to have a much faster world than ours being able to think, see and hear better and faster than us. They can solve problems faster and sometimes better than we can. Their brains may be smaller but they are jam packed with many more neurons and for many their brains are actually larger in proportion to their body size. Notice the accuracy of this bird’s about turn.
Another amazing small bird, one of our smallest, usually makes its nest by tunneling into earthen embankments. We discovered a Striated Pardolote family which had used sandstone holes inside caves in the Pilliga NP. These caves were used by our native inhabitants for shelter in past generations. This small insectivorous bird has a rapid flight and amazing sense of accuracy when it flies to its nesting hole. It is difficult to get a perfect shot die to their speed.
Here the pair rest in a tree nearby as they watch us watch their nesting hole. These birds suffer much at the hands of larger more aggressive Honeyeaters because they not only eat Lerps as Honeyeaters do, they eat the larvae as well, which makes a large part of its diet. Many birds have Many Honeyeaters have learned to extract the Lerps without eating the larvae so as to produce more, and birds such as Miners and Wattlebird do not like this. at the hands of other birds as well as having their nests destroyed because they sometimes choose mounds of earth that construction men have created and moving and transporting. Is it any wonder they and the Spotted cousin are on the decline.
Here are some shots of other Striates we saw a few days later. The last bird below is immature and paler, lacking the adult markings. Both male and female look similar.
Another small and smart looking bird we always see in the same spot each time we visit the zoo is this Sacred Kingfisher, our most common south eastern variety. Many of these birds are currently nesting inside arboreal termite nests, as do Kookaburras, the largest species of Kingfisher.
One large Honeyeater we always love to see out west which was present in large numbers around the zoo and constantly calling was the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. There were many flowering eucalypts around the animal pens for these birds to feed from, and they were showing feeding aggression to other birds.
The Rainbow Lorikeet were also enjoying the blossom.
Also walking about the zoo was this Yellow-billed Spoonbill, another inland bird we seldom see. A freshwater wader found in small numbers and usually alone unless breeding, as this one alone enjoying the Hypo’s pond.
We hit the jackpot with Woodswallows as we were leaving the Pilliga, through burnt out areas. It was encouraging to see these hardy insectivorous birds come back to nest there regardless. We saw the Dusky, Black-faced and White-browed Woodswallow, all living in the same area. Notice the last photo where the male is displaying ready to find a female to mate with. These birds are notorious at this time for this. Notice his cloaca is quite deliberately exposed as he calls for attention, indicating to any females on heat he is ready for action.
Another small insectivorous western bird was the Yellow-rumped Thornbill. It also jumps along quickly similar to the Fairy-wren. Listen to the background call of the female Magpie in the video clip as she mimics the call of the Friarbird, an unusual finding, which means she was probably raised with these birds being nearby, as most Magpie behaviour is learnt and Magpies, like many Australian birds, can mimic.
Before we came to our last stop off town Orange we found this immature Eastern Crimson Rosella sitting by its nesting hole as many young birds do. They return to the nest for security until they are mature. You will notice the difference between it and the parent below. The blochiness as it gradually gains its beautiful bright mature plumage loosing its protective green.
You may wonder why we have a saying in Australia ” You silly Galah !” which is used to caution people acting like larrikins and tripping themselves up or others because of their mischief. Here’s an example of this bird in action, and it has no other Galah in sight to show off to. These grain eating birds are in flocks of hundreds our west gluttons for eating spilled wheat from the side of the road. Silly, because when a car comes along, they have eaten too much and cannot lift off the road in time and you know what comes next… yes feathers everywhere.
Finally, we made a special visit to Forbes to check out a wetland the Parkes Visitor Centre (a place also where my book is sold) guide recommended to us to check out. This was a highlight, to view several special birds, even if all of these photos were taken from a distance. The wetland lake was full due to recent drought breaking rains. The main town feature was this artform of a Goanna, which stands stark out in the middle of nowhere..
What we did see were a family of Pink-eared Duck with several ducklings in toe. Many Grey Teal are also present breeding, one of Australia’s most numerous waterbirds, particularly in northern Queensland. What I did not realize until viewing my photos at home was that I had captured in the photos a lone male breeding Blue-billed Duck, a rare find and a bird we were disappointed we had not seen while there. You will need to click on each photo to view it. These were unexpected blessings which we would have missed without the tip-off, as we were not aware of these wetlands.
Both a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagle and a lone Peregrine Falcon sat resting on dead tree tops in the swamp. Wetlands are always a good place to find raptors since waterbirds are very exposed and easy takes for marauding swooping bird eaters, especially with their young. This is one good reason they are granted large clutches, for their specie survival, as some loss will always be imminent.
Lastly, by the water was this very noisy songbird the Rufous Songlark that would not stay still long enough for me to click the shutter. It seemed to see my lens as a threat every time I pointed it, it would move. I did manage these shots while it briefly rested. Boy it could sing. I think it was nesting nearby and trying to divert me.
It was a most enjoyable road-trip and we were blessed that we were able to do it during Covid while restrictions were still in place, as many are still. The fact that we lacked both international and interstate tourists meant places were less crowded.
Thank you for touring with us, we do hope you enjoyed the ride and the rest of the week !
Also, bear in mind that with many who are or have recently been in lock-down for an extended period, your Vitamin D levels may have become quite low and a supplement may be needed for a short time, as this vitamin is essential for Calcium absorption.
Also, don’t forget the perfect Christmas and Thanksgiving present for all ages is my book “What Birds Teach Us” as it encourages an appreciative, thankful and joyous attitude throughout. Yes the book is available here online for both Australian and overseas residents. Many from various countries have purchased it and have shared how it blessed them.
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Observe this Superb Fairy-wren we saw earlier at the zoo, trying to find a way through the wire fence, as it wants to get to the other side where the trees and foraging is much better than the path it is on.
This little guy seems to have forgotten that he can fly over this fence in an instant as he has done many times before. He tries many times to find a way through it but begins getting perplexed, but does not give up trying. We may get frustrated and disappointed at times, because our expectations go unfulfilled resulting in us to eventually give up trying, thinking it is impossible. This little guy was determined to find a way through the fence without flying over it, and finally he realizes if he ducks down he could easily run under it to the other side, and so achieves his goal.
Sometimes the answer is staring us in the face but we are looking at the problem the wrong way. To the Fairy-wren the problem became a challenge, which in the solving thereof became a learning exercise, which would benefit him at a later date. I have gained much wisdom from doing things the wrong way, as did Thomas Edison as he persevered toward the multiplicity of his invention successes. Currently I am faced with some challenges regarding the publishing of my next book, partly due to the effects of the Covid, among other things. I knowGod will make a way where there appears to be no way, and he has proved his faithfulness to me throughout my life journey, including the publishing of my first book.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful” – 2 Samuel 22:26
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” – Psalm 50:15
Having returned this week from a one week birding and book marketing tour of some the western cities and towns of our state, our first holiday for the year, being unable to holiday interstate due to closed borders, we are very thankful and grateful, considering many are in lock down or suffering much greater restrictions. It was so lovely to visit the places where my book is sold and to be warmly greeted and sometimes excitedly received. It was great to see how the Covid has been a blessing to the sale of my book, as many who would normally holiday outside our state, are making the most of touring it, many for the first time. The feed back has been wonderfully encouraging. Here are just a few of the places we visited where my book is selling well:
After the long initial drive up the east coast to the Mid North Coast NSW, near where I use to live, my wife and I spent the night in a quiet Golf Course Motor Inn at Wingham. We love staying at this place as it is very quiet and off the highway on a golf course, where we always find many birds, as we dodge the occasional stray golf ball. You can see from the photo below, the view from our room is beautiful. The afternoon light shone into the tall trees exposing clearly the birds which were busily getting their last feed for the day in, joining the Evening Chorus, as they prepare for their approaching sleep.
We kept hearing a high pitched ringing call from several birds, which sounded a lot like the Willy Wagtail. As we both looked into the trees I became a little exasperated as I could not see the bird anywhere. Willy usually boldly makes himself known to you, as you shall see in further posts, especially during nesting time, which is now. Then my wife recalled the sound we had recently heard in the local Nasho (The Royal NP), a bird we only had a brief glimpse of and photo of, the Scarlet Honeyeater, which had been a bit like chasing the Scarlet Pimpernel, as we had only heard it but it eluded us during the Winter months. The afternoon Nor-Easter was blowing at the time, so wind noise was present.
Sure enough, as we started looking in the flowering native bushes nearby we were blessed with a multiplicity of male and females in amazing afternoon light. They are so fast moving, and very shy of humans that they tend to keep well away. They also camouflage well in the red flowers they feed from. Spring is the most active time for Honeyeaters as they gorge the nectar rich blossoms of our native plants. The interesting fact to the converse of our most nectar producing native flowers, is that they grow best in the poorest of soils.
We were so glad for perfect conditions, as we believed this was a gift to us, making up for the absence of these birds in our local area. We looked forward to the evening and coming day when we would spend catch up time with friends and family, who I have not seen now for a year, due to Covid. Here are some shots of the male feeding.
The female Scarlet, as with many species, has much less colouring, keeping her safer from predatorial attack when nesting, as explained in my YouTube Channel video. We did not get a glimpse of a female Scarlet, which is basically brown with a small amount of orange/red on the face only. She may have been nesting already, as many birds are now (Spring). However we did see a couple of immature males having outings with their dad, which is typical of many Australian species, where the male is responsible for the training and feeding of the youngsters.
I noticed that several adult males were flying together with their young males, in a similar way to Magpies.
An interesting observation from studying our bird behaviours are the identifiable behavioural characteristics peculiar to each specific species. For example the Whistlers tend to tilt their head and look upwards a lot, whereas the Scarlet Honeyeater tends to look downwards a lot.
This was a lovely start to our whirlwind western tour. We enjoyed a lovely meal with friends and set off the next day further inland to a friend’s 50th party. As we visited each town along the way I would drop in to meet and greet the various sellers of my book, which was being sold in most of the towns and cities we visited. One aspect we observed the whole time away, was the aggressive behaviour between particular bird species, from which I collected data for my next YouTube video on Why Are Australian Birds So Aggressive ?
I will let you know when it is posted. You can purchase my book from one of many stores throughout NSW and various other cities throughout Australia, as well as online here on my website. This easy to read and beautifully illustrated book is the perfect introduction to the peculiar characteristics of our most popular Australian birds, from which helpful life lessons are gleaned.
The perfect Christmas or Birthday gift for any age, but especially for Primary School aged children, where it may spark an interest in bird observing, a healthy outdoor recreation. Thank you for the many blog followers who have purchased one or more copies of my book, now in its larger and improved Second Edition, and thank you to those who are supportive in prayer and encouragement for the publication of my second book.
Dorothea Mackellar’s statue at Gunnedah
Visiting the country town of Gunnedah, which was once known as the Koala capital before the drought, we saw the statue in honour of Dorothea Mackellar, one of Australia’s famous poets, who resided in that area. She is known most of all for her poem My Country (full version originally written as The Core of My Heart). I learnt at school to recite the excerpt of the poem below, which beautifully depicts our unique country:
I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror The wide brown land for me!
As I was returning to the country which I love, as a country boy, I was reminded of the similar feelings I shared with Dorothea, who wrote her poem while living some years in England as a home sick young woman who had grown to love Australia’s outback and yearned to return, which she later did. Part of my birding experience is the land and its rugged beauty, as I do not like living in a crowded, noisy, polluted city.
We all experience yearnings, for a better place or better circumstances, often wanting to relive enjoyable times on our lives, especially at present with the virus lock-downs and the many losses and curtailment of civil privileges. The truth is we can not go back only forward. Disappointment is the outcome of unfulfilled expectations, which if unresolved may eventually result in Depression. I knew when I returned to towns I lived in or near for many years, things would not be the same, and that I needed a fresh new view of things as they really are. Too many people get stuck in their past, romanticizing past experiences, but we will now be faced with a new normal, post Covid. It is not healthy to live in the past, on our past feelings and experiences, but only to learn from them. It is important to stay connected to the present, looking into the future with hope.
The wonderful truth about our Creator is that he is always in the present. When Moses asked for the name of the One who sent him, he was told: Tell them I am, who I am has sent me to you. We live and grow in a time and space confined universe, but there is hope of a timeless always present experience offered by that same One, which has been made available to each of us, to escape the decay and declension of our current world, which scientists can concur, reluctantly to their conflicting philosophies, that the world is in fact breaking down and not building up or evolving into a better place. Ask the Koalas what they think. If you want to explore what I believe as a scientist who believes in a Creator, you can explore my Bird Sanctuary page, where you will find hope, help and peace for the present. Be aware that much of modern counselling is based on Judeo-Christian Biblical principles.
Have a wonderful week as best you can and keep safe and be at peace. Our prayers are daily for you, especially those we know that are in lock-down and suffering loss at this time. Next week I will continue our road trip out west. If you have a quiet moment in which to self reflect, read Psalm 139 verses 1 to 18 and consider we are in this together not just with each other.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’