Last weekend, my wife and I drove to the Hunter Valley Wine Region for our wedding anniversary, where we not only enjoyed beautiful valley views, fine food, tasting luscious wines, but of course as per usual, birding was included. Click on photos to enlarge.
aussiebirder ready to bird
View from our accommodation.
Nearby was the Werakata National Park, one of the feeding areas of the rare and endangered Regent Honeyeater, which my followers would know I have blogged in past posts. The Spotted Gum eucalypt trees were in flower which would have been ideal for them to feed, however we did not see any Regents on this occasion.
But we did see an unexpected family of another inland bird the beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater female with juveniles. The juveniles lack colour intensity, lack the throat band which has not yet formed and lack the tail streamers. This bird lives in hot arid areas and dry forests and spends the Summer months down here, flying back up to Far North Queensland during Winter, after the cyclones of the wet season. The females have two short tail streamers (see below) and the male has longer streamers.
adult female Bee-eater
To our delight as we walked to breakfast, we found a small flock of Musk Lorikeet feeding on the Spotted Gun flowers nearby our accommodation. This bird is found inland and is often difficult to photograph and well camouflaged as they are usually deep in the tree feeding. The blue head cap and the red head markings are usually all you can detect. This birds gets its name from the male which during breeding season emits a musky odour from an oil gland on its rump. This acts as a pheromone attracting females to mate.
Musk Lorikeet feeding
The Eastern Rosella is another inland bird checking the gum trees also. A beautiful but very shy bird.
It was lovely to see several new season juvenile birds and hear their monotonous hunger chirps as the family try to feed them. This juvenile Noisy Miner was getting attention next to our room.
Adult Noisy Miner keeping watch
Juvenile Noisy MIner
One of the best treats for me coming here was to hear again the sound of the Pied Butcherbird, my favourite songbird, which I miss hearing from my years of living up the coast in country NSW. This bird is not found as far south as Sydney, but its cousin the Grey Butcherbird sings his beautiful song to me each morning as he drinks from our birdbath. Listen and watch as this bird’s morning chorus rings through the valley.
One hot afternoon while enjoying a swim in the pool, we heard a commotion in the nearby eucalypt tree as several Noisy Miners were being very noisy and appeared to be looking at something and scolding it in the tree. At first we all could not make it out, but my wife donned her binoculars and sighted the cause of the trouble, a young Lace Monitor was on a branch high in the tree in search for bird eggs. The Noisy Miners harassed him with noise but it was the brave and more brutal Blue-faced Honeyeater that dared to come close, causing the lizard to move away.
Blue-faced Honeyeater are another bird found mainly in northern NSW and also Queensland. As with other Australian honeyeaters competing for nectar, this bird is aggressive and often sports what appears to be an aggressive look which is in it’s favor for warding off adversaries.
While we were enjoying coffee at the Chocolate Factory, we looked out to a distant paddock where my wife sighted a Wedge-tailed Eagle going to ground. It was a long way off and barely visible and spent several minutes down. I walked smartly to the car to retrieve my camera and returned waiting at the fence. Eventually it arose and flew toward me, almost over my head and then into the distance. It appeared to be carrying its prey under one talon, which on close observation appeared to be either a native possum or small fox.
This is Australia’s largest raptor sporting a wingspan of around 2.3 meters (7.5 feet), and it is always a buzz to see them since their numbers were decimated in the last 100 years due to the 5 shilling bounty on their heads. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered needlessly. Farmers complained that they carried off lambs as prey. This is the most persecuted eagle in the world. Today there is a $8,000 fine and imprisonment in most states for killing this now protected bird as this bounty has since been lifted, and numbers are very slowly returning, but will never be as they were. The eagle can carry up to 5kg (11pds) prey which is heavier than its body weight of 3.5kg. We also spotted a Whistling Kite passing over silently.
On our visit to Hunter Valley Gardens which is the largest floral display in Australia, we were met by many Superb Fairy-wren families bobbing in and out of the beautiful and extensive rose gardens. As roses are introduced species and lack nectar, they do not attract native honeyeaters birds but only the tiny insectivorous Superb Fairy-wren. This bird is a small fast moving territorial bird found in many flower gardens and parks in eastern Australia. Some males were morphing into eclipse after the breeding season, and others were still donning their brilliant breeding plumage which looked spectacular in the sunshine when it came out. The female looks plain brown and has a reddish marking around her eyes.
The other bird we saw many of, but had a challenge to photograph, was the another insectivorous inland bird I posted recently, the Yellow Thornbill.
We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration away in the vineyards, bringing home some very enjoyable wines. One of the vineyards, the Mistletoe Winery, appeared to have giants present though we did not see any on our visit, but she had left her shoes in the garden.
You might consider this above photo to be a trick with perspective, but no the shoes are as large as they appear, by simply observing the branch in the foreground. Yes, it is a sculpture, one of many at this winery. This sculpture reminded me that sometimes the truth can be right before my eyes, but because it does not line up with what I know and understand of it in my world, I may doubt its authenticity, and consider that someone has fiddled the foto and fiddled the facts to make a false observation appear like truth. In this age where deception, lack of trust and loss of integrity is on the increase, it reminds me that I need to be alert and wise to check out the details of boldly postulated assertions, particularly from minority groups, but ever increasingly from government and media. What is so called politically correct or currently socially acceptable may not be truth and therefore good or safe to enter into. With our looming elections in coming months I and all of us need to be able, as difficult as it has become, to discern who is telling the truth, and what the facts really are for the ongoing good of our families and community.
Jesus said: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd [alert, intelligent, astute, clever, observant, perceptive] as snakes and as innocent [not guilty of causing crime, offense or suffering] as doves.” – Matthew 10:16 (NIV with added meanings)
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12
Enjoy your week as we eclipse into changing seasons, for some autumn and others spring. It is a time to be wise with our health as the temperatures change. It is also time in the next few weeks for our migratory waders to be on the move again, which I will be sharing more of in my next post.
If this is your first visit to my blog be sure to check out my birding website for more birding info and helpful hints for body mind and spirit. Enter into the refreshing mindfulness of birding, lower your stress levels, and live a healthy happy life.
Three weeks ago my wife and I visited the Southern Highlands region south of Sydney where we found many birds, in particular a lone Regent Honeyeater. The Drunk Parrot Tree in Wollongong Botanic Gardens is now deserted of birds as the blossoms are finished, assisted by the violent deluge (Sydney’s Super Storm) we experienced a week ago. A day after the rain I went back to check how the birds fared. A friend at a National Park office told me that many birds were brought in injured from the storm and many had died. You will remember I featured the above nest in my previous post with the female Dusky Woodswallow sitting proudly on her eggs. After the storm, my investigation found no Woodswallows anywhere around the nest area in the Budderoo National Park. In fact the forest was almost silent but for the call of an elusive Rufous Whistler. However the wild flowers benefited from the rain and were in full bloom both here and in Barren Grounds National Park where I visited later. Click on photo to enlarge it.
The sound of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo could be heard making it easy to find. The Eastern Bristlebird I would usually find was also gone as were many other birds.
Then I was charmed by the lovely call of the Grey Shrike-thrush, a bird that is normally quite brave and curious of humans, though this one was rather shy.
The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike watched as I poured my coffee from my thermos with the silent heath lands of the highlands all to myself. I love sitting in the silence with no man made machine or voice noises, just the sound of birds and wind blowing with the wisps of wild flower scent.
Another curious bird the female Golden Whistler came to check me out. I always love the way this bird turns its head to look at me in a similar way to the Robins. I could hear the male calling earlier so I knew he probably had a mate and was nesting nearby. Notice how plain looking she is compared to the stunning colors of the male.
female Golden Whistler
female Golden Whistler
male Golden Whistler whistling
This Eastern Crimson Rosella was a laugh as it shook its tail doing some kind of dance. It was some distance away and in the forest darkness.
I later made my way down the mountain to visit Wollongong Botanic Gardens to see how the Bowerbirds were going and on the way I sighted this male Superb Lyrebird foraging.
Finally I arrived at the gardens and noticed the absence of nectar eating passerines, but to my delightful surprise was greeted by several rainforest birds which are not commonly seen out in the open. This Bassian Thrush was sighted behind a bush but I only got one shot and it was gone.
My second rainforest gift was this Green Catbird, a beautiful specimen out in the open sunlight, something you seldom get to see. These birds are related to the Bowerbirds and are very elusive and hard to spot in a tree due to their colour and shyness. Their call usually helps find them.
My third rainforest bird was of course the Satin Bowerbird, and not just the male but this beautiful female with food in mouth waiting to leave for the nest, not wanting me to know where it is.
Female Satin Bowerbird
The Satin Bowerbird have such beautiful eye colour. The blue-black plumage colors are the product of light refraction in the surface feathers. The males were busy repairing bowers and collecting more blue objects to decorate the bower to make it attractive to fertile females. My book “What Birds Teach Us” features this unique Australian bird and draws on a lesson we can learn from its creative nature.
One of the several males was sitting up on a branch and calling to the females.
It was noted that the unusual double bower was still intact after the storm, though others had suffered loss.
This male kept his eye on me as he foraged and dug down under a bush, unusual behaviour.
But my greatest gift was to view through the bushes a rare glimpse of a mature male Satin Bowerbird teaching the immature youngster how to dance. He was training the youngster for the most important role that would occupy the rest of his life, building the bower, doing the mating dance and singing the mating songs (mimicry) to impress and get the females to mate with him. Only the the most creative and best performers get the girl. Recent studies show that this is a learnt process from a young age, and as with humans there are different degrees of intelligence, creativity and ability. Lyrebirds have a similar learnt process. Birds with long gestation and maturity times such as these have larger brains and more neurons in their learning regions. It takes over six years for a male to mature to full adult plumage. This is the only photo I managed to get through the bushes of this immature male, the movie clip was not suitable as it was too difficult to focus through the bushes.
Immature male Satin Bowerbird
The garden desert region had the beautiful native Western Australian Kangaroo Paw flowering in various colors.
In this world of constantly changing values and morals many are left confused and disillusioned. The lack of absolute truth and the lack of adherence to such by society in government, schools, churches and law courts has assisted in increasing depression, disappointment and lack of direction for living. This has caused Family and Personal Counselling to become the fastest growing industry worldwide today. In the same way if we do not follow the manufacturers instructions problems may arise, so it is with us. If we do not recognize or want to recognize the instructions of our Loving Creator for our best life scenario, and disregard them, we will strike problems and suffer the pain of guilt and disappointment in life.
We were ‘appointed‘ to live a righteous and enjoyable life in relationship with God the Father, so we become ‘disappointed‘ when we do life our own way, following the crowd of selfish amoral modern thought. Regardless of whether or not it is legal in society, that does not make it right. This is what my brother, a barrister, explained many years ago when I shared my disapproval with some of the judgments made in our law courts.
The point is that all the birds in our region experienced the deluge of Sydney’s Super Storm and the strong winds on the day, some fared well and some were injured and died, some stayed and suffered the storm as many were still nesting and others fled, possibly being warned instinctively to flee. We all have to make choices and if we choose to make choices that are not good for us we need to be prepared to suffer the consequences which may appear later in life. The other side of this today in our Secular Humanistic society is that we may suffer standing for what is right (what we believe to be Truth) and be persecuted by what is proclaimed legal in our new Modernistic Atheistic Society, where the government becomes the new god. The question in me and each of us is: How then will I fare, how will I withstand life’s storms?
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to bring charges against me now? Where are my accusers? Let them appear! See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! – Isaiah 50: 7-9a
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 15:23 (NLT)
Have a wonderful week my dear blogging birding friends as we prepare for the celebration of Jesus coming to earth as our savior. I just want to leave you with a lovely thought Brian Mulroney spoke at exPresident George H W Bush’s funeral:
“There are ships that sail the seas, but the best ships are friendships!”
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out the rest of my website aussiebirder.com!
What better Christmas Gift than a copy of my book, a gift that keeps on giving.especially for young people 7 to 12 years of age. It not only teaches an appreciation of Australia’s beautiful birds but integrates life skills as the unique characteristics of each bird teach us how to do life better. Many from all over the world who follow this blog have purchased this book, some have given reviews. Read them for yourself and purchase here online on my BirdBook page.
A lady bought 3 books two days ago, after reading it in a Dentist Surgery waiting room. She was so pleased she had found the perfect Christmas present for her grandchildren that she came back the next day and bought 2 more.
One of my primary goals in life is to leave an appreciation of our natural heritage for our youth. Writing my first book (available here online) was one attempt at achieving this, followed by whetting an interest in family and friends to explore our native birds and also our beautiful bush with its unique trees, flowers and animals. Sharing a pair of binoculars many have had their eyes opened to a beautiful living world they had not known, hidden in the very trees they walk past, as they are introduced to the birding experience.
During the recent school holidays one of my grandsons came to stay and my wife and I took him on a bird walk in the Royal National Park near where we live. This park is affectionately known as the ‘Nasho’. You have seen many posts from this park, but it alive at the moment and the birds have returned because of the recent good rains and Spring, the time to court, mate and nest.
There is much song in the bush. Scientists have recently found that our birds not only sing in Spring to attract and communicate with their mate, but also sing both in and out of season for the love of it. Singing stimulates the release of feel good endorphins in the birds brain, making singing a very enjoyable experience. We heard and saw several male Golden Whistlers calling.
My grandson Joel, started enjoying spotting these birds high in the trees, seeing how beautiful they are, and how the binoculars bring them so close. His father had warned us not to take him birding too long, as he might get bored easy, but we kept asking him and he said he was enjoying the experience with us and we went further into the bush spending several hours exploring together. He saw several Golden Whistlers but only the male, as the female is possibly sitting on the nest. Click on photos to enlarge them.
We need to help our youth discover the benefits of birdingto save them from the tyranny of the electronic devices that preclude them from healthy exercise and an appreciation of their natural heritage. This grounding has therapeutic effects in actually lowering stress levels.It is not just birds we see but the beautiful Spring flowers high in nectar and food for our many honeyeaters.
We were quite amazed to find several flowering Waratah flowers, a rare treat, as many of these plants have been stolen from National Parks for their beauty. This is the floral emblem of our state NSW and its botanical name Telopea speciosissimameans ‘bright red beauty seen from afar‘, and that is exactly what these flowers are, they are iridescent flower heads made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. It is a difficult plant to grow in your garden at home and can not tolerate transplanting or being moved.
NSW Waratah (State floral emblem)
Another large red flower seen in the park is the Gymea Lily a plant indigenous to the Sydney area. It also has many smaller flowers that make up the large flower head. It stands majestically over four metres tall,,,
Most of the birds we saw were honeyeaters feeding off the flowering eucalypt trees. In Australia, unlike Europe, pollination is performed by the birds, not bees. Most of our pollinating bees were introduced. The Australian native bee is very tiny and is not the main pollinator. So it is a buz to see this Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding from flowers along with this Yellow-faced Honeyeater.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater feeding.
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
The beautiful Eastern Spinebill was moving rapidly around the flowers and calling to its mates. This honeyeater has a long curved beak enabling it to reach deep into tubular flowers such as Bush Fuchsia (seen above) and larger flower heads.
This tiny Silvereye was also getting in on the action but was after insects…
It is always a delight to see and hear the Brown Thornbill, another tiny insectivorous bird as it moves around the tree’s lower canopy making its unique call…
By now Joel has seen and heard many birds and been introduced into a whole new world of discovery which we can only encourage him to continue to explore. Not many young people find it their cup of tea, but our desire is that at least some may be given the opportunity to sample the experience and learn the value of conserving our natural heritage for the future years when they will be the voters.
A highlight of the walk was to firstly hear and then site a White-throated Treecreeper as he was making his way up a eucalypt tree. He found an insect in the bark and proceeded carrying it, possibly collecting food for a nestling. The sound file below lets you know what you hear as he climbs the tree.
The sound of Yellow-tailed Cockatoo passing overhead caused quite an excitement, but we could only see their silhouette as we were deep in the forest.
So the message is, purchase two pair of binoculars, one for you and one for your birding guest then take your family and friends on a bird walk and share your love and knowledge with them. Your passion and love of birding will have a contagious affect on those who walk with you. Our prayer is that children will appreciate their natural heritage from a young age. I have enjoyed talking at seminars and schools in the past promoting this along with my book, and have had wonderful responses from both parent and child. I love talking to people who share my passion to save our youth from addiction to electronic gadgetry and the physical, social and emotional illnesses that accompany this.
Royal Spoonbills WORKING
Royal Spoonbills RESTING
We may need to help our youth strike a balance between work and rest, as spending time with electronic media etc is stressful work involving active mind and eye activity. The birds know how to work and rest but our modern coffee society has adrenal overload helping to bring on many chronic illnesses, simply because they are over stressed and not allowing enough time for rest and sleep. Self control and developing healthy habits, such as taking a walk in the park or bush each week can help to lower your stress level, reducing the chances of both physical and mental illness. Birding takes resting to the next level with endorphin release in the brain as an added enjoyment factor when a bird is sighted and appreciated. This is similar to what a bird experiences when it sings for the pure joy of it. We have the blessed honor of leaving a positive and memorable influence on our youth, a priceless legacy that may be passed on from generation to generation.
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.”
“Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NEV)
Have a wonderful week! I have been asked to continue working on my existing agreement to assist training staff before my full-time position is filled, so my second book writing remains on hold.
If this is your first visit to my blog, please take a minute to check out my website Homepage menu and helpful birding and counselling info. Check out my unique book which can be purchased through secure PayPal here online on my BirdBook page.