Leaving Townsville, we drive a hire car up the coast northward to our next stop, the Tyto Wetlands Centre in Ingham. Birders had told us this was a must visit place and we were not disappointed seeing several lifers, the first being the Crimson Finch, pictured above. These tiny birds were constantly flying and landing in the tall grass where they find their seed diet. The male is bright crimson and the female mainly around the head and tail. and juveniles mainly grey/brown. Click on photo to enlarge it.
Crimson Finch (male)
Crimson Finch male
Crimson Finch (male)
Crimson Finch (female)
Crimson Finch (juvenile)
Female Crimson Finch
The name Tyto is named after the rare Eastern Grass Owl (Tyto capensis) which is found there in the grassland during the latter part of the year. This wetlands is well cared for by the local council and has well marked walks, including crocodile warnings, which concerned my wife, though the only croc we saw while up north was a baby one in Reef HQ (the largest coral aquarium in the world, at Townsville). Crocs are river dwellers mainly, and can get washed out into coastal areas during the wet season.
Walking the circuit we saw several types of habitat including bush, open forest, grassland, lake, and pandanas forest.
The red-backed Fairy-wren was again a great delight.
One of the common birds seen up here quietly sitting in trees is the Spangled Drongo, which is usually identified by its classic tail and shimmering bluish/black metallic plumage.
We were surprised to find two kinds of Shrike-thrush next to each other in the woodlands both different races of Little Shrike-thrush, both lifers. These races (subspecies) are found only in this part of Australia.
Little Shrike-thrush race rufogaster)
Little Shrike-thrush race rufogaster)
I had wondered where the Rufous Whistlers had gone during the drought, finding one here.
But another lifer brought excitement to my wife, the White-browed Robin which is only found in Far North Queensland, her namesake. The English have a Robin but we have 17 different species of Robin. No these are not the same photos notice the tail, a feature of the robins is how they flick their tails up and down while perched.
Another bird only seen this far north was this White-gaped Honeyeater. I guess when you have over 70 honeyeaters and many have white markings on their face, it gets difficult to name them accordingly, so this one is gaped.
Another passerine lifer was this Brush Cuckoo, which has the feature of looking like a cuckoo but without the usual white tips on the upper tail being obvious. If you look closely you can detect bands showing through the brown upper tail, this can make it difficult to call.
The most prolific bird seen here by the lakes is of course the Forest Kingfisher, beautifully attired in his bright blue vest, standing out against the brown mud and reeds. I managed to convince him to fly so you can appreciate his full beauty.
Forest Kingfisher resting
Forest Kingfisher resting with Peaceful Doves
Forest Kingfisher in flight
Other classic waterside birds included the Australasian Darter and the Intermediate Egret, one we do not see much of down south.
So we come now to the lakes, the actual wetlands. Here is a panorama of the area, which includes the Comb-crested Jacana who was my first bird seen here on the water, and quickly hid from me.
But the most exciting find on the water was not the Hardheads which were close to shore, but the unusual looking birds afloat, way out in the middle of the lake, well away from us. My wife trained her trusty binoculars, which she proudly purchased from the London Wetlands Centre a few years ago, on these birds which turned out again to be lifers. The Green Pygmy-Goose and the Cotton Pygmy-Goose were peacefully together with the Hardheads and the Wandering Whistling Ducks. The Cotton Pygmy-Goose was a lifer for me not just in the wild but ever.
Green Pygmy-Goose pair
Green Pygmy-Goose with Hardheads
Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Wandering Whistling Ducks
Green Pygmy-Goose pair
Hardheads landing near Cotton Pygmy-Goose
Green Pygmy-Goose flying off
Notice the black eye marking of the male Cotton Pygmy-Goose and the lack thereof in the females, one fore and aft of the male.
And of course, there is always one lone Australasian Grebe, this one with some breeding plumage, in the lake. I am sure there are others somewhere else.
Our visit here had been a great delight, though the fear of crocs was a little off putting for my wife. We had seen several lifers. We would now make our way further north to the rainforest areas visiting Mission Beach and the Atherton Tablelands for some very unique birdlife, but that will be in my next post.
Check out my NEW Special Sightings page. which shares special local birding highlights, unique and rare sightings. See my latest shots of the Powerful Owl with prey. Check out my HomePage for more birding tips, inspirational and info pages.
At Reef HQ in Townsville we saw many species of coral and tropical fish including the most unusual Clownfish which spends most of its time swimming in among the tentacles of the Sea Anemone. Sea Anemones are predators that attach themselves to rocks or coral. There, they sit and wait until a fish swims close enough to attack with its tentacles. Clownfish are one of the only species that can survive the deadly sting of the Sea Anemone.
By making the anemone their home, Clownfish become immune to its sting. These fish will gently touch every part of their bodies to the anemone’s tentacles until it no longer affects them. A layer of mucus then forms on the clown fish’s body to prevent it from getting stung again. This relationship reminds me of living under my Father God’s loving care. As I grow from a child to an adult I am initially disciplined so as to learn to live a good life.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” – Hebrews 12:7
As I remain under the care of our loving Father we remain protected from the Enemy, that is not the Anemone, who we are warned, lurks about the world around us, seeking to lead us to destruction.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Abnormal, selfish, destructive addictive behaviour results when I make myself vulnerable to bad decisions and thoughts. I am only safe in my loving Father’s own prescriptive plan for a good life, which he designed and created for,when I remain in his loving protection close to Him, knowing He is always close to me. His Love Letter the Bible contains all I need for His best for my life.
‘Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.” – Psalm 16:1,2
Check out my book “What Birds Teach Us” on my Birdbook page.
Now that I have cut back from full-time work, my second book is under way, featuring more Australian birds and their unusual characteristics. In a similar way to the first book, it is set in a counseling context, but for families, many of which are also in crisis and need of life skills to assist them with proven life experiences and life skills for making good life decisions. This book “Birds of a Feather – Family Forever.” will again be a unique work presented in a simple readable format similar to my first book. I have been greatly encouraged by many important people in my life, who are awaiting this much needed work, and hopefully will become another non-confronting counseling tool for all ages. This book will be an asset for young adults planning for relationship and family giving helpful tools and insights for a Together Forever life.
Please Note: Increases to postage, packaging and handling fees required the small increase in purchase price. However, buying here online remains the least expensive place to buy your copy compared to most retail shops which sell for $35 in Australia.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
The prevailing drought conditions in the Sydney region, have contributed to a reduction in the number of passerines and breeding waterbirds during summer and also as winter approaches, there are some water birds that have stayed because their habitat has not been so cruelly affected. Again I visited Sydney’s Olympic Park with my wife to have a Sunday picnic and capture some more stunning reflections of of one of my favourite waders, the Black-winged Stilt.
A friend asked me why I noted in a previous post that other waterbirds such as the Masked Lapwing, and even on occasion the Red-necked Avocet seen above. The answer is the long slender legs and open stick-like feet. These assist in moving through the water without disturbing it much. The other waterbirds are shorter and have thicker legs and tend to disturb the water more. It is always good to see the Stilt and Avocet together, as I have described in my book. Note the difference in the reflections.
Stilt and Avocet
It was also a delight to see a juvenile Stilt foraging alongside its parent. The Welcome Swallow managed to get into some of my photos and movie footage as they flew over the water.
Many of the Red-necked Avocet flock were sleeping safely in the centre of the shallow lake.
One of my favourite photos is this one, how the legs appear to cross over.
Other waterbirds include this White-faced Heron, probably our most commonly found wader.
We were hoping, as we peered from the Bird Hide, to spot the tiny Dotterels running along the shoreline, but on this occasion they were in the distance together in a small flock. These birds are usually timid toward human approach.
It has been interesting to find the presence of Magpie Lark (PeeWee) foraging by lakes and waterways in recent months. It is something new, possibly the drought may have brought it on. This one even joined in reflecting for me.
As we sat by the lake enjoying our Turkey sandwiches this Australasian Grebe (non-breeding) floated past, so I took some shots in the bright winter sunlight, as my wife noted it looked different. On viewing my photos as home it was found that the head had the striped of a juvenile Grebe remaining, as it is coming to maturity. Immature Grebes have black stripes on a white body, the head is the last part to loose the stripes.
Of course we had to check out the nesting area on the island where on my last post from this area we saw quite immature Pied Cormorant chicks being constantly fed by busy parents. These babies have become immature birds which now look very much like their parents, but are even more hungry and demanding than before, since they are much larger and fill the nest. This parent is so flustered trying to satisfy their appetite that he had to leave the nest and take solitude, peacefully cruising the lake.
Parent flies in and babies peter
They keep trying to get access to parents gullet
the parent has left and they cry
then quietly look for their parent to return
but he was resting in the solitude of the lake
This Masked lapwing was caught flying by…
As on the last visit the non-breeding Superb Fairy-wren were out and about, in the usual places. It is usually easy to find these birds as they are territorial and are found in the same area most of the year. Like many insectivorous birds they circumvent their small territory many times a day in search of insects on small shrubs and trees. The non-breeding male retains the dark blue tail, dark beak and turquoise wing coverts, which can be seen below. The female remains brown with rufous facial mask and lighter beak. The male will begin eclipsing again into his beautiful breeding plumage as Spring approaches, but for now, Winter is at the door.
May I leave you with this beautiful footage of the Black-winged Stilt foraging peacefully together in the lake shallows.
If this is your first visit to my blog feel free to check out the pages in my website aussiebirder.com. Check the menu at the top of the Home page.
This last four weeks of full time work as a scientist are dragging, as I look forward to part-time work or semi-retirement (whatever God grants) allowing me to expand the more creative aspects to my life. I hope to begin assessing the possibility of setting up a small business as a Tour Guide for Bird Tours. I will be checking out the possibility of running Introduction to Birding (Bird Watching) Tour packages in conjunction with Farm Club Australia in the Southern Highlands.
Black-winged Stilt with stages of development.
In the above photo one can observe most of the different stages of development of the Black-winged Stilt, from a brown chick to an adult stilt. As different as they each look to the other, they are all the same species, and will all look similar on maturity. I am challenged by the fact that I need the grace to realize that we are all at different levels and phases of maturity as people, and that despite all our differences and short comings, we are God the Father’s beloved children whom Christ died to redeem and restore. The most beautiful thought is that long before we ever came to know God, he already knew and loved us, long before we were born. This is why love, acceptance and forgiveness in our relationships is so essential, as we all experience the various aspects of life with its struggles and lessons. We each seek to be understood and accepted for who we are.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to being.” – Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” – Thes 5:15 (NIV)
Have a wonderful weekend!
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Should you desire to use any of the material published on this website please contact the author as a Comment or by email via the AboutUs page
Little Black Cormorant
In my last post we explored the leap of faith in small passerines, and as this summer has been so intense with heat and drought conditions it lends itself to compare Faith and Fear, the two motivating forces that influence our every action daily.
Drying my wings
The above Little Black Cormorant at Sydney Park rests knowing that before him is both a good water and food source which it can trust, and so stay and last out the summer heat, while many both migratory and resident species have moved further south or into the mountains for cooler weather. Not a lot of breeding has taken place in our local park this year, though we did see some here. The rest of faith is a principle countering the restlessness of fear.
Little Black Cormorant resting together
Early on a Saturday morning, my wife and I discovered a peaceful community of waterbirds and passerines who were braving the extreme heat and trusting that their needs would be met here. The peaceful community was noticeable at once as the White-faced Heron flew in to join the mixed species in what appeared to be a run on a school of fish.
White-faced Heron in flight
White-faced Heron landing near its partner
White-faced Heron landing
White-faced Heron landing
Investigating the fishing frenzie
Sydney Park is an amazing facility being reclaimed land from Sydney’s original brick works, and which the council transformed into a water park reserve which is fed by recycled storm water for the ponds of a man made nature reserve. This is very popular with city dwellers who walk their dogs here, as well as themselves. See how these birds rest together as they share in the spoils.
One factor which this place displayed more than some other sites around the city was that birds were breeding and this Dusky Moorhen family were keeping watch on what appeared to be one chick, normally their clutch would consist of several.
You can hear the juvenile call with that all too common chirp for food shared among many young species of bird. These birds look much healthier than the ones at Oatley Park I posted a couple of weeks ago. Those ponds are closed for maintenance at present.
In the reeds we were hoping to spot the Spotless Crake which had been reported here recently but it did not show. We had seen and posted the Buff-banded Rail seen here some weeks ago. Our gift of the day was this juvenile Australian Reed-Warbler, sitting alone but visible in the reeds, making the same hungry chirp as the juvenile Moorhen, likewise trusting that the parent will soon return with food.
The parent was busy, not making its usual clamorous call, but quietly hunting for food, and this mantis was in the process of being softened up for feeding the youngster. This bird is very shy of humans and often difficult to photograph, keeping itself hidden down in the reeds, though it allowed me to film from afar without taking flight.
Aust. Reed-Warbler with insect
Aust. Reed-Warbler with insect
Aust. Reed-Warbler with insect
Juvenile Aust. Reed-Warbler
I managed to get some lovely shots of the Reed-Warbker resting, which is a rarety.
Australian Reed-Warbler juvenile
Other shore birds searching peacefully among the reed grass were this pair of Australasian Swamphen (previously Purple Swamphen).
This Spotted Turtledove rested by the shore of the lake.
The Pacific Black Duck were well represented but I did not see any young, though one of these may have been early spring babies.
Pacific Black Duck
As usual in the centre of a freshwater pond one Australasian Grebe, this one non-breeding. These birds are frequently seen alone when not breeding, only coming together to have their young.
Australasian Grebe (non-breeding)
Australasian Grebe (non-breeding)
The other passerines in the surrounding trees included a female Figbird, a Red Wattlebird, a young Willy Wagtail and of course this Noisy Minor, also dispatching a freshly caught insect.
The illustrate how to identify male and female Magpie-larks (Peewee) I captured a pair at the park. Notice the direction of the facial black stripe.
Lastly, the true sign of a restful bushland and garden is the presence of the Superb Fairy-wren. These birds have suffered from the heat and though annual residents usually, many families have left their usual hunting grounds in parks surrounding the city, but this one is breeding well here in Sydney Park with several males spotted. Notice the eclipsing male, possibly starting to loose its breeding plumage. Fear of loss has possibly sent many bird species to other habitats, but these rest trusting that their needs will be met, as they see out the extreme summer months.
Superb Fairy-wren male
Superb Fairy-wren male
Superb Fairy-wren male
Superb Fairy-wren male
Superb Fairy-wren female
“Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” – Matthew 6:26 (NEV)
Above is the verse that inspired my book, the word ‘Look’ can be interpreted as ‘study or observe’ the birds, which is what we do as birders, and we learn so much from their interesting peculiar characteristics. Jesus noted the simple faith that birds have, and birds in a similar way to us humans, have a certain amount of faith mixed with fear in our decision making, also affecting how peaceful our lives are whether they are resting in faith or restless in fear.
When I apply faith in God when feeling anxious or afraid, I have peace and my soul rests trusting him to come through for me, and so far he has not let me down. God showed his disapproval of the Israel nation when they failed to trust him, even as he provided for them as they lived in the desert, many died there because they failed to trust his generous and loving provision, they never rested in the Promised Land. This land is type of what God has for those who put their trust in Him, believing in Jesus and receiving his salvation and friendship he offers freely.
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” – Hebrews 4:1 (NIV)
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” -Psalm 50:15 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week, and if this is your first time to my website checkout my other pages and helpful birding tips, and special counselling features and bird findings.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyright property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
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!