In my posting yesterday here I mentioned that we recently went on a road trip to Sydney to help out our family living there. At a distance of just over 1300km it is a significant journey to undertake, fully two days of travelling. We’ve done this journey many times over the last 15 years, and now we have the incentive of visiting our only grandchildren in the process.
Because the journey takes up most of the two days there are few opportunities for birding along the way – except from the car while speeding along at over 100kph. It always delights me when I see something special, like the Banded Lapwings yesterday. I usually make a list of the species seen along the way.
One bird species I always look for in the early stages of the trip is the Emu. The western plains of NSW are good habitat for this species and we usually see one or two small flocks. On this occasion we saw two separate groups, the second one being a male adult bird accompanied by about 4 or 5 half grown chicks, a little bigger than those shown in the photo above. This photo was taken some time ago in Monarto Zoo which is close to our home, being only about a 15 minute drive away.
A few weeks ago we had a family reunion barbecue at our home for the occasion of my grandson’s 3rd birthday. He was over here from Sydney. Family also came down from the mid north of South Australia for the get together.
Later in the afternoon we had a picnic at Sturt Reserve near the banks of the Murray River here in Murray Bridge. With four children under the age of 9 we thought it good for them to burn off some energy on the playground before they undertook the long journey home.
I took my young nephew on a walk along the river bank. At one point we stopped to watch the local Bunyip – the only specimen of this fearsome mythological creature in captivity. It’s well trained; on inserting a dollar coin in the slot it will rise up out of its watery bed and roar in a frightening way.
While we were watching the monster strut its stuff I was aware of some Welcome Swallows flying in and out of the cage. One swallow was not flying much and I realised it was a recently fledged bird. It posed obligingly for my camera, and watched me from about a metre away.
Bird photography doesn’t get any better than that.
Warning: Don’t get frightened as you scroll down through the photos below because there is a photo of the dreaded Bunyip.
I had suspected that our resident pair of Willie Wagtails have been nesting somewhere in our mallee scrub but hadn’t been able to locate the nest. They can be very sneaky and secretive about the whole affair.
Then a few days ago I was cleaning up in an area of the scrub not frequented all that often and I was attacked by the adults. Not that they actually hit or bit me; they just made it quite obvious by their scotching calls and close swooping over my head that I was not welcome.
Sure enough – three fluffy chicks were over filling a totally inadequate nest. The photo above shows their home almost bursting at the seams.
I took the photo a few weeks ago and the chicks have now fledged and are making their presence known around the garden, demanding food from a harried set of parents struggling to keep up with their insistent calling for food.
The next question is: will the parents nest again once this brood is off their hands… er… beaks and feeding themselves independently?
The photo of some fledged Willie Wagtails was taken a few years ago at the same location.
Over recent weeks we have been eagerly awaiting the hatching of the baby Australian magpies in two nests in our garden. The fact that we have two nests is exciting because this is the first time in the last 25 years we’ve had two active nests on our 5 acre property.
A few weeks ago we heard the constant squawking of the young for food, so we knew it was just a matter of time before the youngsters headed out into the wild world. Several days ago I was suddenly aroused from my concentration on my writing by a bang on the window no more than a metre from my shoulder. A baby magpie – fresh out of the nest – was perched precariously on the frame of the window. When I reached for my camera it flew off to another part of the garden. When I say “flew” I actually mean it was undertaking some sort of barely controlled flapping and squawking one could loosely call “flying”.
I was able to approach the baby to within two metres with dad right next to me – quite unconcerned. I find it wonderful that they never swoop us or get concerned by our presence nearby. In fact, they will often approach us when we are gardening, looking for worms and other tasty morsels we might dig up. Wonderful.
Over recent weeks we’ve been watching an Australian Magpie’s nest on our property (see photo below). This nest has been used by the same pair of birds over the last 4 or 5 years. Each year they just refurbish it a little before settling down to the important job of raising a family.
Last week we were working in the garden and watched with delight as the adult birds strutted around where we were working, looking for tasty morsels and then flying straight to the nest to feed the newly hatched young. Each visit resulted in excited squawks from the hungry young.
I was very surprised to find out a few days later that we actually had another nest with young magpies barely 50 metres from the other. To have two active magpie nests within such close proximity has never happened before on our property in the last 25 years. All I can surmise is that there has been a very drastic realignment of the local magpie territories over the last year.
And we are so pleased that none of them swoop us while they are nesting.