Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Since moving to the country over two years ago I’ve kept a record of the identifiable birds that I’ve seen from our house and garden. I’m quite impressed with the variety and surprised by some the visitors we’ve had.

In no particular order:

Pacific Black Duck – The dam at the nearby retirement village seems to be the attraction for ducks, and they are quite commonly seen flying overhead in pairs but it was a bit surprising to see them walking around our garden. I saw one pair in the back garden possibly a year ago; I’ve since seen another pair walking across the front.

Brown Goshawk – I caught a glimpse of a suspected small bird of prey emerging from the wonga wonga vine growing above our side fence. Several months later a group of birds chased a similar bird across the garden only a metre away from where I was standing. After checking the guidebook it seemed there were only two possibilities – a sparrowhawk or a brown goshawk. They were the only birds matching the size and the markings across the breast. The goshawk seemed to be the most likely candidate considering it seems more common in my area than the Sparrowhawk.

Masked Lapwing – I saw and identified these birds in the grounds of the nearby hospital as I was driving past. I quickly returned home and viewed them from the edge of my front garden to make them eligible for this list.

Crested Pigeon – These are some of our most common visitors and they’ve nested in a couple of our trees. Their “nest” is a small and flimsy looking platform built from small twigs and grasses. Its amazing how their eggs and young remain secure for long enough to hatch and reach maturity.
They are often heard flying around with their distinctive whirring sound and their courtship dance is quite entertaining as is their clumsiness on landing.

Galah – These often roost in trees near the retirement village. Clouds of them swoop overhead throughout the day. They bring to mind the flocks of seagulls that were common when I lived near the coast.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – Usually heard before they are seen. Most of the time a solitary bird will fly over head and I can’t recall seeing any large groups.

Superb Parrot – We’ve had only one visit of these parrots. A group of three landed in our neighbours wattle and stayed long enough to have their photos taken.

Eastern Rosella – A pair are occasional/regular visitors.(see top of article)

Red Rumped Parrot – a small flock visited for a few days, inspecting the front and back lawns. But after those few days we haven’t seen them again.

Superb Fairy Wren – a constant visitor. So far this year we have one pair that appears to be nesting in bushes across the back fence. They spend a lot of time around our compost bins and in the veggie patch. The hen is particularly bold and often hops around within a metre or two of where I’m working. The male has also been seen investigating its own reflection in the back windows of our house.

Red Wattle Bird – one of my favourites that I grew familiar with in Sydney. I can recognise these from a distance now by the way they glide around and also by their raucous cry. They are regular visitors to our grevillea bushes.

White Plumed Honey Eater – This is the first new bird I saw from our property. I was lucky enough to get a clear enough photo to allow me to identify it from a guidebook. They have a very loud song for their size. Not long after we first moved in I found a baby on the ground and tried to pick it up and move it to the safety of some bushes. Its parents aggressively swooped at me trying to protect it. Unfortunately it struggled from my hands and slipped behind the fence. The parents and the chick were calling to each other for hours afterwards.
Just a few days ago I found another young one huddled against our front window. I picked it up and it was able to fly the short distance to a nearby melaleuca. Later I heard some adult birds calling from across the road. I suspect they are nesting in trees over there – and the young bird made an early attempt to fly, only managing a downhill journey to our place. It had only recently been fed because its crop was quite full.

European Goldfinch – only seen in the early days when the garden was still a bit neglected.

Australian Pelican – perhaps one of the biggest surprises considering there are no sizeable bodies of water around – but the continuing drought has sent many bird species out looking for more promising habitat as their natural homes dry up. Probably this bird was merely passing through and investigating the retirement village dam on the way. The dam at that time was well depleted and would have been no incentive for the pelican to stay.

Common Black Bird – Common IS the word. They are ever-present throughout our garden; scattering mulch everywhere and excavating the garden beds in search of worms. At times they almost uproot well-established roses as they dig all around. They are very annoying pests in the garden – but they try to compensate with their singing.

Silvereye - my first encounter with these birds was unexpected. I was watering the roses when a group of silvereyes swooped across and started darting from bush to bush less than a metre away from me. They showed no concern at all about my presence.

The list continues with the following:
Magpie Lark
Willie Wagtail
Blackfaced Cuckoo Shrike
Australian Magpie
Pied Currawong
House Sparrow
Welcome Swallow
Common Starling
White Ibis
Feral Pigeon
And an unidentified Heron