In recent weeks we have had a minor locust plague. They weren’t in numbers sufficient to cause us great inconvenience, not like some other rural areas of South Australia in recent months. As they moved in we were delighted to see some of our resident Australian Magpies gorging themselves on this feast.
A few days ago, however, we saw an Australian Magpie Lark catch a locust and bring it to one of our bird baths. We were having lunch at the time and watched fascinated as this bird proceeded to wash its food in the water. I had heard of some birds species doing this, but this was the first time I’d actually witnessed it. Pity the camera wasn’t handy at the time.
I think I might have commented on this before, but I can’t remember where. With over 800 blog posts it would take a while to find the reference to it.
Hang on a minute: this blog has a search facility. Doh.
A few second’s search brought up this post about seeing a Peregrine Falcon while I was hanging out the washing one day last year. And the search box at the top of each page on this blog will bring you to a list of articles from the archives that help you find what you are looking for. More articles about birds I’ve seen while hanging out the clothes can be found here.
Now – back to my original reason for writing this post.
On Tuesday morning I was hanging out the washing. Nothing unusual about that; I do it most Mondays except that we’ve now changed to Tuesdays because of our university studies, but that’s another story.
In the quietness of the morning I was suddenly aware of a splashing noise. I glanced over the fence at our neighbour’s bird bath. Water was spraying everywhere, as if they had a small sprinkler going on the lawn. Now here in South Australia we haven’t been allowed to use sprinklers for several years due to the water restrictions during the current drought. What’s more, it wasn’t one of the designated watering days anyway.
On closer inspection – I didn’t have a clear view of the bird bath – I discovered two White-winged Choughs having a glorious bath, water flying in all directions. It was a warm morning and they were taking full advantage of the water provided. Of course I didn’t have my camera on me.
You can read more articles about White-winged Choughs here.
I am writing this while visiting my son and family in Sydney. We do this several times every year and really enjoy the times we spend with our two grandchildren. It always affords me good opportunities to see birds here, on the journey over from South Australia, and during the return trip. On the first Saturday we were here, my son was washing the car in the back yard and I was there chatting with him. I also had an eye on the children performing on the trampoline. We all stopped what we were doing when we heard a bird call. My first thought was, “Is that terrible noise actually a bird call?
I could see the two birds in question in the street tree a few metres away. Although they were high up in the tree, I had a clear view of them. i didn’t have my camera with me – it was in our locked car 30 metres away – nor did I have my binoculars – which were also in the car. It didn’t matter; I instantly identified the birds as Channel-billed Cuckoos. This was the first time I had actually seen this species, so it counted as a lifer.
I was able to watch them for about a minute as they called raucously. Various other species were mobbing them, trying to get them to fly away. These included Noisy Miners, Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Magpies, Pied Currawongs and several Australian Ravens. These latter three are all hosts to this cuckoo species, so I am not surprised that they were keen to see them off elsewhere.
During our four weeks here in Sydney I have seen this species several more times, and heard them calling around here on many more occasions. I have learned that although they are not a nocturnal species, they will often call during the night during the breeding season. That must be very annoying to anyone trying to sleep. Thankfully, we do not have this species where I live in South Australia.
You can learn more about this parasitic species and see a photo of it on the Birds in Backyards site. There is also a short sound recording of the call.
This morning I did a small load of washing. I actually enjoy doing this because it gets me outside and away from the computer for a while. It also has the benefit of getting me outside where the birds are, and with my eyes cast skywards I often see birds that I might have missed – like the time I saw a Peregrine Falcon overhead in the last moments of a very fast stoop. Awesome.
It also has the benefit of being able to hear more birds and I enjoy listening to all of their calls and trying to identify them without looking. This is a good way of honing one’s identifiction skills. After over 30 years of living on our little patch of mallee scrub here in Murray Bridge, I have become accustomed to our bird life and immediately notice something different calling. That’s what happened this morning.
I had just finished hanging out the washing when I heard a bird calling loudly. Two Sulphur-crested Cockatoos had flown in and landed in our of our pine trees. I had enough time to grab the binoculars and see that they were testing out some of the cones on one of the trees. Obviously the cones where not to their taste or not ready for eating because they flew off again a minute later. I didn’t get a photo so the one above was taken some years ago in Adelaide.
This was a significant sighting for the birds in our garden. I think my memory is correct – this is only the second time in over 30 years I have recorded this species in our garden. They are not usually seen here in Murray Bridge (80km east of Adelaide) though they are very common in the Adelaide region and throughout the Adelaide Hills zone. This is despite there being plenty of suitable feeding spots and nesting hollows, especially along the River Murray. I think I heard one screeching as it flew overhead a few days ago, but I was in the foggy early morning sleep zone. I initially thought it was a Little Corella, but now I am not so sure.
Perhaps these were some scouts looking for new places to live.
I have a confession to make.
I have just informed my wife that I insist on doing the clothes washing.
Reluctantly she has agreed to my request. My reason is simple; many times in recent years I have had some wonderful birding experiences while hanging out the washing on the clothes line – or bringing in the dry clothes. My eyes are always gazing upwards when doing this easy household chore and I have seen some great birds during this activity. Perhaps the most stunning was seeing a Peregrine falcon at top speed heading for what I think were some pigeons. Whoosh!
Adding to the birding dimension is the fact that our clothes-line is surrounded by trees and low to medium Australian Native plants (see me wife’s site here), so there is always some bird activity all around me. Distractions are common!
My latest Great Birding Moment happened yesterday while taking in the washing. I had almost finished and a female Superb Fairy-wren landed on the clothes-line next to me. As it cheerily chattered to me I could have reached out and patted it. It stayed there calling quietly to me for nearly a minute – a whole magical minute!
I felt so privileged – and truly blessed.
- Great Birding Moments #1-35 The above article is one of a series of articles along a similar theme.