Over recent weeks we have been staying with family in Sydney. During our four week stay, we have observed Australian Brush Turkeys on many occasions. One actually walked past their house on the footpath in Artarmon. Whenever we have visited various parks and gardens around this area, we have seen one or more turkeys. It is something we do not get to see where we live in South Australia, so it is something of a treat and special to us.
Last weekend I was driving my family to Little Athletics. I don’t normally get to see my grandson compete, so it was a special occasion. Just as we were about to get to the athletics track, I had to slow down for a turkey in the middle of the street. It was casually walking across the road, oblivious to the traffic which was thankfully quite light – our car was the only one at that point.
As the turkey strolled across the street, I was amused to see three Noisy Miners harassing it all the way. They obviously did not want the turkey in their territory. Perhaps they were nesting and were being overprotective of their eggs or young. The turkey was no threat to either eggs or young, so I don’t know why they were so annoyed by the turkey’s presence. Perhaps they were just being annoying for the sake of it.
Whatever the reason, it made me laugh to see the turkey ducking and weaving to get away from the miners’ pecks on its back. I didn’t get a photo because I was driving, and my camera was not within easy reach, anyway. I have included a photo above of a turkey taken in the nearby Lane Cove National Park a few days earlier. On that occasion, the turkey in the photo was harassing us as it attempted to scrounge some food from our picnic table. I’ll write about that in another post soon. The photo of a Noisy Miner below was taken some time ago in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
For the rest of the afternoon, I was more interested in watching my grandson competing than in the local birdlife. There were plenty more Noisy Miners and Rainbow Lorikeets, several Australian Black-backed Magpies, a few Australian Ravens, one Magpie Lark and several Laughing Kookaburras. Three Crested Pigeons tried several times to settle on the grass to feed, only to be disturbed by the children running around the track, or moving across the oval to their next event. There was no sign of the Channel-billed Cuckoo I observed at the same location a week earlier.
I would love to read about any funny incidents you have seen involving birds, I would be very happy for you to leave comments.
One of the birds I would love to have resident in our garden is the Grey Fantail. We live on the outskirts of the rural city of Murray Bridge, about 80 km south-east of Adelaide, South Australia. We live on a five-acre block of land with about half of it being mallee scrub. Near the house, we have planted many native Australian bushes and trees. These attract a wide variety of birds to our garden.
Common and widespread
The Grey Fantail is featured in today’s photos (above and below). This member of the flycatcher family of birds is common and widespread in the district where we live, but I can’t claim it as a resident species. It generally only comes to visit us in the cooler months of the year, usually from April through to September. I am not sure why this is so, but there is quite some evidence to show that this species is partly migratory in parts of Australia. Perhaps it just likes to come visit us for a while each winter – to cheer us up.
Single birds only
When it does visit us, it tends to be only one bird. We rarely have two fantails present at once, though I have seen two together at a favourite birding spot about 3 kilometres to the west. I have just checked my database, and I have only ever recorded one bird at a time on our property over the last 12 years. (My database does not yet go back further than that – it’s a work in progress.)
The Grey Fantail is a close relative of the Rufous Fantail and the much loved and very common Willie Wagtail. This latter species is a resident bird on our property, but the Rufous Fantail is a rare species in South Australia. This is a pity because it is one of my favourite birds and I have only seen one on a handful of occasions. Every time I visit my family in Sydney I live in hope of seeing one – and of getting a good set of photos. I still live in hope.
Despite it being common in many parts of Australia, I do not have many photos of the Grey Fantail. Its habit of constantly being on the move makes photography of this species a little more challenging than many species. The shots shown today were taken a few weeks ago while my wife and I were having lunch on our back veranda. The fantail came up quite close to where we sat, fluttering around and on the move all the time. I had to anticipate where it was going to perch long enough to press the shutter on my camera. While the composition is not great, and the background distracting (and quite awful), I am still pleased to have managed these photos.
Now I need to find an obliging Rufous Fantail to photograph.
- Grey Fantail – from the Birds in Backyards website – plenty more information here.
- A brave Willie Wagtail
- A feisty Willie Wagtail
- Grey Fantail at last
In my last article here I posted some photos of Yellow-rumped Thornbills bathing in the small pools of water which gather after rain on our swimming pool solar blanket. On the same day, a small number of Silvereyes also came for a drink and to bathe. I have shown these in today’s post.
Our swimming pool is in our backyard, a short distance from our back veranda. On nice sunny days when it is not too hot in the middle of summer, or not too cold in the middle of winter, we enjoy sitting on the veranda to have our lunch. Sometimes we take a mid-morning break there for a cup of tea or coffee. We have also taken an afternoon break when gardening.
On all of these occasions, we enjoy the constant parade of birds in our garden, perched on the fence or in the trees nearby, and on the pool cover like the Silvereyes shown today. I often have my binoculars and camera at the ready while we sit there. On this occasion, I managed to get many photos of the Silvereyes and the Yellow-rumped Thornbills. A Grey Fantail was also fluttering around, but you will have to return in a few days’ time to see those photos in my next post.
The water that gathers on our swimming pool cover in the winter and spring months are visited by many birds over the course of each day. In addition to the species I have already mentioned, another frequent visitor is the Magpie Lark. Both the male and the female come on a daily basis, often perching on the pool safety fence and calling loudly, their antiphonal singing a delight to hear. (Antiphonal: when the two birds sing a duet in parts.)
Our resident Australian White-backed Magpies also come to drink, and the bossy Red Wattlebirds will chase the smaller birds off. White-plumed Honeyeaters flit in and out nervously, while the Peaceful Doves take their time, gradually getting closer and closer until they gather the courage to stoop and drink. The Crested Pigeons also come for a drink, though they are usually more interested in mating displays than drinking.
The Welcome Swallows occasionally swoop low over the pool but more often they are seen much higher in the air. The many House Sparrows and Common Starlings come frequently to drink and bathe, but the resident Mallee Ringnecks rarely do so; they prefer to feed in the nearby trees. The Willie Wagtails, however, are frequent visitors to this part of the garden.
As you can see, it is never boring in our garden if you are a birder like myself.
PS: Over the years, I have written articles about all of the birds mentioned in this article. To see photos of them, and to read more about each of them, use the search facility in the top right-hand corner of any page.
In our garden, we have a swimming pool. At the moment, it is more of a swamp. It will need a LOT of cleaning before the warm summer days come blowing in from the north over the coming months. We enjoy our pool on those hot, summer nights because it is so relaxing. And the exercise is good for us, too. (When we have the energy!)
We also have a solar blanket on the pool. This has a number of purposes:
- It warms the temperature of the water so that we can enjoy an extended swimming season, even in the cooler months.
- It reduces the need for chemical treatment to keep the water safe for swimming.
- It reduces evaporation; our water prices in South Australia are some of the highest in the world and the blanket minimises the amount of topping up the pool needs, thus saving money.
- It keeps things like leaves from nearby trees out of the water which saves me time and effort cleaning the pool.
With the solar blanket on during the winter, the rain we have had tends to gather on the surface in pools. Many of our resident bird species take advantage of this fact. They come to either drink or to bathe in the water. Recently, a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills did just that. they had a glorious time splashing around in the water. They totally ignore the nearby bird baths. Why use a bird bath when you can bathe in your own swimming pool?
On our trip to Sydney last week, we stopped for a brief rest at the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens. This is one of our favourite stopping places on our way from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, when we are going to Sydney to visit family. On this occasion, we stopped there to have morning tea, and to change drivers.
The botanic gardens in Wagga Wagga have a good representative range of both Australian and exotic plants. The gardens are beautifully set out with plenty of areas of lawn for visitors to have picnics. The good range of plants means that visitors can see something flowering at most times of the year. This also means that there is also a good range of birds present in the gardens and the surrounding environment no matter when one visits.
On this occasion, we were somewhat pressed for time, so I only had the chance to make a small list of the birds I saw. I didn’t even get my camera out, so the photos in today’s post were taken a few weeks ago near our home. I was in the middle of having a cup of tea and looking around at the flowering Grevilleas and Callistomens in the Australian Native Garden section.
I saw a Red Wattlebird land in the bush next to me. I thought it was about to feed on the many flowers in this bush. Instead, as it perched there, it screeched at me – as if it was growling at me. It flew off briefly, returning very low over my head and clacking its beak as it again flew into the bush. It repeated this action several times, each time swooping low over my head. It seemed to be irritated by my presence.
Its next action revealed its true intention. A small crumb from my piece of cake fell to the ground. Immediately, the Wattlebird swooped down and picked it up. It was obviously calling to me to feed it some cake. I guess many visitors do feed the birds during their picnics. In Australia, this is discouraged because many forms of human food are actually harmful to our birds. There is no reason to feed our birds because they have access to a wide range of natural foods.
The most interesting thing about this close encounter was that this individual had learned to swoop humans in order to get food handed to it. I have been swooped by Wattlebirds before, but it is a fairly rare occurrence in my experience.
- The problem of swooping magpies
- Do Blackbirds swoop? Dealing with aggressive birds.
- Pesky Plovers – dealing with swooping birds