Archive for August, 2007

A bounty of birds in the garden plus one reptile

The bird life in our garden seems to have moved up a few notches in the activity levels in recent days. With the extended period of dry, warmer weather – more spring-like than winter despite what the calendar says – birds are becoming quite active. I haven’t taken the time to explore through all the trees and bushes around to see what is nesting, but I am sure that there is plenty of it happening already around here, and plenty more to come.

On top of that we are having visits from a few species we only see occasionally. For example, yesterday morning when we arrived home from visiting friends, we were delighted as we walked from the car to the house. A Peaceful Dove was calling in the trees by the driveway. This species is not resident in our garden but is a very welcome visitor from time to time.

Peaceful Dove, Cleland Wildlife Park

Peaceful Dove, Cleland Wildlife Park

Next we heard some White-browed Babblers calling from the scrub along with a Mistletoebird calling persistently in the trees.

A solitary Nankeen Kestrel flew overhead and both Yellow-rumped and Striated Pardalotes were heard calling as they fed in the trees. A few minutes later two Pacific Black Ducks flew off startled from the swimming pool (it is still too early to clean Le Swamp). At the back of the house two Blackbirds were feeding in the company of several Crested Pigeons and Common Starlings.

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

A surprising visitor yesterday was an Adelaide Rosella. These are more common in the Adelaide Hills further west from Murray Bridge. A small group of up to four birds has been seen over recent weeks. Later I heard several Weebills feeding in the trees along with a small family of Yellow-rumped Thornbills.

And the reptile?

The most surprising sighting of the last 48 hours was a half grown Brown Snake sunning itself in the driveway. It was probably about 75cm long and still had the features and markings of a juvenile. I guess it is coming into its second summer this year.

Normally we do not see too many snakes around our property even in the heat of summer, and those we do see we always give them a wide berth. I am not keen on chasing after even a small one like that seen yesterday; it can still turn on one and inflict a deadly bite. What amazed me was the fact that it is August – still winter according to our calendar. In December through February we always walk cautiously around the garden and scrub. I guess we should always be vigilant.

Unusual cormorant behaviour

On my recent visit to Loxton in the Riverland region of South Australia I saw about 50 Little Black Cormorants. They were across the other side of the river. Every few seconds about 10-15 of the assembled birds would start madly flapping and splashing the water. They were not diving for fish and remained on the surface throughout the five to ten second splashing routine.

What were they doing?

I’ve never seen this behaviour in cormorants before. I’m at a loss to explain their behaviour. I invite readers to leave their explanations in the comments section below, or use the email contact form here.

Little Black Cormorants, River Murray, Loxton

Little Black Cormorants, River Murray, Loxton

Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Apart from the bird on the far left, I didn’t manage to catch the splashing action on my camera. [Sigh]

I and the bird #56 What I did on my summer vacation

Here Down Under in Australia we can only dream of summer vacations. The mornings are still quite frosty and the wind can be quite chilling. Summer is far off, but spring is just around the corner. We’ve had enough lovely sunny days over the last week or so to keep us hopeful of a lovely spring (if only we could get a little more rain).

The latest I and the Bird (issue #56) has been posted over at Big Spring Birds. The compiler, Vern, is celebrating the summer vacations drawing to an end in that part of the world. Through this carnival we are taken on a vacation throughout the world of birding.

Plenty of good reading as usual on a wide range of birding blogs.

The Big Twitch

Last year read a book called The Big Twitch written by Australian birder, writer and sometime comedian Sean Dooley. This is an excellent read if you are even mildly interested in birds, and especially if you enjoy books relating adventure, quests, the search for unusual things and not without a little humour thrown into the whole mix.

I didn’t realise it at the time but Sean has a web site dedicated to the book. He has even started a blog which is accessed through the site (though he hasn’t updated it in quite a while).

Further reading

The problem with Common Blackbirds

One of my readers posed this perplexing problem with Common Blackbirds:

Helppppp!!We have a Huggggggge problem with Blackbirds in our garden, flicking our mulch all over the place, it’s driving us crazy, do you know where we could get one of those electronic things to scare them off, or anything else that would work in getting rid of them??

This is a common problem in many gardens.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no simple, easy solution. Most gardeners tolerate this behaviour because they love to hear the beautiful song of the Blackbird during the breeding season.

Electronic device:

Mary asks about an electronic device to scare them away. I do not know of any but I suggest asking at the local hardware stores and garden centres. A long search of the internet turned up one very expensive (about $50US) device in a store in Kansas. The downside of this device is that it does not discriminate; it scares ALL birds, including the native birds that keep the natural balance of nature in the garden. Without the native birds eating the insects like mosquitoes, flies, beetles, centipedes, spiders and so on, our gardens would become an ecological disaster area. It would be a far greater problem than the nuisance caused by the Blackbirds.

Other alternatives:

Here we need to get a little creative. I’m not sure whether any of these ideas will work because I haven’t tried them. Some may even look a little ugly.

  1. Get rid of the mulch – with water restrictions this may not be desirable or possible.
  2. Replace the bark mulch with gravel or pebbles too heavy for the birds to move – an expensive solution.
  3. Build 20cm high walls along the edges of the garden so that the Blackbirds do not flick the mulch on to the path. These could be made of stone, brick, pavers, wooden sleepers, pine posts on their edges and so on. Be creative.
  4. Cover the mulch with chicken wire, shade-cloth or weed mat. Probably not a good look.
  5. Turn around your attitude and learn to love the birds; after all, they are just looking for lunch.

I guess these suggestions may not please Mary and may just add to her frustrations. Sorry, Mary.

Reader questions:

Over to my readers:

  • Do you have any suggestions for Mary? (Please be nice – offensive comments will not be published).
  • How have you solved this dilemma in your garden?
  • Reply in the comments section below. Update: comments are now closed for this post because, sadly,  some people cannot help being abusive.
Common Blackbird (male)

Common Blackbird (male)

UPDATE: I also posed this question to subscribers of the Birding-Aus forum. Many of their comments are recorded in the comments section below. I love the one about leaving plastic snakes lying around!