Several months ago I visited the nearby Lowan Conservation Park in South Australia. Lowan is a half-hour drive from where I live in Murray Bridge and just south of the small community of Bowhill. This small reservation is mainly mallee scrub with an understory of a great variety of plant species, including Acacias, Grevillia, Correa and many more.
It was a quiet, sunny winter’s afternoon and the birding was rather slow. To my delight, however, a Restless Flycatcher was flitting around nearby while I was having an afternoon tea break. Its Latin name is Myiagra inquieta which is very apt: “inquieta” is from the Latin inquietus which means “restless”. On every occasion I have seen this species it has indeed been restless. It is constantly on the move, often calling with a grinding sound which gives it one of its common names: scissors grinder.
While superficially it looks very similar to another member of the flycatcher family, the Willie Wagtail, it is easily distinguished by the white on the throat and its distinctive call. While it does occasionally wag its tail like the Willie Wagtail, it is more likely to hover just above the ground trying to disturb insects to snatch up for its next meal.
On this occasion, the bird I photographed for today’s post was very obliging. It would dart down to the ground to grab an insect and then return to the same perch in a tree nearby, usually always the same branch. This enabled me to focus on the one spot and to get some nice shots of it.
This species is widespread throughout eastern and southern Australia, but in my experience, it is not common anywhere in any numbers. The Willie Wagtail is far more common. I really enjoy coming across this species on my birding travels. I am happy to have the Willie Wagtail as a resident species in my garden, but it would be nice to have the Restless Flycatcher around more often than a fleeting visit every few years. I guess it is trying to tell me to get out birding more often.
I have included several more photos of the same bird below. I’m not sure what it was looking at in the final photo.
Last month on a visit to Sydney, I timed my arrival to coincide with my grandson’s 10th birthday party. I arrived about ten minutes before the guests started descending on the small park near Chatswood, a suburb of Sydney near where my son and his family live. It had been threatening to rain all morning, and the preceding few days had been quite wet. The children present at the party were all keen to get out and play. No amount of rain would deter them as we found out later.
While some games on the grass were underway, my attention was diverted from the children and their enthusiastic pursuits. A small flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos had flown in to a nearby part of the park. I slowly moved closer to get some photos of them on my phone. I just did not feel like walking all the way to the car to get my camera. The flock can be seen in the photo below, but I was more interested in the two birds in the photo above. They ignored me getting closer and closer. They appear to be whispering to each other in a quite romantic way. (Forgive me; it is the “story-teller” in me writing this.)
In reality, they are just preening each other’s feathers, something most parrots do regularly. In fact, all birds indulge in preening on a regular basis. Preening helps to keep the feathers clean and tidy, which in turn assists in flight and their general health and well-being. So, while I may have thought that this pair was being all loving to one another, what they are doing is actually very practical help.
I recently went with my son and grandson to Little Athletics at the Rotary Athletics Field, Lane Cove, Sydney. On many occasions when I am in Sydney visiting my family, I have enjoyed seeing my grandson compete in the various events. He is quite talented and has even reached competing at the state level.
During the morning’s events, I made a note of all the bird species seen or heard. I have done this on most occasions on our visits to this athletics ground. On this occasion, all of the events had finished and the equipment was being packed away. My grandson and I bought some food for lunch from the barbecue which is provided every week and we were sitting on a nearby picnic ground adjacent the track. A Masked Lapwing flew in and landed only metres from where we sat. People were heading to their cars and it was quite unconcerned by their presence.
The bird actually came up to within a metre of where I was sitting. I am not sure if it wanted me to share some of my sausage or bun or was expecting some worms to fall out of my lunch. It hung around until I was finished eating and I managed to get my phone out of my pocket and take the photo above. No zoom needed – it was very close.
A little further off near the barbecue area, someone dropped a sausage on the footpath. It was only there for a few seconds until two Laughing Kookaburras swooped down from the nearby trees to grab the sausage. My grandson and I were amused by what happened next. The kookaburra picked up the sausage and proceeded to bang it on the ground, either to “kill” it or to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.
This incident reminds me of another occasion on a visit to the nearby Lane Cove National Park where we experienced some lunch snatching kookaburras.
A few weeks ago my daughter suggested that we visit the Monarto Zoo. It had been about a year since my last visit which is rather poor of me because it is only a ten-minute drive from my home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. And I am a member so I can enter whenever I please at no cost. Monarto Zoo is a part of the Adelaide Zoo which I also must visit again soon.
Before we went on the guided bus tour of the open range zoo we decided to buy our lunch from the cafe in the Visitor Centre. We found a suitable table overlooking the garden and before we had even started eating, one of the local Little Ravens came to join us. Just like many species of birds, this Raven had learned that people are often associated with food. It certainly was not shy and landed on the railing right next to our table. I could have reached out and touched it. I am not normally in favour of feeding our native birds, but my daughter has no such reservations. Nor did the Raven – it gratefully took the food handed out and flew off to a nearby mallee tree to consume the handout. It returned several times, both to our table and to the tables of other zoo visitors.
During our lunch, we were also visited by several Magpie-larks, another common species in this area. While they came close to our table, they never ventured as close as the Raven. I managed a good photo of the female while it was perched on the glass fence of the nearby Meerkat enclosure.
Monarto Zoo has a wonderful collection of the adorable Meerkats on display. With their enclosures having glass surrounds, everyone can get excellent views of these wonderful creatures. I have included a photo below. I have also included a photo of the beautiful Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby which is native to the Flinders Ranges in the northern parts of South Australia.
Brushturkeys are not everyone’s favourite bird. In fact, many people regard them as pests. This is especially so when the turkeys scratch around in their gardens. I believe that they can make quite a mess of a garden when they are making a nest mound to incubate their eggs.
On our recent trip to Sydney to stay with family, my wife and I had several occasions where we spent time in the nearby Lane Cove National Park. It is a lovely park with plenty of picnic areas for visitors. As a bonus, the park is only a ten-minute drive from where we were staying.
On one visit to the national park, we were relaxing near the river. We had enjoyed a hectic few weeks with our grandchildren – ages 9 and 6 – and we were just looking for a quiet time of relaxation. One of the resident Brushturkeys, however, saw us as easy pickings. It wandered around our chairs looking for a handout or two. When this wasn’t forthcoming, it jumped on the picnic table and began to scrounge around our things on the table (see photo below).
It actually tried to unzip our cooler bag. It was obvious that it had done this before and knew exactly what to do. It was unsuccessful because I chased it off. A few minutes later, it returned, this time attempting to open our biscuit tin. This was a beautifully decorated tin my wife had bought recently at the fair run by the school our grandchildren attend. It began scratching at the lid of the tin, attempting to open it. I again chased it off before it could scratch the tin. It was also in danger of moving the tin off the table and the lid may have opened on impacting the ground.
As I said at the beginning, many people regard these birds as pests. I admit that they can be very troublesome. I have a different point of view. I really enjoy seeing these birds when we come to Sydney, for the following reasons:
- We don’t have the species in South Australia where I live. (There is an introduced population on Kangaroo Island off the SA coast.)
- The birds have character and attitude. In heaps – and sometimes this character spills over into being annoying.
- They are easy to photograph – they come up close to humans and are generally unafraid.