We seldom go birding on the outskirts of Western Sydney, but with recent sightings of a Red-capped Robin family in Wianamatta Nature Reserve at Cranebrook, on The Northern Road, I just had to go, since this was on my lifer bucket list for this year. This nature reserve in past years, was the sight of a communications receiving station but now the abandoned concrete slabs and old granite roads where buildings and antennae once existed has given way to rejuvenating bushland, managed by NSW National Parks. The main entrance is lined with bird breeding boxes and I believe bird tagging is carried out here at times also.
Sadly the day was dull and showery and I did not sight the Robin, though a National Park ranger told me she had seen it come up to her late last year. However I was blessed to sight from a distance high in a dead tree, a pair of Australian Hobby, which may explain why the trees were quieter than usual. This small falcon is almost the size of a Kestrel, and looks similar from a distance to its larger cousin, the Peregrine Falcon. It preys on birds with vigorous swift flight, snatching them in mid air, and also, like most birds, feeds on insects. I was pleased with the shots I managed to get considering the lack of light and distance from the tree, as they did not let me approach. Click on photos to enlarge them.
It amazes me how raptors and other birds can rotate their head 180° without moving their body.
The noticeable lack of birds was apparent but there were a few good ones which we seldom see near the coast as well as the Hobby, including the beautiful Yellow Thornbill, of which I saw several families, but were difficult to see again due to the poor light. This tiny insectivorous bird can be heard with its high pitched call as it communicates to its mate while scanning the small trees.
I was delighted to see a Double-barred Finch, another bird seen more inland, in the arid areas where it feeds on grass seed. Australian finches are quite remarkable survivers, and are often seen in large flocks further inland, though this guy was alone. I had to include the flight shot as poor as it is, but not wings and legs tucked, he is like a missile in flight.
It was lovely to sight this juvenile Grey Fantail, who did not seem to concerned about me.
As usual there is often a curious bird, if not a Robin, Shrike-thrush or Fantail, it is a Whistler, and in this case what appears to be a lone female Rufous Whistler. Rufous Whistlers are found more in the west and the Golden Whistler more along the eastern coastal forests. I love the curious head turn that the above mentioned birds all do.
What about the fresh waterbirds of the west this is where the rarer species are usually found, in the inland lakes, swamps and lagoons, where the water is still and water weed and aquatic food grows to feed them. Pitt Town Lagoon (Nature Reserve) as it is known, is a popular place north west of Sydney, especially after recent rains where it has refilled again. The local bird observers club have built a bird hide on one side of the lake, but the birds tend to congregate on the other side.
Many of our rarer native duck are very cautious and timid toward humans because of the long history of being hunted by early settlers, before government protection. Sadly this was the only shot I got of the rarer mainly inland dwelling, Yellow Spoonbill. On my approach I have to remain hidden, but as soon as I launch camera, this happens…
Both Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis were present. The name Straw-necked refers to the breeding plumage which is not present on these birds. These birds are not water birds as such but they forage on the banks and in the shallows by pressing their long slender bills into the wet mud for small crustaceans.
Two of the rarer mainly inland fresh water birds present are the Pink-eared Duck and the Australasian Shoveler. Both these birds have wide beaks specifically designed to sift the water for minute aquatic organisms which make up much of their food, including crustaceans and insects.
They have a dabbling action as they sift the water, often moving in circles, or simply following behind other ducks with bills submerged as they swim and stir up the surface of silt and weed in the shallows beneath. This allows them to sift the food from the unwanted water.
There is always Australia’s most numerous duck, the Grey Teal. The Chestnut Teal was also present in my earlier shots.
The Australian Pelican is an amazing survivor, even out west away from the ocean. Other birds including the rare Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck have been seen here as well on occasions as have several species of waders (in my previous posts) and a family of White-bellied Sea Eagle. but not on this visit.
This photo shows a family of Pacific Black Duck in flight, but notice how the iridescent speculum feathers change colour depending on the angle of suns rays striking it. You could get the impression from this photo that the lead male was a different bird specie or a mutant, but in reality it is relevant to the perspective from which you view it coupled with the angle of the sunlight striking the speculum feathers.
On viewing this capture I was reminded in my spirit that we need to be careful not to make judgments and interpret what we see, without understanding. The modern media and the comments of others can easily colour and change our perspective in regard to a person, their character or an event. The leading Pacific Black Duck (which is actually brown) in the photo above may give us a false impression as to its true appearance seeing a purple speculum instead of the more commonly seen turquoise. However, it is what it is, and if we were to view that same duck in another light and angle it would also appear turquoise like the others.
Having the understanding about speculums and how the feathers are structurally multi layered allows one to accept what they see, without going off on a tangent. This is a lesson to me to stop and try to understand before passing judgement, and to not believe everything I here or read on face value.
“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” – Psalm 119:66 (NIV)
“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” – Psalm 143:2
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” – Romans 14:13
One of my youngest blog followers shared this little snippet of truth regarding the difference between a BIRDER and a TWITCHER, as I know many have asked the question, and I have done a post on this in past years. The answer is simply $$$ dollars $$$ meaning the twitcher unlike most of us birders is wealthy and able to leave their job or home on a bird tip off and travel anywhere in the world, to feed their obsession/addiction, as in the movie The Big Year
Have a wonderful week my dear birding friends, and thank you my dear ones for your kind and thoughtful regards to my health, which is slowly on the mend. Yes I am still working part time and also researching my next book which I have started, but just need time to seriously write it.
If this is your first visit to my blog be sure to check out my birding website for more birding info and helpful hints for body mind and spirit. Enter into the refreshing mindfulness of birding, lower your stress levels, and live a healthy happy life.
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