Archive for December, 2009

Apostlebirds near Peterborough

Apostlebird, Cocoparra National Park

Apostlebird, Cocoparra National Park

Last Saturday we were travelling from Murray Bridge to Peterborough in the mid north of South Australia. We were visiting relatives for a Christmas get together. As we were approaching Peterborough on the road from the small township of Terowie, I saw three Apostlebirds on the side of the road. This was near the entrance gate to the only farmhouse along this road.

Apostlebirds are widespread throughout large parts of Australia and are very common in some areas. Here in South Australia however, I only occasionally come across them. This sighting is nearing the south eastern extension of their range. A small population of about twenty are resident within the town of Peterborough, about ten kilometres from my sighting. I’ve also recorded them in the Dawson area, some 20 kilometres to the north east of Peterborough.

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An encounter with an Australian Hobby

A few days ago I was visiting our local Post Office near the centre of the Murray Bridge CBD.  I was there to post a few Christmas letters.

As I parked the car I was aware of the call of a bird of prey somewhere nearby.

Within seconds I had no less than three Australian Hobbies soaring around overhead. The Australian Hobby is also known as the Little Falcon.  One flew off while the other two perched on power lines nearby, one only about forty metres away. I quickly whipped out my binoculars for a better look. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me.

I’ve observed these birds on many occasions in and near the CBD of our town. One day I need to take the camera with me and track them down until I manage a good photo or two.  As I watched two of the birds appeared to be begging for food, which indicates they could be juveniles. As I watched one soaring near the railway station and House Sparrow flew past and the Hobby took off after it at speed. Its acceleration was amazing, but its tactical flying skills still need some refinement as it missed its prey.

It was great to see such magnificent hunters right in the middle of the city.

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Ostriches in South Australia

Ostriches, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Ostriches, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

If I want to see some Ostriches here in South Australia I only have to drive for about ten minutes. Ostriches are not native Australian birds, of course, because they have been introduced into Australia from Africa.

The Ostriches I can see are actually in the open range Monarto Zoo near Adelaide, South Australia. The zoo features many animals from Africa, including a small flock of Ostriches.

The Ostrich is actually on the official list of Australian birds. In the nineteenth century they were brought to Australia and farmed in a number of localities. They were primarily bred for their feathers, the plumes being much in demand for decorating ladies’ hats. The fashion didn’t last and many Ostriches were released or escaped into the wild, forming small breeding colonies. I know of two such areas: the Coorong south of here and north of Port Augusta. I believe there is still a very small remnant population near Port Augusta but I never managed to see any despite living there for many years.

Baby Emus come to drink

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

I meant to publish this post and the photos several months ago, but I was distracted when writing my novel.

When my son, daughter-in-law and new grandson came over from Sydney for a visit last August we all visited the Monarto Zoo just a few kilometres from our home in Murray Bridge (near Adelaide).

As we were going on one of the walking trails through the zoo we saw this male Emu with his young striped chicks. They had come into one of the watering points near the Visitor Centre. Emus are unusual in the bird kingdom: the female lays the eggs and then the male sits on them and looks after the hatchlings for up to two years. I think that female Emus certainly have it all worked out where family raising is concerned.

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Pacific Black Ducklings pay us a visit

A few weeks ago I wrote about a pair of Pacific Black Ducks mating in our swimming pool. We have been waiting expectantly ever since for the arrival of a little band of ducklings. They usually head for our swimming pool, and then can’t get out again.

This has happened every year now for about 6 or 7 years. It’s possibly the same pair each year. Despite thorough searches we have been unable to locate the actual nest on every occasion. One of the problems they face is once they get into the pool, they are unable to get out. Very soon they can die of either hypothermia or drown (because their feathers are not yet water repellent).

To cater for this problem we have made a wooden framed ramp covered with wire netting. We usually throw an old towel over the netting and it doesn’t take the ducklings long to find out that this is a way out of the water.

This year it was a little different. Mother duck headed off across our small paddock with four ducklings in tow. One poor little fellow missed the on ramp and swam under it, causing him to be separated from his siblings. Trevor came to the rescue. While my wife watched the family movements I managed to scoop up the lost baby and then run after the mother and the other ducklings carrying the almost abandoned duckling.  Soon they were reunited and on their way.

Not sure if they headed for the River Murray some 4 kilometres away, or stopped over at a storm water drainage dam about a kilometre over the paddock.

With all the excitement of the rescue attempt, I didn’t get a photo!