As we move into lock down and the new terms self isolation and social distancing now become part of our vocab, as well as the latest catchphrase: ” Stay Safe!”, like Leut. James Cook, we chart and map new waters and places we have not been to before in this pandemic plague. Since midnight we are now discouraged strongly from venturing out into our local national parks, which are now closed with staff forced to take leave, so this post comes from my wife and I last Friday, where we socially distanced alone in the forest of our local Nasho (i.e. Royal National Park).
Of course from today this is now changed, and many of us are figuring out how to navigate the coming weeks with the government’s imposed changes. This will have some impact on birders and birding blogs. Thankfully this is a time of year when bird numbers and species are fewer in our area. It may mean for some, photographing the birds they can see from their homes, such as these Kookaburras who called on the TV areal next door for the first time ever, having been chased by a coalition of Noisy Miner. Notice the aggression, finally they both left. Now I know why we never see them here anymore.
Last week I mentioned how my wife and I noticed the spooky quietness of an usually noisy bird filled forest as we walked together in the Nasho. However, returning a week later we discovered why. It was not that the birds were not there, they were just not singing or calling to one another, they were quiet, which is customary during non-breeding season for many honeyeaters and whistlers to mention but two. We found small pockets of birds at a time where very few native plants were flowering or fruiting. I spotted this White-browed Treecreeper climbing and foraging in the bark for insects and grubs. It is usual to hear its loud call as it ascends the eucalypt tree, but no sound was heard. Notice his bark flicking technique as burrows for insects and grubs.
You can see why this bird is difficult to see, and usually only detected by its call, so I did well to find it. My wife took the still shots, as my lens is still coming, like a lot of other things including life as we have known it, put on hold at present.
Here is an example of what this bird would normally sound like.
Walking further my wife spotted a male Golden Whistler, who usually sings his heart out while courting and nesting during Spring and Summer, but is now quiet, shy and difficult to find. His female partner turned up also, but she is not as timid, and as per usual, came close, landed and looked at us out of one eye, and left. Here is the male.
Here is the female. Notice as with many birds the mature adult male has the bright coloration, which is the hallmark of the species and the female the more earthy brown, green or grey plumage which affords protection when nesting, giving camouflage protection from would be predators.
As we walked we did hear the call of the Lewin’s Honeyeater which we always hear here, but did not see it. I noticed this tiny yellow object sitting high in an Angophora tree, near a hole, which is a classic of this tree used by cockies, lorikeets for nesting and owls for living. Usually this resident Eastern Yellow Robin would greet us as we passed by and sometimes follow or lead us along the track, but not today.
These unique holes form when the branch dies inside and falls, as the tree repairs itself. This tree known as the Sydney Red Gum has a nickname to the early European settlers as The Widow Maker because when the branch fell, there was no warning of it breaking, it just silently fell out of the hole, killing anyone below.
As we looked through the trees another silent inhabitant, the Eastern Water Dragon, was sun bathing in the warm afternoon sun over the river which follows our track.
We were hoping the Rufous Fantail had returned for Autumn, but no sign as yet. This is the palm forest we usually find them flitting about in.
As we returned, we noticed a flock of Australian Wood Duck, usually seen grazing on grass seed beside the Hacking River. They are very tame and carry on eating while we stand right next to them. These birds pair for life, and have the father assists the mother duck throughout nesting and fledging.
Our last observation was this small family of Magpie, dad, mum and the juvenile. Interesting there is only one this season, as this couple usually have two or three young. A human family are having fun playing together nearby as they social distance themselves, while a Magpie family help themselves to picnic leftovers. Notice the aggressive behaviour of the father to junior.
Magpies in small family groups tend to be successful breeders, as they hold their territory and do not have the complex social structure of the magpie clans that also exist. This magpie family have held this choice area for some years, which is a credit to the male. The next territory is about 100 meters away. Because the pickings are so good here, everyone appears to tolerate each other well.
The juvenile is still learning the craft of Magpie wisdom and would be a product of the last Spring. Most of the young of our large black or pied omnivorous birds have brown plumage with dark eyes and beak. They will undergo changes for the next 2 to 3 years to full black and white adult.
On a different note:
You may remember I quoted from Psalm 91 a couple of weeks ago, which Moses is attributed to writing: “Surely He shall deliver you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence…” The Fowler trapped and caught wild birds as an occupation, to sell or eat for food. My brother-in-law Tony in Canberra, showed me this photo of him holding a little Silvereye, which he had found entangled in the netting (seen in background) to protect his fruit tree from birds and bats.
A bird in the hand. You would think this bird was his pet. The bird does not look distressed. This bird was set free from being trapped, which is the direct opposite to that of the action of the Fowler or enemy that seeks to destroy our lives. This is the beautiful illustration of how God saves us, out of the enemies snare, and holds our life in the palm of his hand. Many at this time, in our current circumstances, are turning to Psalm 91 as an appropriate prayer of faith. Another beautiful aspect this photo depicts is how God:
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…” – Psalm 139: 5,6
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” – Psalm 139: 9,10
This pandemic is an opportunity for many to pray and seek God, who is Love, and has taken the initiative to breach the broken relationship we each have with him by sending his son Jesus to suffer on our behalf, so that we can become his friends again and establish a relationship of peace and trust that enables us to have the hope and assurance that he is with us through this pandemic storm, as Moses declared in Psalm 91 when he describes God to be like a large bird, protecting its chicks under its wings.
Interesting as it is, Jesus referred to the obstinate and rebellious Jews of his day, who trusted in their own selfishness pride rather than in God’s saving power, as chicks:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34
There are at present, at this unprecedented time, more podcasts and online presentations by churches and people of faith than ever before in internet history. As we are confined to our homes there is time for us to take a break from our busy lives, reflect, contemplate and explore the meaning of life. You may like to explore my Birder Sanctuary Portal through which one can discover how Jesus, also a birdwatcher, used birds to relate aspects of faith for living the best life possible.
Enjoy your week as best you can. Stay Safe and Stay Sane!
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, 2019, 2020.