Archive for March, 2008

World Water Day

After two weeks of scorching weather here in South Australia when numerous records were broken, the cooler autumn weather has finally arrived. I’ve just put on a jumper because the office was about 18C and a little on the chilly side. Last week it hovered around the 30C in my office. On Thursday we even had some drizzle – one could hardly call it rain. It didn’t register in our rain gauge either. Things are really looking grim around here during this prolonged drought and record high temperatures.

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day. The major theme this year is sanitation. I have spent some time in both Thailand and Nepal and this helped me to understand a little of the sanitation needs of underdeveloped nations, especially Nepal. It is my understanding that the sanitation needs in many other countries are far greater even than Nepal and quite desperate in some cases. It is an urgent need indeed. If only the warring nations of the world could down their weapons and take up the cause providing fresh, drinkable water and improved sanitation in those needy countries.

Water needs in Australia

While most of Australia is blessed with good fresh water, there is a growing and urgent need to do something about the Murray-Darling River system.There are still far too many large irrigation schemes growing unsuitable crops from this system. The lower Murray where I live is in desperate straits; the system is nearly dead, the levels are at the lowest levels in decades and the flow almost non-existent. The internationally recognised wetlands area of the Coorong and nearby lakes system near the Murray mouth is almost dry and this is having enormous implications for the birds and all aspects of the environment. And still the politicians argue about what is to be done, despite the money being available to make a start. Adelaide – along with large areas of South Australia – relies heavily on the Murray River for its annual water supply; our rainfall is inadequate not to do so. Our reservoir system is also both inadequate and antiquated.

Birds and the cooler weather

On a more local scale – our own garden – the cooler weather has had a disappointing side effect. During the recent hot spell the birds were constantly using our bird baths. Now that the cooler weather is here their visits are less frequent. I guess I can’t have all my own way. It certainly is nicer to have the cooler conditions.

I and the Bird #71

The latest compilation of I and the bird – now in its 71st edition – is a very quotable issue. It has been hosted by Clare in Canada over at The House and Other Arctic Musings. Plenty of great reading about birds with some great quotes about birds as a bonus.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to make a contribution this time around.

Birds in a heat wave

We are having a record breaking heat wave at present here in South Australia.

Today is the fourteenth consecutive day of above 35C (95F) maximum temperatures. One expects temperatures like this in summer – December through February – but not once autumn has arrived. The previous record of eight consecutive days of above 35C recorded in our capital city Adelaide in 1934 has well and truly been broken. The national record for a capital city was Perth at ten consecutive days in 1988 and that has been beaten thoroughly too. More is still to come; the next cool change is not expected to be here until Wednesday, so this record will be further extended over the next two days.

We normally get some relief in the evenings here in Murray Bridge. Not so this time. Thursday morning we arose at 6am to go for our daily walk. Normally at this time of the year it would be about 15-18C at that time of the day. At 30C with a hot north wind it was very uncomfortable. It is the first time I can ever remember putting on the air conditioner so that we could eat breakfast in some kind of comfort!

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Naturally the birds suffer terribly in such oppressive heat. I have tried to keep the bird baths topped up with water each morning so that some of them have a fighting chance at survival. From first light until mid-morning there is a constant stream of birds coming to drink and/or bathe. From mid-morning to sun down there is very little calling and little movement in the garden. I guess they just find the coolest shade possible and rest up until conditions improve. At one stage I checked the temperature at about midday; the only bird I saw or heard was a Willie Wagtail bravely trying to catch a few insects silly enough to venture out on such a hot day.

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Feral Pigeons cause a lousy outcome

Our local Police Station here in Murray Bridge has had to close its doors this week. They have had a lice infestation caused by too many Feral Pigeons (Rock Doves) nesting and roosting on the premises. The station was closed so that fumigation could be undertaken. A temporary station was set up nearby in a portable building.

With the late heatwave we have been having over the last two weeks, this would have been quite uncomfortable for the local constabulary. Still, on the comfort scale, oppressive heat in the workplace is probably a few notches higher that constant itching.

Rock Doves, Northbridge, Sydney

Rock Doves, Northbridge, Sydney

Nature in the raw

On our daily early morning walks I usually take a keen interest in the birds seen and heard. Normally I see or hear only the most common birds around this area. On Friday, however, I was delighted to observe an Australian Hobby (also called  Little Falcon) sitting on a dead branch atop a mallee tree on the side of the road we were walking on. It stayed sitting there watching us as we passed by, giving us very good views of its markings.

This morning the same bird (I presume) was sitting on the same branch. As we approached it zoomed off low through the roadside trees and began pursuing a Common Starling. I lost sight of the chase as they headed towards a nearby scrub. I hope that the falcon caught his breakfast. Common Starlings are an introduced feral bird here in Australia. They are also a pest species, taking food and nesting sites from our native species. Most people do not like them as they do great damage to fruit crops.

The Australian Hobby is widespread but not all that common in this area. It is therefore always good to see this magnificent species.