Last week the Spring rains arrived bringing some reprieve to the long drought for coastal inhabitants. My wife and I decided to have a date and visit Bushell’s Lagoon and afterwards have fishnchips at Windsor. On arrival there were already several keen birders present looking for recent sightings of Latham’s Snipe and Baillon’s Crake. While the Snipe was not seen anywhere, the Crake was briefly, but eluded my camera, due to its very shy nature. Being Spring, the Australian Reed-Warbler’s were once again calling in the reeds which during the Winter months lay silent. They were all busily darting about, hunting for nesting material or food.
When the nest is established the Reed-Warbler become more invisible as they call from deep down among the new reed growth and only occasionally dart back and forth to nearby trees to procure food for the nest. The bird photographer waits patiently near the sound of their call for that special moment when they rise and clinging to a reed call to nearby Warblers.
The reason we hear them in Spring is similar to many other birds such as the Golden Whistler. When they find a mate and are nest building and raising a new clutch together, they become continuously very loud and vocal, calling to warn other Reed-Warblers that this is their territory and to stay clear of their nest. Another sign of Spring was this pair of Cattle Egret starting to gain its orange breeding plumage (rear bird).
This is their young 1st year Cattle Egret from the previous breeding season, note dark remaining markings on beak and neck.
immature Cattle Egret
The highlight of our visit was also to see the small flock of the very shy Yellow-billed Spoonbill of which we saw two grazing with a couple of Royal Spoonbill some distance across the lake.
Yellow-billed Spoonbill with Australian Swamphen
Yellow-billed Spoonbill with Australian Swamphen
There was some commotion in a nearby eucalypt tree when this tiny White-plumed Honeyeater was attacking a lone much larger Noisy Friarbird. Honeyeaters can be aggressive when competing for nectar, but in this case it may be that their is a nest nearby to protect.
Noisy Friarbird under attack
We later got much better shots of the Noisy Friarbird feeding on eucalypt blossom.
We did not see many Egrets there this visit as we usually see many, they and many other birds flew off when they sighted the Black-shouldered Kite hovering overhead. It was a treat watching it hover over its prey and slowly drop down to lower levels of hover.
Sadly my video was too jerky for viewing, so I have added a previous clip.
We of course saw the usual White-faced Heron, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-necked Heron and Laughing Kookaburra, all one their own.
There were sleeping Australian Pelican and Grey Teal in their flock groups, with sleeping Roayal Spoonbill among them.
We were delighted to find three Black-fronted Dotterel wandering about near the market garden. Our findings were a little disappointing, but it was good for us to get out and about together after a rainy week and have time out. Birding is good for getting you outside to catch a breath of fresh air and a bit of a walk, and for this we were thankful. My wife was also thankful for fishnchips and a walk through Windsor’s plaza area at all the unusual tourist shops, where she replenished our scented candles.
While I am still unemployed, and continue to get treatment for my heart condition, it has been a challenge for both my wife and I. However, God in his goodness and kindness has inspired me to use this time at home to not only be a house husband and take the load off my busy working wife, but to also write books. As many of you know, I have finished my second book ‘Flight of a Fledgling’ which is in final stages of proof-reading . However, I have been also working on a much improved and larger 2nd Edition of my first book,‘What Birds Teach Us’, which is currently approaching its the finishing stages. I am hoping to them publish together. There has been a call to me from educators and counselors to produce a book that will help our youth in schools with the current issues they face. In response several additional birds have been added as well as more improved photos and a more attractive design. I will keep you posted, and it will be available here online also. My first book is almost sold out of print and will become unavailable very soon. But you can still purchase it here online here.
It has been difficult at times to not get worried about not working to earn an income, especially with my wife still working. God has comforted me knowing that this book writing is an important part of my life legacy to future generations, and that this season in life is meant to be as it is. It is good to have the comfort and peace of knowing that this is part of his plan for us and not to panic and look at it through the world’s eyes, but keep focused on his good and perfect will.
“And we know that allthings work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is goodand well-pleasing andperfect.” – Romans 12:2
“For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, nottoharm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NET)
Have a wonderful week, whatever you do live a long and enjoyable life by adopting an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’.
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.