Archive for January, 2011

Australian Magpies on a hot day

Australian Magpies sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

As I write this article the temperature has just topped 43C (109F) under our back veranda. I haven’t seen or heard many birds all morning which is understandable. As we were having lunch we watched three of our resident Australian Magpies sitting in the bird baths. They came to sit in the water and occasionally have a sip of water.

Before lunch I filled a bucket of fresh rainwater to top up three of the bird baths we have in our garden. The magpies shown in these photos moved only about a metre away while I tipped in the water. They obviously were too hot to move further away. As soon as I left they were back in the water again and have stayed there for the last few hours. Can’t say I blame them. It’s mighty hot out there.

During lunch the only other birds to come for a drink were a solitary Crested Pigeon and one Australian Magpie Lark. I’m not sure where all the other birds are holed up against the oppressive conditions. Usually there is a steady procession of honeyeaters (at least 5 species), thornbills (2 species), pardalotes (2 species), sparrows, parrots (3 species) and doves.

For a complete list of species that have visited our bird baths, click here.

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Bush Stone-curlew

Bush Stone-curlew, Adelaide Zoo

The Bush Stone-curlew is a species I have yet to see in its natural environment. They are not all that common here in South Australia, so I was pleased to see and photograph this bird recently in the Pelican enclosure at Adelaide Zoo. The white thing pointing at it in the top left hand corner of the photo is actually the beak of a pelican.

Bush Stone-curlews are found in the western half of Western Australia, across northern Australia and in eastern and south eastern Australia. In some parts of their former range they are now uncommon to rare in areas settled for farming or urban sprawl except in Brisbane suburbs where they seem to thrive.

Australian Pelicans at Adelaide Zoo

Australian Pelican, Adelaide Zoo

The Australian Pelican is found throughout Australia where there is suitable habitat. They prefer large expanses of waters such as lakes, reservoirs, swamps, wetlands and rivers. The water can be fresh, brackish or saline.  They are found in both coastal and inland areas where there is suitable habitat.

They tend to be highly nomadic and will respond to flooding. For example, Lake Eyre in northern South Australia fills occasionally from Queensland floods, and this will stimulate the migration of hundreds and even thousands of birds. During these events they can breed in their thousands, dispersing across Australia when the waters recede and the lake becomes a dry salt lake again.

These captive birds at Adelaide Zoo are a good subject for practising one’s photographic skills.

Further Reading:

Australian Pelican, Adelaide Zoo

Australian Pelican, Adelaide Zoo

Tawny Frogmouth, Adelaide Zoo

Tawny Frogmouth, Adelaide Zoo

It is not easy to get good photos of nocturnal birds like the Tawny Frogmouth shown above.

I have had some unusual opportunities to get good shots of the Southern Boobook Owl, Spotted Nightjar and the Australian Owlet Nightjar in the past, but generally it is more a matter of taking unique opportunities when they present themselves.

The Tawny Frogmouth is certainly one of my favourite birds. We first encountered this fascinating bird while camping at Hattah Lakes in Victoria many years ago. The bird on that occasion was perched on a branch above our tent calling persistently and annoyingly – until we found out what it was in our torchlight. Once we knew what it was we were able to relax and get some sleep. Its “oom-oom-oom-oom” call has an unusual quality; it seems to be coming from far off but can be only metres away.

Tawny Frogmouths are found throughout Australia in a wide range of habitats. While they are most often heard at night it is possible to see them during the day. If other birds become aware of them roosting in a tree they can draw attention to the bird by mobbing it. I’ve expereinced this a number of times in recent years. While I can’t say this is a resident species in our garden, it is probably a more frequent visitor than we realise. It is certainly present in our district and we are only aware of one when we hear it calling at night.

The above photo is the best I have of this species but it is not brilliant. It was taken through the wire of an aviary at Adelaide Zoo.

Further reading:

Emu at Adelaide Zoo

Emu and Tammar Wallaby, Adelaide Zoo

Adelaide Zoo in South Australia is one of my favourite zoos, and it is also my home zoo, being less than an hour’s drive from my home. I am a life¬† member of Zoos SA, mainly because of my love of birds and animals but also because of the zoo’s excellent conservation programmes.

Adelaide Zoo boasts an excellent collection of Australian bird species as well as a few foreign birds. There are several walk through aviaries which I always visit because they provide an excellent opportunity for bird photography. There are numerous other aviaries too, but shooting through the wire of each cage can be challenging. More about that in future articles here.

I didn’t have any such problems taking photos of the Emus in their enclosure. They roam around a large enclosure with only a low fence surrounding it. This provides excellent opportunities for good photos. They also share the enclosure with some Tammar Wallabies. In the last photo you can see a wallaby with a joey poking his head out of the pouch to pose for me.

Further reading:

Emu and Tammar Wallaby, Adelaide Zoo

Tammar Wallaby, Adelaide Zoo