Winter is a time where bird numbers are reduced due to migration, breeding and feeding changes for many of the medium to large birds. I took the chance to escape in my Ford Escape to the Southern Highlands NSW to see what was on offer, as several interesting sightings were luring me to do my usual round trip visit. I did not see any of the interesting birds reportedly seen at the lake, but I did see a pair of Black Swan, which are now seen all over Australia. I love the way they preen, making for an interesting view, as to where is the head? This pair of Australasian Grebe are also present. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Black Swan and Australasian Grebe
However, there were many Pink-eared Ducks present, making a fast gettaway when they saw me. I did try to sneak up on them but they were on the lookout. I am amazed at how many of this once hardly seen bird are now in our fresh water lakes around the Sydney area.
My next stop was Lake Alexandria in Mittagong, a beautiful man made lake on the edge of town with lovely picnic and play facilities. You can walk right around the lake and view the water bird from different perspectives. The main interesting bird here was the Hardhead, of which there were many pairs. The male has the white eye, and is sometimes called the White-eyed Duck, but the female lacks this feature.
It has always eluded me as to the name choice of this bird. which is found throughout Australia mainland and Tasmania. It is Australia’s only true fresh water deep diving duck, which can remain under water for several minutes feeding on marine creatures and water weeds. They are usually found in breeding pairs and small family units, scattered amid other water birds.
This Little Pied Cormorant was basking in the warm winter sun. In the highlands the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than down near the coast, so every bit of sun is welcome.
The Australasian Grebe were all sleeping in the middle of the lake, also basking in the warm sun.
I have noticed a gradual increase of introduced duck and geese to our fresh water lakes, which I am not pleased about, as these could become competitive with our native water birds, as they have in other countries. In a similar way the Common (Indian) Myna passerine is currently a major problem here, rapidly multiplying and competing for food sources at an alarming rate. This introduced, adult male Mallard has an almost mature male with it. We saw many of these birds in the ponds and lakes of Britain.
Mallard adult and immature
My next stop was Fitzroy Falls, a good place to see birds, especially in the car park. I usually always see or hear lyrebirds along the track. On this occasion I only hear them, but did not get visual contact. It was certainly loudly entertaining as it mimicked many of the other birds living in its vicinity.
As I ate my turkey sandwich I was joined by a pair of Lewins Honeyeater who also wanted me to share it with them. In my early days of birding I use to think these were Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, which look extremely similar, until I found that they were only found along a small coastal region in far north Queensland, has a brown eye and head instead of the blue eye and grey head of the Lewins.
Of course, the most common honeyeater here as in most pleases around Sydney region is the Eastern Spinebill, always in search of flowering Banksia cones and Mountain Devil flowers. This was the only photo it would allow me to take. I saw several others later but they did not oblige.
Moving to my final stop, aware that the sun sets early in winter, I visited Barren Grounds National Park, always hoping for a look at that most elusive and endangered Eastern Ground Parrot, but alas it did not happen on this occasion. The most common winter birds seen are the tiny insectivorous Thornbills. This Brown Thornbill was seen foraging in the lower branches, you can see how small it is compared with the branches.
Thornbills are usually seen all year round and are territorial. They can offer a challenge at times to photographers as they are constantly on the move jumping from branch to branch in a rapid excited fashion, making their sweet high pitched sound as they go. My greatest gift for the day was to watch and photograph this rarely seen Striated Thornbill as amazingly it allowed me to observe it foraging on this exposed lower branch.
Thornbills, because of their small size and similar markings can be difficult to differentiate from a distance, and often require careful observation of the photo at home. The striations are seen on most Thornbills, but these come down from around the face to the chest. The eye colour is light not dark or red like the Brown. It is not bright yellow or buff underneath like the Yellow-rumped or Buff-rumped.
Other than this, birding on this day was somewhat disappointing, as birds were scarce. I did see this lone New Holland Honeyeater sitting above the heath.
I did not see the Eastern Bristlebird anywhere on this occasion, but I did have rare sighting of the Grey Whistler, which just appeared out of nowhere in a small tree some distance away at the edge of the heathland by the track. It is rare for me to see this bird.
I made my way home, thankful for the opportunity to escape to an area I love to visit. One of the features I love is Fitzroy Falls in the Morton National Park. These falls reminded me of God’s continual grace, love and provision being constantly and unceasingly poured out into my life without me even being aware. Every heart beat and every chemical reaction and process within us, is witness to his sustaining loving provision, which cries out, as does this waterfall “I love YOU!” I not only need to know the One who loves me so much, but more so, to realize that I am loved and cherished so much, that he has sent Jesus his son to bring me back to him at great cost to himself. Ponder on this as you watch this movie clip.
“ So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ [multiply] to the many!” – Romans 5:12-15
Multiplied like a waterfall pouring out constantly to the whole world. God’s invitation to life abundant, a free gift that sets us free from a meaningless futile existence. All that is needed is to receive it thankfully. Have a wonderful week!