On a warm winters day there is nothing better than a walk, especially to a location not yet explored. I had read sightings of unexpected bird species at Cape Banks in the Sydney area. I had never been to Cape Banks during my time living in Sydney, and the sightings of juvenile Pacific Gull and Kelp Gull were an interesting enticement. Cape Banks is the southern point at the mouth of the Georges River better known as Botany Bay, famous for the landing of Lieutenant James Cook with his ‘HMS Bark Endeavor’ in 1770 at Kurnell near this terminal pictured below. This is all part of Botany Bay National Park. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Entrance to Cape Banks
Kamay Botany Bay NP northern mouth
Looking into Botany Bay
We know him as Captain Cook, which should have been his title but was held from him because he was not of the English gentry or trained in their class system, but despite this fact, became the world’s finest navigator and cartographer. The appointment of officers within this class system resulted in many thousands of unfortunate losses of lives during English history, including Australians in the First World War. Though Cook did the work of a Captain he was precluded the title till many years later. Joseph Banks (whom the cape is named after) was the botanist on his voyage who gave English names to many of the species of plants observed on the voyage. The first sighting that travelers see when approaching Sydney airport by air is the rugged tall sandstone cliffs of Botany Bay NP and The Royal NP.
The unusual sandstone rock formations seen along this coastline are also a feature here adding to the natural beauty of the place. But sadly there are the residual signs of past disaster as the rusting wreck of the SS Minmi lies on the rocks. It was a coal carrying steamship which traveled back and forth from Newcastle to Melbourne, named after the coal mining town in Newcastle, Minmi where my eldest son use to live. Thankfully only one life was lost by heart attack and the many crew were safely brought to shore, as the army barracks nearby came to their assistance on hearing the steam expulsions of the boiler as it broke up on the rocks at night. There was a line of cars parked 4 mile long as thousands came from the Sydney area to see it, damaging the NSW Golf Course as they walked in.
It was also delightful to see some of the wildflowers of our earlier than usual Spring on the sandstone cape.
By now some of you are asking: “Hey aussiebirder! What about the birds, did you see any birds?!”
Well I did not see as many as I had hoped, though this is always a birders prospect, but yes, I did enjoy some quality sightings. As I came along the track I was greeted by the sounds and occasional sighting of many Superb Fairy-Wren mostly appearing to still be in eclipse, but soon to be reverting back to their beautiful blue breeding plumage as Spring ensures. The female has the red eye ring and a lighter blue tail. The scrubby coastal bush is ideal habitat for these tiny insectivorous birds.
As I stepped off the footbridge connecting to Cape Banks headland, I spotted this Australasian Pipit. These are interesting birds to watch, and are seen in several places on the sandstone platforms of this National Park. They have a darting motion as they forage for insects and seeds, and will take flight easily if they see you coming.
Looking out to the beautiful calm blue sea I saw one lone Humpback Whale making its way up the coast. Most of its relatives are already up north in the warmer waters of the Hervey Bay area, mating and having their young. This late arrival was continually slapping its tail, for over an hour, barely moving forward. It is not known with any definitive truth as to the purpose of the tail-slap. It may be communicating to the nearby boat to stay away, or attempting to locate other whales in the vicinity, or some believe it may be a feeding technique, but this is very dubious. As I watched the whale I noticed a lone Australasian Gannet cruising nearby. This is a bird seldom seen this close to the shoreline, though both whale and Gannet were a considerable distance out to sea.
Humpback Whale tail-slap
whale and Gannet
One of the enticements that led me to Cape Banks suddenly appeared flying over the Cape, a pair of juvenile Pacific Gull. These birds are not normally found this far north, though we do see juvenile Kelp Gull from time to time which I have posted in the past. The Pacific Gull is found mostly in Victoria and Tasmania and is our largest Gull.
This is what these youngsters will look like when they mature. Notice the red lipstick lips. The Pacific Gull has both top and bottom lips red and the Kelp Gull only the bottom lip.
Not seeing many other birds I began to make my way back and noticed that one of the holes of the NSW Golf course which was integrated into this Reserve was over a deep chasm. So I watched as experienced golfers landed the ball. I have traced one for you. They had transverse the chasm along a footbridge onto the cape to this one tee off point and hit it back over the chasm to the green on the other side.
Just as I was almost near my car to leave, the Lord provided me with one last gift of what appeared to be an aged Swamp Harrier which flew directly over in good sunlight, what a beautiful bird! Of course this became my feature photo at the commencement of this post. We don’t see many Swampies on the coast, though I have seen one not far from here in Botany Bay over a year ago. This brought a satisfying finish to my warm Winter walk, and the delight of having ventured into new birding territory where I will soon return with my wife for a picnic.
Finally, as I leave this beautiful place having taken in its natural and historical significance, my meditation, as I viewed the many interesting and beautiful rock formations in the sandstone, was to consider the following. As a male in particular, I generally by nature am a problem solver and tend to be more Left-brained analytical, wanting to try and work the HOW, WHEN and WHY these sandstone formations occurred, rather than just allow myself to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and artistic design of the rockface, which is using more of my Right-Brainsidedness. As I learn to take time to employ Mindful Moments in my life. By deliberately doing this, I also learn to balance my life in a healthier way as God intended. Sometimes I just need to appreciate what I see or hear or smell or touch rather than try and work it out as if it were something necessary to do. Generally, it is only my ego that needs to do this, which has sadly placed many men, including myself in the past, into workaholic mode to miss the point of it all. Instead of seeing and appreciating a beautiful rock formation and giving thanks for its Intelligent Design, one may feel the intense urge to postulate theories and possible ways it came into being. “Stop and Smell the Roses!” is a very timely saying in a very stressful over busy modern life. When I was first told this by a counselor I thought ‘What a silly thing to say!’, but now years later, having become a counselor myself and journeyed through burn out and experienced tragedy and several miracle healings at God’s hand, I try to be all the more mindful to be mindful of each life experience, whether it be a cool gentle breeze or the warmth of Winter sun on my back or the melody of a bird’s song. An Attitude of Gratitude and a thankful joyous spirit has now scientifically been shown to bring health and longevity to one’s being. So relax, be at peace, enjoy and be thankful in the precious moment that you have, for when it is over it is gone forever, but if it is pleasant memory it will continue to bless you on your Journey.
“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” – Psalm 111:2
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 9:1
“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” – Psalm 104:24
Have a wonderful restful and enjoyable weekend appreciating your beautiful birds and getting out to enjoy the beautiful places they habitate and have a Mindful Moment!
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info. Check out my book “What Birds Teach Us”, a great easy to read gift idea, which continues to get good reviews where people share how it has helped them and how it is a unique book. If you are concerned, it has been carefully written for all cultures and beliefs and does not preach or recommend any particular belief system, but is a counselling tool that encourages good life skills by using the birds and beautiful photos of them to relate to us. People from other cultures and beliefs different to my own, have shared how they love the book. You can purchase your copy here
Superb Fairy-wren (male non-breeding or eclipse plumage)
Winter is here in Australia and like us, birds are adjusting to the seasonal change. Some decide to fly north to the warmer climates of Queensland, possibly seeking a good winter holiday package like us in a few days, some fly further north to Asia and Siberia/Alaska to breed and return in early Spring. Others develop breeding plumage, stay and breed during Winter months, while others like the male Superb Fairy-wren pictured above, loose their breeding plumage, stay and do not breed again till Spring. Each bird species has its own unique breeding patterns, which over all are governed by seasonal changes. Just as we change the clothes we wear for each season so do many of the birds.
Many bird species such as the above male, moult to form a plumage similar to the female, during their non-breeding months. This plumage is known as being in eclipse. The tell tail blue tail remains, as his male sex marker when spotting him in the wild. The bright Blue Wren that we all know when breeding is incognito now till Spring for most males of this species, though there are still many breeding late due to our unusually warm Autumn. The Superb Lyrebird, of similar name, however, is most likely seated on its nest or with nestlings as they breed during Winter when more food source is easily available to feed their young from the rainforest floor.
Some birds such as this lone Royal Spoonbill have breeding plumage somewhat out of season, appearing to remain late. The head dress plumage and red forehead markings declare this. The nest would normally be with other similar large shorebirds, such as Ibis, but would be abandoned if we were to approach it. See how it sifts the water for small marine creatures.
These Pied Cormorant in Sydney Olympic Park are breeding out of season also possibly due to a warmer than usual Autumn. Usually there would be between 10 and 20 other birds nesting but only a few nests are active as the others have finished and flown. Late nesting can make breeding more vulnerable to predators, without the safety in numbers rule these birds usually employ, as can be seen as this Australian Raven contests a nesting parent, attempting to get her off the nest to steal her eggs or babies, but she stands her ground or should I say sits her ground and like a true parent ain’t gonna move for no one.
Pied Cormorant staying off Aust. Raven
Pied Cormorant with late nestling
Lastly, this cute little Yellow Thornbill was jumping around the mangroves and casuarina trees beside the lake enjoying its lone adventure. It appeared to be not only just maturing but is an example of one of the many territorial non migratory birds that remain through all the seasons and do not show any marked plumage differences when breeding.
This has been a quick post as I have just left hospital yesterday and have had some health issues to rectify which we have suddenly become aware of, from which treatment will now be ongoing. Thank you to those praying for me and sharing your kind thoughts it is much appreciated. Like these birds we have our seasons in life. The worlds wisest man King Solomon who wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible explained this fact. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You may remember The Byrds music group back in the 60s singing a popular Pete Seeger folk song formed from this passage. ‘To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn.’
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (NIV)
The key principle Solomon is sharing is that we need to realize and accept the fact that throughout one’s life there will be times or seasons of good and enjoyable experiences and what appear to be bad or unpleasant ones, both are the normal part of life. It is when we accept this truth we can have peace and draw courage and strength from seeing them as positive and necessary changes for our life, character and maturity, rather than anger and resentment blaming God or anyone else for their unfulfilled expectations. This is what gave me contentment this last week as I felt peace and rest in the midst of the storm my health experienced in this new life season I am presently in. Knowing that there is always Treasure in the Trial. We just have look for it, with wisdom, as you would for any treasure.
“We know that in all things [both good and bad life experiences/seasons] God works for good with those who love him…” – Romans 8:28 [ added and explained by me] (GNT)
Have a great week! My new book is now awaiting a first edit.
If this is your first visit to my blog please explore my Website Homepage menu for more birding tips and info
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.
As the year begins, and following on from my post last week on Mindful Birding, it is an opportunity to review,and put into action these skills, particularly for those new to birding, the 5 Steps to Better Birding. You will learn how we spotted this rare sighting in an unexpected location, as I share how you can get the most satisfying birding experience. This will be especially helpful if you are a novice birdwatcher becoming a fully fledged birder. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Initially, before you start, it is important to decide what kind of birds you want to find, and best LOCATION where you are likely find them. Local and learnt knowledge is helpful as well as The Australian Bird Guide and Finding Australian Birds both obtainable from CSIRO Publishing.
These books will help locate where particular species of bird are found in Australia and what habitat you are most likely to find them in, Other factors may involve the time of day (low tide for viewing waders, or night time for owls), the time of year or season (for migratory species) and the current weather (very hot, very dry, very windy or very wet conditions can have a negative affect). Otherwise, many of us just do a pot luck bird walk through National Parks, Reserves and State Forests and be thankful for what we might see, often surprised when we find the unexpected bird or birding experience. For our example I will take my daughter and two grand children ( one pictured above) on a stroll through Oatley Park Reserve on a pot luck bird walk. Because many Australian birds are territorial and non migratory, you can usually predict what birds you are likely to see in any given location. The Bird Field Guide will help with the geographic location of each bird (where in which States) including any races (subspecies) that a particular specie may have.
My first instruction to my accompanying family is to quietly listen for bird calls as they walk along the bush track. Most of the time you will hear a bird before you see it. Australia has one of the largest number of songbirds, and many have a very distinctive call which identifies them immediately. One of the skills one gains from mindful listening is to identify each bird one hears from its call. The call can tell you where to look ( nearby or further on, in tree or on ground) as well as what the bird is actually doing at the time. There are Australian birds which are gifted with many different calls, and also the ability to learn and copy the calls of other birds. The Superb Lyrebird and Satin Bowerbird are but two good examples. Listen to this Lyrebird immitate at least 6 different birds, as well as make its own peculiar call.
Eventually, one can identify when mimicry is being displayed by a Lyrebird or other bird, by skillful listening. The greatest aid to the Australian birder is the Michael Morcombe eGuide iphone app. which I have listed on the BirdingInfoTips page of my website half way down the page under Helpful Birding Links. This app allows you to hear the calls of the different birds. Slowly move to where the bird call is loudest, stop moving if the bird stops calling, as it has probably seen you and become cautious, and LOOK for movement in the direction you last heard the call. This is a similar call to what we heard, and what drew us to discover the bird pictured above. We were drawn to a tree by the pond where we could here a strange buzzing sound which I knew from experience was a Satin Bowerbird call. You will need to turn your volume up to hear it.
Be aware that with some birds it will not be their call or song that will draw attention, but careful listening may detect bark being torn and stripped from trees (eg. Crested Shrike-tit, Eastern Whipbird and the Treecreepers), leaf litter being overturned (Logrunner, Whipbird, Bassian Thrush), scratching sounds (Lyrebird, Brush Turkey) or it may be the sound of crunching pine cones and falling debris from the Cockatoo and Parrot family.
One golden birding principle is that ‘If you wait (sitting quietly is best) the birds will come to you.’ Mixed Feeding Flocks (MFFs) are constantly moving through areas of forest and field, and many territorial birds (non flock birds) will also do a circuit and return through the same area several times a day.
You will know the birds arrive by the many birds twittering as they feed and communicate with each other. Our birds are able to learn to communicate in the dialects of bird species other than their own, thus MFFs are common with smaller insectivorous and seed eating birds, and brings the advantages of safety in numbers, and better food and water locating. So wait in a place where you find birds moving, you may find a birdway. Areas that pass near fresh water sources, around lakes and swamps are often the best. Just wait there for a while and LISTEN.
So on hearing the bird, one starts looking in the direction of the call. The most helpful tool at this stage are your eyes and your binoculars. The aim is to look for any movement at all in the vegetation and focus in on it. My grandchildren were spotting the bird high in a tree above the track but we could not see it well.
It sounded distressed because other birds such as Noisy Miners were attempting to attack it, as they are very territorial and this bird was strange to this part of the park, and in fact is not usually seen here at all. My observation revealed what appeared to be a juvenile Satin Bowerbird possibly a fledgling from early last Spring. It is probably checking out the park for food, as these birds are primarily native fruit eaters (figs, berries etc). Both immature sexes look like the female, as it will take seven to eight years for the male to mature to adult plumage but only two to three for the female. Bare in mind also that many birds go quiet and sit in the shade, mainly during the heat of the day. Also particular birds such as the Golden Whistler will go quiet during the Winter (non breeding months) and be heard almost continuously during Spring, making him much easier to find.
This is why early morning and evening are the best times to go birding, as these times are when most birds are calling as they actively feed and move about. Aussie honeyeaters (over 70 species) feed on insects, nectar, small native fruits and lerps. You may notice that particular songbirds sing less when overcast than when the sun is out, they seem to pick up their song as the sun re emerges.
Honeyeaters, lorikeets and Parrots are attracted to flowering eucalypts, Grevilea, Bottlebrush and Mountain Devil, so just wait about 10 to 20 feet from the flowers and birds should visit. Often you will see birds already feeding off nectar rich flowers, so just wait there and watch as different species visit. Birds are easier to see and often more exposed when feeding.
The next step is to LOCATE the bird so you can view it and/or photograph it. My wife is the ‘spotter‘ and I am the ‘shooter‘, so for me if I do not get a photograph of the bird I have not truly seen it. This is the case for many birders, we like to see the treasure we have spotted again at home. The value of doing this leads later to our last 2 steps. If you are using a telescopic lens, the secret is to pull back the focus and view in the general direction of the bird and then gradually extend the lens till you have it in focus. It is most frustrating to attempt to focus from a fully extended lens.
A bird will usually move away when it notices you watching it, so the idea is to remain very still and inconspicuous as possible. If the bird is in full sun, try and remain in the shade as you observe it so that it makes you less noticeable. Also remain very quiet and avoid using flash. I almost never use flash on birds as it alarms them and can affect the eyes of some birds such as owls and penguins. The improved ISO technology on my Canon camera allows me to get relative good photos even in reduced light. As we walked by the pond we found this clutch of baby Chestnut Teal resting.
We quietly passed so not to disturb their rest, though they noticed us they did not scuttle to water as they saw we kept our distance and were not threatening. You will find that each species of bird has a different distance of tolerance to another. For example I wan walk right up to a Magpie or Kookaburra and they will not show fear, where as an Eastern Curlew will sound the alarm and fly off if I get within 50 meters of it. Here is one of my best friends patting a Kookaburra he is feeding. The bird trusts him and permits him to enter his safety zone.
These Chestnut Teal (above) were easy to locate as they were visible, as many waterbirds and waders are, exposed near the water or on it, unlike passerines (tree birds) which can be more challenging to capture hidden in among the dark eucalypt trees. One of the reasons Australian bird photography is more challenging then elsewhere is that our trees are very dense and dark green, not allowing much light through, We noticed the difference when birding in Britain, how the lighter larger leaves allow more light in. Once the bird is in focus the photo can be taken. Sadly, most of the time I have to take Manual shots due to the small depth of field of my lens, to make sure the bird is in focus. Many times, people marvel at how I can get shots in very small windows between trees, and the only way is Manual with much effort. Considering my left eye has greatly impaired vision, I give thanks to God when I get a decent photo. Some birds are almost impossible to photograph due to their fast continuous movement or their ability to remain hidden beneath thick shrubbery. IT can take much patience and many hours stalking these ones before success is procured.
Many birders, similar to myself, have said that the greatest delight is going home after the birding adventure and opening their box of treasures, meaning viewing the photographs they have taken. Photographing birds is a very positive and useful way of logging and recording your bird finds in addition to simply recording your findings in a book. The date, place time of day and species found. Many birders keep year round records of their finds, becoming very tuned in to and mindful to various birding areas and their resident birds. So much so that one can take you to a particular bird with a greater than 80% probability. My log is my photos. Each birding outing is a named and dated folder containing my photo treasures, backed up on several drives. My lifers and better photos are also transferred to my Speciated Bird Album of Australian Birds, which is a massive collection of all the birds I have seen, a folder for each specie, on a 2T drive. I set targets for new birds I want to discover each year (lifers) and plan to visit their areas.
In addition to just viewing the bird photograph, it is a teaching tool familiarizing you with the bird appearance and physical features. I also like to capture sound files and video clips of bird behaviour to help me in learning about the bird specie. Each time I find a new bird (lifer), I have not seen before, I study it up in my Bird Field Guide to find out more about it, its characteristics, location, male, female and immature forms, how and where it nests etc. I will venture back out to attempt to photograph the complete set of male, female and juvenile if it is possible, though this is not always possible as lone birds often drift into our forests. So what do I learn from this juvenile Satin Bowerbird? I identified it as juvenile from my Bird Field Guide where it was described having dark patches on head and neck, less colour on chest and dark grey legs. Compare.
Juvenile Satin Bowerbird
Female Satin Bowerbird
Male Satin Bowerbird
Here by comparing my photos of a mature female with the juvenile I can learn to identify not just the bird itself, but its level of maturity, body shape, beak, how it sits on the branch, its calls and what it feeds on. I eventually will have a mind map of where I can find this bird locally as well as seasonally. The mature male is the most elusive of the family and looks quite different. This is the case with many birds. In many species the male will take longer to mature, and when it does its plumage may change to brighter or different colours to female.
Superb Fairy-wren (male in breeding plumage)
Superb Fairy-wren (female)
Superb Fairy-wren (eclypsing male)
Male Superb Fairy-wren in full non breeding eclipse)
The immature always look similar to the female till they mature as a protective form of camouflage. Most of the colour changes and breeding plumage changes all have to do with signifying to both females and males this bird is ready to breed and bring forth offspring. Some birds go through several plumage changes a year passing in and out of breeding (eclipse), the Fairy-wrens are a good example of this. The male retains his blue tail but looses his beautiful blue and black plumage. So finding this juvenile bird as we did, brought further learning and understanding of this species, and opened the way for more interest in birding to my grandchildren who love to accompany us on our birding adventures. last week’s post showed a juvenile Rainbow Lorikeet I discovered, with its parent. Having them side by side helps highlight the developing characteristics of the young bird.
Have a wonderful week and stay out of the heat!
If this is your first visit to my blog, please take a few moments and check out my website and the interesting pages on birding and life skills the birds can teach us. Also, check out my book. You can explore all this and more from my Home page
As I mentioned earlier birds tend to nest near a source of fresh water and a good food source, and the Bible notes this:
‘The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.’ – Psalm 104:12
“Look at [study intently] the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26
Strange as it is, it was only the above verse in the forward of my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ that stopped my book being used in schools and child psychology work, despite many educators loving its unique teaching method. Many local schools have put it in their libraries and some schools have supported it enough to have me come and speak and sell my book as a fund raiser. It shows how the enemy of our souls works through people’s fear and guilt.
How can one statement that gives hope and value to human life be the reason for not using a book which educators have said has great value for our youth? Sadly, this is the Secular Humanistic age we live in, where our freedoms are slowly being stripped away, and our children are being taught to believe in an empty god of science and evolution, being taught to be politically correct in a Post Christian world. The truth is God is not dead, and continues to make himself known to those who put their trust in him.
‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [power] to become children of God’ — John 1:12 (NIV)
This week, by request of Jem, a valued blog follower from Sydney’s northern beaches area, I am retracing the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail walk.
Bodies of water (lakes, lagoons swamps, rivers, creeks and beaches) all offer ideal spots to go birding. In fact when we visit a new area, it is usually one or more of the above we seek out, because we always find that near water, fresh or brackish, there are both waterbirds as well as passerines in the surrounding trees and bushes. Birds are often found in greater numbers near a fresh water source, especially when nesting. Many waterbirds have the ability to drink salty water having been blessed with a built in distillation plant. You may wonder what the above Australian Pelican is doing? I will let you know towards the end of the post because that is where it occurs on the trail.
The local council invested a few years ago in building a quality trail with paths, footbridges, picnic and BBQ facilities, toilets, water fountain, boat ramp and seats at various places around the lake/lagoon (its big enough to call a lake) which has paid off handsomely for them, as many come to walk and use the facilities provided at a small parking cost. My wife and I have enjoyed walking around the lake from Middle Creek Reserve (follow yellow arrows). We did the complete walk and logged the birds along the way that we considered notable.
Our first bird of course is the bird we almost always see first when ever we travel Australia, the Willy Wagtail getting its name from fanning and wagging its tail. Willy is the largest of the Australian fantails and has a beautiful song which has led us astray many times in our early birding years thinking we had discovered a lifer, but we are wiser to its call now. As we passed the golf course we sighted a pair of, you guessed it! Masked Lapwings. Notorious for nesting in centre of mowed fields and park lands. The male stood guard as the female nested.
Masked Lapwing Male standing watch
Masked Lapwing Female nesting
Despite the crazy places they nest, they have a high survival rate and become quite aggressive to any who threaten the nest, or even come within yards of it, including dogs, cats and other birds. They are in the Plover family and are a shorebird by nature but have become one of our most numerous birds being found all over Australia except central WA. As we walked around the trail and over the excellent footbridge we started seeing the lake from the southern end where out in the middle on a sandbar a flock of Australian Black Swan and Australian Pelican were sleeping and resting. Black swan are breeding well here, as they are all over Australia. Like many birds they tuck their face under the feathers and rest their head on their back to sleep, this allows them to rest their neck muscles as well as warm the air they breath, increasing their body temperature.
On another sandbank a small flock of Pied Cormorant were resting.
As we walked into a very small pocket of rainforest near South Creek Reserve we were delighted to find two sort after birds simultaneously on each side of the trail, making it difficult to know where to point the camera. My wife is calling me to photograph a beautiful pair of Variegated Fairy-wren while I am tracing a male Eastern Whipbird, and trying to catch sight of a youngster running beneather the Bracken Fern, which eluded me after much trying. Immature Whipbirds lack the white cheeks. I was delighted that this adult, normally shy and extremely elusive, did not mind too much me checking him out.
Gottagettawayfrom this Aussiebirder guy
The bird is usually spotted due to its whip like call which intensifies its volume as it resonates off the eucalypt leaves in trees around. They use the call to communicate between male and female and to mark territory, so that other Whipbirds stay away. The male whips and the female (if she is present will follow immediately with a quick “Tish tish” You can tell from the call if it is a lone Male, a lone female, an immature or a breeding pair. Listen to the male and female here.
Yes, and the beautiful Variegated Fairy-wren so brilliant in the sunshine, unlike the more common Superb Fairy-wren, the female also has a blue tail like the male.
Also in this little pocket just along from here we heard and located this Brown Thornbill, who’s call you heard in last weeks post, as it merrily makes its way checking trees for insects which make up its main diet. They do enjoy foraging in our native Casuarina pine trees.
Nearbye this Eastern Yellow Robin was at work catching and dismembering a grub it had found. These are birds commonly seen near rainforest trails, and are very curious of humans, often following them along the trail in a similar way to Grey Fantails, hoping we might turn up something edible as we walk.
Tiny Silvereye were also checking for insects in the small trees near the Brown Thornbill.
A very noisy, almost angry squawking sound came from inside a small palm, which turned out to be that of non other than the White-browed Scrubwren, known for this behaviour. They often appear to even have an angry look on their face, especially if you come near their nest
This tame immature Grey Butcherbird was quite cute, and did not seem too worried about us, as I have seen has been the case on several other occasions with immature Butcherbirds, who have not learned to fear humans.
In a darker section where the trees thickly covered the track, another typically rainforest bird the Lewins Honeyeater was trying to keep cool in the shade, but did not like us trying to observe it on this hot January day.
As we moved into the open we found quite a number, several families of our Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie. The Magpie survive well because of their very efficient and organised family structure involving relatives such as aunts and uncles assisting when nesting and training the fledglings. Here are two males, they have a pure white neck back, the seldom seen female (nesting most of the time) has a dirty white neck back. The alpha male may or may not have several ladies nesting at the same time, and it becomes his sole occupation during that time to feed them, as they stay on the nest, and the relatives defend the nests.
Male Eastern (Black-backed) Magpie
Passing by the water again we see this Little Pied Cormorant, another breed smaller than the Pied we saw previously, and the bonus blessing was to see for the first time, the orange (morph) which results from a chemical change staining their feathers due to iron in the water.
The Australian Pelican was also seen cruising along the shoreline.
Along the mudflats of the shoreline the commonly seen White-faced Heron was now in breeding plumage striding carefully about,it finds fast food or should I say food fast. Notice the pic of the extended neck upward, this is a protective ploy to make it look bigger and more threatening when it feels it may be facing danger, after noticing our presence, other Herons do the same.
The Crested Pigeon, our most common native pigeon is found all over Australia, including desert regions, we saw plenty of them at Uluru in the red centre last year, it is also at home here by the lake.
From his tree this Laughing Kookaburra sat watching the passes by and with his very sharp binocular vision was looking for food opportunities that might run across the ground in the form of small reptiles and the like.
After a fishnchip lunch in the small town of Narrabeen we continued our walk over the bridge and along the side of the lake and the Wakehurst Parkway where we saw this beautiful sight. Rainbow Lorikeets love eating the nectar of native flowers such as Bottlebrush and Grevileas as well as native fruits, they have a tongue that is especially adapted to brush the pollen and nectar into their mouth.
As we almost come to the end of our journey the noise of Cicadas becomes deafening, so we stopped to look for one of these noisy male insects giving our its mating call to attract miss right. Watch and you will see how it makes its sound using its abdomen.
Finally we are almost at the end of our journey and we could see across the southern end of the lake to the other side where we were walking earlier that morning, but to our surprise a large Pelican (see my first photo) suddenly took fright and lunged into the air with great effort and a cry of distress, only to land some distance away. Most birds get terrified of raptors because they eat other birds, no matter how large or small. That is often how we know a raptor is flying overhead, by the crazy activity of bird flocks. We were about to receive the icing on the cake blessing from our Most Generous Father for the end of a perfect day. We looked and behold it was!
A beautiful large adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle carrying some prey which looked like a snake, which it dropped and then went searching for. It is very unusual for an eagle to drop its prey as its talons come with a a locking in device. Possibly it did not have firm hold of it and it was still alive and got the better of it. Please be aware these photos were taken a great distance across the lake, to the other side. Eagles are the greatest hunters of all with telescopic binocular vision (up to 10x our own) and can spot a rabbit in over 3km away. Their powerful talons when locked will both instantly kill their prey and hold it secure. They can fly above storm clouds and ride effortlessly without moving a feather for hours on the thermals. If you have been to a Raptor Show you will know that their eye to object accuracy is only a couple of millimeters error, which means they can take a tiny piece of meat out of you fingers while flying past without touching you at all, I have personally experienced this.
Is it any wonder the eagle is used as a symbol of strength and justice in national and state emblems and coats of arms. It is the majestic king of birds, having greatest ability in all areas. Our Wedge-tailed Eagle (our largest eagle) appears on our NSW police force coat of arms. In the Bible God is seen as a great saving eagle who carries to safety those whom he loves and also trust in him. God reminds Israel how he saved them.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” – Exodus 19:4 (NIV)
Again the eagle is used to depict those who trust completely in God’s grace to bring them through difficult times, so that he will give them renewed strength like the eagles’…
Eagles live long lives, and go through a molting process where they loose all their feathers and look like they are almost dead, then they get a new lease of life with new feathers and beak etc giving them many more years, becoming stronger and more powerful. So God will sustain and strengthen those who delight in him, and look to him for help and strength.
“who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” – Psalm 103:5 (NIV)
Which resonates in this verse referring to those who trust in God…
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” – Psalm 92:14 (NIV)
I am always amazed and giving thanks for how my Loving Father God keeps me and brings me through so much in life, as I choose to rest in and trust in his strength to carry me above the worries and cares of this world. I finish by sharing a song I wrote in my younger years. It is simply recorded on my computer without any fancy software, so please don’t judge it too harshly. The message is one which I use often to ‘rise above it all’, to soar on God’s thermals and view life from above from his kingdom perspective, and then like the eagle you will have courage, power and peace to conquer – so that your apparent problems become God given challenges you can achieve ‘with the help of his strength and grace.’ shaping and making. Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in his foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son [Jesus]. – Romans 8:28 (JB Phillips Trans.)
Explore my website for more interesting hints and tips on birding and life from my Homepage menu.
Also, if you have not yet done so, check out my book on my birdbook page.
Have a wonderful week and Aussies keep cool and praying as we brave these relentless heatwaves and destructive storms. Many birds have already died as a result, including inland freshwater fish and other animals. Pray for a break in the drought.
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.