To celebrate my recent birthday, my wife and I spent a weekend at Serenity Diamond Beach resort nearby my daughter and family. The resort fronts onto the pristine Diamond Beach and backs onto Khappinghat Nature Reserve where we would walk early morning and late afternoon to take in the many bird sounds and bird activity in the reserve at the rear of the resort grounds. Birders know these times as the morning and evening chorus being the best time to go bird watching, as birds are in their largest number feeding and calling, and much easier to spot.
The prominent bird feeding on the native flowers was the White-cheeked Honeyeater, a bird I had never seen in such abundance in one place. We could hear the chatter of the birds calling to one another in small feeding flocks. I love this little guy preening and calling in the clip below, making sure he does not miss out on being in the conversation.
This honeyeater looks very similar to its New Holland Honeyeater cousin, except for its white-cheeks, and also resides mostly in the coastal forests and scrubland of the east coast of NSW and Victoria, though there is a race also in the far south west WA. My wife was delighted when she spotted this immature White-cheeked Honeyeater resting alone and watching its relatives busily feeding and calling to one another. You will notice the white cheeks are still developing. Click on photos to enlarge them.
White-cheeked Honeyeater immature
White-cheeked Honeyeater adult
The occasional sound of the Eastern Whipbird was heard, at first we searched in the scrub as this is mostly an elusive ground feeding bird but when we could not find him there, my wife spotted him high in the eucalypt tree I was standing beneath.
Latest research has suggested that birds get a high (endorphin hit) from singing their songs, and one could believe this if they were standing where we were in the early morning. This Superb Fairy-wren male joined the chorus with his high pitched call which was much quieter than the other surrounding birds.
This Red-browed Finch was too busy feeding on this length of grass seed to join in the chorus.
Being Spring the sound of the Olive-backed Oriole could be heard and spotted calling also. This Summer immigrant is usually easily spotted when it calls as it is usually hidden in thick under canopy.
One of the common honeyeaters of the coast here, the Little Wattlebird were also seen, though I did not record any of their sound on this occasion.
One of my favorite bird calls is that of the Pied Butcherbird which is found on the north coast, we only have the Grey Butcherbird, which has a joyful laughing call making me smile when I here it each morning. The Pied has a more melodious chiming call.
We were immediately on alert with camera in hand and racing outside our resort villa when we heard a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo pass over and landing on a native tree to feed on Banksia cones near the beach. There distinctive call can be heard.
The Grey Fantail was flitting about, though not fanning his tail, and you can also hear the call of the Yellow-tails in the background.
In a tree in the back yard of my daughter’s home was this female Tawny Frogmouth. Unusual to find them alone this time of year, though it may be still a little immature and not yet breeding. The females have the ‘tawny’ or rufous colored plumage, particularly on the shoulders, while the males are more grey-brown.
On the beach front while sharing time with my daughter’s family we saw these Humpback Whales breaching far out at sea, but my birding lens managed to capture these pics.
If you have read this far in my post for this week I thank you. In recent weeks I have noticed a significant drop in my website/blog stats so I take this moment to ask if you would kindly comment and tell me what you think I could improve on or do differently if you have helpful suggestions. I am considering changing my blog posts to reflect my next book which I will be writing soon after my current research period. I believe God is bringing a new season to my blog, but it may begin in the new year, when my employment situation changes again.
Have a wonderful week! Happy Thanksgiving to my dear American friends! We could do with a holiday in Australia to give thanks for the wonderful things we enjoy because of God;s goodness to us. It is a time to celebrate our wonderful God with passionate joyful praise and appreciation.
“Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving! Let’s shout out to him in celebration!” – Psalm 95:2 (NET)
If this is your first visit to my blog, I welcome you and invite you to check out the rest of my website at my Homepage.
If you have not purchased my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ check out my BirdBook page and find out more. This book sells at this time of year as a wonderful Christmas gift to give young people from the age of 7 to 12 years.
Last weekend was the last weekend of the Mudgee Wine and Food Festival held this time each year. Friends living in Mudgee invited us to share the experience with them, so off we went for a wonderful weekend of wine, food and fellowship, where both my wife and I experienced some most enjoyable wineries and their fruits. On the way over the Great Dividing Range we visited Lake Wallace in the hope of spying the Blue-billed and Musk Ducks which are known to live there and can be the most elusive ducks on the planet. Nankeen (Australian) Kestrel sightings occurred on several occasions during the weekend and I managed to get some lovely flight shots, as the light illuminates the spread tail feathers. Click on photo to enlarge.
The Australian Kestrel or Nankeen Kestrel as it was previously known to most, is one of our smallest falcons, about the same size as the Australian Hobby, and feeds mainly on insects as well as small mammals, birds and reptiles. It is seen hovering high over its prey with rapid wing beats before ascending on it from directly above often catching its victim by surprise. The Australian Kestrel below was sighted at Lake Wallace as we were leaving. It had caught something and was eating it high on a power pole in the distance.
We were not disappointed at Lake Wallace, though human shy as they were, the Blue-billed Ducks swam off immediately they sighted us sighting them. My photos were thus taken from some distance. The breeding male has a bright Blue bill. The female is a grey colour and looks almost identical to a female Musk Duck. The reason why this small freshwater duck is seldom seen is that it spends almost all its life afloat and well away from humans, often in the middle or far side of lakes.
The Musk Duck male has the strange large round protuberance from its neck hanging down which it increases in size when fanning its tail during mating season. The duck gets its name from the musk smell it emits from a gland on its rump. Both the Blue-billed and Musk Ducks share similar characteristics: spend most of their life afloat, sleep afloat, swim very low in the water, have tails that fan to impress their mates, shy of humans, both are diving ducks, eat similar food, stay in family groups. The female Musk Duck has a much smaller protuberance, see below. It is not an easy duck to photograph.
Another pleasant surprise was the discovery of this pair of Hoary-headed Grebe an inland grebe which we seldom see. It gets its name from its streaky hair-do.
On the grass we spotted a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbill foraging for grass seed and insects. These small birds are mainly insectivorous but will eat seed, and since it is drought insects are not as plentiful.
Small flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeater flew in and out of trees by the lake with amazing synchronization.
We drove the last leg of the 3.5 hour journey to Mudgee where we were greeted by our friends. Later we made our way to the Putta Bucca Wetlands on the Cudgegong River, but were disappointed as the drought had affected bird numbers here also. Our attention was first drawn to the whistle of the Whistling Kite which was resting on dead tree. The bird soon left after spotting us near the bird hide.
Our most interesting find was this only pair of Australasian Shovelers cruising in the distance. The more colourful male leads the female.
Australasian Shoveler male
Australasian Shoveler pair
Australasian Shoveler pair
Australasian Shoveler pair
Australasian Shoveler female
A pair of Black-winged Stilts were also present.
There were many passerines also in the trees around the wetlands including the main honeyeater found out here, the tiny White-plumed Honeyeater. The white plume is quite distinctive on the side of its neck. These are quite playful birds and are often chasing each other and showing affection to each other, strangely enough often in groups of three.
A most delightful observation was of this loving pair of Red-browed Finch, only just visible through a small clearing in the dense tree foliage as the sun lit their faces up for me to capture these shots. Remember it is Spring here so birds are busy pairing off.
Red-browed Finch pair
Red-browed Finch pair
Red-browed Finch pair
The Red Wattlebird, one of Australia’s largest honeyeaters, made his appearance , but you usually hear its ‘choc choc’ (choking sound) before you see it.
Here’s the call of the red Wattlebird…
This Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike watched us as we left the wetlands area.
The long dry winter following a very hot dry summer has had its toll on our state’s animals, birds and trees. Our farmers are suffering as are their livestock and crops, We have had some rain but not drought breaking rains. When you travel over the Great Divide you get to see how dry it really is. Despite the dry the Golden Wattle blooms in all its glory. It is interesting how we do not notice which trees are wattle as they all look green but when they all flower together in Spring one realises just how many there are. This particular tree at the wetlands caught our attention as every inch of the tree was covered with blossom.
The overall glory of the tree in blossom is due to millions of tiny blossom balls.
This highlights the fact that people notice, remember and favour us when we bloom and shine forth in our encounters and relationships with others, even those we have only met once. My experience has been that God’s favour rests on those who exude joy and loving interest in the people that cross their path. Sometimes its a smile, or a word of appreciating and encouragement, people remember you, even if they do not know your name. This impact is like the blooming wattle, the more we all do this, the brighter the place will become. I once heard the testimony of a Suicide Assist trainer how he smiled at a passing man and it saved his life, as he was on his way to die. This man years later, attended the Suicide Assist course and when asked by the instructor (who did not know or recognise him) in front of the class “Why are you doing this course?” He answered: “Because this man here smiled at me and gave me hope when I had none, as I was on my way to act our my suicide plan.” WOW! We can all make a difference and it costs nothing to do, in fact it strengthens our immune system and makes us healthy people in all aspects of our being.
“Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 14:16
Have a wonderful week! I have been asked to stay on for another month at my work part time, after a two week vacation. God is good!
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As the past year fades away, my wife and I set goals for the new year and look at ways to improve our life together. We ask what can we do better? What do we need to change? What do we need to start doing to achieve our goals for 2018? When we go birding in our local Oatley Park Reserve we find this male Superb Fairy-wren pictured above, eclipsing(this means it is changing its plumage from non breeding to breeding plumage). The male Superb Fairy-wren when not breeding looks very similar to the female, but for its blue tail. You can see the blotchy changes, as it starts to gradually change to its blue coat.
Superb Fairy-wren male in eclipse
Superb Fairy-wren female
It is quite amusing to watch the eclipse process taking place, as the blotchy appearance forms into the beautiful male in breeding plumage. This is how it is for us during seasons of change, where there is uncertainty and fear of the unknown ahead. As with the Fairy-wren, we courageously move forward, trusting God to bring us through our blotchiness to the blessing of eventually being transformed into the person we are becoming, with a beauty we display in being wiser, more thankful, gracious and loving.
Superb Fairy-wren (morphing male)
As many Australian birders know, the male fully eclipses to breeding plumage, he dons his beautiful blue suite, attracting the female to breed with him and have his family. When the breeding season is over he reverts back to his brown and white plumage, retaining only his blue tail to signify his maleness. Click on images to enlarge them.
Male Superb Fairy-wren
We all have to adapt to the season of our life, and the changes it brings to us, and we need to do this gracefully, to meet the challenges that may lie ahead. Some birds like the Red-browed Finch do not undergo any change at all during their breeding season, and stay the same throughout their life.
We may not change our appearance but our circumstances may change and call for a change in the way we live our lives. This White-faced Heron shows the difference in breeding plumage to non breeding but it does not change what he does each day. How we accept these changes is part of our character development which is so important in our growth as a person.
Change and new experiences should not be seen as problems to be solved but as challenges to encounter. It is a positive approach to what life throws at us that gives us the ability, enlisting God’s help, to meet the challenge and win the day. This Royal Spoonbill undergoes this head dress development during breeding season which offers a challenge to its normal life for a time.
Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage
As I have shown in previous posts, colour change is a common breeding appearance in waders during breeding season, as with this Bar-tailed Godwit, the worlds most endurant bird, develops an orange appearance in our Autumn, before flying 16,000 km to have their young in the Arctic region of the Northern Hemisphere, returning in Spring.
Let the changes that come into your life be used for growth and positive change in the new year. Look for the treasure in the trials of life and remember that everything that happens to us is for a reason, for growth and development into the person we are being formed to be. So make the changes work for good in your life, as my wife and I are seeking to do in ours. Have a truly happy and prosperous new year, and may you prosper and grow in each aspect of life: not just physically but also, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually as Jesus did when he lived with us here on earth, thus developing our whole person.
“And Jesus grewin wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” – Luke 2:52
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
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