Archive for the 'Clare' Category

Birds are a distraction

Magpie Lark

Magpie Lark

I am currently at my daughter’s home in Clare in the mid north of South Australia. I am busy – trying to study. The birds in her garden are a wonderful distraction from my books and writing.

Yesterday afternoon I took a break from my studies to mow her lawns. Actually – it would be more accurate to say that I removed the jungle. She has been overseas for the last five weeks and it has grown almost out of control. Not for the first time has Dad come to the rescue.

The resident birds are enjoying the cut grass. I guess I stirred up a lot of insects and exposed them to the birds. The Australian Magpie Larks were the first to move in, strutting around as if they owned the place. The Red Wattlebirds do not like their patch being invaded and will think nothing of swooping the poor Peewees (a common local name for the Magpie Larks). The Australian Magpies were not too slow on the update either, coming to feed and then rewarding us with their beautiful warbling and caroling right at the back door.

Australian Magpie (Black-backed race)

Australian Magpie (Black-backed race)

The Common Blackbirds quietly scamper from the bushes for a sortie or two before scurrying off to the next bush to hide, their alarm calls warning others. The Crested Pigeons strut purposefully across the grass, pausing every now and then to peck at some tasty morsel. Nearby, the New Holland Honeyeaters flit and parry, swooping down to capture an unsuspecting insect for breakfast.

The only species I haven’t seen at this veritable smorgasbord has been the local Willie Wagtails. They are often the very first to take advantage of such a feast. I guess they have better pickings elsewhere.

I must get back to my studies.

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Bird calls in the morning

On those days I am feeling a little lazy and sleep in a while I enjoy lying in bed listening to the morning chorus of birds in our garden. When we stay with our daughter in Clare (mid-north South Australia), or with our son in Sydney or with friends or family in other parts of the country, the bird calls in the morning have variations we don’t get at home. When we are holidaying in our caravan or camping in our tent there is a different set of calls to identify. Call me a lazy birder but it is very enjoyable.

A while ago we were in Clare. At dawn I identified the usual birds in my daughter’s garden or nearby. Laughing Kookaburras could be heard down by the lake. The “chock-carock” of the Red Wattlebird is another easy one to ID. The Common Blackbird skulking in the bushes nearby gives its warning “cluck-cluck” call and a mournful Little Raven flies unhurriedly overhead. The “sweet pretty creature” call of the Willie Wagtail is very familiar and easy to hear. Up the street I hear a small flock of Adelaide Rosellas and their “chink-chink” calls. The screeching Musk Lorikeets rocket their way to another tree nearby for a feed. A pair of Australian Magpie Larks on the back lawn begin their piercing duet calls, “pee-wee” answered immediately by the other with “tee-o-wee”.

But there is one call that intrigued me. On first waking I dismissed it as a Red Wattlebird but then I wasn’t so sure. I wondered if it was a Little Wattlebird. In all my years of birding in the Clare district I’d never recorded the Little Wattlebird there but it was theoretically possible. Its call is what intrigued me the most. Not once but many times over about five minutes it called, mostly from the bush just outside the bedroom window. It distinctly sounded like the bird was saying “Rach-maninoff” with a very brief pause after the first syllable.

I must take more notice of the birds around here.

UPDATE: If you are trying to identify a bird call, a good place to start is the Birds in Backyards website (click here). This site features many Australian birds with plenty of information about each one. Many of the entries have sound files of the calls. Some of our field guides also have excellent apps for phones – I frequently use the Michael Morcombe eGuide to the Birds of Australia. This has all the information contained in the book version plus sound files. It costs around $30 Australian.

A short break in Clare

On Friday we travelled from home in Murray Bridge to the mid-north town of Clare. Our daughter is a teacher in the local high school. This is a long weekend, so she has taken that opportunity to fly to Sydney to visit her brother and sister in law, as well as friends from England who have recently moved to Sydney. We were left to dog-sit in her house.

I usually take a great deal of interest in observing the birds we see as we drive along. In the farmlands of South Australia there are usually quite a few birds to see along the roads and in nearby paddocks. Interestingly, I did not see all that much of interest. Sure, there were the usual species one would expect to see.

Australian Magpies and Little Ravens are by far the most common birds seen along our roads, closely followed by species like the Crested Pigeon, Common Starling and House Sparrow. Several times I observed Feral Pigeons (Rock Doves) with one flock of about a hundred on the power lines near a bridge. I dare say they breed profusely under the bridge and have food laid on in abundance in the nearby wheat crops and sheds and silos where grain is stored.

The occasional Red Wattlebird flew from tree to tree and several Willie Wagtails hovered near the roadside grass. At one stage the road passes a reservoir. Because we were on a tight time schedule we didn’t have time to check out the water birds there. On other occasions were have seen Australian Pelicans, Black Swans and Little Pied Cormorants on this dam.

Of note was the total absence of raptors during our two hour journey. We usually see quite a few Nankeen Kestrels and Black-Shouldered Kites as we drive along. I’ll especially look out for them on the return trip next week.

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