Archive for July, 2015

Crows using tools

Little Raven

Little Raven

I have written before about how clever crows and ravens can be. This is a well established fact and people around the world have witnessed how intelligent the corvid family can be. In fact, if you do a search for videos of these birds using tools you will find many hundreds of them; I have provided a link below.

Earlier this week I witnessed first hand one of the Little Ravens in our garden actually using a tool to assist in finding food. It had picked up what looked like a flat rock and was progressively using it to prise bark off the trunk of a mallee tree near the house. Once the bark was lifted it dropped the stone and used its beak to grab whatever was hiding beneath the bark.

Spiders, beetles and a whole range of small creatures routinely live under the bark of the local trees. Several times the bird flew down to the ground to retrieve the stone in order to use it again for the same purpose. After about three or four little snacks it flew off, stone in its beak to another tree, this time out of sight.

Of course, I didn’t have my camera handy at the time. [Sigh]

Further reading:

Preening his feathers

Purple Swamphen, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Purple Swamphen, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

On my visit to the Laratinga Wetlands last week I saw several Purple Swamphens.

The individual featured in today’s photos show one that was quite unafraid¬† of me and allowed me to approach to within a few metres. These wetlands attract many visitors daily: walkers, cyclists, runners, picnickers, photographers and avid birders like myself. So, taking that into account the birds are quite used to the human traffic on the paths around the wetlands.

It the photo above the bird is busy doing his early morning preening. In the subsequent photo shown below the bird seems to be asking whether his feathers look okay. I love getting special bird poses like this one.

Good birding.

Purple Swamphen, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Purple Swamphen, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

How’s the serenity?

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

How’s the serenity?

Most Australians will recognise that quote from the laconic Aussie movie “The Castle“.

It sure is a scene filled with serenity, early one frosty morning last week. The photos in today’s post were taken at the Laratinga Wetlands just east of Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. A series of ponds make up this wonderful birding and picnic spot. While one could perhaps buy a lovely home overlooking this spot, or within a few minutes’ walk, I really have to burst your bubble or shatter your dream.

The ponds make up the local town’s sewage works!

In reality, it is far, far better than it sounds. First, there is no smell. None. Second, the environment has been wonderfully landscaped with Australian native trees, bushes and ground cover plants. Third, the local authorities have created a lawned picnic area complete with shelter sheds – it rains quite often in Mt Barker – and well kept, clean toilets. The tracks around each of the ponds are used daily by hundreds of locals and visitors like myself for photography, walking, cycling, running or just birding. The birdlife is always abundant and interesting.

The photo below shows just one of the many birds I saw there last week, a Eurasian Coot. The other photos below show one of the ponds shrouded in early morning misty fog.

Eurasian Coot, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Eurasian Coot, Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Laratinga Wetlands, Mt Barker, South Australia

Galahs at Laratinga Wetlands

Female Galah, Laratinga Wetlands

Female Galah, Laratinga Wetlands

Earlier in the week my wife had several appointments in Mt Barker which is about half way between home here in Murray Bridge and Adelaide. Her appointments were to take several hours, so took the opportunity to visit the Laratinga Wetlands on the eastern edge of Mt Barker.

The Laratinga Wetlands consist of a series of ponds which essentially deal with the town’s sewage and storm water. The treated water is later recycled into local agricultural use. The series of large ponds which make up the wetlands have been landscaped with both plants and lawns. A picnic area is provided for the public, including barbecues and toilets. Many local people and visitors use these facilities and the tracks around the ponds are popular with birders, walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Over coming days I will share some of the bird photos I took on my most recent visit. Today’s photos show a female Galah sunning itself on the trunk of one of the huge eucalypt trees surrounding the wetlands. I know that this one is a female because of the red eye. Meanwhile, I presume that the male is busy in the hollow below her, cleaning out the hollow and preparing it for nesting later in the season.

Further reading:

 

Female Galah with a male (?) in the hollow below

Female Galah with a male (?) in the hollow below

 

Birding at Browns Road Monarto

New Holland Honeyeater at Browns Road Monarto

New Holland Honeyeater at Browns Road Monarto

This afternoon my wife and I took a detour coming home from Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. We had been there for a appointment, after which we had a relaxing lunch in one of the local cafes. Instead of taking the South-Eastern Freeway home to Murray Bridge we took the old Princes Highway route. It is a longer, more circuitous route but far more interesting.

Just past Callington we turned off into Browns Road near Monarto. We stopped at a spot where we could park the car safely before going on a short walk through the scrub. The sign on the gate says “Monarto Woodlands” but local birders usually refer to this area as Browns Road.

The scrub here is a confusing mixture of plant species. While there are some species common to the surrounding region, many of the trees and shrubs are introduced from other parts of Australia. A quick glance shows many Western Australian species, for example. This has come about due to extensive planting back in the 1980s when this area was designated as a satellite city to Adelaide. While a large area of farming land was purchased by the then state government, and the city was planned, no building ever occurred and much of the land has been returned to productive agricultural use. The only exception has been the establishment nearby of Monarto Open Range Zoo, part of Adelaide Zoo (and well worth a visit too, I might add).

We didn’t have all that much time on our visit this afternoon and my back and hips were being quite a pain. In the few minutes we were there I managed to record the following species:

  • White-winged Chough
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Red wattlebird
  • New Holland Honeyeater (pictured above)
  • White-browed Babbler
  • Peaceful Dove
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Grey Fantail
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Yellow Thornbill
  • Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
  • Silvereye
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Common Starling
  • Adelaide Rosella
  • Australian Magpie (white backed)
  • Weebill

While this is not a great list it is not bad for about ten minutes of birding. In recent weeks many other South Australian birders have visited this area and have reported far more species. I must visit more often, seeing it is about a 20 minute drive from home.

Some of the plants flowering are shown in the photos below.

Further reading:

Flowering eucalypt

Flowering eucalypt

Acacia species in flower

Acacia species in flower