Archive for July, 2006

Uninvited Picnic Guest

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

We were having a peaceful picnic in the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens near Adelaide last Sunday when we had an uninvited picnic guest. This Australian Magpie settled on our picnic basket for about five minutes. It was only about a metre from where we sat. There were several other magpies that came quite close too, so they are obviously very used to being around humans.

While it was sitting on the basket we noticed that one of its legs was severely deformed, as if it had been broken at some stage. This did not seem to hinder the bird in any way, though balancing on the handle of the basket was tricky. We were delighted that he decided to honour us with a beautiful carolling song. Hearing the magpies carolling at any time is a delight; hearing it sung at such close quarters was magnificent!

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Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens in winter

Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens in winter


Flock of Magpie Larks

I need to go for regular walks for the good of my health. These walks regularly give me opportunities to do a little birding as I go. A few evenings ago, just on sunset, I saw 21 Magpie Larks all flying overhead in the same direction. I have normally only observed single birds or a pair. Most often one only experiences a few at a time, rarely in large groups.

On checking the handbook of Australian Birds (HANZAB) I have discovered that flocks of up to 100 individuals have been seen. I am not sure where they had been but they all seemed to be heading for a nearby oval, possibly to roost in the trees next to the oval.

The pest with a crest

We have a large number of Crested Pigeons in and near our garden. We love seeing them and observing their iridescent colours reflecting in the sun. We are always amused by their flimsy nests; how do the eggs stay in the nest?

Last week I visited the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I saw a different side to this wonderful bird. Here they have bred into pest proportions. Near the restaurant and fast food outlet they hang around the tables waiting for food thrown by the customers. I even saw several actually on the tables almost taking food off the plates of the picnickers.

In most places, including the nearby Adelaide Zoo, the dominant species is the usual Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove). Here the Crested Pigeon seems to have created their own little niche. I saw no Feral Pigeons there at all. Perhaps they were all visiting the zoo!

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

Great Birding Moments #9 Brown-headed Honeyeaters

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Brown-headed Honeyeater

We have quite a range of honeyeaters resident in our garden. One of the more endearing species is the smallest of them all, the Brown-headed Honeyeater. This species is usually seen in loose flocks of 12-20 or more. I enjoy hearing their chittering calls as they pass through the garden or the mallee scrub at the back of our house. They seem to be always on the move, rarely settling for more than a few moments.

One exception to this is when they come to the birdbath for a drink or a communal bathing session. We have often been amused as they all line up on a nearby branch, all waiting to take a turn at bathing. Water droplets spray in all directions.

A few days ago I counted at least 18 of them all lined up on the gutter on the roof of the cabin near the house. This time they weren’t politely waiting for their turn to bathe. They all seemed to want a bath at the same time. Again, water droplets sprayed in all directions.

Here is my dilemma: leave the gutter/bath as it is – or should I clean it out thus denying them of this delightful fun?

Favourite Birding Spot #2 Swanport Reserve

This is the second in a series of articles I plan to post about my favourite birding spots. The first article can be read here.

Swanport Reserve

This reserve is about 5km south of the Murray Bridge CBD in rural South Australia. The local council has set aside this reserve on the banks of the Murray River as a picnic area. The area is about two acres in size and is mainly lawn with a scattering of River Red Gums and a few other trees, making it a lovely shady place in the summer. There is a safe swimming beach approximately 60 metres in length. A part of the beach is set aside for fishing.

Noisy Miner at Swanport Reserve

Noisy Miner at Swanport Reserve

Over the years this reserve has become one of our favourite picnic destinations; it is only a ten-minute easy drive from home. I have lost count of the number of times we have taken fish and chips or chicken and chips there for a picnic lunch or tea. And as always, the thermos and tea bags are always handy too. Sitting in a picnic chair watching the river traffic go by has to be one of the more relaxing ways of spending a few hours on a lovely day or a summer’s evening. What is more, the bird life rarely disappoints.

The Birds of Swanport Reserve

Over the years I have recorded 72 species of birds on my visits to the reserve. Naturally, the waterbirds are well represented. This includes four species of cormorants, the Little Pied being the most common. One almost always sees several Australian Pelicans, Straw-Necked and White Ibis, and several White-faced Herons. Of the ducks, the most common would be the Pacific Black Duck and the Australian Wood Duck though I have seen both Mallards and Grey Teal.


Interestingly, I have only once observed a single Great Crested Grebe at Swanport and never the Hoary Headed nor the Australasian Grebe, both common species in this area. The Great Crested is not regularly seen in this part of SA.

Other Waterbirds

Almost always one is able to see the Eurasian Coot swimming near the bank and Purple Swamphens skulking along on their long legs. Dusky Moorhens are also seen from time to time, trailing a string of little ones paddling furiously trying to keep up with mum and dad. Black-tailed Native Hens come and go, sometimes there are dozens of them but often none at all. Once I saw a Black-fronted Dotterel, another species widespread but not numerous in this area.

Gulls and Terns

Silver Gulls are always flying past, sometimes in loose flocks of two or three up to several dozen. Single Caspian Terns regularly patrol up and down the river, as do Crested Terns and Whiskered Terns.


Whistling Kites, Little Eagles and Black Kites are almost always present and regularly breed in the taller trees along the river banks. The Whistling Kites mournful calls can be heard as they patrol to river banks and nearby dairy farm swamps and wetlands. Swamp Harriers and Spotted Harriers also occur here as does the small Black-shouldered Kite.

Pigeons, Doves

There is a huge population of feral pigeons (Rock Doves) along the river. They seem to nest and breed prolifically underneath the three bridges which cross the river at Murray Bridge. They are also a pest in many of the town’s buildings and they also utilise the hollows in some of the old-growth eucalypts along the river. Flocks of 20-100 can be seen flying along the river at any time of the day. More pleasant at Swanport are the Peaceful Doves, their cooing on a still summer’s day adding to the atmosphere of relaxation. Crested Pigeons are plentiful as are the introduced Spotted Turtle-Doves.


Flocks of 100s of Little Corellas and Galahs are often seen along the river it this area. The noisy and gregarious Corellas can undo the peacefulness of the reserve as they fly overhead. Other parrots include Red-rumped Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets and Purple-Crowned Lorikeets and I once recorded two Yellow Rosellas. This sub-species of the Crimson Rosella is normally found much further upstream; my record seems to be one of those occasional odd sightings.


Red Wattlebirds and White-plumed Honeyeaters are common in and around the reserve. New Holland Honeyeaters and Singing Honeyeaters are also present and Noisy Miners (see photo above) are everywhere.

Picnic at Swanport Reserve, Murray Bridge

Picnic at Swanport Reserve, Murray Bridge

Other birds

There are many more species to see at Swanport Reserve. 100s of Welcome Swallows swoop low over the river. Australian Magpies and Magpie Larks patrol the lawns looking for a feed. Willie wagtails and Superb Fairy-wrens are always present and Australian Reed-Warblers can be heard in the reeds lining the river bank. Both the Laughing Kookaburra and the Sacred Kingfisher are resident species.

An Anomaly

This reserve is at the historic settlement of Swanport. In all of my visits, I have only ever once seen a Black Swan there! They are much more common further upstream at another wetlands area.

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Post updated on 30th May, 2017.