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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Last Monday on the public holiday, my wife and I had a birding date revisiting Bushell’s Lagoon in search of the Bittern again and to film Pink-eared Ducks vortexing for food. Surprisingly, both were not present, but got to chat to some birders where we exchanged tips and sightings. Click on photos to enlarge.
Birders focused at Bushells Lagoon wetlands
more of the extensive wetland where the Bittern usually is found.
The Blue-green algae blooms are gradually overtaking the wetland due to the drought and warmer than usual winter weather, which is limiting the area usable by the water birds.
On arrival, my best shots were taken unexpectedly from my car window before alighting, as a couple of Golden-headed Cisticola, non-breeding, came to check me out on perched on the rusty barbed-wire fence next to my car. Such little cuties!
The usual Great and Intermediate Egrets were present as was the White-faced Heron, in addition the unexpected flock of Cattle Egrets resting across the lake.
Cattle Egret flock
Cattle Egrets in flight
It was lovely to see this family of Australasian Swamphen caring for their one and only surviving baby, which is unusual as they normally have a clutch of about 3-8 eggs.
Swamphen family on the move
Feeding Australasian Swamphen chick
Another sad story was to see this pair of Australian Black Swan who had recently, last week, had 4 cygnets and appears to be grieving their loss, as they are gone from the nest.
feeling their loss together
Having a wash
The main reason for these losses is the large number of raptors constantly screening this area for an easy feed. While we were there this Whistling Kite made a pass over.
Followed by an juvenile (1yo) White-bellied Sea-Eagle.
Followed by this Black-shouldered Kite which is often seen nearby. These raptors spend much of their time resting on the top of dead and live trees. The film clip shows this peculiar up and down tail action or ‘tail flip’ which is thought to warn other Kites that this their territory, and go look elsewhere, but there is no other raptor of the same species, but several of different species. The other interesting observation was to watch it hover over its prey, gradually dropping to a different level, with feet extended, till finally dropping on it, in the same way as the Nankeen Kestrel.
A birding acquaintance Edwin, pictured in above photo at Bushell’s Lagoon, tipped us off as to where the flock of Pink-eared Duck could be located on a dam nearby, so off we went. We found them but they were too far away for great shots and they were resting not feeding, as I had hoped.
After lunch at Windsor we made our way to Wianamatta Nature Reserve in search of the Red-capped Robin again. However, it also was not seen on this occasion. However, we did see several small birds hopping about on one particular tree foraging, and at first looked very much like a White-throated Treecreeper, as they do look alike, but the beak was not curved. We were delighted to unexpectedly, as is one of the highlights of birding, to happen upon a bird rarely seen in our region, the Varied Sittella.
chasing the insect
The Varied Sittella is only found in the south eastern states of NSW and Victoria and occasionally eastern SA. They are insectivorous and feed mainly, like the lookalike Treecreeper, on the trunks and branches of trees. However, they do not necessarily ascend the tree to the top and fly to the next tree, when they forage in similar fashion as the Treecreeper, nor do they make the loud repetitive single note call of the Treecreeper, but forage more quietly with their sharp twittering calls. We saw these two Sittella huddled high and hidden in the tree. One appeared to be a juvenile and the other an adult female.
Together in another part of the tree this pair of Sittellas sat preened and rested.
Again we saw the beautiful tiny but bright Yellow Thornbill and the handsome Silvereye.
We followed this Grey Shrike-thrush along the track for some time as he stopped to check us out.
Lastly, the White-eared Honeyeater were also present, though we were starting to loose light so I had few good shots to show after this.
While we walked at Wianamatta this beautiful cloud formation appeared, looking very much plumed like a feather, as my wife suggested. Which reminded us that our loving Heavenly Father is enjoying this experience with us. He enjoys us enjoying and appreciating his Creation and thanking him for it. So he put this this reminder in the sky for us to remember that he is always there for us and travelling with us on our journey. This also was an unexpected sign. Birding is full of exciting unexpected experiences, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you are going to get”.
See how King David sees himself as a young bird shielded by God his Father bird, what a beautiful image for a Birder, of God’s care and protection of us.
“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” – Psalm 91:4 (NLT)
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” – Psalm 37:4
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” – Ephesians 3:20
This week I created a private song page for the encouragement of my wife’s niece Nikki, a young mother of 3, who has been in hospital now for nine months with a debilitating illness. Her faith and joy in the Lord is remarkable and an amazing inspiration to all who know her. If you would like access to this page to listen to the selection of my songs recorded way back in my earlier Christian years, drop me a line and I will send the link and the password, and please pray for her as she may be returning home soon, but with disabilities. We continue to pray for complete healing.
Have a wonderful week and stay warm! I am working well writing my next book as the inspiration flows during my time away from my previous work. I am privileged to have this time to devote myself to the task.
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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.