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.
You may wonder why this Yellow-throated Miner is my feature photo, well it has a history. When my wife and I went on our first holiday together we were not aware that we both loved birdwatching, but when I saw her get excited seeing this bird I realised and so we shared that we had a common interest, which to this day has been a wonderful hobby we share together as ‘recreational birdwatchers’ or more accurately birders. We were returning to our first holiday place Uluru a.k.a. Ayers Rock. the world’s largest monolith (single rock) sitting in the red centre desert region of central Australia’s Northern Territory [Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park].
Uluru from the air
Most of this rock lies underground but stands 348m high with a circumference of 9.4km. The feature which draws people out to the desert other than the unique bright red pindan dust soil…
…is the colour changes that take place during the day of this very coarse high iron content rock. Here is an example I put together of shots throughout the day…
The other fascinating feature of this desert is the amazing enduring Desert Oak tree, which is able to withstand drought, fire, extreme temperature, poor soils and grows about 10mm a year making some the trees well over 1000 years old. They send down roots over 8 metres to the water table. The juvenile trees look like feather dusters the mature trees have seed cones and look like native pine or Casuarina. The native Australians sometimes use this tree to get a drink of water when they cross the desert.
Desert Oak at various stages of maturity
Where do you stay in the desert you ask? when you can freeze at night and boil by day. We had days of 35°C in Spring with afternoon thunderstorms. My wife loved the fact she could swim in the Sails in the Desert resort pool. Oh yes, it is Voyages Resort in the Desert, since the nearest town is 468 km away in Alice Springs. Beautiful Ghost Gums were planted around the resort attracting many birds, these are native to the coast of NW WA.
The beautiful Ghost Gums of the North West.
Birds you say! What birds live in a desert you ask? and this was one of the reasons we came to find out. The first bird we saw in large numbers around the resort was the Yellow-throated Miner which is just as numerous and aggressive as our Noisy Miner back down on the south east coast. It is the dominant bird here, and looks much like its noisy cousin. It tends to drive other birds away from the flowering native shrubs and Ghost gums. Click on pics to enlarge them.
Interesting enough, the greatest variety of birds were Honeyeaters around the resort. Again you ask: “How can that be your in the desert?” This proves the old adage ‘If you build it they will come’. This applies to our own backyards also, if you plant nectar producing native plants you will eventually attract the birds. Most birds enjoy nectar, flowers and lerps. Australia has the most amazing nectar producing plants and trees which produce lots of high energy (sugar) nectar in the poorest of soils. The next most numerous noisy bird was the White-plumed Honeyeater…
a tiny gregarious inland honeyeater which forms very into groups often seen playing and perching together, calling excitedly to each other as they feed. Honeyeaters often experience a nectar feeding frenzy which is known to cause some aggressive behaviour between and within nectar eating species. Australia has the largest honeyeaters, and the most aggressive birds in the world, including the most dangerous. You might get the impression in some of the next shots that some poor fella is getting nagged at by his lady, but the bird on the left with the pink beak is actually a juvenile bird, most likely complaining to be fed. The black beaked bird on the right is the adult parent.
However, the greatest delight was to hear and see the rarer Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. This bird can be heard in feeding frenzy high in the Ghost Gum flowers, loudly calling to each other, early in the morning as the sun rises, before the miners have taken over and driven them off. here is some footage of their peculiar call.
I so enjoyed hearing and watching these birds calling in the morning and watching as they busily fed on the tree blossom, calling to one another in constant communication. They have beautiful blue eyes.
When we drove out to ‘The Rock’ (as commonly known by us Aussies), we were both hoping to find some lifers and had asked God to show us to them. One which we were hoping to find was the Grey-headed Honeyeater, which is only found here in the northern inland desert regions of our continent and occasionally on the NW coast. We were blessed to find a pair in the heat of the day near the Mutitjulu Waterhole, which was currently dried up. The brown background is the Rock itself.
I managed to catch one Grey-headed Honeyeater eating lerps from the bottom of a leaf. The lerps can be seen as white crystalline sugary covering of the psyllid insect, which birds love and is one of the main foods for many birds, causing some species (such as the miners) to prevent other birds from accessing by patrolling particular feed trees using aggressive pack like gang behaviour toward other birds. This can eventually cause the death of eucalypt trees as miner birds mostly only harvest the lerps and not the psyllid insect, which other birds also eat, thus causing the tree eventually to be over-run by the insect and die. Pardalotes lessen the stress on our native plants by eating both lerps and psyllids, but these our tiniest birds, are easily driven away, injured and killed by the larger aggressive birds. Many These birds have developed a way of removing the lerps without removing the insect beneath.
Removing lerps from beneath gum leaf
Removing lerps from beneath gum leaf
It is not difficult to deduct our lesson for life from the above action of miners whether they be Yellow-throated, Noisy or Bell Miners, their aggressive controlling possessive behaviour ultimately causes the death of the very source of their food. This highlights the principle of what goes around comes around – a universal principle. Greed eventually consumes the greedy, and the selfish who exclude others and manipulate and cheat for their own gain. Those who follow this course in life will eventually be left alone excluded by others to die a lonely sad and shameful death. Jesus said it well:
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” – Mark 8:26 (NLT)
The antithesis of this behaviour is echoed again in Jesus words which he showed in his own life and death.
“Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” – John 12:25 (NLT)
This does not mean we have to hate ourselves, it means that there is more to life than us, there are others who need to live also who need love, sometimes more than we do.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” – Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
Have a wonderful week! We are so glad to get rain for a few days, even if winter has returned which will be good for Spring nesting.
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I was greatly blessed to receive a very extensive review of my new book “What Birds Teach Us” in a post by Jen an American blogger who purchased my book here online recently: “Birds, Blooms and all things Beautiful”
You might like read it (click on link above) and also read more reviews and information and purchase your copy through the security of PayPal on my BirdBook page.