Not my usual feature photo for my posts, but this next two weeks marks the end forever of the 1st Edition of my book “What Birds Teach Us” after the last of the book shops that sell my book, stock up for the holiday season. The 2nd Edition as well as my second book we are looking to publish early in the new year. I will let you know when I know more. Here is the promo for the last time…
Following on from my last post we continue to showcase the birds from the bushfire devastated Mid-North Coast of NSW, where we visited 2 weeks ago. These were some of the survivors we saw. Refer to my previous post if you missed it, before reading this one, to understand more. Bushfires continue to blaze all over the state as thousands of hectares of prime forest have been destroyed, 83 fires continue to burn today in NSW and 20 not yet contained, 6 humans dead, 720 homes lost and many thousands of animals and birds incinerated (including over 1000 Koalas which many people are trying to rescue), as there is no relenting from the severe drought and the frequent strong, hot dry winds, constantly fanning the flames. You remember last week I shared how the raptors are having a field day catching wildlife as it runs frantically out of the forest to escape the flames.
Black Kites swooping on a fire they have probably lit. Credit: Bob Gosford for Cosmos Magazine.
The Black Kite in far north Australia have been observed carrying burning sticks from farm fires to grasslands and forests nearby to set them alight so as to flush out prey.
Sydney air quality 10 times over danger limit. Credit: The Australian,
Sydney, like much of the east coast has been blanketed in thick toxic smoke for weeks now, where it has been said healthwise it is like smoking 10 to 40 cigarettes a day, there are many very sick people as a result. In fact the smoke is now classified in cities according to cigarettes. We had a 20 cigarette day Tuesday, and today after the Southerly cold change we have had a small reprieve. These conditions are worse ever recorded, and the effect on our bird and animal wildlife are catastrophic. Thank you for your patience and prayers, as many have been asking for an update. Now to continue…
Each morning as we sat on the balcony of our resort villa, sipping our coffee. We were at eye level with the Rainbow Lorikeets as they fed on these red flowers.
It was a great spot which many birds would come and spend time at, some to feed, some to rest and some to check us out for food, which previous occupants had done, a practice which is not good for wild Australian birds, unlike in other countries. Water is the important thing we can assist with.
adult Pied Butcherbird
waiting for a hand out
Juvenile Pied Butcherbird
This Pied Butcherbird and its juvenile appeared at regular intervals to check us out. This is one of my favorite song birds, we never see them as far south as Sydney. Of course ‘Pied’ meaning having 2 or more colors. Note that many juvenile birds are brown initially to blend into trees for safety from predators, and gradually gain mature plumage. Some species of male birds take up to 6 years. Adult plumage is usually associated with ability and permission to breed. From our balcony across the valley we had a good view of the adult male Butcherbird’s main observation point where the butcher shop operated from. See him honing his blade for the next kill.
We would frequently hear the constant tweeting of a juvenile Noisy Miner being fed by the Miner family members (Miners have one of the best organised social structures among birds). Occasionally the Kookaburra would come and sit the tree, mainly to watch us for food, but the Miners saw it as a threat to the youngster and gave him curry till he left.
Kookaburra watching us
Noisy Miner adult
Noisy Miner juvenile being very noisy
Noisy Miner adult
Kookaburra before Miner attack
Juvenile Noisy Miner out in the open
Yes, Spring means parents are continually busy feeding their offspring, as with another Noisy MIner family.
Which brings us my most interesting observation, a small family of Australian Black-backed magpie. The fact that there is only one juvenile and that the female is present can signify that these birds have been displaced possibly from a bushfire ravaged area, as these birds are territorial, and rely, like the MIners on a very complex and well orchestrated social family network which contributes to them being one of the most successful native Australian birds. In normal circumstances the female would not be present when the male trains the youngster. Training can take up to 4 years, as Magpies are one of the most intelligent birds, up there with the Ravens. Notice how the female refuses to feed the youngster, when it beds from her, as it is the males role, and he obliges.
Magpie family: mum, dad and the kid.
Female deliberately turns away from juveniles requests
I have recently taken to study the Magpie, as some of you know, especially in the light of my new books and the gleaning of social and life skills we can apply from a family counseling perspective. Surprisingly my daughter bought me another useful and interesting book for my birthday recently written by Australia’s authority on Magpies, Gisela Kaplan. My loving daughter seems to know what book her dad needs next, as she did with last years very timely book.
If you have half an hour to sit and listen to a very interesting radio interview with Gasela Kaplan, here is the link:
Of course! as write this, I hear my little bird friend the Grey Butcherbird, ‘The Little Fella’ as I call him, singing to me as he approaches the birdbath for a drink. So I better not forget that his relatives were also present in the same area as the Pied. Again the male has the responsibility to feed and train the youngster.
Grey Butcherbird adult with juvenile following
Early in the morning, on a couple of mornings I would walk outside and hear this strange call from high up on top of a dead tree. It was a lone Dollarbird, a Summer migrant to our state, looking beautiful in the morning sunlight. These birds are insectivorous and hunt on the fly, but with a most unique and intriguing flight path of any bird, zooming up very high and fast and then down as it flies off. You will see that it gets its name from the white markings in the wing in flight. Someone thought it looked like a Dollar coin, but I think they have a vivid imagination.
Another beautiful bird we observed over coffee on the balcony was this beautiful pair of Eastern Rosella. These are a naturally very shy bird but we did manage to see both male and female sitting on the roof top of an adjacent villa.
While we were checking one of the fire ravaged areas where I had previously built the family home in the country north west of where we were staying, I was pleased to see it had been saved from the fires, and on our way back we noticed this rare sight of a lone Yellow-billed Spoonbill sharing a small dam with other ducks and Cattle Egret changing to breeding plumage. Because of the thick smoke and the distance from the road the photos are not great. But this is the second kind of Spoonbill in Australia to the more common Royal Spoonbill we see nearer the coast.
On my brothers suggestion we took a drive to Seal Rocks and the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, where we passed a large blow hole type cave. During the walk through the unburnt forest we found some interesting birds including the Variegated Fairy-wren, male in full breeding plumage and the female as we descended the steep steps from the lighthouse, as they popped in and out of the small shrubs along the path. This is usually not an easy bird to capture. This is my wife’s favorite.
Along the shaded track we heard and then saw the Scarlet Honeyeater family, always a wonderful find, and this time they were not high in the canopy feeding, but down low feeding and maintaining their young, somewhere.
Scarlet Honeyeater male
Scarlet Honeyeater male
Scarlet Honeyeater male
As we came close to our car we heard this beautiful melody but could not place it. I had heard it before but not recently and I started guessing what it might be, and my wife finally found it yes! a Black-faced Monarch, another Summer migrant always welcome to our forests.
The Little Wattlebird is the most common wattlebird on the northern coast and lacks wattles on its neck, so it is very very little, like not there:-) Notice the interesting breast plumage.
Meanwhile back at the resort, there is Australia’s most opportunistic bird, having a similar ploy to that of the Australian Brush Turkey I posted last week. The Pied Currawong is known to steal the food of other birds, including their eggs and young, as well as human food, as he sits hopeful on the balcony railing. Their big yellow eye will watch you from a distance and wait for opportunity. In Lord Howe Island they are notorious at stealing the eggs of the beautiful White Tern, which nests in the Norfolk Pine tree, but lays its eggs on the branch. It does not build a nest. Though they do have many interesting and melodic calls which I love to hear, as they change at various times of the day. This bird is most prone to the tricks of the Cuckoos, planting their eggs in the Currawong nest while unattended. They lack the tight social structure of the Magpie, and are more selfish and private in their social structure.
I could not finish without including this very strange White-necked Heron who sat on this powerline/ aerial every day in the same spot. Strange for a wader, and always looking outward in the same direction, but never with any apparent purpose. Maybe the smell of smoke was alarming it.
These Scaly-breasted Lorikeets were feeding early morning on a native Colistamine bush nearby, the light was poor, and they were very difficult to get into full view. They kept one eye on us and each time we moved they moved. They get their name from the yellow lines on their breast.
One of the most affectionate birds I have seen is the Little Corella. Most times the faithful pair are sharing affection, mating, showing off or just sitting quietly together. This pair caught my eye.
If you have reached this far, thank you for your interest and patience, it is a long post, as many of mine are. Last of all the Golden Whistler male turned up while on a walk with my grandchildren to the beach, always a favorite of mine as you know.
My post pondering today comes from this snake skin which my son-in-law showed us on our walk to their beach. The question is: How did it get in the tree, did it shed the skin there or did some human hang it there?
This remains a mystery, as we were not there when it was shed. We could study the scene and speculate or postulate or ruminate or subjugate those who pontificate over the observable fact, which is: there is a snake skin hanging in a tree. So what?!
Like many scientists, as myself, I could spend time examining, testing, thinking, postulating and concluding, but I could miss the blatantly obvious observation: How interesting and how beautiful is the skin, how remarkable that it sheds its new skin in this way, and there it is hanging in a tree.
Oh, and by the way what snake did this? Oh, no! that sets them thinking again! Hey! why can’t we just smell the roses and appreciate the snake skin and admire the wonder and beauty of the thing for what it is. We don’t know a lot about fire and electricity but we admire and use it. We drive cars we know little about, and have bodies that function perfectly and with simultaneous harmony and complexity without us even being consciously aware. Sometimes we overthink things and for the secret sake of pride want to know how or why, and not just appreciate with humble acceptance the One who made the tree and the snake. This leads not to the giving us accolades for seeming to be clever, but to praise and appreciation for the awesome intelligent design of a truly wonderful and amazing Creator, God.
“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” – Psalm 40:5 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week and stay safe. Please pray for rain and cessation of these many destructive fires. As it surely lives up to the poets description in My Country: “I love a sunburnt country. A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.”
In my last post I shared the wonderful birding date my wife and I had on the Great River Walk where we saw many bird babies. The Dusky Woodswallows and White-plumed Honeyeaters were not yet fledged. Last weekend we drove away from the furious bushfires inland to the city of Wagga Wagga for my B’day or more accurately what became a Birday weekend. We visited my wife’s family there, staying with her sister who was recently widowed. Her sister’s home overlooks Lake Albert. As I mentioned last week, the presence of an abundant source of food near fresh water is an excellent location for nesting. I awoke early to the melodious call of the Grey Shrike-thrush family communicating to one another. At first I thought there may be a nest nearby the house, but later saw the juvenile waiting for food, as the parent went across the road to the trees by the lake to catch insects to feed its youngster.
The fledgling was calling to its own reflection in the window next door, which would occupy it for some time, till the parents told it to get back in the backyard where it was safe.
Grey-Shrike-thrush juvenile shadow singing
One adult stood watch while the other hunted for food, but they maintained their call constantly throughout the day, as they communicated their whereabouts.
There was often commotion in the tree by our bedroom window which turned out to be an aggressive little adult White-plumed Honeyeater which was trying to drive the Shrike-thrush family away from hunting near its young chicks, as these could easily become part of its current diet. Notice the size of the white plume on the juveniles compared to the adult feeding them.
two juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
I love rising early when I stay there, while it is still very cold, to do an early morning bird walk around part of the lake where many birds nest and live. Here the Woodswallows are in their next stage of being fledged, but still keeping close to the nest area and being fed by parents.
Both parents are coming and going as they feed their youngsters with insects quickly acquired as they glide from tree to tree. The youngsters are able to fly quite well from tree to tree, but staying in the view of the parent.
On the lake a small flock of what appeared to be Common Tern at the time, (but later confirmed to be Whiskered Tern) were fishing the lake, with their usual diving technique. These birds were not diving in the same manner as the Crested Tern we are use to on the coast. They fly closer to the surface and dive with less speed.
This Royal Spoonbill was busily scanning the shoreline also.
This pair of Black-winged Stilt were nearby, one wading and the other sleeping.
As I walked around the wetland reserve portion of the lake I spotted this lone Hoary-headed Grebe cruising peacefully.
As I looked along the reeds on the shoreline, excitement rose as I saw a bird which some distance away, appeared to be a unfamiliar shorebird. I quickly took photos. It was a parent Black-tailed Native-hen, a bird we seldom ever see, if ever on the coast, and never before here. A parent with two juveniles, a wonderful find, though one of the juveniles hid for most of the time.
It was great to see some of the inland birds we seldom see. The Great Dividing Range which runs from top to bottom of Australia separates many of the bird species from being coastal or inland species. Another inland specie I saw was a pair of Little Friarbirds which were in the process of nest building.
Red-rumped Parrots feeding on the grass seed by the lake is a common find here. The male has the bright red rump and the female a green rump, and is basically greenish.
But one exciting and beautiful find inland in this particular region (inland south eastern Australia) was the Yellow Rosella, which for some strange reason was recently sub classed under the Crimson Rosella species. It looked radiant in the early morning sunlight.
Walking past this old tree stump by the lake I noticed an interesting friendship between a lone Eastern Rosella with mutation and a Yellow Rosella, two different species flying and exploring as if they were a pair. Plumage colour mutations are common in the Parrot families, showing much diversity. When these birds finally flew off because of my presence they flew off and landed together.
The Magpie-lark (known also as Pee Wee, Piper, or Mudlark depending on which state you live in) family were also present nearby. This female Pee Wee had two juveniles it was coaching. These birds are easy to distinguish sex and maturity by their black facial lines and their eye colour.
Father Pee Wee
Mother coaching fledglings
This Crested Pigeon was displaying some beautiful colours. One would think were hand painted.
One of the highlights of our time away was this small flock of Superb Parrots, another mainly inland bird, we happened upon on the side of the road. The male has a bright with yellow face and the female dull green. Again superbly brilliant in the sunlight when in flight.
While there are always numerous pairs and flocks of Galahs, this one and its mate seemed to be digging deeply with their beak possibly for edible roots, with its eyes closed.
Another inland bird is the Rufous Whistler. It looks and sounds similar to its cousin the Golden Whistler which is more predominant along the coastal forests, having a rufous brown body instead of the bright yellow of the Golden species. These birds are always a challenge to photograph as they love to elude your gaze. This male was singing continuously in my wife’s niece’s garden.
Listen to its call. Like other Whistlers they are heard continuously throughout the breeding season of Spring and Summer, going much quieter during Winter months.
Also jumping about in the garden is this beautiful male Superb Fairy-wren, yes another superb bird! Oh, sorry this little guy was actually in the reeds by the lake, I did not include the garden ones.
This juvenile Australian Eastern Magpie was being cared for by a young relative, possibly a sbling from a previous year clutch. This illustrates the complex and well organised social family structure of the Magpie species, where by all close and extended family members assist in raising the young. Magpies are one of Australia’s most predominant and resilient birds, partly due to this reason as well as their very high level of intelligence.
As we drove home from this wonderful weekend away, a four and a half hour drive, my wife spotted a Wedge-tailed Eagle being attacked by a Magpie. This is a common sight during breeding season, where many smaller birds attack raptors. Two weeks ago I showed a Blacked-winged Stilt doing the same. There constant attack and back biting eventually drives the raptor to another area. If you have ever been attacked by an Australian Magpie, as I have, you will know they are a formidable force, and this is why survive so well, having very few predators. The missile like speed and force of their flight is remarkable, they know no fear, even the very aggressive Noisy Miner show them great respect.
coming in for the strike
preparing for another shot
Silhouette of the wedge tail
We can see that the breeding season creates many concerns for caring parents, especially when predator species which may threaten the safety of their young are also living in the vicinity. This tension is mostly only realised during the breeding season. There is constant tension, as you witnessed above. These last few days have seen horrific catastrophic bushfires burn hundreds of kilometers of prime forests, destroying over 200 human homes and now 4 lives. A thousand kilometer fire front with over 60 fires burn in our state alone, and that’s not including the fires in Queensland and now WA which is having a catastrophic day today. These fires have worsened and are spreading in many areas. These fires are of unprecedented extent and ferocity for this time of year never before experienced in Spring. The long drought, tinder dry forests with much dead or dying undergrowth, high Spring temperatures with very strong winds and fire bugs have placed our eastern states in a state of emergency. What is sooo sad is that most birds and animals are nesting or feeding their very young at this time. These fires normally occur at the end of Summer, when most can escape. The fires show no mercy as many thousands of birds and animals, over four hundred of our endangered Koalas are incinerated. If we do not get good rain soon, Sydney and other large cities may run our of water, and also be unable to stop the encroaching fires effectively. Many country towns have no water. Please pray for our country that the drought would relent and good rains would be sent to replenish and cool our land. Firefighters have come from New Zealand and other states to assist, to join with our volunteer fire brigade heroes to hold back the blazes. I have never seen my local birds have such long drinks at my bird baths as I have seen today. Funny enough our friends in Victoria and Tasmania are suffering under icy cold cyclonic winds, rain and snow. This is why our stay in Wagga felt so cool and wintery. Our state is due for another catastrophic period in the next few days, which may only worsen in the coming weeks and months as the greater heat of Summer encroaches..
Enjoy your week wherever you are and keep your bird baths topped up daily with fresh water. The more they see you caring for them, the more trusting they will become. Some of my birds are beginning to allow me within their buffer zone, as they trust me more. You may experience the same. How wonderful it would be if the fear of mankind which was given creatures after man’s rebellion to God, could be reversed to a loving caring trusting kind relationship. It was for their safety it had to be, as man’s selfish and hurtful nature can not be trusted at all times.
Though the Noisy Miner is disliked by many Australians for its noisy aggressive behaviour, it surprises many of them to discover that it is one of native birds endemic to our country. I have a friendly relationship with my visitors as you can see above, and they will bathe and drink, as will other birds, while I sit and watch them only a few feet away. I have found that having the smaller and larger bird baths next to each other under the large Bottlebrush tree with many low landing points around them is a perfect scene for the many birds to enjoy a quiet drink, a shaded wash and rest in the tree. When the larger Magpie or Currawong come they know to use the largest bath and the Miners move to the smaller. The Rainbow Lorikeets strangely enough also enlist great respect from the Noisy Miner, and they use the larger bath also. I am amazed that the Miners never attack the Rainbows. I have read that the Rainbow bite is ferocious as are their claws, so the Miners have learnt to live along side them.
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you. In famine he will deliver you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the wild animals. For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you.” – Job 5:17-23 (NIV)
You can purchase your copy of my book for immediate delivery by post in time for Christmas on my BirdBook page.
Spring, the time when most birds and animals pair off, mate and reproduce their kind. However, the great Australian drought continues into its fourth year causing rivers to dry up, trees and plants to die or give up their leaves under stress, many native plants to die or not flower, many birds and animals to leave their historic nesting areas for localities where they have not been previously reported in current field guides.
This week I took a trip to visit one of Australia’s great birding places The Capertee Valley, which is actually the widest canyon in the world, being 1km wider than the Grand Canyon at its widest point. The canyon is surrounded by the Gardens of Stone National Park, made up of interesting sandstone escarpments, which glow in the sun. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Gardens of Stone NP
Capertee River dried up
Capertee River dried up
Largest conservation project
This wonder is a north western extension of the famous Blue Mountains, and has previously been the famous conservation site for the breeding of the endangered Regent Honeyeater, which is Australia’s largest public conservation project. The last few years have seen very few birds breeding beside the now almost dried up Capertee River, where only a few pools remain. Scientists have had difficulty tracing the breeding patterns of this bird, and many others affected by the drought. The forests of NSW are tinder dry, and dying in many places for lack of regular rainfall. I was surprised to find that many of the bird species I found previously in this birding goldmine had left the valley to find food and water and nest elsewhere. While the eastern side of the ranges has been getting rain at times (Sydney), here on the western side of the ranges (Capertee) has had very little or none at all.
The positive is that there are still many birds remaining, of which I will share from my visit in this post. On arrival to the valley I started checking my usual good birding stops and in two tall eucalypts I found both the numerous White-plumed Honeyeater and the less numerous White-naped Honeyeater feeding high in the canopy together on the tree blossom as well as on lerps. The plume is the white mark on the side of the neck and the gape is the white ring around the back of the head (visible in second last photo). They were very active when chasing nectar, especially the White-gaped, which gave me several flight shots.
From a tree next to the flowering one above, I could hear the unusual buzzing sound of the White-browed Babbler, which, like the two honeyeaters is mainly only seen inland over the ranges. It was interesting how many different sounds this bird makes as it communicated to a nearby companion. It is always a treat to find this bird. Disregard the Noisy Friarbird calls in the background.
Just before leaving this Noisy Friarbird appeared briefly, but was unusually quiet, which can be the case when they are alone.
Further along the road as I crossed over the Capertee River I was mesmerized by a flock Fairy Martins flying in circuits over the remaining pools of water beneath the casuarina trees. I managed to fire off some almost decent flight shots of these amazing birds as they started flying around me.
Fairy Martin cruising for insects
Fairy Martins flying together
mouth open catching insects on the fly
As I made my way further I stopped again, and out of the bush wandered this old Wombat, with a hairless back, making his way back down the road on the wrong side, being very vulnerable to cars. Sadly I had already seen over a dozen road kill from the night before, kangaroo, wallabies and wombats. Wombats are essentially nocturnal, but can bee seen during the day when disturbed. They burrow out their nesting holes under the earth like a mole or groundhog. Walking in their territory can be dangerous at night without good light as many people have injured themselves accidentally stepping into their holes.
Sadly I passed areas where in better years many species of Finch resided, but were not to be found, but it was pleasing to see several family flocks of White-winged Chough foraging about. These birds only fly short low distances and spend most of their time walking about together foraging for insects. They have a very tightly constructed family and are known to take captive young from other Chough flocks. You will see how they got their name from my video clip.
White-winged Chough family
Here is a sound file to give you an idea of their language, it sounds a little like a Catbird having a harsh lower throat squeal. Disregard the Noisy Friarbirds cackling in the background.
Looking up to a bare dead tree, always in the hope of seeing a raptor, this lone Dusky Woodswallow sat in the warmth of the Spring sun. It would occasionally go gliding, in a similar way to the Fairy Martin to catch insects on the fly.
While looking up at this little guy I saw gliding over a kilometer above a huge Wedge-tailed Eagle which I managed to get a few decent shots considering the distance away. These amazing birds with wingspans of 2.3 meters can soar on the thermals at a height of two kilometers and at one kilometer still see a mouse crawling on the ground below as its eye sight is eight times better at seeing detail than ours, with is binocular telescopic vision. This enables it not only to see its prey well, but target with precise accuracy (using triangulation like our eyes) within millimeters when it attacks. I know this for a fact having had one take a very small amount of meat from my hand without touching me at a wild bird show, and boy they are heavy when they land on your arm. They can lift a 5 kilogram animal, a young lamb, young kangaroo, snakes. lizards, ferule cats, foxes, rodents and road kill.
When a bird has its eyes set in the front of its face such as we have, similar to other raptors, Kingfishers and Kookaburras we all share binocular vision and with it the ability to triangulate which allows our brains to determine with accuracy the estimated distance away we are to an object. If you have eyes at the side of the head or only one working eye, the brain is unable to do this with any accuracy. Compare the eye placement of these birds below. Notice the eyes of the Eastern Rosella are on the side of the head, like most birds, unlike the Eagles and other birds of prey, I sighted this pair of Eastern Rosella being attacked by an aggressive Noisy Miner further down the road.
Wedge-tailed Eagle binocular vision
Eastern Rosella eye on side of head
I have previously shared about the aggressive and fearless nature of this bird and how it guards its territory from other Honeyeaters and predators. I have seen Noisy Miners chase away Eagles (which can eat them), cats and dogs (which can also eat them), even people. Their relentless attacks and bites with rapid return, often in a noisy group of between 2 and 6 birds is no feat for a single bird, though Kookaburras sit and take it till they give up while larger more aggressive Red Wattlebirds will retaliate. The Eastern Rosella pair for life, and are under attack because they eat nectar blossom also as part of their diet, which the Noisy Miner want to keep to themselves, particularly in this time of drought.
Noisy miner in position, I can see it looming
watching the Noisy Miner out of my left eye
Noisy miner attacks
Eastern Rosella recoil
Eastern Rosella post attack
the colourful undercarriage
Nearby I could hear a zitting sound which resembled what I knew to be that of a Flycatcher, as I had seen them around this area on previous visits, and yes it was a pair of Restless Flycatcher. At first I only saw a Willie Wagtail and thought it strange to be making this sound as it is a kind of flycatcher also, and looks similar, but then I saw the pair making their zitting noise which you can hear here:
Restless Flycatcher pair
A small flock of Straw-necked Ibis grazed on a nearby cow paddock, this one is just coming into breeding as it starts to develop its long neck plumes and iridescent body plume sheen.
I came to a place where I heard a lovely bird call with which I was not familiar, but had heard on previous occasions. I looked and looked for about half an hour as it called from within a deep dark eucalypt tree cluster by the road. I prayed and asked God to let me view it, as I had spent too much time in pursuit and then it made an appearance for two seconds and was able to get this one shot off. It was a Grey Shrike-thrush which are known for their lovely variable song. Thank you Lord! It is in the not knowing what it was that kept me there, in case it might have been a lifer.
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info. Check out my book “What Birds Teach Us”, a great easy to read gift idea, which continues to get good reviews where people share how it has helped them and how it is a unique book. If you are concerned, it has been carefully written for all cultures and beliefs and does not preach or recommend any particular belief system, but is a counselling tool that encourages good life skills by using the birds and beautiful photos of them to relate to us. People from other cultures and beliefs different to my own, have shared how they love the book. You can purchase your copy here
My meditation for the day came from my challenging experience when I finally arrived after much driving at the gate of Capertee National Park, which is a locked up park, to protect the nesting area of the endangered Regent Honeyeater, along the banks of the Capertee River.
Sadly, the entrance code I had was not the current one, and because I was out of phone range, deep in the forest, and the caretaker was miles away inside the park, I could only wait for a while hoping someone would arrive, but no one did. So I turned around and drove home, the positive side being I arrived home in good time to shop and cook dinner for my wife. I was thankful for the many birds I saw and this incident reminded me of the words of Jesus when he said: Iamthegate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. – John 10:9 (NIV)
Without the correct entry code one can not enter this portion of the park and see the wonders within. You may remember the long pursuit my wife and I had trying to see these birds in the wild and how my first sighting of an unbanded bird was several miles up this road behind this gate. Just as this was the treasure I hoped to see today, so this event reminded me that Jesus has a treasure much more wonderful which will last forever for those who put their trust in him. Jesus had blazed the trial for me so that I and anyone can discover the true meaning of life. It is through him that we enter into God’s goodness and mercy and experience the freedom and peace of total forgiveness for our sinful selfish nature. With this comes the blessing of a personal relationship with God, so you are never alone or ever abandoned because he loves us and always will, and gives his Spirit to comfort and guide us through life. God’s beautiful life exchange, the free gift of Jesus’ sinless life for our sinful, is expressed in a nutshell: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Have a wonderful week and weekend! Our prayers go to the many suffering Hurricanes floods, heatwaves, earthquakes and extreme bush fires in many parts of the world. In these turbulent Last Days where many are fearful and have no hope or foundation for their lives, there is hope and peace through faith in Jesus who rightly said even before he was raised from the dead: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
We are experiencing extreme drought, facing another extreme hot Summer and water shortages. It is time for us all turn to the One who can help and pray and repent on behalf of our nations that are abandoning the same One who can truly help. There is hope and it is offered freely in Jesus words: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
For those interested: My second book is almost past its first editorial phase and I have begun to write a better second edition of the my first book, as the first edition is almost sold out of print and demand for it continues. The second edition will have more features and birds and will be an educational tool which I hope will be embraced by schools and family counselors. I am thankful for this break in my professional career to be given the opportunity to leave this legacy.
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.
Last weekend, my wife and I drove to the Hunter Valley Wine Region for our wedding anniversary, where we not only enjoyed beautiful valley views, fine food, tasting luscious wines, but of course as per usual, birding was included. Click on photos to enlarge.
aussiebirder ready to bird
View from our accommodation.
Nearby was the Werakata National Park, one of the feeding areas of the rare and endangered Regent Honeyeater, which my followers would know I have blogged in past posts. The Spotted Gum eucalypt trees were in flower which would have been ideal for them to feed, however we did not see any Regents on this occasion.
But we did see an unexpected family of another inland bird the beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater female with juveniles. The juveniles lack colour intensity, lack the throat band which has not yet formed and lack the tail streamers. This bird lives in hot arid areas and dry forests and spends the Summer months down here, flying back up to Far North Queensland during Winter, after the cyclones of the wet season. The females have two short tail streamers (see below) and the male has longer streamers.
adult female Bee-eater
To our delight as we walked to breakfast, we found a small flock of Musk Lorikeet feeding on the Spotted Gun flowers nearby our accommodation. This bird is found inland and is often difficult to photograph and well camouflaged as they are usually deep in the tree feeding. The blue head cap and the red head markings are usually all you can detect. This birds gets its name from the male which during breeding season emits a musky odour from an oil gland on its rump. This acts as a pheromone attracting females to mate.
Musk Lorikeet feeding
The Eastern Rosella is another inland bird checking the gum trees also. A beautiful but very shy bird.
It was lovely to see several new season juvenile birds and hear their monotonous hunger chirps as the family try to feed them. This juvenile Noisy Miner was getting attention next to our room.
Adult Noisy Miner keeping watch
Juvenile Noisy MIner
One of the best treats for me coming here was to hear again the sound of the Pied Butcherbird, my favourite songbird, which I miss hearing from my years of living up the coast in country NSW. This bird is not found as far south as Sydney, but its cousin the Grey Butcherbird sings his beautiful song to me each morning as he drinks from our birdbath. Listen and watch as this bird’s morning chorus rings through the valley.
One hot afternoon while enjoying a swim in the pool, we heard a commotion in the nearby eucalypt tree as several Noisy Miners were being very noisy and appeared to be looking at something and scolding it in the tree. At first we all could not make it out, but my wife donned her binoculars and sighted the cause of the trouble, a young Lace Monitor was on a branch high in the tree in search for bird eggs. The Noisy Miners harassed him with noise but it was the brave and more brutal Blue-faced Honeyeater that dared to come close, causing the lizard to move away.
Blue-faced Honeyeater are another bird found mainly in northern NSW and also Queensland. As with other Australian honeyeaters competing for nectar, this bird is aggressive and often sports what appears to be an aggressive look which is in it’s favor for warding off adversaries.
While we were enjoying coffee at the Chocolate Factory, we looked out to a distant paddock where my wife sighted a Wedge-tailed Eagle going to ground. It was a long way off and barely visible and spent several minutes down. I walked smartly to the car to retrieve my camera and returned waiting at the fence. Eventually it arose and flew toward me, almost over my head and then into the distance. It appeared to be carrying its prey under one talon, which on close observation appeared to be either a native possum or small fox.
This is Australia’s largest raptor sporting a wingspan of around 2.3 meters (7.5 feet), and it is always a buzz to see them since their numbers were decimated in the last 100 years due to the 5 shilling bounty on their heads. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered needlessly. Farmers complained that they carried off lambs as prey. This is the most persecuted eagle in the world. Today there is a $8,000 fine and imprisonment in most states for killing this now protected bird as this bounty has since been lifted, and numbers are very slowly returning, but will never be as they were. The eagle can carry up to 5kg (11pds) prey which is heavier than its body weight of 3.5kg. We also spotted a Whistling Kite passing over silently.
On our visit to Hunter Valley Gardens which is the largest floral display in Australia, we were met by many Superb Fairy-wren families bobbing in and out of the beautiful and extensive rose gardens. As roses are introduced species and lack nectar, they do not attract native honeyeaters birds but only the tiny insectivorous Superb Fairy-wren. This bird is a small fast moving territorial bird found in many flower gardens and parks in eastern Australia. Some males were morphing into eclipse after the breeding season, and others were still donning their brilliant breeding plumage which looked spectacular in the sunshine when it came out. The female looks plain brown and has a reddish marking around her eyes.
The other bird we saw many of, but had a challenge to photograph, was the another insectivorous inland bird I posted recently, the Yellow Thornbill.
We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration away in the vineyards, bringing home some very enjoyable wines. One of the vineyards, the Mistletoe Winery, appeared to have giants present though we did not see any on our visit, but she had left her shoes in the garden.
You might consider this above photo to be a trick with perspective, but no the shoes are as large as they appear, by simply observing the branch in the foreground. Yes, it is a sculpture, one of many at this winery. This sculpture reminded me that sometimes the truth can be right before my eyes, but because it does not line up with what I know and understand of it in my world, I may doubt its authenticity, and consider that someone has fiddled the foto and fiddled the facts to make a false observation appear like truth. In this age where deception, lack of trust and loss of integrity is on the increase, it reminds me that I need to be alert and wise to check out the details of boldly postulated assertions, particularly from minority groups, but ever increasingly from government and media. What is so called politically correct or currently socially acceptable may not be truth and therefore good or safe to enter into. With our looming elections in coming months I and all of us need to be able, as difficult as it has become, to discern who is telling the truth, and what the facts really are for the ongoing good of our families and community.
Jesus said: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd [alert, intelligent, astute, clever, observant, perceptive] as snakes and as innocent [not guilty of causing crime, offense or suffering] as doves.” – Matthew 10:16 (NIV with added meanings)
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12
Enjoy your week as we eclipse into changing seasons, for some autumn and others spring. It is a time to be wise with our health as the temperatures change. It is also time in the next few weeks for our migratory waders to be on the move again, which I will be sharing more of in my next post.
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.