We rejoice and give thanks for the recent rain and cooler days we just had, though some areas experienced powerful lightning bolts (which destroyed our NBN router), powerful winds bringing down trees and destroying houses and cars. Our national capital Canberra had a massive hail storm being pelted with golf ball sized hail which destroyed or damaged many cars and houses, taking out many windscreens. Other areas were flooded causing damage and accidents, while in other areas the fires continue their uncontrollable destructive course. Ah well! at least we got rain, as sadly many drought ridden areas got none or very little. This created another serious problem massive 300 km wide dust storms, lifting our choice dry top soil into massive clouds and creating an eerie night for many towns in the middle of the day. Here is a photo of Australian top soil staining the ice, having been blown over 2,000 km (1,200 miles) across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand in 2006 and was deposited on the Fox Glacier on the South Island. On top of all this our holiday season tourist trade has suffered a great loss, as have many businesses burnt down, cattle, orchards and farms wiped out all due to fire devastation, and its not over yet.
Now to a brighter note, where we live in Sydney, the last week we have had cooler weather, the smoke has cleared and much appreciated heavy rain for a couple of days making the grass green again. While many parts of our burnt nation grieve their losses, we also grieve the many wildlife and forest losses, and the possibility that many birds and some animals may either now be extinct or on the brink of extinction.
Many of our rarer bird species are found in sometimes in very small pockets of forest making their existence very vulnerable to destructive fires. The truth will be revealed later in the year. For now the urgent cry to governments is to get active to exterminate the ferule foxes and cats which are killing the surviving suffering wildlife. Koalas have been declared, in many parts of our state as functionally extinct. Meaning that due to the extreme and total loss of habitat (eucalypt tree leaves their only food) in large areas, the surviving rescued animals cannot be placed back there, but have to be relocated to the remaining unburnt forests that have the tree leaves they require. The poor creatures do not know what to do or where to go without our help, as you can see below…
As the summer school holidays continue, we had the privilege of having our grandson Jesse stay a few days. With binoculars, camera and hat we made our way into the Royal National Park, which thankfully is one of the unburnt areas of our state. On arrival at the gift shop and cafe Jesse noticed an important item and drew my attention to it.
At first we decided to walk along the river in search of the Azure Kingfisher which we always love to show our grandies, and lo and behold he was just where we looked, fishing for his next meal, so we watched while I captured the sequence below. This is a small brightly colored and very human shy bird found mainly along freshwater rivers and lakes. It is stunning when flying in bright sunlight.
What a treat for Jesse! On our walk along the forest road we noticed how dry everything was, and how we hardly heard or saw a bird, which is unusual for this time of year when the forest is usually full of song especially from the Golden Whistler which was no where to be found. I mentioned that we would usually see the Eastern Yellow Robin about here, and lo and behold there it appeared, a young one.
We saw a juvenile Grey Fantail also. I mentioned to Jesse that both these birds have a habit of following you along the track being very curious, but also hoping we will cause food to appear by our movement along the track.
We were hoping to see and hear a Superb Lyrebird as that would have been a real treat for him but there were no sounds or even signs that they had recently been on the track. Possibly like many of our birds they had fled due to the thick smoke of previous months or the dryness of the drought. As the rainforest floor dries out (something never heard of previously) their food source diminishes causing the, the Bazzian Thrush and the Logrunner to go deeper into the moister forest floor for food. However, as we rested we sighted this most unusual looking bird the Top-notched Pigeon. Take a look at its appearance, its hairdo and makeup. We thought there were only two, but when it flew off another twenty followed. These are native fruit eaters, and may be finding it difficult to find food as many trees are stressed and not flowering or producing this year.
Of course there is always a Superb Fairy-wren on our visit to the Nasho, and it always heard right next to where we park the car, almost on every occasion. He draws us away from his family, with his bright breeding plumage.
We discovered this Eastern Water Dragon female resting on a log. It was not at all concerned by our presence or passers by. The males have a bright red/orange chest which intensifies during breeding season.
One feature which reappeared during Jesse’s stay was that of our Australian Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie, which I continually gave him instruction and quizzes on during his stay. Here are some interesting photos we took of a juvenile Magpie morphing its plumage to an immature. Notice how one side of the bird is changing at a time (last photo). Important changes to look for in identifying juvenile birds is dark eye and beak color, often fluffy marbled bellies and brown or tawny plumage.
While Jesse was watching a pair of our resident male Australian Magpies (note: alpha male on right and almost mature male on left). This series was shot by Jesse with his camera, as the Magpies, quite conscious of our interest, continued to perform their ablutions unafraid. This highlights the fact that these Maggies know and trust me as their friend, though he did keep an eye out occasionally.
Meanwhile, Jesse just kept clicking away as the alpha male took his bath and then preened himself before leaving. Those studying this bird, like myself, may have interest in some of these images. The male on the smaller bath just sat and observed the whole time and was not sure if it would indulge itself.
Let us now trace the washing preening sequence Jesse managed to capture. We believe the reason these birds came, being as intelligent as they are, they knew that this water was frsh rain water that had fallen yesterday and not the less desirable town water which has been chemicalized. I know the difference because when I lived on a property some 20 years ago we had only rain water for drinking and washing, and the difference is amazing,
He starts by just standing for a short while in the large bath, which he knows is his.
He then proceeds to wash his beak thoroughly. Remember that Magpies do not hunt their food in trees, they are ground feeders and are constantly thrusting their very sharp steel like beak into the hard earth to find food, so it gets quite dirty. Meanwhile the lesser male continues to stare into the water.
He then follows by fully amercing his front and sides, constantly shaking off water to ensure thorough cleaning in under feathers as well as remove pests and loose feathers etc…
He then lifts his upper wing plumes to wash his back and secondaries…
This takes a little time as he ensures he is fully wet.
He then leaves the water to rub his beak clean on the back of our metal courtyard chairs…
He now looks quite beraggled and disheveled and prepares for the next stage…
The washed male now pokes his beak into his preening gland at the base of his tail where he draws an oily waxy substance.
He now proceeds to run his tail feathers through his beak coating them with the substance, which he does to condition his plumes, waterproofing them and helping strengthen them from becoming brittle.
This process takes a few minutes, where on this occasion he concentrates on his long tail plumes.
Having finished some preening he is ready to leave. But take a look at the complex and neatly packed and folded wing and tail arrangement. Only intelligent design could have created such a marvelous flight machine. He flew into the Frangipani Tree giving me his thank you look indicating that he will be back same time tomorrow for more to be sure, and with his understudy in toe leaves.
Then the Noisy Miner comes for its turn, but only after our neighborhood’s most powerful and dominant bird has left. It is amusing to watch how all the other birds scatter when the alpha male flies in. The Miner checks that it is safe before getting wet.
Here is some live footage Jesse captured. Oh, I forgot, the understudy finally took the plunge just before he left. I think he may have waited as a sign of respect, or possibly still learning how to bathe the Magpie way as all their behaviour is learnt over a 3 to 4 year period.
The Second Edition of Book 1 is with the publisher and almost ready to check its first draft. The following link will take you to a page which I will update as we move closer to launch date. Click here to view information about both the Second Edition of Book 1 and also Book 2.
It was interesting that just before the alpha male got quite wet, the lesser male started communicating to another Magpie in the distance, to which the alpha male joined in briefly. Magpie communication is one of the most complex of any language or call, and some scientists have devoted their life work to studying it. These birds during their warble are able to move between two octaves in a millisecond.
Magpies are known to warble for sometimes over an hour to one another from a distance, in this case the distant call was was inaudible to us humans. Magpie and most all bird hearing is so much more acute than ours, which is why they may fly off at the slightest sound. These birds can be taught to talk human words and phrases, as many of our birds can mimic. It is interesting also that the Magpie made a choice to place communicating above his bathing ritual, which was a most enjoyable experience in fresh rain water. It can not be stressed enough that the priority of good communication is the most important principle to any relationship following that of trust. Like the Magpie we must first prime our ears to silently listen carefully before replying. We need to make sure we understand what is being said, and if we do not ask for explanation. Most relationship breakdowns are over poor communication skills being employed. The most successful and proven way of listening well with empathy and to gain understanding, used by counselors, is Active or Reflective Listening.
Magpies wait for the other communicating Magpie to finish when communicating to another, they do not interrupt but wait their turn (of course when they call together in the morning chorus this is not the case). This is a skill not easily becoming to us men as we tend to want to fix everything with our answer. It is a lesson constantly being learnt by myself and my male friends.
‘Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey.
‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is to listen to what others have to say.’ – Bryant H McGill
‘We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.’ – Epictetus
‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ – James 1:19
Have a great week and STAY SAFE!
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.