Archive for October, 2008

Honeyeaters and flowers

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

We have several different species of honeyeaters in our garden. The dominant species would have to be the Red Wattlebirds and the New Holland Honeyeaters. The Brown Headed Honeyeaters, Singing Honeyeaters and Spiny Cheeked Honeyeaters are not as numerous, nor are they as bossy.

Several days ago I was amused to see one of our native plants , and Eremophila glabra (prostrate form) shaking rather violently. After a few seconds of this several Red Wattlebirds emerged and flew away. The bush is currently covered in flowers and they were having a feast.

Another plant that is popular is the Eremophila youngii shown in the photo above with an upside down New Holland Honeyeater having a feed. This plant gets attention from the various honeyeaters many times during the day.

Whenever the various Eucalypt trees around our house and garden are in flower, these too get a great deal of attention, as in the photo below with a Red Wattlebird feeding.

Red Wattlebird

Red Wattlebird

A very effective way of attracting our Australian native birds to our gardens is to plant Australian native plants. There are literally hundreds of species to choose from, most of them quite easy to maintain and most have beautiful flowers, an added bonus. Here is a very brief list of some species that will attract birds to your garden:

  • Callistemon
  • Grevillea
  • Correa
  • Melaleuca
  • Hakea
  • Eremophila
  • Banksia

For more information about growing appropriate Australian plants check out Mallee Native Plant Nursery.

Callistemon flowers

Callistemon flowers

Bird photography runs in the family

It seems that the love of bird photography runs in the family.

My son has some new photographic gear that he loves using. On a recent visit home he proudly showed me his new equipment: a Canon EOS 40D digital SLR.

Nice camera – bit on the heavy side for my liking, but one can really get into the photo game with gear like that.

Anyway, Simon has been posting a few of his bird photos on his blog. Here are some recent posts that include bird shots:

And here is where I wrote about my camera and bird photography:

Crested Pigeon nesting

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

About three weeks ago I was walking the estate. (We live on a five acre block on the edge of town.)

As I passed a row of Hakea francisiana bushes I checked thoroughly for any bird nests. These bushes, which are about four metres high, often host pigeon or honeyeater families.

Sure enough, a Crested Pigeon was sitting on a nest. I quietly crept away, knowing how easily pigeons can be disturbed from their nests. Sadly, when I checked back last week, the nest was abandoned. Even sadder was the half grown chick hanging from a fork in a branch. It was dead.

Hakea francisiana

Hakea francisiana

Something must have disturbed this young chick which then tried to escape, only to hang itself. The culprit could have been an Australian Magpie (they are feeding young at present), a Grey Currawong ( who will take young from a nest to feed its own), a Brown Falcon (which has been harassing the local birds recently) or even a Little Raven.

On another sad note, today when working in the scrub I found the wing of an adult Crested Pigeon. There was no evidence of who had taken this poor creature.

Nature in the raw can seem so cruel. But then – I could name a few humans who are not exactly innocent of cruelty.

Bird Wars – Magpies v Falcon

A few days ago I was out in our garden. Whenever I’m out there my ears and eyes are on the alert for anything happening in the bird world.

I was suddenly aware of a Crested Pigeon flying at full speed from the direction of the main road past our five acre block. The pigeon seemed in a great hurry – in fact, it seemed terrified. And with good reason.

A Brown Falcon had been following it, obviously thinking that lunch was an easy grab. It had another think coming.

The resident male Australian Magpie had other ideas and swooped aggressively on the now harassed falcon, turning the aggressor into the victim. The Magpie kept on attacking the falcon – from a safe distance of a few metres – until it was well and truly off the property, and presumably out of the Magpie’s territory.

The Crested Pigeon was seen no more as it made its escape over the other side of the house where I lost sight of it.

And the Magpie saved its two babies in the nest nearby.

My advice to all my readers: keep a sharp eye on the behaviour of the birds in your part of the world. You never know when something dramatic will happen.

Birds in a Suburban Garden

Wittunga Botanic Gardens

Wittunga Botanic Gardens

Losing native birds from suburban gardens is an Australia wide trend. The introduced species have largely taken over, especially the Indian Myna and the Common Starling, as well as the Common Blackbird, House Sparrow and Spotted Turtledove.

These species have taken over gardens aggressively and compete with our native birds for food and nesting sites. Added to this mix is the very aggressive native species, the Noisy Miner which exhibits similar tactics to the foreigners.

Cats, dogs and human activity also discourage native birds like the Wrens. Once gone, they are very difficult to get back into a suburban landscape.

Callistemon flower (Bottlebrush)

Callistemon flower (Bottlebrush)

Having only native trees and bird baths are a good start, but not the complete answer. Providing smaller bushes and ground cover for the smaller birds such as the wrens is most important.  Our smaller birds need protection from predators and food such as insects, seeds and also nesting sites that are hidden from those predators.

If you look at a natural environment you will observe many layers – ground covers, small shrubs, taller bushes, medium and large, old growth trees which provide nesting hollows for parrots, lorikeets, possums, owls, bats and so on.

All are essential for a balanced, natural ecosystem and very hard to replicate in a normal suburban backyard. But that should not stop us trying. The more people who take this path, the better the chance of survival will be for many of our lovely birds.

Some suggestions:

  • Keep providing water in the form of bird baths (but not food).
  • Plant a wide variety of Australian species, preferably species found locally.
  • Keep all cats away – they have no place in the Australian landscape. Period.
  • Provide nesting boxes for parrots, possums and bats.
  • Encourage all your neighbours to do the same.
  • Spread the word: our native birds are threatened with extinction.
Flowers of a Eucalyptus Tree

Flowers of a Eucalyptus Tree

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