Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a season of birds

At this time of year I have a number of bird species migrating, or making flighty swift visits to my garden. I have not succeeded in photographing them in my garden, but visitors have included the once-common elegant, unmistakable bulbul, thought by some to be a pest but far more common fifty and sixty years ago, when I was young.

Absolutely not a pest, the Wonga Pigeon is audible wonga-wonga-ing and comes for a quick look and seed hunt before wisely scooting back to the bush, having in earlier times, because it's fat and walks around, been hunted and eaten near to extinction. Here is a little sound bite of its voice that I made in 2007 at my former farm. There it grew tiresome, same voice all day. Here, sudden, brief, unexpected, it's a huge pleasure.

There have been rain events of one to two inches of rain, a week apart, with heat between. Growth luxuriant and at my house with many ponds, at least three species of frog at noght. At Helen's house, the bird life and lizard life abound. A 30cm lizard has come into the house and it's not easy to see how to get it out.

A juvenile magpie has decided to be Helen's kitchen window friend. You can tell it's a juvenile both because it is fearless and has not learned any hostile responses to humans and also because the black and white feathering is not sharply defined yet. Alas I did not get the camera in time to record three young magpies on my neighbour's lawn one afternoon, either in play or in reality engaging in vigorous puffing, pouting, pecking and flapping competition. But here is Helen's friend, a regular visitor to the window. He does not seem to be using the window as a mirror but curious about life on the inside and happy to be talked to... and to gurgle back.

Meanwhile out the front, in the damp morning, corellas gather on the powerlines. Since recent inland droughty years, they seem much more common on the coast. 

and fly away... (click on any photo to enlarge)

When there is a storm coming out of those hills to the west out there, these birds come screaming ahead of the storm in large numbers, shouting "who's got the map, where's the map, which way to New Zealand??!!" 

But in this quiet cool damp morning, it's different, quiet, social.

I realise that hanging out on the power lines in the morning has simple explanations. They are very social, there's quite a bit of healthy allopreening going on. But also, if you've been in safety in trees in the night, you are wet and you need somewhere in the open to dry. We don't hang our washing under trees, same reason. 


  1. I hope someday to travel to Australia to observe some of the fascinating birds that live there. For many years I owned a Moluccan cockatoo whose intelligence and talent for mischief was always entertaining. I currently keep a much smaller male cockatiel who enjoys serenading (in his loudest voice) the wild birds at the feeders outside his window. Some of my favorite memories are of the 5 imprinted Bobwhite quails I raised on several occasions. Because they were imprinted on me, I could safely take them outdoors and they would always follow me wherever I went. Most people were curious about why they didn't run or fly away when free to do so. I'm sure you saw the huge flocks of ravens when you visited Japan. I spent many years watching them do interesting, but often destructive things while I lived in Japan.

  2. We look forward to your arrival Michael!

    Lovely story, perhaps in Texas they might have thought the quails were blowflies... :-)

    About 20 years ago I thought a corner of a garden that I then had would be nice for quails and carefully fenced off around it, under wooden stairs, inside a brick walled area. I did not have the advice of the www or anyone else, and of course as soon as I released the quails into this happy enclosure I learned that I needed to have put netting above not just at the sides. All the quails swiftly rose vetically in the air 10ft and flew over the garden wall, never to be seen again.

    Ravens are also very intelligent as you know. They alone among birds and animals in northern Australia have worked out how to deal with cane toads http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cane_toads_in_Australia ... the toads exude poison from glands on their back, but the ravens flip the toads over and rip off their limbs and rip out their guts.

    Their larger relatives in northern Australia, I have been told by Aboriginal people, take advantage of traditional practices of Aboriginal people, of maintaining edible landscape and driving animals to be eaten using fire in undergrowth. Kites have been known to pick up burning sticks and carry them off to start their own fire front from which lizards and snakes run.

    We are a pretty simple species, really!


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