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.
This week our attention is drawn to a very colorful bird which many of my followers adore seeing on my blog, the Rainbow Lorikeet, or Rainbows to the locals, a bird we hear daily in small flocks calling to each other in excited raucous communication, feeding from the nectar rich flowers of our Endeavor Bottlebrush tree in our courtyard just outside the back door. This a very old tree and is covered in blooms most of the year. If you want to attract native bird, plant native flowering bushes such as Grevillea, Bottlebrush and Banksia. Thousands of these birds are common and live around the Sydney area and while they are easy to photograph feeding, they are such rapid flyers it is a challenge to get a decent flight shot as can be seen above.
They nest in the hollows of the Angophora costata or Sydney Red Gum, competing with the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, also in great numbers for the same holes. They do nest in eucalypt trees also if they find a hole. I have seen these birds using their strong beaks to chip away at tree holes to make nest with the lady looking on. These two birds and the Noisy Miner make up the most numerous birds around the east coast Sydney region. They guard their nest from attacks of Kookaburras and Butcherbirds that do the rounds when the nest is not guarded. Both are devoted parents, as do other omnivorous birds.
guarding nest from possible threat
watching the nest
Checking the nest
guarding the nest
nest on Angophora tree
The Noisy Miner is an extremely bold and aggressive native honeyeater which gains control of whole areas and trees by using the ‘pack method’. One or two birds start harassing and physically attacking an intruder to their territory and put out the call for help. Immediately many Noisy Miner will fly directly to the cause, and assist driving the intruder out with continual biting attacks to the unwitting victim. They particularly pick on weaker honeyeaters and pardalotes that also enjoy eating nectar, flowers and lerps. It is the sweet sugary lerps that miners (both Noisy and Bell) relish and harvest. Unlike Miners, Lorikeets and Cockatoo have beaks designed for eating seed, which they extract from seed cones on native Banksia and Casuarina trees.
Extracting seed from a native Casuarina tree
Each different species of eucalypt has its own different specie of lerp producing psyllid. I have shown in previous posts birds licking lerps from the back of eucalypt leaves. Interesting enough, while Noisy Miners have been seen chasing in flock cats, dogs, massive eagles, large meat eating birds able to eat miners and even humans, they do not bother the Rainbow Lorikeet. It appears there seems to be a sort of agreement between them, as I watch them feeding from the same Bottlebrush, both calling to their mates but both sharing the same flowers in turn without aggression. I have read that Rainbows in flock together also can be quite aggressive to Miners and inflict a more savage wound than the miner due to their much stronger hooked parrot beak.
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on Lilly Pilly fruit
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
Noisy Miner feeding on Bottlebrush
One of the features I highlight in my book “What Birds Teach Us” about Rainbows is the fact that they mate with one partner for life. It is almost impossible to tell the male from the female except the male may be slightly larger. It is one of the saddest things to observe when one of the pair is dead by the roadside and the other trying to get it moving. They grieve long and deep. So it is you seldom see one bird but two or three (one being a juvenile). You will see them in small flocks moving from tree to tree, though you usually hear their loud chatter before you see them. They often are hidden in the colorful flowers they feed from. I have sold several copies of the first of the next series as a canvas print and have one on the wall at home. See how they preen and care for each other as true devoted lovers.
My wife and I were concerned a couple of months ago when for several weeks we neither saw nor heard a Rainbow. After some thought, and a search in my field guides I realised that they were all nesting at the same time, well away from our home, usually in the Reserves and National Parks around Sydney where the nesting trees are found. Almost at the same time last month they started appearing and their welcome excited feeding frenzy chatter was heard once more. You might remember the juvenile bird I photographed a few weeks ago with its parent as the feature photo in my post The Mindfulness of Birding.
Notice the juvenile features of dark beak, eye and reduced orange vest.
To give you a good Rainbow experience after recent rain (hey! isn’t that when you see after rain, rainbows?) I will share this video of one feeding only a meter or two from me on the back step. They get so into it that they often don’t notice you as long as you remain perfectly still. Listen to the chatter, the continuous communication from one mate to another, each knowing the voice of the other over the other birds. This again is one of the neurological wonders of our Aussie parrot species, their ability to learn language, even human, as those with domesticated Australian Budgies and Cockatoos already know. They can adapt to different flock languages with this ability which may save their lives in difficult climatic and physical threats.
We can learn that faithfulness in relationship is a very important trait. Sharing and caring together is what God intended for man and woman in a loving and trusting relationship. From this may come offspring, harmonizing and concreting that love into tangible expressions, that will hopefully continue to propagate and grow that same love in the generations that follow. The parent, the child’s most influential person, is the primary mentor, exhibiting through their own loving example between parent and parent.
Birds of a feather
As family counselors teach:
Parents, if you want your child to grow up with healthy self esteem with loving caring affection and a trust worthy obedient spirit, simply and honestly love each other and they will learn from your example and mimic the same, it is not so much what you say that is important, though positive and loving words certainly are, but even more important, is what you do by example in their presence and hearing. The old saying is ‘it is seldom taught, than caught’ or ‘Seldom telt, than felt.‘ (Older English). Children are sponges looking to those who know how to live, so that they to can learn the same, just as birds do. Good parent mentoring coupled to a trusting, obedient child brings blessing to both.
“Grandchildren are like a crown to the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents.” – Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)
“The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him.” – Proverbs 20:7
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” – Proverbs 14:26
“A new commandment I give to you, that you loveone another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” – John 13:24
Have a wonderful week! I seem to be slowly on the mend. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes, it is heartening and encouraging that you my dear blogging friends express your concern and care for my health.