This week has been Wild Wet Windy Weather, and quite cold, a good reason to stay inside. So I continue with a walk I did deep into the rainforest last week, where I went to clear my mind to walk and talk with my Father in his Rainforest Garden, in the Royal National Park. Last week I featured the female Superb Lyrebird, this week the male (above). The male with the beautiful tail. I saw both male and female Lyrebirds foraging quietly, and they allowed me to come close, which is unusual. I was only 2 feet away from one and it was not alarmed. How wonderful that they trusted me. These are birds that feed deeper in the forest away from most human traffic, and are more trusting. If you want to see Lyrebirds, find where visible recent scratchings are on the track and be in that area, early morning after sunrise when they are having breakfast.
The other two rainforest floor dwellers along with the Lyrebird, that I mentioned in the above video are the Bassian Thrush and the Australian Logrunner. These two are very secretive birds and difficult to both find and see as they are found on the dark forest floor among the leaf litter where they find their food. They have excellent camouflage and will stop dead still when they see you. Check them out and you will see what I mean. The Logrunner is a very small bird and often heard before seen, as it flicks the leaf litter with its legs, leaning back on the tail.
Australian Logrunner (male and female)
If you do hear a Logrunner calling and communicating with partner it may sound like this:
If it is a territorial dispute it will sound more like a squeaky toy (a rubber ducky being repeatedly squeezed quickly).
The so called Naturalists from the early European settlement here in the 1800s, invaded our forests with rifles in the name of science (or today scientific research as with the whales Ha Ha). The so called bird loverJohn Gould dined on Australian birds and bragged about it, as he claimed fame for his 7 volume work on our birds in 1848. They killed thousands of Lyrebirds to stuff for display back in the homeland, eat, extract their tails from for display and just for the fun of it… don’t that make you a little upset ?
Eventually the Conservation Movement stopped the meaningless slaughter of these and many other native species, some now extinct. Now the ferule cats, domestic cats and foxes continue the slaughter, both here and in the forests near Melbourne, especially Sherbrooke Forest where the population was almost decimated by domestic cats. Local residents by Law now must keep their cats caged.
Last week, my wife and I also visited one of our western Sydney birding spots, as we delivered a book shipment to a warehouse nearby, but most of the birds were gone, that once were in abundance. I have noticed that many left during the months of bushfire smoke late last year. Here’s what we found.
The New Holland Honeyeater is found in abundance in the southern Sydney National Parks and Reserves, especially along the coastline heath. This bird is featured in my book: “What Birds Teach Us” for its Diligence, here is a sample page:
The good news is, the final part for my lens has arrived and the camera should be ready by Saturday and this era of movie filling up my website storage may end. It has been like having a best friend in hospital, and you can’t visit, having my lens out of action for four months. Though my wife has enjoyed having her photos receive encouraging remarks for my dear blog followers.
Thank you to those of you who have purchased my recent release 2nd Edition of “What Birds Teach Us”, some purchases are still making their way through the slower than usual Corona time, especially in the USA, but we are keeping track. We are working at present on new Promo videos and preparation for a book launch at a group of private schools.
Koorong Books has the 2nd Edition now in stock and is available online and in store. Koorong have stores all over Australia, mainly in the larger cities. Sadly, my previous best sellers, NSW National Parks Visitor Centres are still closed due to Covid. However at present the best price is to buy here online.
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” – Hebrews 6:11
Have a wonderful week birding… and….
My Mission: To encourage all people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
Last week my wife and I went for a longer than usual walk into the rainforest in the Royal National Park. We have been enjoying these long walks in the fresh sunny Autumn weather, and it has been therapeutic emotionally and physically as I continue to come to terms with social distancing, accepting retirement, my camera still being repaired and my book promotion put on hold.
Continuing from my previous post we left early in search again for the female Superb Lyrebirds nesting, as Autumn is the time when she builds the nest and lays her eggs, while the male continues to do his song and dance performances to woo his female fans for mating. Click Here for some of my previous footage, which some of you have seen, to give you an idea how they dance to their own beat, and use their repertoire of mimicry to impress the female.
Male Lyrebird performing mimicry
Male Lyrebird dancing to his own beat.
Like the Bowerbird, the males spend most of their life, and time practicing their performance for that short period of several weeks when they mate. Notice the female photo above (again the work of my dear wife, who wants to thanks those who complemented her for her beautiful Fairy-wren photo featured last week)) has an ordinary feathered tail and a rufous throat, unlike the beautiful male tail. As we walked deeper into the forest we noticed increased scratchings by the track, and soon we started finding the females preparing their nests and just very quietly foraging for food.
It was not long before we found what we were looking for, a female collecting sticks and moss for the nest. Again, she was very careful to not give away the location of the nest. I watched how particular she was collecting the correct stick. She would stop, add to the bundle, pick it up and move to her next pick up.
This particular day we saw no males, though the following week I saw 3 males and 3 females. As we made our way through the forest our stress levels fell and we felt more relaxed.
We started hearing and then seeing the White-throated Treecreeper ascending a tree, silently. Usually you only find them by hearing their loud repeating call. This is a female, because of the orange spot on her ears.
As she ascended you will hear in the background the sound of another Treecreeper climbing, foraging for grubs and insects in the bark of the eucalypt tree. This is a bird seen in greater number during the colder months.
The Golden Whistler is quieter during the winter months also. The males are usually hard to spot during Winter months, as they are shy and not singing as much as they Sing in Spring. The females on the other hand are very curious and will come close to get a good look at you.
One bird you will always hear in our rainforest all year round is the Lewin’s Honeyeater. Their call is similar to the Treecreeper but much faster in staccato. You may remember the call from a previous post, it was also in the background of the female Golden Whistler clip (above).
On this occasion I was able to get closer. Most of our Honeyeaters migrate around following blossom, and avoiding colder weather, but the Lewin’s is a rainforest Honeyeater and is usually territorial remaining all year round, similar to the Miners and Wattlebirds.
One of the encouraging signs after the drought beginning to break from recent rains, is the sound of the many Eastern Whipbirds, which went very quiet during the driest part of last year, as they forage on the forest floor turning moist leaf litter for grubs and insects, in moist gullies. They are very elusive birds, and in my early birding years had me standing for hours trying to catch a glimpse. This one eluded us also.
Eastern Whipbird sees us and plans his escape
Eastern Whipbird making his gettaway
As we finished our 9 km walk we noticed this Australasian Darter resting, and doing an excerpt from some Bird Ballet for a few seconds.
My contemplation for this week comes from the following film clip during my rainforest walk this week. The National Park was spared the horrific bushfires this past year, but has been burnt out years ago in 1994 with a horrific fire click here to see some of the photos. This tall straight forest hardwood in the thick of the rainforest was burnt out but continues to grow strong, because enough of the vital cambium layer just under the thick bark, which feeds the tree, survived the intense heat and fire.
This tree reminded me of me, when years ago I suffered burn out from being too busy and too stressed from the demands of job, family and life itself. Thankfully with God’s provision and help I survived and managed to to come back even stronger, like the tree, which spurred me on to study family counselling and write the books. While I remain connected and rooted firmly to my Life Source I can continue growing and enjoying life, having learnt how to avoid further burn out. My birding walks help achieve this,in a mindful way, like Adam (the first man) I can walk and talk with God alone in his beautiful garden, and be at peace, because I have come to realize his faithful love and provision for me. If you feel safe to check out my Birder Sanctuary pages you will see some of the principles that helped me through the difficult times, and continue to. Interesting enough God used birds to teach, help and even feed man many times throughout history, and Jesus mentions them more than any other animal.
Enjoy your week, and especially enjoy a fresh appreciation of freedom, food, family and friends and our beautiful country as we begin to navigate a new normal as we hopefully come out of the Covid Crisis.
My Mission: To encourage all people to make good life choices, using birds to teach important life skills.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
As we globally enter the season of social distancing and voluntary isolation, life as we have known it has changed. Thankfully, we do have our National Parks and Reserves to escape to, to bring healing and some normalization to our lives at this uncertain time in history. Though this also could change in the coming days. My wife and I continue to escape when we can to these havens. Last week we visited Dolls Point to see how our wader friends the Bar-tailed Godwit are doing, as they eat incessantly to fatten themselves for the journey north, which I thought they may have already flown. But with the warm weather remaining longer, they may leave in the next week or two.
As you can see they are at various stages of breeding plumage, with the male in this clan brightest orange and the females now showing a much fainter orange. There are also some not showing any breeding plumage which may be immature.
This Godwit below is possibly a female, showing the lighter breeding plumage. The females are also slightly larger and have slightly longer beaks.
A small company of Light-blue Soldier Crabs marched across the mudflats.
As we watched the Godwits to our surprise my wife noticed this small bright green object, which stood out like a sore thumb on the sand. We knew it was a native bird of our country, and suspected it to be an escaped pet as Green Parakeets are American birds. It appeared quite tame and came right up to us, but was not in any distress, but just rested on the sand with other birds nearby.
One think I have learnt as a birder over the years is that birds of the Parrot family as pretty and innocent as they look, are not to be reckoned with lightly by other bird species. They have one of the most painful bites. Even the Noisy Miner gives respect to the Rainbow Lorikeet here in Sydney. Watch how this much larger Silver Gull responds when he approaches this lovely little Parakeet.
Well if you think that this was an unexpected find, so was the much larger bird resting on the shoreline which caught our attention. Yes, it was a Kelp Gull, a bird we seldom see here on our beaches. The lipstick bottom beak identifies and differentiates it from the total lipstick beak of the almost identical Pacific Gull found in southern Australia.
On Sunday afternoon we walked in our local Royal National Park (or Nasho to the locals) , and found not only sparsity of people but also of birds. It was so quiet, as I kept saying to my wife, “It is so quiet! Autumn is usually quiet, but this is too quiet!” As we walked the streams, creeks and waterfalls were all flowing, which was a wonderful sound we have not experienced for a long time. As searched for the Azure Kingfisher beside the river we were greeted by a family of Pacific Black Duck, which are actually brown, not black as named. Yes, these are my wife’s pics, as I continue to wait from my lens repair.
Pacific Black Duck
Pacific Black Duck
This Dusky Moorhen stood by the water flicking its tail, a feature of some waterbirds, including the Australasian Swamphen. There are several ideas as to why they flick their tail of which I find too diverse to settle on one. We do know it communicates to other birds of the species, some say it may mean a warning or even intention to mate among other suggested reasons… mmm!
Soon after a young pair of Australian Wood Duck were strolling by the river eating grass seed, as this is what many grazing ducks and other passerines are eating at the end of Summer as the seasons change. Also, on this occasion the Kingfisher eluded us and flew some distance down the river.
As we walked quietly along the trail we were surprised there were no scratchings of the Lyrebird, nor any sounds of them. Since the months of smoke from bushfires I have not seen or heard them. It is disconcerting, as at this time of year the male will be preparing his mound and beginning to display for the females and mate, as Lyrebirds nest during the winter, unlike most birds. Suddenly, we heard a chattering nearby. It was a single Red-browed Finch, a fast moving little a seed eater.
I had to slow down this video clip so you could see him.
At this time of year there are the least number of nectar producing wildflowers, which means less birds, as most honeyeaters follow the blossom. Even the Banksia were all finished, and as Mountain Devil is not usually seen in the park, the Bush Fuchsiar flower was present in small numbers, which provided food for the non migratory Noisy Miner, which many find hard to believe it is actually a honeyeater, so here is the proof.
The tingling of the Eastern Crimson Rosella also caught our ear as it proceeded to feed from native berries above our head. On seeing us of course it tried to make itself unseen.
Another unexpected surprise for this time of year was to see a juvenile Black-faced Monarch. These birds usually migrate north to New Guinea and Northern Queensland during our winter months, so this one, born here in the park has not yet left. So we knew the parent was nearby. We saw the parent but it eluded any decent photo. The immature Monarch has much less black on its face. As it matures so the black increases. I slowed down the video so you could see its face before it flew. They are very shy birds, and don’t like their photo taken.
Here you can compare the juvenile and immature with the adult bird. There bright orange underbelly makes them easy to spot. These birds have a beautiful song which often makes them easy to find, but they were not chiming on this occasion.
Black-faced Monarch juvenile
Black-faced Monarch immature
Black-faced Monarch adult
Last of all as we turned to return to our car, my wife saw this Red-bellied Black Snake slithering away beside us on the trail. These are venomous but usually a shy snake,and and seldom cause any problem. They are the most common snake seen in the Sydney area. Unlike other more aggressive venomous snakes, Red-bellies do not need to hibernate through the Winter months. Often to the surprise of many international visitors to the Nasho they can be seen basking in the warm winter sun on the trial. If you approach stamping your feet, usually they will slither into the grass, as they have very poor eyesight and like most snakes have sensory devices on their body to detect ground vibrations. If they stand erect and challenge you, it is usually because they have young with them or you are standing between them and their nest, so just leave.
To top off the walk and having asked God to show us something special in the quiet forest, my wife potted a large entwined object hanging far out over the river, from a dead tree. It was a large Diamond Python, a beautiful harmless snake which many Aussies have as a pet. They are excellent mousers and ratters, far more effective than cats. Though my son’s little Toy Foxy dog was also better than cats as a mouser. It just slept in the afternoon sun, away from any contact. It must have heard the Prime Minister’s speech about practicing social distancing.
One of the important lessons from this virus plague is that it stops us in our busy tracks to consider how we are doing life, and how we might do things better. As from our two outings above, things were different, some were unexpected intrusions or inclusions. How we view change affects our emotional and physical well being considerably. The uncertainty of the untraveled path we are all travelling causes some anxiety for many, but one thing which I have come to know and believe over the years is that there is a Treasure in every Trial to be gleaned out. So I often say to those who ask for help: Don’t Miss the Treasure in the Trial. God may speak to us through our times of suffering and difficulty, and sometimes it is just a nudge to tell us he is there for us so just trust him and lean on him to take you through it. Unexpected change can bring good things into our lives also, we need to be looking for them with an attitude of gratitude as we all take notes in the Master Life Instructor’s school room of life.
Enjoy the rest of your week and stay safe as best you can.
A Rainbow Lorikeet guarding its nest in a hollow of an Angophora costata tree.
This week I will do a character study on one of Australia’s most colorful and popular birds, which people who visit Australia love to lay eyes on, the Rainbow Lorikeet. As my camera lens was wounded due to a fall, it is to receive medical attention, so I apologize for the lack of clarity with some of these photos. This bird is one of our most excited and numerous of the Parrot family often found alongside the larger and raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo warding off a stranger (me) as it guards its nest
Both birds are found down the east coast of Australia’s mainland and are often heard before seen. Both birds share the same kind of nesting tree, the Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum) found in large numbers along the coast.
Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum)
These birds bite out pieces of the dead wood where the tree branch has broken away, leaving a hole, to make a nest. The Angothora tree is a beautiful unique work of art, often called an artists delight due to its unusual branch structure and beautiful orange/pink coloration. It was also is known as the widow maker in days past, as it drops branches silently and without warning causing many casualties. This time of year they shed their bark and remain lighter colored till they regrow a new exterior.
watching from the nesting hole
warding off potential threat
The Rainbow, as we call it, we hear every morning chattering and calling with its high pitched noisy communication as they feed from our Bottlebrush flowers. They’re favorite foods pollen are nectar from native flowers, as well as insects, fruits as well as their bird candylerps and psyllids, which most of our small passerines also enjoy.
Have a careful look at this footage and notice how the Lorikeet uses its tongue to extract food from the nectar rich Endeavour Bottlebrush
As many of you will already know from reading my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’, Rainbows mate for life, and if you see them they will almost always be in pairs, excitedly flying at great speed together, calling to each other, and maneuvering with themselves in amazing accuracy. If a partner dies there is a grieving process similar to our own, and most sad to watch. They will go and fly with a flock.
Similar to the Cockatoo, these birds despite their size, are respected by all other birds, even the ultra aggressive Noisy Miner, as the Rainbows can inflict a serious injury if they are messed with due to their very strong sharp beak. Their vulnerability to raptors and their nestlings to Kookaburras and Currawong are their major points of concern. Nesting close to Cockatoos can be an advantage due to the group evasive action of the Cockies when danger approaches. The Cockatoo crest is a physical indication of the bird’s emotional state at the time. When the bird becomes excited or alarmed it will raise it and when it is resting or sick will flatten it.
Gaurding the nest after the alarm is sounded
Listen to the noisy chatter of a small flock feeding. They have dominance wherever they go when in flock.
There are two distinct subspecies or races [some call the Red-collared Lorikeet (race rubritorquis) a separate species rather than subspecies]. The Red-collared subspecies is only found far north in the states of WA and NT, having a distinct red collar, unlike the green of the east coast Rainbow (race moluccanus). We always love looking for the Red-collared when in Broome, WA.
The juvenile Lorikeet looks much the same as the adult except that it has a dark beak, dark eye and less red on its chest, as seen below with its adult parent.
juvenile with adult
The immature still has slight traces of its juvenile features as it approaches breeding maturity and the bright red beak.
One of the things i love about this bird, as with other Parrot species, in particular the Little Corella, is the affection and companionship exhibited between the devoted pair.
This is one bird, like the Cockatoo, that has survived the fires, due to their widespread location and their abundance, however many may have been lost due to the many who would have been caught nesting, as Spring and Summer are the nesting times. The sad thing is that many birds born this season may have been lost due to fires marking a considerable short fall in new bird numbers this year. Watch and hear some live footage of these birds happily feeding.
Here are a few flight shots I managed to capture at high speed.
If you would like to check out my new book releases for this year click here.
If this is your first visit to my blog, check out the rest of my birding website from my Home Page. I post a weekly blog which you can follow (see Follow button at top of page). Also check out my coming book releases. You can still purchase the book referred to in this post, there are a few left for purchase on this website only.
Lastly, consider these shots of the parent guarding its nest which is deep inside the dead portion of an Angophora tree, trying to ascertain my purpose in observing it. We were just about ten feet away enjoying our Australia Day breakfast with church friends, no one else appeared to notice this colourful head emerging and then disappearing into the hole in the nearby tree.
Notice the head tilt which is common with birds of monocular vision allowing them to observe food or in this case possible raptor overhead with one eye positioned. Birds also have a very acute hearing which allows some species to hear grubs and bugs moving below the surface of the soil, which is useful when they are on the ground dining. We saw this recently with our Magpie.
The Rainbow Lorikeet keeps watch over its young, sharing the role with its lifetime partner (not pictured here). This is why these birds survive and breed so well, they are a team and they work together to achieve their goal. The male will be responsible to train and protect the fledgling when it emerges. As a family they will fly together in constant communication as they excitedly feed and chatter to one another. In a good functional family environment, good communication is most important, It is through the words and actions of the parents that children learn how to live, feel safe, loved and cared for. It is how we learn the skills of life and understand who we are. It is important to add that it is not the words alone but the attitude with which they are transmitted that has the greatest affect on the positive growth and maturity of the hearer.
‘Letlove and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.’ – Proverbs 3:3
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear (a survivor)
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.
Australian soil on the ice of the Fox Glacier
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.
Regent Honeyeater critically endangered species
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.
Azure Kingfisher looks over the river
Azure Kingfisher waiting for a meal to appear
Sees fish and takes a dive
down beneath the surface it captures fish
emerges with fish in beak
flies back to tree
rests with fish in beak
quickly consumes fish and sits waiting again
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.
Juvenile Aust. Magpie tuning in his senses
Immature Aust. Magpie with morphing plumage
Immature Aust. Magpie from one side
Juvenile Magpie molting to Immature
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 quicktolisten, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ – James 1:19