Archive for January, 2010

Birds in the heat

Thornbills and honeyeaters sheltering on a hot day

Thornbills and honeyeaters sheltering on a hot day

We are only half way through summer here in South Australia and already we’ve had some very hot days and several heatwaves. (In this part of the world a heatwave is considered to be five or more consecutive days of 35C (95F). ) During this last week we had several days where the maximum hovered around the 42 -45C mark (45C = 113F).

During our hot days, and especially during a heat wave, our native birds suffer terribly. Many beat a path frequently to the various bird baths we have in our garden. On a few occasions some of them have gathered near the windows where the cool air from our evaporative air conditioning leaves the house.

A few days ago I saw a different technique for keeping cool. The wind was blowing a gale from the north and the temperature reached 45.2C. A flock of 17 Yellow-rumped Thornbills, two Brown-headed Honeyeaters and a Willie Wagtail gathered on the leeward side of the house in the shade.  It seemed to do the trick on a very nasty day.

I nearly hit a Barn Owl

Every Friday night I have a small job to do. I used to be a relief driver for a local courier company until my back told me I’d better quit. I’m still on the payroll, however, doing a small but light delivery job every Friday night. Truth is, none of the regular drivers wants to do a Friday night job. This simple delivery involves taking some newspapers and several light boxes to  nearby town, leaving at about 9:30pm. Not much good for seeing any birds.

Except nocturnal birds.

A few weeks ago I had just pulled out of our driveway when a Barn Owl swooped down from a nearby tree, snatched something from the road surface and then flew off with its supper, probably a mouse.  If I had been going at speed it would have become another road kill. I was just only beginning to accelerate, so I didn’t hit it.

Barn Owls are common and widespread throughout South Australia but one usually only gets to see one in the car  headlights as it crosses a road at night, or being mobbed by smaller birds while roosting in a tree.

Sadly, I don’t yet have a photo of this species. UPDATE: I forgot that do have several photos – see one below.

Post updated on July 12th 2015.


Barn Owl, Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney



Eastern Rosella still present

Eastern Rosella in our garden

Eastern Rosella in our garden

Over the last few months we have had a single Eastern Rosella frequently visiting our garden. This beautiful bird recently came to visit our bird bath just outside our sun room. I was able to get several good photos before it flew off again.

This individual has been hanging around now for several months. This species does not naturally occur around here, so I assume it is an aviary escapee. I have previously seen one a few kilometres from our home.

Eastern Rosella in our garden

Eastern Rosella in our garden

The Eastern Rosella is relatively common in the Adelaide region where it was introduced some years ago. Its normal range is south eastern Australia.

This particular individual must be feeling lonely. It keeps on following our resident family of Mallee Ringneck parrots. In return, they show quite a deal of antagonism towards it, chasing it and generally harassing it. They were at it again this evening, causing quite a stir in the garden.

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Having trouble identifying birds?

Sometimes I get questions from readers about identifying the birds they are seeing.

All birders have this problem in varying degrees. Here is a comment posted yesterday about this very issue:

I’m still very new to trying to ID birds, and while I pick out the most distinctive features to keep to memory, often my bird book still doesn’t include the bird I see, or the picture isn’t quite right. Sometimes I remember to take the camera with me, and this helps plenty with identifying the birds later. While I enjoy just watching birds, I have this need to know what they are called. It’s all fun!

If you are having trouble getting the ID of birds rights DON’T PANIC!

You are in very good company. Even the most experienced birders have trouble – or get it wrong. A photo can help but sometimes just confuses the issue further.

A standing “joke” amongst birders is identifying those infuriatingly difficult LBBs – “Little Brown Birds.” They can all look the same.

Some general hints to help narrow the possibilities:

1. Size: compare the unknown bird with something you know – is it the size of a wren or a magpie or a duck?

2. Shape: Many species have a distinctive shape eg most honeyeaters are similar but are not the same as the shape of a duck, a hawk or and emu.

3. Behaviour: some only feed on the ground, some in water, others in the foliage. Knowing the  preferences of each species will help.

4. Habitat: Study the preferences of each species as detailed in the  field guides. Mallee birds are generally not found on the beach, water birds usually are near water etc

5. Distribution: Study the field guides and memorize the normal distribution of each species. You won’t see a Cassowary in a private garden in Adelaide  (if you do – PHONE ME IMMEDIATELY LOL). Be aware that the birds haven’t read the field guides and are sometimes a long way from where they are “supposed” to be. This makes the hobby so interesting – odd things pop up in unexpected places from time to time.

These 5 steps will help you to narrow the list of possible species to perhaps half a dozen – hopefully less. Identifying a bird is often just a series of eliminations.

If you dip out and can’t ID something, it’s not the end of the world. Remember: the bird knows what it is.

Above all: Have fun.

First birds for 2010

I was a little slow off the mark this morning. And it wasn’t because of overindulgent  celebrations the night before.

These days I’m just happy to see in a new morning when I wake; seeing in a New Year means staying up to some ridiculous hour of the night!

I managed to emerge from the cocoon of sleep eventually. I showered, shaved and prepared to have breakfast. As I was getting the daily newspaper from the driveway I realised that it was indeed a New Year.

Mmmm… what was the first bird I saw this morning? Nothing sprang to mind.

My musing was rudely interrupted by a great kerfuffle in the orchard. Aha – my first birds for 2010 were four Australian Magpies and 14 White-winged Choughs having a right royal barney under a pear tree. (Despite the recently departed Christmas season there was NOT a partridge in the pear tree, but we did see two turtledoves later in the morning.)

The resident magpies were objecting quite vociferously to the Gang of Fourteen (the White-winged Choughs) feeding on THEIR PATCH. The racket thoroughly disturbed the peacefulness of this lovely new year.

After a few minutes of conflict in Bird World War, the choughs flew off in a huff.

Peace on Earth and goodwill between birds.


White-winged Choughs

White-winged Choughs

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie