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.
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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.
Black-winged Stilt reflecting
This week I want to honour a wader which is common to the shores of Australia, South America and South Africa, Indonesia, New Zealand and other countries south of the Equator. The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is probably one of our most common waders, and one of the few that does not migrate to the north each year to breed. It breeds in Australia and as my book explains, has a friendly foraging relationship of comradery with the Red-necked Avocet a purely Australian wader which also breeds locally, but more inland.
The Black-winged Stilt is one of my most favourite birds to photograph because it is such a perfect bird for reflection photos, which I love to take., as you can see.
This is one of the few birds that I have photographs of that follow this bird from egg to its adult stages. The Black-winged Stilt feeds on aquatic insects and small molluscs and crustaceans. They feed in the shallows of freshwater lakes and wetlands including brackish marshes. They are a flock bird and can be quite noisy with their bird-bark-like-call which usually warns of alarm or encroachment of territory, as they are very protective of their space when nesting and raising young.
Let’s start with the eggs. The Black-winged Stilt has a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs and like many bird eggs they are dappled as you can see below. The female has a simple shallow hollow with some soft grass as the nest. Note below how she bends her very long legs, her knees fold backwards, the opposite to our human knees. This allows her to tuck her large feet comfortably under her body.
When the chicks are finally born after 22 to 24 days incubation. Most birds would be starting to nest by now or be about to as Spring arrives. The chicks begin walking about and fending for themselves soon after. You can hear the parent warning off potential trouble as we walk by.
As the juveniles start maturing and begin looking like the adult they lack the black neck but sport a black eye marking for their first years. As they mature their brown plumage becomes black, the eye marking lessons and disappears and the black neck stripe forms.
In this very rare and unique image one can see four different stages of maturity for the Black-winged Stilt. See if you can work out the stages of maturity.
Four different stages of development in one photo
When these birds fly they tuck their long lanky legs behind and fly quite majestically.
Finally the bird matures to an adult and at low tide and around the lake edges it pokes its long sharp beak into the water seeking out marine insects and small crustaceans. You can hear its monotonous call as it forages.
As I have shared earlier the Black-winged Stilt though not endemic to Australia has formed a friendly alliance with Australia’s Red-necked Avocet, where both birds are often found forading beside each other and their flocks mixed. Here is a candid moment which is seldom experienced where the larger Avocet runs into the Stilt and moves it on.
So there we have it, a beautiful bird with beautiful reflective properties for photographers, in the still shallows. If you are in Sydney and you would like to see both these birds together, visit Sydney Olympic Park and walk to the large lake with the bird hide, past the mangrove walks. What we learn from these two birds is that you can be quite different in appearance and culture yet live and feed in the same areas and have peaceful and caring relationships. This is God’s best for us all in this multi-cultural age, an example set by these birds.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” – Romans 12:16
During the last decade, Sydney has become one of the most multicultural cities in the world (Australia the 2nd most multicultural nation) and with that many of us Anglo-Saxon Aussies from country areas, such as myself, found it a challenge to adjust to this change. As I currently work with people from all over the world, warm caring family people, I have learned to appreciate them in a much more understanding and loving manner, enjoying many warm friendships. Sometimes we need to reflect on our attitude to those who are different from us.
Have a wonderful week birding!
As I approach my final weeks of full-time work in Immuno Haematology, negotiations are continuing as managers discuss the possibility of continuing my employment part-time. My wife and I seek God’s best for my future, and wait for him to open or close the door. The future always remains in the reliable hands of the One who ‘knows the end from the beginning’ of all things, and always works everything in life for our good. The proposed bird guide work and 2nd book writing are both on hold till this is resolved, your prayers are valued.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
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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