One bird that is being seen each year in decreasing numbers is the Pardolote, in particular the Spotted Pardolote. It is one of Australia’s smallest birds and resembles a gum leaf, having the body shape and the size, making it difficult to detect when feeding in the dark canopy high in a eucalypt tree. It feeds mainly on insects and Lerps. Because it feeds also on the Psyllid larvae as well as the Lerps (which is very sought after bird candy covering of the Psyllid larvae) it is attacked brutally and often killed by larger more aggressive birds, in particular the Bell and Noisy Miners.
Bell MIner eating Lerps from a gum leaf. Notice the brown spots where the leaf has died due to the Psyllid larvae.
This is because the Miners are known to harvest Lerps as a family industry, preserving the larvae to produce more Lerps. They have coalitions of police Miners to mark their territory to harass and attack intruders, thus keeping the Lerps and other foods to themselves. Sadly because the Miners have learnt to lick the lerps and leave the Larvae, eucalypt trees can suffer stress and even die due to excessive guarding by Miners.
The Spotted Pardolote numbers are reducing each year as a result of bird aggression towards them, and their nesting holes being destroyed. Since they nest in soil embankments, making small tunnels which they fly into and out of, they sometimes build nests in soil piled at construction sites which later gets moved or used, thus destroying their nest, and sometimes both birds.
Here is a recent slideshow video honoring this amazing little bird. Enjoy:
Don’t miss out on the Book Launch offer while it is still on. Thank you to those both in Australia and overseas who have already purchased the 2nd Edition. If you want to know about the book “What Birds Teach Us” click here. If you want to take advantage of the special Book Launch Offer (only for a short time) click here.
Stay Safe and enjoy any opportunity to get out and about that you can to stay sane.
My Mission: To encourage young people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
White-throated Treecreeper quietly creeping up the tree
As we move into lock down and the new terms self isolation and social distancing now become part of our vocab, as well as the latest catchphrase: ” Stay Safe!”, like Leut. James Cook, we chart and map new waters and places we have not been to before in this pandemic plague. Since midnight we are now discouraged strongly from venturing out into our local national parks, which are now closed with staff forced to take leave, so this post comes from my wife and I last Friday, where we socially distanced alone in the forest of our local Nasho (i.e. Royal National Park).
Of course from today this is now changed, and many of us are figuring out how to navigate the coming weeks with the government’s imposed changes. This will have some impact on birders and birding blogs. Thankfully this is a time of year when bird numbers and species are fewer in our area. It may mean for some, photographing the birds they can see from their homes, such as these Kookaburras who called on the TV areal next door for the first time ever, having been chased by a coalition of Noisy Miner. Notice the aggression, finally they both left. Now I know why we never see them here anymore.
Last week I mentioned how my wife and I noticed the spooky quietness of an usually noisy bird filled forest as we walked together in the Nasho. However, returning a week later we discovered why. It was not that the birds were not there, they were just not singing or calling to one another, they were quiet, which is customary during non-breeding season for many honeyeaters and whistlers to mention but two. We found small pockets of birds at a time where very few native plants were flowering or fruiting. I spotted this White-browed Treecreeper climbing and foraging in the bark for insects and grubs. It is usual to hear its loud call as it ascends the eucalypt tree, but no sound was heard. Notice his bark flicking technique as burrows for insects and grubs.
You can see why this bird is difficult to see, and usually only detected by its call, so I did well to find it. My wife took the still shots, as my lens is still coming, like a lot of other things including life as we have known it, put on hold at present.
Here is an example of what this bird would normally sound like.
Walking further my wife spotted a male Golden Whistler, who usually sings his heart out while courting and nesting during Spring and Summer, but is now quiet, shy and difficult to find. His female partner turned up also, but she is not as timid, and as per usual, came close, landed and looked at us out of one eye, and left. Here is the male.
Here is the female. Notice as with many birds the mature adult male has the bright coloration, which is the hallmark of the species and the female the more earthy brown, green or grey plumage which affords protection when nesting, giving camouflage protection from would be predators.
As we walked we did hear the call of the Lewin’s Honeyeater which we always hear here, but did not see it. I noticed this tiny yellow object sitting high in an Angophora tree, near a hole, which is a classic of this tree used by cockies, lorikeets for nesting and owls for living. Usually this resident Eastern Yellow Robin would greet us as we passed by and sometimes follow or lead us along the track, but not today.
These unique holes form when the branch dies inside and falls, as the tree repairs itself. This tree known as the Sydney Red Gum has a nickname to the early European settlers as The Widow Maker because when the branch fell, there was no warning of it breaking, it just silently fell out of the hole, killing anyone below.
As we looked through the trees another silent inhabitant, the Eastern Water Dragon, was sun bathing in the warm afternoon sun over the river which follows our track.
We were hoping the Rufous Fantail had returned for Autumn, but no sign as yet. This is the palm forest we usually find them flitting about in.
As we returned, we noticed a flock of Australian Wood Duck, usually seen grazing on grass seed beside the Hacking River. They are very tame and carry on eating while we stand right next to them. These birds pair for life, and have the father assists the mother duck throughout nesting and fledging.
Our last observation was this small family of Magpie, dad, mum and the juvenile. Interesting there is only one this season, as this couple usually have two or three young. A human family are having fun playing together nearby as they social distance themselves, while a Magpie family help themselves to picnic leftovers. Notice the aggressive behaviour of the father to junior.
Magpies in small family groups tend to be successful breeders, as they hold their territory and do not have the complex social structure of the magpie clans that also exist. This magpie family have held this choice area for some years, which is a credit to the male. The next territory is about 100 meters away. Because the pickings are so good here, everyone appears to tolerate each other well.
The juvenile is still learning the craft of Magpie wisdom and would be a product of the last Spring. Most of the young of our large black or pied omnivorous birds have brown plumage with dark eyes and beak. They will undergo changes for the next 2 to 3 years to full black and white adult.
Juvenile Aust. Eastern Magpie
On a different note:
Silvereye trapped in netting (photo by Tony D’Abrera)
You may remember I quoted from Psalm 91 a couple of weeks ago, which Moses is attributed to writing: “Surely He shall deliver you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence…” The Fowler trapped and caught wild birds as an occupation, to sell or eat for food. My brother-in-law Tony in Canberra, showed me this photo of him holding a little Silvereye, which he had found entangled in the netting (seen in background) to protect his fruit tree from birds and bats.
A bird in the hand. You would think this bird was his pet. The bird does not look distressed. This bird was set free from being trapped, which is the direct opposite to that of the action of the Fowler or enemy that seeks to destroy our lives. This is the beautiful illustration of how God saves us, out of the enemies snare, and holds our life in the palm of his hand. Many at this time, in our current circumstances, are turning to Psalm 91 as an appropriate prayer of faith. Another beautiful aspect this photo depicts is how God:
“For I am the Lordyour God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…” – Psalm 139: 5,6
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” – Psalm 139: 9,10
This pandemic is an opportunity for many to pray and seek God, who is Love, and has taken the initiative to breach the broken relationship we each have with him by sending his son Jesus to suffer on our behalf, so that we can become his friends again and establish a relationship of peace and trust that enables us to have the hope and assurance that he is with us through this pandemic storm, as Moses declared in Psalm 91 when he describes God to be like a large bird, protecting its chicks under its wings.
Interesting as it is, Jesus referred to the obstinate and rebellious Jews of his day, who trusted in their own selfishness pride rather than in God’s saving power, as chicks:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34
There are at present, at this unprecedented time, more podcasts and online presentations by churches and people of faith than ever before in internet history. As we are confined to our homes there is time for us to take a break from our busy lives, reflect, contemplate and explore the meaning of life. You may like to explore my Birder Sanctuary Portal through which one can discover how Jesus, also a birdwatcher, used birds to relate aspects of faith for living the best life possible.
Enjoy your week as best you can. Stay Safe and Stay Sane!
This is now the second week that my camera and lens has been at the hospital having surgery and joint replacement, so this blog post will be quite different from the usual having all but the above picture photographed from my mobile phone (iphone 5s) whilst walking with my wife yesterday at Carss Bush Park near where we live. It was late afternoon, and the flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo were returning to the park, with loud raucous calls, as they do, to roost in the tall eucalypt trees for the night. At first we saw a small flock of Cockies grazing quite peacefully on the lawn by the path, and a huddle of Noisy Miner nearby, which seemed to be in planning mode.
Several of the Cockatoo flock, were standing a little away from the others, acquired our curiosity, as their behaviour seemed somewhat unusual.
It appeared that the main leader of the flock was having a conference with his peers, and Special Agent Noisy Miner was listening in to gain intelligence for his coalition assembled nearby. What could they possibly be discussing with such serious concern?
Nearby two members of the flock were having a stand off which may have precipitated from a disagreement concerning opinions as to how to address their concerns. Note the Noisy Miner again trying to be covert in the background.
A brief scuttle broke out between a pair of teenagers who wanted to assert their authority and deal with the problem their own way.
A Cocky expert was flown in to give advice on this unusual occurrence that had befallen the flock.
They formed a huddle around him as he shared his wisdom and then out of the corner of her binoculars my wife sighted the reason for the unusual concern, as you can see from the above photograph(top right). A lone Long-billed Corella had joined their flock, and has caused concern, as it looks and behaves quite different to them and has yet not learnt their language. Notice there are now two Miner agents listening in, as interest mounts.
It soon became clear of the centre of interest as the Cockies gathered in a circle around the Corella, watching it with concern and curiosity. They were thinking: ‘It looks like us but is different, and Oh, that bill is so long and dangerous, I would not want to have that in my back’. The Corella showed some concern but continued graizing. Corella, like most birds of the Parrot family pair for life but when they loose their partner through death or separation from a flock they often find safety by joining another flock. However, these Cockatoos are quite familiar with the Little Corella which is often found grazing with them in the Sydney area, but not this Long-billed species. Note the key differences, the longer bill and the pink under chin of the Long-billed species.
A LIttle Corella pair
A Long-billed Corella pair
The Corella is actually a small Cockatoo and therefore would find some companionship with them. This is the reason most birds from the Parrot family in Australia can be taught to talk, as this ability to copy and pick up language is a survival technique for birds such as these, on joining a different flock, where they find safety in the flock. This is especially important as many of our parrot species inhabit dry desert places, where finding water and food often requires a group effort. Finches are likewise arid dwellers who do the same.
The flock were unperturbed by my slow approach to get a closer look. My wife stood back as passersby were amazed at how close these birds allowed me to come to them without stirring. The lonely little Long-bill looked at me, also curious, as the Cockies kept a distance from it.
Bare in mind that most birds no matter how aggressive, including Noisy Miners do not usually attack birds of the Parrot family due the wound they can inflict with their heavy sharp beak, so they like Rainbow Lorikeets (featured last week) have few predators and feed alongside the Noisy Miner. They are also aware that these birds are not carnivorous. Oh! Look! the Secret Agents have reported back to the Noisy Miner coalition (this is the name for highly organised Miner squadron which protect the perimeter of their flock territory). Now the coalition has taken interest in the new visitor, carefully advancing and observing intently, till they are satisfied it offered no threat.
The conclusion appeared to be now settled as the alpha Cocky approached the foreigner and greeted it, welcoming it to the flock. He was accepted as one of them, as he chose to join them and trust them. therefore posing no threat. He now would become a special point of interest, whereby they may learn from this bird new lessons that may be helpful for the flock. Now everyone could take it easy and get on with a peaceful life together.
We can learn so much about life from this little flock as we live in our multicultural world and are confronted with people living and moving about us from many different countries and cultures other than our own. When alone in a foreign land among foreign people, of a different language and culture it can be very scary at first, as it is for the many single young adults who come to Australia to find work. They would feel like our Long-billed Corella, somewhat out of place. Looking for that smile and warm acceptance and respect we all crave for more than anything else throughout our lives. Each one of our human kind, are loved and valued by our Creator. Each one of us requires acceptance, unconditional love, and respect to live a healthy life, regardless of our differences. As the alpha Cockie realised, the multicultural aspect brings with it new knowledge, new foods and new friends. Our Creator Father reminded Israel many times, who were often very prejudiced against non-Jews, calling them Gentile dogs, the reason they need to consider how they treat foreigners in their land, for they had previously experienced it themselves:
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Exodus 23:9 (NIV)
It is an interesting read in Luke 4:24-30 to see the anger that arose among the Jewish leaders when Jesus the Christ made reference to several occasions in their history where God had blessed foreigners and included them as key players in his plans rather than Jews, so much so that they tried to kill him. Jesus identified the fact that God loves us all and blesses all who come to him.
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Also after Jesus healed TEN men (see Luke 17) from the terrible infectious disease Leprosy when they approached him for healing (which was both illegal and punishable to do at that time, as they were always to stay outside the city), after healing them, this was his comment to the Jewish leaders watching him when ONLY ONE returned to thank him:
“Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:18
Have a wonderful week! It is so good to get cooler days and rain again! We give thanks to our Most Gracious Creator for his mercy at this time, for answered prayers. Several major fires have finally been extinguished. There is much cleaning up to be done, and much of our wildlife that have escaped the fires are being supported with human assistance for survival as they face starvation due to lost habitat and their injuries are being nursed. We give thanks for caring people involved in their many different capacities.
My 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us” is at the test print stage after final draft was approved yesterday. Check it out here.
If this is your first visit check out therest of my website at my HomePage menu for birding info and lessons we can learn from our beautiful Australian birds
A Rainbow Lorikeet guarding its nest in a hollow of an Angophora costata tree.
This week I will do a character study on one of Australia’s most colorful and popular birds, which people who visit Australia love to lay eyes on, the Rainbow Lorikeet. As my camera lens was wounded due to a fall, it is to receive medical attention, so I apologize for the lack of clarity with some of these photos. This bird is one of our most excited and numerous of the Parrot family often found alongside the larger and raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo warding off a stranger (me) as it guards its nest
Both birds are found down the east coast of Australia’s mainland and are often heard before seen. Both birds share the same kind of nesting tree, the Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum) found in large numbers along the coast.
Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum)
These birds bite out pieces of the dead wood where the tree branch has broken away, leaving a hole, to make a nest. The Angothora tree is a beautiful unique work of art, often called an artists delight due to its unusual branch structure and beautiful orange/pink coloration. It was also is known as the widow maker in days past, as it drops branches silently and without warning causing many casualties. This time of year they shed their bark and remain lighter colored till they regrow a new exterior.
watching from the nesting hole
warding off potential threat
The Rainbow, as we call it, we hear every morning chattering and calling with its high pitched noisy communication as they feed from our Bottlebrush flowers. They’re favorite foods pollen are nectar from native flowers, as well as insects, fruits as well as their bird candylerps and psyllids, which most of our small passerines also enjoy.
Have a careful look at this footage and notice how the Lorikeet uses its tongue to extract food from the nectar rich Endeavour Bottlebrush
As many of you will already know from reading my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’, Rainbows mate for life, and if you see them they will almost always be in pairs, excitedly flying at great speed together, calling to each other, and maneuvering with themselves in amazing accuracy. If a partner dies there is a grieving process similar to our own, and most sad to watch. They will go and fly with a flock.
Similar to the Cockatoo, these birds despite their size, are respected by all other birds, even the ultra aggressive Noisy Miner, as the Rainbows can inflict a serious injury if they are messed with due to their very strong sharp beak. Their vulnerability to raptors and their nestlings to Kookaburras and Currawong are their major points of concern. Nesting close to Cockatoos can be an advantage due to the group evasive action of the Cockies when danger approaches. The Cockatoo crest is a physical indication of the bird’s emotional state at the time. When the bird becomes excited or alarmed it will raise it and when it is resting or sick will flatten it.
Gaurding the nest after the alarm is sounded
Listen to the noisy chatter of a small flock feeding. They have dominance wherever they go when in flock.
There are two distinct subspecies or races [some call the Red-collared Lorikeet (race rubritorquis) a separate species rather than subspecies]. The Red-collared subspecies is only found far north in the states of WA and NT, having a distinct red collar, unlike the green of the east coast Rainbow (race moluccanus). We always love looking for the Red-collared when in Broome, WA.
The juvenile Lorikeet looks much the same as the adult except that it has a dark beak, dark eye and less red on its chest, as seen below with its adult parent.
juvenile with adult
The immature still has slight traces of its juvenile features as it approaches breeding maturity and the bright red beak.
One of the things i love about this bird, as with other Parrot species, in particular the Little Corella, is the affection and companionship exhibited between the devoted pair.
This is one bird, like the Cockatoo, that has survived the fires, due to their widespread location and their abundance, however many may have been lost due to the many who would have been caught nesting, as Spring and Summer are the nesting times. The sad thing is that many birds born this season may have been lost due to fires marking a considerable short fall in new bird numbers this year. Watch and hear some live footage of these birds happily feeding.
Here are a few flight shots I managed to capture at high speed.
If you would like to check out my new book releases for this year click here.
If this is your first visit to my blog, check out the rest of my birding website from my Home Page. I post a weekly blog which you can follow (see Follow button at top of page). Also check out my coming book releases. You can still purchase the book referred to in this post, there are a few left for purchase on this website only.
Lastly, consider these shots of the parent guarding its nest which is deep inside the dead portion of an Angophora tree, trying to ascertain my purpose in observing it. We were just about ten feet away enjoying our Australia Day breakfast with church friends, no one else appeared to notice this colourful head emerging and then disappearing into the hole in the nearby tree.
Notice the head tilt which is common with birds of monocular vision allowing them to observe food or in this case possible raptor overhead with one eye positioned. Birds also have a very acute hearing which allows some species to hear grubs and bugs moving below the surface of the soil, which is useful when they are on the ground dining. We saw this recently with our Magpie.
The Rainbow Lorikeet keeps watch over its young, sharing the role with its lifetime partner (not pictured here). This is why these birds survive and breed so well, they are a team and they work together to achieve their goal. The male will be responsible to train and protect the fledgling when it emerges. As a family they will fly together in constant communication as they excitedly feed and chatter to one another. In a good functional family environment, good communication is most important, It is through the words and actions of the parents that children learn how to live, feel safe, loved and cared for. It is how we learn the skills of life and understand who we are. It is important to add that it is not the words alone but the attitude with which they are transmitted that has the greatest affect on the positive growth and maturity of the hearer.
‘Letlove and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.’ – Proverbs 3:3
This my last post for the year as we approach Christmas and the New Year, and it all occurred recently one afternoon and was filmed from my front yard up into a huge eucalypt tree several hundred meters down the street. Every Spring the Channel-billed Cuckoo arrive here to lay their eggs and plant them in the nests of unsuspecting native Australian birds to be raised by surrogate parents. The Eastern Koel is another cuckoo which does likewise. They usually target our larger black birds such as the Currawong, Magpie and Raven but they have been known to even do it to a tiny Fairy-wren. Below is a photo of a Pied Currawong raising a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo. Currawongs are the cuckoos easiest choice, as they are more likely to leave their next unattended and tend to be more loners, as their social structure is not as complex and community minded as that of the more intelligent Magpie and Raven. This juvenile is ready to fly away with its father which has come to collect it, and is waiting in a tree nearby, watching.
Pied Currawong caring for a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo
This is what a young juvenile looks like as it awaits feeding. Notice it has brown and rufous plumage and does not yet have the bright red eye.
Here is a flight shot of a mature adult.
We know Christmas is coming when we hear the raucous call of these birds each day as they are chased by all manner of birds, especially Magpies and Noisy Miners, which are wise to their game. The former to prevent them approaching the nest to drop its egg in, and the latter who see them as a threat to their babies safety, as they will eat baby birds, though native fruit is their main food. These birds have the nickname The Rainbird as it marks the beginning of the wet season when you hear their call. In early Autumn they make their way back northward to New Guinea and Indonesia with their young in tow, to enjoy the warmer winter.
Now back to my photo series which I shot as a coalition of Noisy Miners attacked this adult pair of Channel-billed Cuckoo that have made our local area their territory, having tried many times to plant their eggs. See how the Miners continue attacking, till they eventually fly off to another area. It was very windy and smoky and white skied when these were taken, thus impairing quality.
Channel-billed Cuckoo pair under attack
Channel-billed Cuckoo being mobbed in the Miners mobbing tree
That is all I have this week as I have just been called today to go into hospital tomorrow for a cardiac ablation, which was unexpected, and suddenly slotted into tomorrow. I will be out of action for a few days, and wont know any details till afterwards. Please pray my dear friends for a good outcome, and for the surgeon. I trust the Lord will be with me throughout the event, and his angels will watch over me.
Praying you all have a wonderful, enjoyable Christmas and New Year! Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that it was God’s great love for us that caused him to come to earth as a man.
“For Godsoloved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the Son’s of Men might become Son’s of God.
“Yet to all who did receive him, tothose who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12
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.”