Last week my wife and I traveled up the coast to one of the worst fire ravaged areas on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Most of the fires were now out as the clean up begins, as miles of blackened burnt forest lies smoldering and smoking, lifeless of birds, animals and vegetation. Thankfully the resilient Australian bush will renew itself in time, and many of the larger trees will survive.
Fires still smoldering
Destroyed Road sign
For a week many spent their time waiting it out as the brave firefighters breached the impossible task of retaining the fires fanned by strong winds and high temperatures. Now the burnt forests lay ghostly quiet. See above how the intense heat destroyed road signs. The smell of smoke and burning was everywhere in the air as a major fire-front nearby continued to destroy forest, property and wildlife.
Many of our territorial birds had to relocate because of the fires destroying their habitat which had seen many generations of the species. Many birds and native animals could not escape the firestorm and were incinerated, including parents of nestlings and those sitting on eggs, who did not escape in time. Many species of our birds have been reduced in number, we may not know our losses till the coming year, as over 100 fires remain actively destroying our great forests, and have been doing so for months. This is the worst year on record. Meanwhile, after our long journey while we were having lunch outside with some dear friends at Hamilton’s Seafood Restaurantlooking onto the sandbar, I had my camera handy and managed to catch some action. This area is known as the Great Lakes region of NSW and the lake system is large and extensive. So as we surveyed the sandbar we saw several groups of resting birds. The Australian Pelican was our first waterbird.
Crested Terns, a few Silver Gulls rested along with a Caspian Tern (orange beak) as a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwit busily probed the wet sand nearby for small crustaceans.
Suddenly, the peaceful scene changed as alarm calls went up from various species sending the Pied Oystercatcher flying off. The Bar-tailed Godwit also took flight, but the Little Pied Cormorant was not concerned at all.
We knew we would find the answer if we looked up. The main benefactor of the bushfires are the raptors, as they catch small creatures escaping the fires and becoming exposed in the open. This area has a very high raptor population due to the lakes and the beaches, and up in the sky was a Brahminy Kite, beautiful in the sunlight, making its way to the sandbar to briefly land and then leave.
After it left the Bar-tailed Godwit returned to their work on the sandbar.
Not long after an Eastern Osprey female came over scanning the shallows, at least it did not cause too much concern as it is strictly a fish eater. You will usually see one of the family resting on the lamps on the bridge nearby.
The Osprey and her partner have a nest several miles away which we pass each time we visit this area, only this time it is on a man made platform instead of on a power pole. They appear to have only one juvenile in the nest they are feeding. The juvenile has a very wide brown neck band. Below the father sits opposite the juvenile on the power pole.
adult male and juvenile
adult male and juvenile
nest on platform
adult male osprey
After a lovely time with our friends we drove to our accommodation at Pacific Palm Resort where we heard the constant call of the Australasian Figbird in the several large fig trees that shadow the resort. The smell of smoke was in the air but not as strong as further north near the fires. Before we came, we were not sure if it would be safe for us to have this holiday, but our prayers were answered and we came on the best week of weather that this area had for a while. You can not mistake the male Figbird with its dark red warty eye ring. Most Australian birds are fruit eaters, and Australia has over 100 species of native figs which fruit at different times throughout the year, thus providing food all year round.
This is what the Figbird call sounds like:
The pristine beach of Booti Booti National Park’s known as Seven Mile Beach, near where we were staying, had burnt Eucalypt leaves along the shore. Booty means ‘plenty’ in our indigenous language, and to repeat the word means lots and lots of plenty. So this area represents a great feeding ground in both forest and sea. Thankfully this area was untouched by fire but it did come close.
Burnt leaves on the beach from bushfires
burnt remains of leaves on beach
Pristine Seven Mile beach
The following day was a hot smoky morning with a cool sea breeze. My wife wanted to explore Booti Booti’s beach, as last time we saw a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters there on the beach. On arriving at the same track I looked toward the beach, and lo and behold, there they were again, this year on the same dead tree, quite visible from the track. We approached and they eventually left, but we knew they would later return to the same tree during our morning beach walk, alone together in a beautiful place. Who would have looked for Bee-eaters here?!
As we walked I noticed up ahead a Black-shouldered Kite surveying the beach bush line for prey. It was not too perturbed by our passing. Then down it came and pounced on something in the bush nearby, and that was the last we saw of it. You can understand why I used the photo as my feature today.
Not long after this a beautiful adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over, also scanning the beach. Maybe, those escaping the fires and have managed to escape to the unburnt bush have contributed to these raptors having a feeding heyday.
After our wonderful peaceful walk we returned to our villa where we were welcomed by an Australian Brush-turkey, which had become quite bold and clever at trying to gain entry to the villa, after food. These birds are known for their greedy opportunistic attitude and cause problems for residents in many areas where they breed, dig up gardens and build their huge egg incubation mounds. There was a family of mum, dad and junior. Usually the Brush-turkey will walk out of the mound as a chick and immediately without any help or parental feeding, go off to fend for itself.
female brush turkey
female brush turkey
at the door trying to gain entry
I will continue with more from this area next post.
May you enjoy the rest of the week, and keep safe!
Sydney has fires nearby, and the smoke is as thick as heavy fog, and remains causing many to have breathing problems. The fires have now burned hundreds of kilometers of forest. One is heading to the cities of the central coast nearby after burning through 60 km of forest in the last month from the Wollemi NP, where people are evacuating their homes today. These National Parks contain rare plants, animals and birds, and will continue to cause great devastation while there is no rain and strong winds persist. Our state’s extensive forest system, and for the first time even our once dense green rainforests are ablaze. The fire front is so ferocious and the fires so remote and difficult to get to, they are constantly out of control, consuming homes and properties. Please join us and pray for rain and for cessation of these horrific fires and weather patterns.
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The Rufous Songlark displaying with his spring song
By carefully observing the above photo one can see that it is Spring at Bushell’s Lagoon. The budding fruit tree with a springtime bird, the Rufous Songlark displaying. When a male bird displays, it is signalling to prospective females of its willingness to mate. This courtship performance involves much song and a little dance. My wife and I sighted this Rufous Songlark in full song. This is a bird we hardly ever see, so it was like seeing a lifer for us. Listen and watch as he performs.
There is usually a pleasant surprise find at Bushell’s Lagoon, which makes it one of the most frequented birding locations in the Sydney region, tucked away among the market gardens and turf farms on the rich alluvial soils of the Hawkesbury valley river flats. As some of you know, we like to enjoy a birding date where we start in the morning at Bushell’s, have fishnchip lunch at Windsor and then finish at Wianamatta Nature Reserve. We were pleasantly surprised to find a pair of Glossy Ibis resting with the other shorebirds at the edge of the lake. They were some distance away so the pics are not wonderful, but the sheen of their plumage is noticeable.
As we watched a White-bellied Sea-Eagle came over and sent many of the birds, including the Ibis into a frightened frenzy. Note that the Australian White Ibis and the Glossy Ibis (which is not endemic to Australia) are flying together. This is a feature of Ibis, they tend to find safety together, both roosting and nesting.
The bold little Black-winged Stilt (possible nesting nearby) came to the rescue and singlehandedly attacked and chased off this large raptor, while the others flew off in fear.
Hear is a brief half speed view of one attack strategy.
One feature of this ruckus was to view a Great Eastern Egret in the same tree as a Little Egret.
As we passed the cattle in the nearby paddocks, the Cattle Egret were beginning to show their orange breeding plumage, which begins from the top of the head, and makes its way down to the whole body eventually.
This was a Great capture of one particularly Great Egret, especially with its elegant breeding plumage.
There was amazing activity in the trees lining the lane into the lagoon, as dozens of White-browed Woodswallow were displaying and mating and generally having a noisy game of chasings. It was a delightful sight watching them glide about overhead in classic Woodswallow fashion.
This Red-whiskered Bulbul is another migrant back to enjoy our warmer weather. It sat for some time with a moth in its mouth waiting for us to leave so it could take it to its nest. Many birds do this so they do not disclose the location of their nest to danger.
This place hosts many families of Superb Fairy-wren beside the lake in the thicket like scrub.
We found this juvenile Magpie-lark by the side of the road, it appeared somewhat lame, and was concerned at our presence, so we only briefly viewed it as its parents were nearby trying to distract us away.
As we were leaving Bushell’s Lagoon for lunch, we noticed this Black-shouldered Kite sitting quietly, and unafraid of us in a low lying tree. It allowed us come close, and then we noticed its right eye was not functioning, and had some injury.
After our most enjoyable fishnchips lunch we headed off to Wianamatta Nature Reserve, which is under the NSW National Parks care. There before our eyes on a bare branch as per its classic pose was the first Dollarbird we had seen this season, and it looked so colorful in the sunlight. These birds migrate from up north each Spring, returning in Autumn.
There was a notable absence of Finches, with most the usual birds not present, including the Red-capped Robin. So we walked to the creek, as there was still some water from the recent brief rain, and of course that was where the birds were keeping company, as were heard the sound of several species moving through the canopy of nearby trees. The Rufous Whistler was very vocal, but insisted on eluding me. I managed to catch a few shots of the Scarlet Honeyeater and Spotted Pardolote. As you can see the Pardolote body is the shape and size of a eucalypt leaf, making it hard to detect under a dark canopy.
We finally returned home after another lovely birding date together.
Here is a famous quote of Martin Luther in reference to dealing with temptation, something we all encounter from time to time.
It is true that we all experience tempting thoughts or suggestions from time to time to do wrong or cheat or try to get away with being dishonest. While these suggestions planted in our minds by watching others or by a devilish source, may come quite randomly and sometimes surprise us unexpectedly. We each have the power and ability to reject any thought or suggestion that we deem wrong or in conflict with our integrity and moral code, refuting it when it occurs. The better we identify and turn away these temptations, the less they will occur and be a possible threat to us. One of the feelings or sensations we need to be on guard for is that of the excitement or rush that comes from trying to commit crime or cheat the system. This sometimes euphoric sensation can arouse us to step out in a moment of weakness. To be a true role model living out a character of integrity, it is wise that we be like Luther, aware that temptations will come, fly around our heads, but we can reject them from taking roost or nesting in our minds to cause us to do things we will later regret. For when we act against our conscience it has a negative effect on our health, especially our immune system as well as our inner joy and peace.
William Shakespeare. In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says: “To thine own self be true.”
“Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Enjoy your week and Spring and Autumn birds, depending on where you live. If this is your first visit to my blog, why not check out my website for more birding tips and info.
And YES there are still more copies of “What Birds Teach Us” if you want to get one or more for that special Christmas gift. It is very popular each year for Christmas, as it is a gift that keeps on giving.
Last week the Spring rains arrived bringing some reprieve to the long drought for coastal inhabitants. My wife and I decided to have a date and visit Bushell’s Lagoon and afterwards have fishnchips at Windsor. On arrival there were already several keen birders present looking for recent sightings of Latham’s Snipe and Baillon’s Crake. While the Snipe was not seen anywhere, the Crake was briefly, but eluded my camera, due to its very shy nature. Being Spring, the Australian Reed-Warbler’s were once again calling in the reeds which during the Winter months lay silent. They were all busily darting about, hunting for nesting material or food.
When the nest is established the Reed-Warbler become more invisible as they call from deep down among the new reed growth and only occasionally dart back and forth to nearby trees to procure food for the nest. The bird photographer waits patiently near the sound of their call for that special moment when they rise and clinging to a reed call to nearby Warblers.
The reason we hear them in Spring is similar to many other birds such as the Golden Whistler. When they find a mate and are nest building and raising a new clutch together, they become continuously very loud and vocal, calling to warn other Reed-Warblers that this is their territory and to stay clear of their nest. Another sign of Spring was this pair of Cattle Egret starting to gain its orange breeding plumage (rear bird).
This is their young 1st year Cattle Egret from the previous breeding season, note dark remaining markings on beak and neck.
immature Cattle Egret
The highlight of our visit was also to see the small flock of the very shy Yellow-billed Spoonbill of which we saw two grazing with a couple of Royal Spoonbill some distance across the lake.
Yellow-billed Spoonbill with Australian Swamphen
Yellow-billed Spoonbill with Australian Swamphen
There was some commotion in a nearby eucalypt tree when this tiny White-plumed Honeyeater was attacking a lone much larger Noisy Friarbird. Honeyeaters can be aggressive when competing for nectar, but in this case it may be that their is a nest nearby to protect.
Noisy Friarbird under attack
We later got much better shots of the Noisy Friarbird feeding on eucalypt blossom.
We did not see many Egrets there this visit as we usually see many, they and many other birds flew off when they sighted the Black-shouldered Kite hovering overhead. It was a treat watching it hover over its prey and slowly drop down to lower levels of hover.
Sadly my video was too jerky for viewing, so I have added a previous clip.
We of course saw the usual White-faced Heron, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-necked Heron and Laughing Kookaburra, all one their own.
There were sleeping Australian Pelican and Grey Teal in their flock groups, with sleeping Roayal Spoonbill among them.
We were delighted to find three Black-fronted Dotterel wandering about near the market garden. Our findings were a little disappointing, but it was good for us to get out and about together after a rainy week and have time out. Birding is good for getting you outside to catch a breath of fresh air and a bit of a walk, and for this we were thankful. My wife was also thankful for fishnchips and a walk through Windsor’s plaza area at all the unusual tourist shops, where she replenished our scented candles.
While I am still unemployed, and continue to get treatment for my heart condition, it has been a challenge for both my wife and I. However, God in his goodness and kindness has inspired me to use this time at home to not only be a house husband and take the load off my busy working wife, but to also write books. As many of you know, I have finished my second book ‘Flight of a Fledgling’ which is in final stages of proof-reading . However, I have been also working on a much improved and larger 2nd Edition of my first book,‘What Birds Teach Us’, which is currently approaching its the finishing stages. I am hoping to them publish together. There has been a call to me from educators and counselors to produce a book that will help our youth in schools with the current issues they face. In response several additional birds have been added as well as more improved photos and a more attractive design. I will keep you posted, and it will be available here online also. My first book is almost sold out of print and will become unavailable very soon. But you can still purchase it here online here.
It has been difficult at times to not get worried about not working to earn an income, especially with my wife still working. God has comforted me knowing that this book writing is an important part of my life legacy to future generations, and that this season in life is meant to be as it is. It is good to have the comfort and peace of knowing that this is part of his plan for us and not to panic and look at it through the world’s eyes, but keep focused on his good and perfect will.
“And we know that allthings work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is goodand well-pleasing andperfect.” – Romans 12:2
“For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, nottoharm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NET)
Have a wonderful week, whatever you do live a long and enjoyable life by adopting an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’.
We are moving through our state’s driest and warmest Spring on record, with out of control bushfires raging already, water shortages due to extended drought conditions and gale force winds in the last few days with no rain relief in sight. Massive seas have beaten the coast as can be seen below.
With the return of Spring comes the yearly return of my favorite waders, the Bar-tailed Godwit. Yesterday I set off to the George’s River mudflats to see if they had made an early return, but the small flock had not yet returned. They are probably in the air doing their amazing 8 days non stop flight across the Pacific Ocean directly from Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.
It was interesting also that this year no immature Godwits stayed behind, they all flew north. Braving the very cold strong winds yesterday I found a lone Pied Oystercatcher on the mudflats.
It is also interesting that a few Eastern Curlew, which are also migratory birds have stayed the Winter here, usually one per beach. These our largest waders, are extremely shy of humans, as many have been killed for their meat as they travel the Asian coast when migrating. I always find this guy grazing no matter what the weather conditions.
Plastic bag, not good eating!
Seeing no Godwits, I made my way to the mudflats on the other side of the bay where again I saw one lone Eastern Curlew foraging, and catching a crab. The light was not in a good place and was diffusing significantly reducing colour. You can see from this clip how their long curved beaks are ideal for extracting crabs from the mudflats, though it can be a drama trying to swallow them as they have no teeth and swallow their prey whole.
Moving to my next stop, which is hidden behind mangroves, and often gives me choice views as very few birders ever go there, again I find one lone Eastern Curlew, but this one is a younger one.
Also on the mudlats as per usual in their usual spot is a small family of Australian Pelicans resting. You will notice the classic sleeping position of birds, resting the weight of their head on their back, and tucking their bill under their back feathers with just their eyes visible. Many birds, unlike us, can turn their heads 270°. Waders will often stand on one leg to rest the other, and change at intervals as they spend most of their lives on their feet and may never sit with their long legs, usually only when sick or nesting.
While I was making my way to the mangroves I passed this beautiful Red Wattlebird with wattles glowing in the sun. It posed for me and allowed me to take several excellent shots. These are our largest honeyeaters and are quite aggressive to other birds when the nectar is on. The Banksia tree in which it sits is one major source of nectar on the coast most of the year, particularity when in Winter most native trees rest from flowering. As you can see this tree has finished flowering and has produced seed cones, which provide food for the seed eating birds such as the Cockatoos.
This male and female Australian ‘black backed’ Magpie were having a quiet time together on the grass. This is the window where we see the male and female together, just before Spring nesting. This is because the female will remain on the nest the entire nesting period while the male feeds her and the relatives protect the nest. When the nestlings fledge it is the male Magpies that watch over and train the young, leaving the female to have a break on her own. The male has the pure white rear neck where as the female’s is more dirty looking.
Male and female Magpie
This Galah was grazing on clover on the grass nearby, as the wind blew up his beautiful head comb.
Finally, I would like to share a series of shots taken during the high seas whipped up by the strong winds. A lone Pelican for some unknown reason, thought it wise to sit in front of the huge waves breaking onto Cape Banks (see photo above to view how huge they were). This Pelican almost got pounded and could have drowned if it had not acted as fast as it did. But the question remains, why did it choose to sit in such a dangerous place when it could see where the waves were breaking? View this slideshow and see how narrow its escape was, at one stage it was lost from view under the wave.
The interesting muse concerning this Pelican was that soon after it had escaped with its life it went back and landed in the same place again, with facing away from the wave and in front of it.
I figured we are all a bit like this Pelican at times, especially when we try to get our own way and go against what we have been told and know to be best for us. The Pelican knew it was a dangerous place but in the moment when it landed (the quiet break between waves) it appeared alright to sit and watch the coastline. We warn our children to be careful when going out at night or participating in risky practices because we are aware of the dangers that lurk there. They may not be there all the time, but can appear when least expected, especially if one chooses to not be on the lookout, but just goes along with the group or just ignores parents warnings. This was reported on the news of a young girl going to school recently, her parents told her to wait and they would take her, but she refused and went on her own and was abducted. For us older ones it is more like ‘we know what is good for our physical, emotional and spiritual health, we have been around long enough to know, but we sometimes choose to ignore the warnings and sit in front of the looming wave. This is of particular importance as we try to make sense out of life itself.
“For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became foolsand exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” – Romans 1:21-23 (NET)
Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 (NET)
“Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore chooselife so that you and your descendants may live!” – Deuteronomy 30:19 (NET)
If you have managed to read this far, you will remember from last weeks post that I mentioned that I am writing a Second Edition of my first book release, while my second book is in the editing process. This may be your last opportunity to purchase a copy of my first book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ as the book is almost out of print and the last 10 copies for sale online are up for grabs. If you have not purchased yet ( though many of you have) or you want a gift for Birthday or Christmas that will keep on giving, this is your opportunity to purchase here online, as other outlets dry up their supplies.
Go to my BirdBook page here to view more info and reviews. This is a unique book which is non religious and is a family counseling book targeting 8 years and older, using the birds as a teaching tool.
Have a wonderful week despite the wild weather and unseasonal conditions! Our great need for rain is not just for us with our dwindling water supply, but also for the many birds, animals and trees suffering, including many blazing forests. Many native birds are not nesting in their normal places due to the drought, and native animals withholding giving birth. We all need to pray for rain and a breaking of this extreme drought here in Australia, despite many having turned away from acknowledging our Creator as our provider.
The last few weeks I have been recovering from an illness which has limited my birding exploits. One area I have been discouraged this season is the shorebirds and waders, as numbers are reducing each year. We know that hundreds are perishing each year during their migratory journeys as humans interfere with their feeding grounds (filling in and developing wetlands for industry and housing), as well as snaring and killing them for food. This is occurring mainly in the Asian countries where these birds stop off for refueling to complete their amazing 12 – 16,000 km flight.
One Critically Endangered species, we are seeing less of each year is the Eastern Curlew (see above). Our largest migratory wader. Is it any wonder it is the shyest of waders, and will take flight when it sees a human moving towards it even at a great distance, sounding its classic alrm call as it goes. This beautifully patterned bird is a delight to capture with camera. The camera is the modern rifle for notching up captures or kills, and our photos are now our trophies, and ‘no animals were harmed in the making of this film.’
How beautiful are these birds. I make my usual viewing visits at low tide to nearby Taren Point Shorebird Reserve on the banks of the huge Georges River which flows into Botany Bay. These mud flats are a rich source of crustacean food for these birds using their long probe-like beaks to penetrate into the wet sand below. Click on photos to enlarge them.
The other reason I have been slack with posting waders this season is the tides, and my ability to catch the low tide when I am not working, they do not often align, so I have to make the most of my days off. The other commonly seen migratory wader in reduced numbers on our river banks this year is the Bar-tailed Godwit. The small flocks are reduced to several pairs.
Bar-tailed Godwit curious
Bar-tailed Godwit in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
Bar-tailed Godwits in flight
I also use to see occasional Grey-tailed Tattler, but saw none, but did see this uncommonly seen Whimbrel smaller than the Curlew in size and beak.
One common shorebird is always the Grey-faced Heron…
Both the Sooty and the Australian Pied Oystercatcher are seen from time to time, either resting on the beach or prying rock oysters in the river banks.
It was interesting watching this scene play out between a flock of Silver Gull (Seagull) and a flock of Pied Oystercatcher (rarely seen in this number). At first the Silver Gull were resting on the shore and then small numbers of Pied Oystercatcher began gathering nearby. Initially one lone Pied Oystercatcher was sent packing back to his flock…
Gathering the troops the flock of more dominant Pied Oystercatcher marched on the gulls and placed themselves right next to them. No scuffles broke out.
Marching on the gulls
Marching on the gulls
More troops arrive
Some of the Pied scouts discovered fresh water flowing from a storm water drain onto the beach, which attracted the attention of many other birds on the beach, including an immature Silver Gull which felt somewhat outnumbered and alone.
scouting team discover fresh water
fresh water and an immature gull
Pied Oystercatcher drinking fresh water from storm water outflow
Of course we can’t leave out the Australian Pelican, an often seen inhabitant on the river. It is a delight to see them gliding so gracefully, sometimes circling to very great heights, One strange position is seen in a photo below with bill pointed upward, not quite sure what that was about, maybe something was caught in its throat…
Speaking of gliding, on the North Easter which blows cool air off the ocean each Summer afternoon (thank God!) I saw this flock of Silver Gull just hanging in formation for long periods in the strong breeze without moving, it was almost a spiritual experience…
Gulls gliding on NEaster
Gulls gliding on NEaster
The expression on this gull caught my attention and became a favorite of mine…
I moved to another position behind the mangroves and heard noisy cries of what I knew to be Little Terns. They were a fair way out with the tide so I had to wait till I got home to interpret what was happening. It appears a Little tern was being harassed by an immature Crested Tern, trying to steal its freshly caught fish, which it wanted to feed its babies waiting on the beach.
The Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill and Masked Lapwing, are also birds seen here on the river banks from time to time.
I am thankful that I managed to see all of the above during the last couple of months of severe weather, unsuitable tides and persisting illness. Wader numbers appear on the decrease, as fewer return from migration to forage the same beach areas each summer. Nothing stays the same.
Each of the above birds have been equipped with beaks and bodies that allow them to extract a particular kind of food from the river and shoreline. Each bird obediently observes and follows the parent as it learns how to forage for itself, and master to tools God has equipped it with. Each different kind of bird is in a parallel and not an evolutionary series of progression. This is obvious to anyone who studies biological science, and follows the latest in neurological studies in birds and their behaviour. As the Bible says God created each after its own kind and just as we see here on the riverbank they share the same area and forage together according to their kind. The facts are right before our eyes. Modernists and charlatans try their hardest to convince the world of a no God world view but it does not answer the questions of life or the purpose thereof nor give a viable or believable substitute.
“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:21
“He created them male and female and blessed them.” – Genesis 5:2
“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. ” – Psalm 139: 13-14 I suggest reading the whole of Psalm 139.
“Givethanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1 (NIV)
Recently I did my yearly visit to Lake Wollumboola on the south coast of NSW. It is well known as a breeding place for shore birds, some of which are endangered including Little Tern, Hooded Plover and Pied Oystercatcher. Because these birds nest on the sandy beaches which humans use for recreation (including 4WD vehicles) many nests are destroyed being threatening each year with a reduction in fledglings. It remains incredulous that even National Parks allow large vehicles to tear up the pristine beaches which are supposed to protect many of these nesting birds, but thankfully conservation is occurring here at Wollumboola, with fenced off areas for breeding to occur. Click on photos to enlarge them.
As you can see the drought has taken its toll on the lake, reducing water volume and purity, as well as bird numbers. I only sighted one nesting Little Tern on my visit, faithfully sitting near a number 8 sign, which may mark this nesting as the eighth for the season. It sat alone on the large sand flat which use to be surrounded by water.
Little Tern nesting alone
Little Tern nesting alone
barren sand by lake
Little Tern nesting alone
The Little Tern is smaller and much less common than the Crested Tern seen all along our east coast. It has a black mark which runs across to its eye. When breeding, as these ones are, their bill turns from dark to yellow, similar to that of the Crested Tern. It was very interesting to watch this adult Little Tern wait on the shore alone for some time, to finally be greeted with another adult carrying a small fish which it gives to the other to eat. This is a Tern courting ritual whereby the male catches a fish and plants it in front of a desirable female. If she eats it, he delights and they mate. If she refuses it he takes it to his next choice, and so it continues till he finds a bride. Interesting enough it was just past the normal breeding season for these birds, so maybe it was a late courting or just a loving gesture.
Because the lake has withdrawn such a large distance, I did not try to seek out other nesting areas. But beside the large flock of Crested Tern, Great Cormorants, Australian Pelicans, Australian Black Swan, Royal Spoonbill and Australian Raven were sighted around the lake. A Beach Stone Curlew had been sighted here but as I came in the late morning, there was no chance of sighting this rare night forager, which others had also came searching unsuccessfully for.
Resting Cormorants and Terns
Crested Tern flock from distance
Pelican and Black Swan
Most of my attention now turns to the Terns. The Crested Tern, which gets it name from the black crest on its head. I shared in last weeks post how we can tell the difference between breeding and non breeding. In the safety of the flock stood many immature birds from last seasons fledglings. They stand out by their dark speckled plumage, lacking the smooth grey of the adult. Most breeding has finished for these birds. Here you see the youngsters copying and learning from the parent, from observation and humble obedience.
adult with juvenile
parents and their young
the crest is seen clearly here
adult shows affection to juvenile
As many of us parents know it can be quite a challenge to keep always hungry children from wining and it is no different for the bird community as you can see from this jerky clip (the wind was quite strong on the heavy lens).
One particular parent was really getting upset with this youngster as you will see. Many shore and water birds bob up and down with their head lowered to get attention.
Finally after a scolding they all settle together for a rest, how cute.
Finally, father returns with food for the hungry tummies.
It was lovely observing the constant flying to and fro from the lake with small fish for the young, sometimes several at a time. Here I trace the journey of the parent Crested Tern as it seeks out its youngster to feed it. You will notice the fish changes position in the birds mouth, this is because I saw so many return but only kept best shots, so it is not the same bird in each instance.
The Terns have a huge wing extension which assists in their amazing ability to dive from a height at great speed into the water, swimming deeply to retrieve their catch and emerge quickly. Unfortunately they were not fishing close enough for me to photograph.
It was sad to see a young man with children test piloting his new drone over the protected area governed by National Parks. This is now illegal and he really needed to be playing with his children and giving them his time rather then selfishly playing with his own toy, which could be a threat to the birds.
Finally our message comes from the birds…
It is good to start the year focused on the things that matter. As Stephen Covey was quoted saying ” The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” So it is with parenting, children want parents more than toys or electronic gear. They need emotional, social and physical interaction and support. Children need to know and feel that they are loved and accepted for who they are. many children suffer for the lack of the same, far into adult life, becoming baggage for all future relationships. Children gain their sense of personal esteem and value from the parent, especially from the father, by how the parent encourages and speaks with them. Just spending time, playing and doing homework with them and attending their school and sport functions speaks louder than any toy you could hand them to passify their need of YOU.
A daily hug and ‘I love you’ is so precious to the heart of a child, as they are sponges for emotional security. Words which build them up, and don’t ever tear them down, both types of word are carried for a lifetime as either blessings or curses from the parent, effecting the child’s future life and even their children to come. So it is said, One good turn deserves another. The very best turn we can do for our children is to love them unconditionally without expectations and to to love their mum/dad. The love you show your wife/husband will reflect in the peace and security felt by the children, and will instruct and encourage them in the same attitude as a model for their life, and for finding a good partner themselves.
‘The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.’ – Proverbs 20:7
‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’ – Proverbs 22:6
‘Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.’ – Proverbs 29:17
‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with oneanother in love.’ – Ephesians 4:2
Have a wonderful week and keep cool or warm depending on which part of the world you are in. Our hearts and prayers go out to the many in Townsville, Queensland who are suffering the worst floods and devastation ever. Many have suffered loss, and many birds also would have suffered also, having gathered around the Common lakes for water during the drought.
This week, by request of Jem, a valued blog follower from Sydney’s northern beaches area, I am retracing the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail walk.
Bodies of water (lakes, lagoons swamps, rivers, creeks and beaches) all offer ideal spots to go birding. In fact when we visit a new area, it is usually one or more of the above we seek out, because we always find that near water, fresh or brackish, there are both waterbirds as well as passerines in the surrounding trees and bushes. Birds are often found in greater numbers near a fresh water source, especially when nesting. Many waterbirds have the ability to drink salty water having been blessed with a built in distillation plant. You may wonder what the above Australian Pelican is doing? I will let you know towards the end of the post because that is where it occurs on the trail.
The local council invested a few years ago in building a quality trail with paths, footbridges, picnic and BBQ facilities, toilets, water fountain, boat ramp and seats at various places around the lake/lagoon (its big enough to call a lake) which has paid off handsomely for them, as many come to walk and use the facilities provided at a small parking cost. My wife and I have enjoyed walking around the lake from Middle Creek Reserve (follow yellow arrows). We did the complete walk and logged the birds along the way that we considered notable.
Our first bird of course is the bird we almost always see first when ever we travel Australia, the Willy Wagtail getting its name from fanning and wagging its tail. Willy is the largest of the Australian fantails and has a beautiful song which has led us astray many times in our early birding years thinking we had discovered a lifer, but we are wiser to its call now. As we passed the golf course we sighted a pair of, you guessed it! Masked Lapwings. Notorious for nesting in centre of mowed fields and park lands. The male stood guard as the female nested.
Masked Lapwing Male standing watch
Masked Lapwing Female nesting
Despite the crazy places they nest, they have a high survival rate and become quite aggressive to any who threaten the nest, or even come within yards of it, including dogs, cats and other birds. They are in the Plover family and are a shorebird by nature but have become one of our most numerous birds being found all over Australia except central WA. As we walked around the trail and over the excellent footbridge we started seeing the lake from the southern end where out in the middle on a sandbar a flock of Australian Black Swan and Australian Pelican were sleeping and resting. Black swan are breeding well here, as they are all over Australia. Like many birds they tuck their face under the feathers and rest their head on their back to sleep, this allows them to rest their neck muscles as well as warm the air they breath, increasing their body temperature.
On another sandbank a small flock of Pied Cormorant were resting.
As we walked into a very small pocket of rainforest near South Creek Reserve we were delighted to find two sort after birds simultaneously on each side of the trail, making it difficult to know where to point the camera. My wife is calling me to photograph a beautiful pair of Variegated Fairy-wren while I am tracing a male Eastern Whipbird, and trying to catch sight of a youngster running beneather the Bracken Fern, which eluded me after much trying. Immature Whipbirds lack the white cheeks. I was delighted that this adult, normally shy and extremely elusive, did not mind too much me checking him out.
Gottagettawayfrom this Aussiebirder guy
The bird is usually spotted due to its whip like call which intensifies its volume as it resonates off the eucalypt leaves in trees around. They use the call to communicate between male and female and to mark territory, so that other Whipbirds stay away. The male whips and the female (if she is present will follow immediately with a quick “Tish tish” You can tell from the call if it is a lone Male, a lone female, an immature or a breeding pair. Listen to the male and female here.
Yes, and the beautiful Variegated Fairy-wren so brilliant in the sunshine, unlike the more common Superb Fairy-wren, the female also has a blue tail like the male.
Also in this little pocket just along from here we heard and located this Brown Thornbill, who’s call you heard in last weeks post, as it merrily makes its way checking trees for insects which make up its main diet. They do enjoy foraging in our native Casuarina pine trees.
Nearbye this Eastern Yellow Robin was at work catching and dismembering a grub it had found. These are birds commonly seen near rainforest trails, and are very curious of humans, often following them along the trail in a similar way to Grey Fantails, hoping we might turn up something edible as we walk.
Tiny Silvereye were also checking for insects in the small trees near the Brown Thornbill.
A very noisy, almost angry squawking sound came from inside a small palm, which turned out to be that of non other than the White-browed Scrubwren, known for this behaviour. They often appear to even have an angry look on their face, especially if you come near their nest
This tame immature Grey Butcherbird was quite cute, and did not seem too worried about us, as I have seen has been the case on several other occasions with immature Butcherbirds, who have not learned to fear humans.
In a darker section where the trees thickly covered the track, another typically rainforest bird the Lewins Honeyeater was trying to keep cool in the shade, but did not like us trying to observe it on this hot January day.
As we moved into the open we found quite a number, several families of our Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie. The Magpie survive well because of their very efficient and organised family structure involving relatives such as aunts and uncles assisting when nesting and training the fledglings. Here are two males, they have a pure white neck back, the seldom seen female (nesting most of the time) has a dirty white neck back. The alpha male may or may not have several ladies nesting at the same time, and it becomes his sole occupation during that time to feed them, as they stay on the nest, and the relatives defend the nests.
Male Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie
Passing by the water again we see this Little Pied Cormorant, another breed smaller than the Pied we saw previously, and the bonus blessing was to see for the first time, the orange (morph) which results from a chemical change staining their feathers due to iron in the water.
The Australian Pelican was also seen cruising along the shoreline.
Along the mudflats of the shoreline the commonly seen White-faced Heron was now in breeding plumage striding carefully about,it finds fast food or should I say food fast. Notice the pic of the extended neck upward, this is a protective ploy to make it look bigger and more threatening when it feels it may be facing danger, after noticing our presence, other Herons do the same.
The Crested Pigeon, our most common native pigeon is found all over Australia, including desert regions, we saw plenty of them at Uluru in the red centre last year, it is also at home here by the lake.
From his tree this Laughing Kookaburra sat watching the passes by and with his very sharp binocular vision was looking for food opportunities that might run across the ground in the form of small reptiles and the like.
After a fishnchip lunch in the small town of Narrabeen we continued our walk over the bridge and along the side of the lake and the Wakehurst Parkway where we saw this beautiful sight. Rainbow Lorikeets love eating the nectar of native flowers such as Bottlebrush and Grevileas as well as native fruits, they have a tongue that is especially adapted to brush the pollen and nectar into their mouth.
As we almost come to the end of our journey the noise of Cicadas becomes deafening, so we stopped to look for one of these noisy male insects giving our its mating call to attract miss right. Watch and you will see how it makes its sound using its abdomen.
Finally we are almost at the end of our journey and we could see across the southern end of the lake to the other side where we were walking earlier that morning, but to our surprise a large Pelican (see my first photo) suddenly took fright and lunged into the air with great effort and a cry of distress, only to land some distance away. Most birds get terrified of raptors because they eat other birds, no matter how large or small. That is often how we know a raptor is flying overhead, by the crazy activity of bird flocks. We were about to receive the icing on the cake blessing from our Most Generous Father for the end of a perfect day. We looked and behold it was!
A beautiful large adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle carrying some prey which looked like a snake, which it dropped and then went searching for. It is very unusual for an eagle to drop its prey as its talons come with a a locking in device. Possibly it did not have firm hold of it and it was still alive and got the better of it. Please be aware these photos were taken a great distance across the lake, to the other side. Eagles are the greatest hunters of all with telescopic binocular vision (up to 10x our own) and can spot a rabbit in over 3km away. Their powerful talons when locked will both instantly kill their prey and hold it secure. They can fly above storm clouds and ride effortlessly without moving a feather for hours on the thermals. If you have been to a Raptor Show you will know that their eye to object accuracy is only a couple of millimeters error, which means they can take a tiny piece of meat out of you fingers while flying past without touching you at all, I have personally experienced this.
Is it any wonder the eagle is used as a symbol of strength and justice in national and state emblems and coats of arms. It is the majestic king of birds, having greatest ability in all areas. Our Wedge-tailed Eagle (our largest eagle) appears on our NSW police force coat of arms. In the Bible God is seen as a great saving eagle who carries to safety those whom he loves and also trust in him. God reminds Israel how he saved them.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” – Exodus 19:4 (NIV)
Again the eagle is used to depict those who trust completely in God’s grace to bring them through difficult times, so that he will give them renewed strength like the eagles’…
Eagles live long lives, and go through a molting process where they loose all their feathers and look like they are almost dead, then they get a new lease of life with new feathers and beak etc giving them many more years, becoming stronger and more powerful. So God will sustain and strengthen those who delight in him, and look to him for help and strength.
“who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” – Psalm 103:5 (NIV)
Which resonates in this verse referring to those who trust in God…
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” – Psalm 92:14 (NIV)
I am always amazed and giving thanks for how my Loving Father God keeps me and brings me through so much in life, as I choose to rest in and trust in his strength to carry me above the worries and cares of this world. I finish by sharing a song I wrote in my younger years. It is simply recorded on my computer without any fancy software, so please don’t judge it too harshly. The message is one which I use often to ‘rise above it all’, to soar on God’s thermals and view life from above from his kingdom perspective, and then like the eagle you will have courage, power and peace to conquer – so that your apparent problems become God given challenges you can achieve ‘with the help of his strength and grace.’ shaping and making. Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in his foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son [Jesus]. – Romans 8:28 (JB Phillips Trans.)
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Have a wonderful week and Aussies keep cool and praying as we brave these relentless heatwaves and destructive storms. Many birds have already died as a result, including inland freshwater fish and other animals. Pray for a break in the drought.