As we globally enter the season of social distancing and voluntary isolation, life as we have known it has changed. Thankfully, we do have our National Parks and Reserves to escape to, to bring healing and some normalization to our lives at this uncertain time in history. Though this also could change in the coming days. My wife and I continue to escape when we can to these havens. Last week we visited Dolls Point to see how our wader friends the Bar-tailed Godwit are doing, as they eat incessantly to fatten themselves for the journey north, which I thought they may have already flown. But with the warm weather remaining longer, they may leave in the next week or two.
As you can see they are at various stages of breeding plumage, with the male in this clan brightest orange and the females now showing a much fainter orange. There are also some not showing any breeding plumage which may be immature.
This Godwit below is possibly a female, showing the lighter breeding plumage. The females are also slightly larger and have slightly longer beaks.
A small company of Light-blue Soldier Crabs marched across the mudflats.
As we watched the Godwits to our surprise my wife noticed this small bright green object, which stood out like a sore thumb on the sand. We knew it was a native bird of our country, and suspected it to be an escaped pet as Green Parakeets are American birds. It appeared quite tame and came right up to us, but was not in any distress, but just rested on the sand with other birds nearby.
One think I have learnt as a birder over the years is that birds of the Parrot family as pretty and innocent as they look, are not to be reckoned with lightly by other bird species. They have one of the most painful bites. Even the Noisy Miner gives respect to the Rainbow Lorikeet here in Sydney. Watch how this much larger Silver Gull responds when he approaches this lovely little Parakeet.
Well if you think that this was an unexpected find, so was the much larger bird resting on the shoreline which caught our attention. Yes, it was a Kelp Gull, a bird we seldom see here on our beaches. The lipstick bottom beak identifies and differentiates it from the total lipstick beak of the almost identical Pacific Gull found in southern Australia.
On Sunday afternoon we walked in our local Royal National Park (or Nasho to the locals) , and found not only sparsity of people but also of birds. It was so quiet, as I kept saying to my wife, “It is so quiet! Autumn is usually quiet, but this is too quiet!” As we walked the streams, creeks and waterfalls were all flowing, which was a wonderful sound we have not experienced for a long time. As searched for the Azure Kingfisher beside the river we were greeted by a family of Pacific Black Duck, which are actually brown, not black as named. Yes, these are my wife’s pics, as I continue to wait from my lens repair.
This Dusky Moorhen stood by the water flicking its tail, a feature of some waterbirds, including the Australasian Swamphen. There are several ideas as to why they flick their tail of which I find too diverse to settle on one. We do know it communicates to other birds of the species, some say it may mean a warning or even intention to mate among other suggested reasons… mmm!
Soon after a young pair of Australian Wood Duck were strolling by the river eating grass seed, as this is what many grazing ducks and other passerines are eating at the end of Summer as the seasons change. Also, on this occasion the Kingfisher eluded us and flew some distance down the river.
As we walked quietly along the trail we were surprised there were no scratchings of the Lyrebird, nor any sounds of them. Since the months of smoke from bushfires I have not seen or heard them. It is disconcerting, as at this time of year the male will be preparing his mound and beginning to display for the females and mate, as Lyrebirds nest during the winter, unlike most birds. Suddenly, we heard a chattering nearby. It was a single Red-browed Finch, a fast moving little a seed eater.
I had to slow down this video clip so you could see him.
At this time of year there are the least number of nectar producing wildflowers, which means less birds, as most honeyeaters follow the blossom. Even the Banksia were all finished, and as Mountain Devil is not usually seen in the park, the Bush Fuchsiar flower was present in small numbers, which provided food for the non migratory Noisy Miner, which many find hard to believe it is actually a honeyeater, so here is the proof.
The tingling of the Eastern Crimson Rosella also caught our ear as it proceeded to feed from native berries above our head. On seeing us of course it tried to make itself unseen.
Another unexpected surprise for this time of year was to see a juvenile Black-faced Monarch. These birds usually migrate north to New Guinea and Northern Queensland during our winter months, so this one, born here in the park has not yet left. So we knew the parent was nearby. We saw the parent but it eluded any decent photo. The immature Monarch has much less black on its face. As it matures so the black increases. I slowed down the video so you could see its face before it flew. They are very shy birds, and don’t like their photo taken.
Here you can compare the juvenile and immature with the adult bird. There bright orange underbelly makes them easy to spot. These birds have a beautiful song which often makes them easy to find, but they were not chiming on this occasion.
Last of all as we turned to return to our car, my wife saw this Red-bellied Black Snake slithering away beside us on the trail. These are venomous but usually a shy snake,and and seldom cause any problem. They are the most common snake seen in the Sydney area. Unlike other more aggressive venomous snakes, Red-bellies do not need to hibernate through the Winter months. Often to the surprise of many international visitors to the Nasho they can be seen basking in the warm winter sun on the trial. If you approach stamping your feet, usually they will slither into the grass, as they have very poor eyesight and like most snakes have sensory devices on their body to detect ground vibrations. If they stand erect and challenge you, it is usually because they have young with them or you are standing between them and their nest, so just leave.
To top off the walk and having asked God to show us something special in the quiet forest, my wife potted a large entwined object hanging far out over the river, from a dead tree. It was a large Diamond Python, a beautiful harmless snake which many Aussies have as a pet. They are excellent mousers and ratters, far more effective than cats. Though my son’s little Toy Foxy dog was also better than cats as a mouser. It just slept in the afternoon sun, away from any contact. It must have heard the Prime Minister’s speech about practicing social distancing.
One of the important lessons from this virus plague is that it stops us in our busy tracks to consider how we are doing life, and how we might do things better. As from our two outings above, things were different, some were unexpected intrusions or inclusions. How we view change affects our emotional and physical well being considerably. The uncertainty of the untraveled path we are all travelling causes some anxiety for many, but one thing which I have come to know and believe over the years is that there is a Treasure in every Trial to be gleaned out. So I often say to those who ask for help: Don’t Miss the Treasure in the Trial. God may speak to us through our times of suffering and difficulty, and sometimes it is just a nudge to tell us he is there for us so just trust him and lean on him to take you through it. Unexpected change can bring good things into our lives also, we need to be looking for them with an attitude of gratitude as we all take notes in the Master Life Instructor’s school room of life.
Enjoy the rest of your week and stay safe as best you can.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.