Autumn with the changing season brings with it beautiful birding weather, and an opportunity for my wife and I to have a birding date. Last Friday we drove off to Bushell’s Lagoon, north of Sydney, a birder’s delight, which has been a good provider of interesting birds over the years. We went early hoping to see flocks of waterbirds and see many passerine species. Set in the fertile Hawkesbury River flood plains surrounded by market gardens. To our surprise, when we arrived, the trees were almost birdless and the lagoon had become a lake after the recent heavy rain, but also devoid of birds. Compare the lagoon from late last year to now…
It was good to see it refreshed and the blue-green algae gone. However, there was just too much water for waterbirds to feed, so they had moved on for a spell. Our first encounter was a small family of Australian Black Swan. The fact that they had only one surviving signet indicates that the several species of raptor that hunt over these wetlands have reduced the brood, as this pair normally have a clutch of around 5 to 6 young.
These graceful birds gave a beautiful reflection in the still waters.
Swans feed mainly on water weed which they pull up from below the shallows. Watch the signet as it learns to feed, from copying the parent.
Yes, my lens is still waiting for parts, maybe the virus epidemic has infected it or at least had some affect on its delay! So again the photos are my wife’s work and the movies mine. You may remember the Australasian Bittern I posted here several times how this super-sleuth moved through the reeds right next to us. Now those reeds have died off and have been swamped, so there would be no way a Bittern in its right mind would be found here. This is how it previously looked.
Here is the same space now…
The other waterbird which is usually seen in large flocks was a pair of Pink-eared Ducks. The male is largest in size and has a more profound pink marking on the ear. There is usually alarge flock moving about this area, but not at the moment. The photos were taken some distance from the birds. As explained in my recent blog post on Australian ducks, the Pink-eared (or Zebra Duck) filters the water with its purpose designed shovel-like bill for tiny marine creatures.
One passerine that featured the whole time we were there was the Willy Wagtail. This brave and feisty little bird was singing its heart out the whole with its melodious song the whole time we were there. This is often the first bird we see and hear on each birding trip anywhere in Australia. This little fan-tailed flycatcher has a white line above the eye which changes in intensity and visibility depending on the emotional state of the bird. The more anxious the more white is seen.
So this is what a small part of what was encountered on our walk along the lagoon track. A female Superb Fairy-wren, an Australasian Swamphen, the sound of the Willy Wagtail constantly calling and an Australian Reed-warbler.
Another passerine not seen here for a while, was a pair of Sacred Kingfisher looking beautiful in the sunlight.
Here are a few shots of this bright and beautiful bird in flight as it flew to its mate (movie stills).
Another bird that welcomes us everywhere we go of course is the Welcome Swallow.
Not finding much else, we made out way to Windsor for coffee and cake and shared crumbs with a Magpie pair who came inches from my feet. It was interesting when I experimented with the male, by pointing to a particular spot behind the table, it immediately ran to it and waited as if for more instruction. I was intrigued that it did not look around for food as other birds do, thinking I had thrown something.
Magpies are known to point using their whole body to inform their clan of danger or an intruder. Our next venture was to drive to Pitt Town Lagoon, another key waterbird haven nearby, which has also been filled after drought, and guess what?…
It proved to be even more birdless than Bushell’s. So we left and had fishnchips at our usual place in Windsor. As we made our way home my wife spotted a Nankeen Kestrel (one of the smallest falcons /raptors) on an electrical wire, just sitting quietly. It looked to be a female with its rufous head cap and tail. These raptors do not rely on speed to catch their prey, but have a hovering technique which I explain in more detail in my book “What Birds Teach Us.” which is soon to be republished in its 2nd Edition.
Autumn is known to have a change in bird numbers in particular passerines, but it was a surprise to see so few waterbirds. Despite this we both had an enjoyable day together on our birding date ending the day with an attitude of gratitude for the lovely weather and the birds we did see. Disappointment comes as a result of unfulfilled expectations. Each time we go out we ask “Father, what special gift have you got for us today.” Quoting the famous words of Forest Gump “You don’t know what you will get.” This is the element that makes birding so exciting, since birds can fly and move about, and flocks can move overnight. Unexpected visitors or migrants may pass through and rest awhile in places they are not normally seen.
A positive thankful attitude is actually healthy and strengthens the immune system, relieves stress and settles the heart rate and blood pressure. It has been found that prayer and trust to a higher being has an even more profound result. This can be particularly relevant at the moment with this contagious virus on the loose, with many anxious, afraid and panic buying, having to cue for hours to wait for the next shipment of toilet paper and tissues to arrive. There is One who has authority over all that is happening to us at this moment. God has not lost control as some think, even though our country has experienced devastating drought, then fires, then floods and now virus. He says over 360 times in the Bible: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”. Someone once wrote from their deep faith and trust in God, where interestingly enough, God is depicted as a great protective bird, possibly an eagle:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter [those who seek to do you harm – terrorist?]
and from the deadly pestilence [disease such as CORVID-19?].
He shall cover you with His feathers [ his peace and security],
and under His wings you shall find protection;
His faithfulness shall be your shield and wall.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day;
nor of the pestilence that pursues in darkness,
nor of the destruction that strikes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
but it shall not come near you.” – Psalm 91:1-7 (NEV)
My wife and I have found there is an unsurpassed peace and rest when we press into God, trusting him at his word even when life does not seem to make sense in the midst of the storm.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
If you are interested in exploring this further, and learn more of what Jesus taught from the birds, visit my Birder Sanctuary page.
Have a wonderful week and stay safe! The book is finally at the printers.
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not explore my birding website via the HomePage which has had a recent face lift with some additional pages and changes in preparation for the next book release. Learn about the value of installing a Birdbath.
A new Young Birders Page will be available soon targetting 8 to 12 year olds and will have a special place where they can learn about our birds. If you would like to preview it you may, and if you know children who might be interested tell them. This will be geared toward my schools presentations and book sales.
Birding for Beginners is now a more complete compilation of my birding hints and instruction, in one place. It might be worth an explore if you have not explored before.
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.