A story about Blackbirds, Honeyeaters and Cats

Common Blackbird

Common Blackbird

Common Blackbirds

Nearly 11 years ago, I wrote a simple little article on this blog about Common Blackbirds (click to read).

Never did I imagine that it would be so popular. It consistently is one of the ten most read articles on this site, and with nearly 300 comments from readers, it has obviously struck a chord with my readers.

A few days ago, one of my readers – Sue – wrote a wonderful account of the Common Blackbirds in her garden, along with comments on honeyeaters and their interactions with her pet cats. I found this account so fascinating that I have published it here in full so that more readers can enjoy her experiences.

Hi Trevor,

Great massive Blackbird thread!
I thought I would add our Blackbird experience for your consideration.

We have a medium-sized block in Kensington, Adelaide, so I have a bit of garden surrounding the old villa. We have two cats, which live entirely inside with the amenity of a professionally built, fully netted enclosure on one side of the house from verandah to fence.

The honeyeaters were the first to find a way into the enclosure, by dropping through the ceiling netting which has a slightly larger grid than the wall netting, to get to the citrus trees inside. They were always faster than the one cat who has any real hunting ability. Their other advantage is that cat is deaf – so if he doesn’t see them, he doesn’t know they are there.

Then the resident pair of blackbirds learnt the same trick. For them the strip of garden along the fence and the mulched area around the compost bins are a rich source of forage. They are also faster than the cats. And they also enter and exit at speed, despite the bird seeming too large for the net.

The enclosure has vine growing over it. The vine is trained underneath on wires, and grows up through the net.
Honeyeaters chose to nest in the vine above the net. They raised a chick, then moved to the bamboo for the next round.

This summer the blackbirds have built a nest in the vine IN the enclosure, UNDER the net. They fledged one enormous chick just before Christmas and to our delight have gone another round with two, possibly three, hungry chicks being fed as I type.
We were worried how the baby might get out safely, but we actually saw it fledge over a weekend. It was encouraged out of the nest, to hop around the branches, then encouraged up through the net. We have seen it in the rest of the garden with its parents several times.

Mrs B doesn’t worry even when I am watering right under her. Previous behaviour for the blackbirds, the honeyeaters and even the wattlebirds is to nag me in the garden for the rain wave sprinkler then enjoy the ‘rain’. It’s not just Aussie humans that like running under the sprinkler in the hot weather.

This year the rosellas have the small hole in an old peppercorn tree, and the lorikeets had the large hole in the same tree, and were both successful.

The rest of the garden is not cat free, and there are definitely cats, rats, foxes, as well as possums and the annual koala, using it at times, but the complexity of the cat enclosure and the presence of the cats seems to keep the (non-resident) predators away from it.

In a highly artificial urban environment, we would all prefer if native species could thrive, but sometimes the imports are better suited to holding a niche. Compared to mynahs, the blackbirds seem to be a lesser of two evils. And lorikeets have proved to be pretty dominating over the smaller rosella..

Happy bird encounters, all… Sue

Thank you, Sue, for a wonderful description of the birdlife and wildlife in your suburban garden. I wish more cat lovers would be as responsible as you are with a special enclosure.

Happy birding,

Trevor

Further reading:

Common Blackbird sitting on nest

Common Blackbird sitting on nest

Baby Common Blackbirds in nest

Baby Common Blackbirds in nest

Common Blackbird (male) at one of our birdbaths

Common Blackbird (male) at one of our birdbaths

Birds of Horseshoe Bay at Pt Elliot

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Last week I wrote about a trip I took with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. We travelled from Murray Bridge to Victor Harbor which is just over an hour’s drive south-west from home. Along the way, we stopped at Milang, then at Goolwa, followed by an exploration of Hindmarsh Island, on to Pt Elliot and ended up having dinner at a favourite restaurant in Victor Harbor. While the day-trip was meant as a day out for relaxation, I had plenty of opportunities to do some casual birding wherever we stopped.

Pt Elliot is a lovely town of around 2000 population which swells in number during our long, hot summers. It is located on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and was established as a port in 1851. It boasts the reputation of having Australia’s first public railway line which extended from Goolwa. This railway line provided a means to carry cargo to and from the riverboat trade on the Murray River to seagoing ships. The mouth of the Murray River was considered too treacherous to navigate. The railway line is still in operation, though now it only carries tourists.

Pt Elliot has a delightful, and quite safe, little beach known as Horseshoe Bay. On our visit, it was very crowded despite the cool breeze. The local lawn bowls club is right next to the beach, and adjacent to the Flying Fish restaurant, known widely for its excellent seafood menu. The local caravan park just around the bay a little is very popular in the summer months.

The birdlife here is a mixture of land birds and coastal birds. Of the coastal birds, I was not able to identify many on this visit. On Pullen Island out in the bay, I could see hundreds of Silver Gulls and several Pacific Gulls. A small group of Little Pied Cormorants rested on the rocks while the occasional Whiskered Tern, Crested Tern or Caspian Tern flew overhead. On the islands, I am sure that there were a few terns as well, though my binoculars were not strong enough for me to be certain.

Away from the water, the Singing Honeyeater is a common bird of the coastal dunes and nearby bushes. Crested Pigeons can be seen throughout the town, often perched on rooftops or television antennae. Small flocks of Galahs and Little Corellas flew overhead. More frequently encountered are the Rainbow Lorikeets, either screeching as they fly low overhead, or noisily feeding on any flowering tree of bush in the gardens nearby. The lawns were attractive to the Australian Magpies, their keen eyes on the lookout for beetles, worms and other tasty morsels.

Further reading:

  • Readers can go to further articles about some of the birds and places mentioned in the text by clicking on the links in blue.
Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Nice pose for a Silver Gull

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Earlier this week my wife and I celebrated another anniversary. My – how the years have flown by. We always try to do something special for our anniversary and agreed that the weather was suitable for a long drive and a picnic, finished by dinner at a favourite restaurant. After an early morning chat on the phone with our grandchildren, we set off towards Milang, which is about 50 kilometres from our home. We stopped at the local bakery to buy our lunch, a Cornish pasty each, and a large lamington to share.

We took our lunch down to the shore of Lake Alexandrina and had a picnic lunch on the lawns there. The largest river system in Australia, The Murray-Darling Basin, flows into this large lake, which in turn empties into the Southern Ocean near Goolwa. While we ate our lunch we watched some children playing with their dogs and on the playground. I took note of the birds I could see or hear, but things were rather quiet on that front – until someone disturbed a large flock of very noisy Little Corellas nearby. I have often thought that I would like to stay in the local caravan park right next to the lake, but I concluded that you would not need an alarm clock; the parrots would see that you woke at dawn, or even at first light.

From Milang we drove on towards Goolwa and explored Hindmarsh Island – but I will write about that part another day. Later in the afternoon, we stopped at Horseshoe Bay, Pt Elliot. This small town on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula is a popular holiday destination, being just over an hour’s drive from Adelaide. We stopped for a cuppa and some homemade biscuits in the car park at the lookout. I parked so that we had a great view over the bay. In South Australian history, this spot is quite important. Encounter Bay, which stretches for some distance to the south-east, was where English explorer Captain Matthew Flinders and the French explorer Nicolas Baudin met in April 1802.

While we were having our cuppa, a solitary Silver Gull settled on an interpretive sign just in front of our car. It obligingly posed for a series of photos which I am sharing here today. Silver Gulls are the most common gull found all around the coastline of Australia. It can also be seen far inland where suitable bodies of water exist, such as river systems, lakes, reservoirs and swamps. It can be very common in large numbers at rubbish tips, ovals, picnic grounds and beaches.

Further reading:

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Silver Gull, Pt Elliot, South Australia

Wildlife of Lane Cove National Park

Noisy Miner

Noisy Miner

Over recent years, my wife and I have visited the Lane Cove National Park just west of Chatswood in the heart of Sydney. We try to get there whenever we visit family living in Artarmon nearby. Despite being in the heart of a bustling part of the city, this park not only preserves some remnant bushland for all to enjoy, it also boasts a good range of wildlife. I am particularly interested in the birdlife – hence this website. I also take an interest in other forms of wildlife, as well as the plant life, an interest which flows over from my wife.

On a visit there last October, I managed a few photos of some of the resident birds, as well as some other wildlife. A few weeks ago I shared a photo of two Long-necked Turtles here. I have also written about the local Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and the Australian Wood Ducks I saw in the park.

One of the very common birds in this area is the Noisy Miner, shown in the photo above. This individual landed on the picnic table alongside where we were sitting. I guess it was looking for a handout of human food, just like the local Laughing Kookaburras and Brush Turkeys. Noisy Miners are certainly the most common of the Australian honeyeaters in this part of Sydney.

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

I have noticed on all of our visits to this park that the Eastern Water Dragon is a very commonly observed reptile in the park. I think that we have seen many of these lizards on every visit to the park. The one shown in the photo below was quite friendly and unafraid, coming up quite close to where we were sitting.

Eastern Water Dragon

Eastern Water Dragon

Further reading:

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Australian Wood Ducks

Australian Wood Ducks

Brush Turkeys up close

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey

On many occasions here I have written about some of the birds I have seen and photographed while on visits to family in Sydney. One of our favourite places to visit while in Sydney is the Lane Cove National Park, just a short distance west of Chatswood in the northern suburbs, and only a ten-minute drive from my son’s home.

When we visit we usually take a picnic lunch, or if only going in the afternoon, we certainly take the makings for afternoon tea, including a few biscuits, or some fruit. We like to set up our folding chairs and make a cuppa, in a spot where we can see the river, as well as a good view of the trees. Such spots usually provide us with good birding as well.

If you stay in this park for a few hours or visit frequently, the chances of seeing a good range of local and visiting birds are very high. This park protects a large section of remnant scrubland. While there are roads and tracks through the park, as well as clearly defined picnic areas with barbeques, picnic tables and other public facilities, the vegetation left preserved gives the visitor a good impression of the natural environment as it existed before settlement in the late 1790s.

On this particular visit last October, my wife and I had a few hours leave from looking after our grandchildren. We set up our chairs in a good position and proceeded to eat our lunch. We had hardly started eating our sandwiches when we were robbed. Not only were the Laughing Kookaburras cheeky, so were the resident Australian Brush Turkeys, shown in the photos in this post.

Two of them came mooching around while we were having a post-lunch cuppa. They were obviously on the take and came up within a few centimetres of where we sat. We don’t feed birds that are supposedly wild. These individuals were behaving like they often get handouts of human food. Once they realised that we were not going to comply with their wishes, they skulked off elsewhere. They probably tried the same trick on other people enjoying a picnic.

Further reading:

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey