One of the most frustrating things for me about "lockdown" has been the inability to go birdwatching.
Spring is one of the best times of the year, to be out and about, with many birds returning to the local area after their winter migration.
Sacred Kingfishers, Woodswallows, Dollarbirds and Rainbow Bee eaters are returning to the Maitland area and last week I heard my first Koel for the season.
One of my favourite places to visit is a small patch of woodland at the end of the Dog Off-Leash Area at Thornton. This tiny remnant of bush, left after the clearing of trees for the housing developments in the area, is a treasure trove of surprises.
Although the area is very debilitated, it provides a refuge for birdlife. On my last visit I was very surprised to find a family of Grey-crowned Babblers, Australian King Parrots and some young Pied Butcherbirds.
Pied Butcherbirds are widespread and familiar to most people and are larger than the Grey Butcherbird also found locally. They are best known for their memorable, haunting flute-like song which has been described as "one of the finest in the world".
The adult butcherbirds are black and white with a distinctive black chest "bib". Immature birds have a brownish, ill defined "bib", which turns black over a two-year period as the bird matures.
They hunt and eat small reptiles, birds, frogs, and small mammals, and are often to be found in dry forests, woodlands and parks and urban backyards.
Australian King Parrots are one of the larger species of parrots found in Australia and inhabit dense forests, flying swiftly below the tree canopy and through the tree trunks when disturbed. They nest in tree hollows and usually mate for life.
King Parrots are found along the east coast and ranges in rainforests and have adapted to urban areas where there are dense trees. They are threated by habitat alteration from climate change.
These birds are bright red and green, the male has a completely red head, while the female's head is green. They are beautiful and can often be closely approached while feeding.
They eat fruit and seeds and particularly like the seedpods of wattles.