As the fires continue to devastate and consume our forests and townships we are all so thankful that countries and people the world over are coming to assist, or raising money to help the thousands left destitute with loss of homes, property and livestock. Millions of wildlife and trees gone, with many wildlife injured and being assisted as our country pulls together in the Aussie way. A nation founded on difficult circumstances, which coined the term ‘Aussie Battler’. The last two days have been much milder as a cold front comes through in the middle of Summer, with small falls of rain. This is giving some of the firies a chance for a short break and a chance for others to contain the threatening fires nearby. These fires have shown how truly vulnerable we humans are, despite all our modern inventions and plans. My wife and I are thankful that we have been spared so far, and only the daily unpleasant thick smoke is our main problem.
It has not been wise for us to travel far out of our city, so this weeks post highlights the importance of our local parks and reserves that we frequent on a regular basis. It is these parks that provide the normalization of our emotional and physical self. A 30 minute or more walk in a nature park has been shown scientifically to have very positive health benefits. These include lowering blood pressure, lowering stress levels and revitalizing ones mind and emotions, assisting to reduce depression. It allows us to become mindful in the moment and transfer our overcrowded mind to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings using our five senses. Our most frequented park as some of you know is Oatley Park Reserve which is only a 14 minute drive from home.
I love the beautiful eucalypt trees especially the angophora costata known as Sydney Redgum, which have a very interesting and pleasing scent to me which I love to inhale. This is the tree of choice for nesting Cockatoos and Lorikeets due to the holes it leaves when the branches drop off. This tree, due to its pinkish colour and unusual branching, is known as an artists delight. Thankfully, this park has so far been spared from the fires.
As I walk the same tracks and pathways week after week, hoping to see something different something new, I sometimes wonder what the local territorial birds, animals and reptiles, that have come to know me, are thinking. So here is some suggestions…
One bird I can always count on being in the same area every visit is this male Magpie. He knows me and identifies me with his intelligent ability to remember and describe each person with perfect facial recognition. Thankfully he sees me as his friend and allows me very close contact, unlike other passersby. One interesting skill these birds have learnt and mastered is that of being able to remove the stinger from insects before eating them, by holding it down with their foot and pulling it out with their beak.
Occasionally I see one of his fledglings which is almost mature in its second-third year of training. Look carefully and you will still see small patches of brown plumage and the dirty neck can mean its is a female, as usually the male neck is white by this stage, but may still be changing.
A main feature of this park is the Ponds where waterbirds breed, feed and rest. These also provide water to other birds. This water is maintained from storm water off the streets nearby. With the recent drought, as I showed in last weeks post, the ponds are drying up and becoming foul for the water fowl. This family of Chestnut Teal rest together by the pond, these birds do not seem to worry about the problem.
The drought has caused much stress to the trees in the park as many shed their leaves and some even have died and are falling down. But occasionally wild flowers are seen such as this Flannel Flower and this tiny native orchid. Look how beautiful the flowers are when you enlarge them, what a marvelous piece of artwork from a marvelous Creator.
While it is now Summer the forest is much quieter than usual for this time of year due to the drought and extreme temperatures so bird sounds are few, but one bird always brings joy and delight to my spirit when I hear his excited laughter like call and that is the Grey Butcherbird of which there are several families in the park.
On this visit it was unusual to see a Little Wattlebird, though they do come in from time to time. It is called Little but not for the wattle which is not there, but the bird being the smallest of the three wattlebird species. It sports a very unusual and interesting breast plumage.
There does not appear to be any nesting at the moment as most have finished but the Royal Spoonbill will be nesting in private away from here. This termite nest has been used by the local Kookaburra family for generations as a nesting place. Kookas bite a hole in the nest and take it over as a ready to go nursery. But it is very quiet at present as they have already fledged.
Last of all, this Echidna (Short-nosed Spiny-anteater) was sighted on the side of the track. This is the first time we had seen it here in the park. Others had told us it was there, and now we saw it. They are very shy and quickly move away when sighted.
A solitary seat ideal for being still in the Blue Mountains National Park, Katoomba NSW
We each need time out to be quiet and still, to wait, think and to listen. What better place than in your local birding park. Sit on a park seat, or just walk alone along the track, admiring the beautiful trees and birds, how each is uniquely different and individual, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze on your face, inhaling the sweet scents of the trees and flowers of the forest. Consider it all with a grateful heart of thankfulness for the beautiful surroundings you have had the privilege to enjoy. Consider all the many insects, birds, reptiles and animals moving about you in search of food, each knowing what it must do, without us even being aware. Consider your amazing body and its brilliant chemistry and physiology, working harmoniously with millions of processes per second perfectly timed and ordered, without any knowledge or effort from you. All taken care of by One who is intimately concerned with your well being. Unload your cares and worries there and let yourself be carried away in the peaceful stress-less moment. Be refreshed and re energized.
“I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” – Psalm 143:5
One of the advantages of being home writing my second book is that I get to spend more marriage time with my dear wife on her day off. So off we went last Wednesday on a birding date to Royal National Park, our local park, on a beautiful clear warm winters day, after several days of torrential rain (much needed). Though the rain had eroded much of the track, but it was so good to hear and see running water in the creeks again, and hear the sound of birds that had recently fallen silent because of the long drought. While having coffee at the cafe before our walk, this Noisy Miner had quite an organised operation going, checking the tables for crumbs and left overs while keeping watch.
While we sipped our coffee and talked as we enjoyed sitting in the warm winter sun I caught this Currawong sitting above a Kookaburra, which made the Kooka a little curious.
We were so relaxed and thankful that we could have a day together in the middle of the week, it was so special to my wife, as weekends can be busy, plus, the National Park is usually crowded with the noise of families walking and talking loudly as they stroll the walking tracks. We walked on toward the rainforest on Lady Carrington Drive and were amazed how many lone birders were out with their large lenses blazing. The only native nectar flower blooming was Heath Banksia, and honeyeaters were visiting its bright heads frequently. Click on photo to enlarge it.
along the track
Banksia flowers, native nectar source
The only honeyeaters present at this time of year are the Yellow-faced Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater and the Eastern Spinebill. The sounds of the Yellow-faced honeyeater ring out continuously, as large family groups play in the sub canopy of the tall eucalypts.
New Holland Honeyeater
It was a great delight to hear and see the Eastern Whipbird again in his usual area not far from the now flowing creek, we had not seen or heard him for months. The rain makes such a difference. Sadly, he eluded my camera. But this Grey Fantail nearby almost eluded me as it flitted about constantly fanning its tail and checking us out, as they do.
But out greatest delight was to watch this tiny Brown Thornbill chiming its classic tune as it climbed over small trees by the track. This insectivorous territorial bird is not as affected by drought and is found in some of the driest forests.
Over all we had a wonderful time out together enjoying moments of mindfulness as we stopped to take in the rainforest with each of our senses. How I love the smell and aroma of the forest after rain it is so refreshing.
Passing by the remains of a Liquid Amber tree’s fallen leaves, it reminded me of the loving kind and generous people in the past of my life who have now passed on and fallen from the tree. Though they have died and are no longer alive and green, they leave a colorful legacy together, among the many brown leaves, making for beautiful memories and laying down a glorious carpet of path for me to follow and walk upon, as I draw upon their memory with appreciation and thankful praise.
Have a wonderful week, and keep warm!
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Last weekend my wife and I visited our national capital Canberra in the ACT where my wife and her other two sisters (The Three Sisters) visited the National Gallery for the Love & Desire Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate exhibition. On the following day as the rain persisted we revisited the research woodlands of Mulligan’s Flat in the suburb of Forde, where we last were told there was a family of Red-capped Robin, a few years ago. Thankfully the rain ceased as we walked to the gates. You can read more about this research experiment here. Large electrified fences protect the wildlife from foxes, cats and other predators. Click on photo to enlarge it.
As we walked in we were under constant surveillance from the many large Grey Kangaroos resting after a night of grazing. This large male was making sure we kept clear of the youngster nearby, and we did!
Several fenced off areas have been created to reintroduce rare and once existent wildlife species to repopulate the area. These include the species below. Interesting enough, the Bush-Stone Curlew, which has been long removed from this far south, had flown the coupe, but in recent months have been sighted in the residential streets and areas at night, which means the experiment, has worked but not in the way the scientists expected . You may remember we posted these unusual birds last year when in Far North Queensland, where they are found in large numbers.
We were at first disappointed as we viewed the evidence of stressed eucalypts, empty water courses and dams and few birds due to the persisting drought. Our first sightings of any significance were the beautiful Eastern Rosella. Birds of the Parrot family are most numerous in the inland dryer regions of Australia.
Its colorful cousin the Eastern Crimson Rosella was also feeding in a nearby street .
Eastern Crimson Rosella
Eastern Crimson Rosella
Eastern Crimson Rosella
But the highlight for us and a small family we met was this young Short-nosed Echidna (‘Spiny Anteater’) feeding quite placidly by the track unperturbed by us onlookers.
They poke their long snout (which is both nose and mouth) into holes in search of ants and termites which they lap up with their long tongue. Their sharp claws are used to pry open bark to enter rotting logs and also dig. They have no teeth but simply flick their food into their mouth. They are usually, like their monotreme cousin the Platypus, very shy, and will easily coil into a spiny ball if approached. These two specie are only found in Australia and are in a class of their own as the only egg laying mammal.
As we walked on in search of the elusive Red-capped Robin (my lifer bird quest for 2019) we heard the distinctive call of the White-throated Treecreeper. The Brown Treecreeper is also found in this area, but not today. The orange spot on the face indicates it is a female.
These birds call with their loud unmistakable repetitive chime as they ascend the tree to the top looking for insects and grubs, making them easy to detect. However photographically they are difficult to focus and get good shots, especially since they tend favor the non sunny side of the tree to climb.
Of course the Eastern Magpie (‘Black-Backed Magpie’) is one of the most commonly seen territorial birds on the east coast and most successful breeders ( due to their extended family structure), no matter how dry it is. They are predictably found, and are one of the world’s most intelligent and clever birds up there with the Raven and Crow. This male looked striking in the sun so I had to capture his regal pose. They are feared during the nesting season as they savagely attack passers by. However, if you are a known friend to them they will not attack. Recent research has shown that this ability to do facial recognition is some how mysteriously passed on to the next generations. I have stood next to people being repeatedly and savagely attacked when at no time did they even attempt to attack me, having been knowingly classed as their friend.
They feel greatly threatened when the approach is quick by bicycle or running, but this only lasts through the nesting season. They have one of the most beautiful and complex song structure of any bird, we delight to hear it each morning. You will hear a Pied Currawong calling in the background, they also have an interesting and very varied call.
Of course no matter where you go in eastern Australia you will always hear the raucous call of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and here was no exception.
The only other birds we we saw were in the several Mixed Feeding Flocks or MFFs which are commonly seen in these woodlands. This is where several species of small, insectivorous Passerines (tree birds) move from tree to tree together usually calling excitedly to each other as they go. This flock seemed to be driven by several Grey Fantails, a larger bird which seemed to be moving them on. The tiny fast moving feeders were almost impossible to photograph, but I did my best to identify Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Buff-rumped Thornbills, Brown Thornbills, Striated Thornbills and Spotted Pardolote (which eluded me). What an amazing combination, and by now it was quite hot standing in the sun following this flock from tree to tree. These tiny birds are all insectivorous and Lerp feeders.
Soon we left the park having not seen the Red-capped Robin in the spot we were hoping, but instead saw the MFF. Homeward bound but very delighted with what we did see, and for the long walk we needed before our 3 hour drive home.
My bird meditation for this week was given to me this morning when I discovered this Rufous Fantail flying about in the front porch area of our home. This was an amazing blessing for any birder, since this very flighty and timid bird is never seen in residential areas but only in the dense shaded palm and rainforest areas.
We usually only see them here in our forests for a very short period in Autumn-Winter as they pass through feeding on insects. While they are stunningly beautiful in the sunshine, they are one of the most difficult birds to photograph as they seldom stay still.
So I felt very blessed for the privilege of having a few moments with this poor stressed bird, which I think had been harassed by the bully Noisy Miners, as they do to all intruding birds. It may have taken refuge in the porch, but why is it so far from the forest? Possibly it was looking for water as it was passing through our region.
I took movie of its plight, hoping to catch good footage of its beautiful plumage on both sides, without the help of direct sunlight. It rested occasionally and watched me, wondering about me. Eventually it saw I was standing outside in the sun and realised it could fly downwards to escape, and when it realized that down and not up was the way out, it was free at last! Here is some slow motion footage of its flight, slowed to half speed.
Sometimes we have to think outside of our usual learned and safe strategies. Sometimes what we have been taught or convinced of by influential and scholarly people may keep us trapped in a false thinking and belief system. Most of us need help and guidance to find the way ahead to a better life. There are so many voices, opinions and controlling influences which seek to subdue us with their manipulative lies and misrepresentations. Many ask what is Truth? How can I be free of all the guilt and pain of my past and present life? As the Rufous Fantail saw freedom was outside of what he knew to be the way one would normally think, by courageously flying down toward me to freedom, rather than continuing to fly upwards as he had known and been taught to always do. It takes courage to believe differently from everyone else around you, when you believe true freedom is found in a different place and by going in a different direction to the hopelessness of a world that does not know its Creator and the love and freedom that faith in him can bring.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins [does wrong] is a slave of sin [their wrong doing].A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.So if the Son [God’s sinless Son Jesus] sets you free, you are truly free.” – John 8: 34-36
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:6-9
Have a wonderful week ! As the seasons change so do some of our birds. If you are new to my blog and want to know more about birding, visit my Home Page menu for birding tips and interesting information which deals with the mindful and healthy recreation of bird watching. Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift, check out my book on my BirdBook page.