I had a pleasant surprise this morning. As I opened the curtains in my bedroom I saw two Australian Wood Ducks feeding on the grass in my garden. I quickly grabbed my camera and moved outside and a little closer to them, hoping to get some good photos. They were very cooperative and stayed grazing on the grass for a few minutes before flying off. I have included below a selection of the photos I took while they lingered there nearby.
Australian Wood Ducks are quite common in the Murray Bridge area in South Australia. They can often be seen along and near the banks of the Murray River here, as well as in pastures some distance from water. In the Adelaide Hills to the west, and in other parts of the state, this species can often be observed in grassy pastures and around farm dams.
What is unusual about my sighting this morning is that I haven’t recorded Australian Wood Ducks on my property for the last 15 years. In fact, I cannot recall ever seeing them here on my 5-acre block in over 35 years that I have lived here. My database of records only goes back to sightings since 2005. I still have many sightings from earlier years to enter on my database so I am trusting my memory on this one. And my memory is not as good as it used to be. (Sigh.)
From time to time I see Pacific Black Ducks flying overhead. Over ten years ago I also took photos of a mother Pacific Black Duck with her ducklings swimming in my swimming pool. This happened a number of times but now that I have a cover over the pool, they don’t seem to be interested in coming down for a swim.
One bird species that I love seeing and hearing in my garden here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, is the Peaceful Dove as shown in today’s photos. I live on the western edge of the rural city of Murray Bridge on a five-acre (two-hectare) block of land.
As well as a large variety of Australian native plants and trees, I have a small orchard and some remnant mallee scrub. My property adjoins several other mallee scrub areas, including Kinchina Conservation Park about a kilometre to the west.
Because there is so much native vegetation remaining in this area, the bird life can be prolific. I have lived here for over 35 years and have kept monthly lists of birds observed over that period, except for a few periods when I was away. This includes many holidays interstate and several trips overseas.
Doves and Pigeons
The most common species in this family of birds is the Crested Pigeon. They are a resident breeding species, meaning that they are seen every day and have been recorded breeding on my land.
For many years I have recorded Spotted Turtledoves (Spotted Doves) almost every day as well, but in the last few years, I have only seen this species here occasionally. The same applies the Rock Doves (Feral Pigeons) which are now only recorded occasionally. One other species, the Common Bronzewing, has only been sighted here on a handful of occasions.
In the first 20 years living here I only occasionally sighted Peaceful Doves. Then an individual would sometimes move down the hills to the west and visit my garden for an hour or two. On checking my database of records, I started seeing them regularly from late 2009. Over the next decade, they have become resident and I hear and see one or more every day.
At first I only saw one of two until more recently when I have recorded up to six in close proximity to each other. Only a few days ago I looked out the window to see four of them sunning themselves all within a square metre. It has become one of my favourite birds and I feel so privileged to see and hear them regularly here at home.
They are watching me
Ever had the feeling that someone is watching you?
I guess that feeling is common to most people. Have you ever had the feeling that an animal or bird is watching you? That is a very common feeling, I’d say. Dogs, in particular, have an uncanny way of watching people eat, for example. They always seem to know when there is food around.
Last month I was aware that the resident Little Ravens in my garden and five-acre block have been nesting. I observed them carrying sticks to a tall tree near my driveway, a spot which gives them a good lookout over the surrounding land. I had just taken some photos of the flowers of some native Australian plants in my garden when I spotted the Little Raven shown in today’s photos (above and below).
Keeping an eye on me
The photos almost look like the raven is watching me carefully, making sure that I go nowhere near the nest. Over the few weeks, before these photos were taken, I walked past the nest tree many times. At no point did the ravens call out a warning, or swoop me or anything. I just went about my business, and they continued with their nest building.
I have been away from home travelling for the last two weeks so I don’t know whether their eggs have hatched. I will still be away for a while so I expect to get home to find several young ravens begging for food.
On my writing blog, I recently wrote about the wonderful sounds in the morning when lingering in bed. This article is something of a homage to the calls of birds which can be experienced early in the morning. I am particularly blessed because I live on the outskirts of a town of Murray Bridge in South Australia. I also have fond memories of camping years ago when the birdlife was up close and the dawn chorus was an interesting challenge when trying to identify birds, especially in unfamiliar areas.
I live on a five-acre block of land which has many trees and shrubs and bushes. My surrounding environment is a good place for birds and I have recorded over 100 bird species in the 35 years I have lived here. Many times I have been alerted to something unusual in the garden just by a call which is different.
My advice would be to anyone interested in honing their birding skills is to learn the calls and songs of the common birds in your area. There are apps you can get for your phone which can help you in memorising and identifying birds and I strongly recommend that you get one. I use Morcomb’s Birds of Australia app on my Android phone. There is also an Apple version. This app not only gives the calls of all of our birds, but it also gives detailed notes on behaviour, nesting, distribution and much more information as well. The illustrations should also help in identifying the birds you are seeing.
Birds in Backyards
Good birding – and happy listening.
In my last post, I showed photos of some Laughing Kookaburras in the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. This park is only a short distance from my son’s home, so over the years, I have visited it often. On this occasion, the kookaburras allowed me to come very close to where they were investigating something on the ground. I couldn’t determine what they were so interested in because I was enjoying photographing the birds from a close distance.
A Noisy Miner also joined in the quest for something to eat. They may have spotted some picnic leftovers and were looking for more. Just like the kookaburras, I was able to get close up photos of the miners in their natural environment without disturbing them in any way.
On other visits to this park, the Noisy Miners can be rather annoying. Just like the kookaburras, they are very bold and will come up to humans and even snatch food from the picnic tables when it is left uncovered or unattended. There are plenty of signs in this park warning people not to feed the birds, but that still doesn’t stop the birds snatching human food for themselves.
The Noisy Miner is one of many species of native Australian honeyeaters. It is not to be confused with the very similar Yellow-throated Miner. Their distribution overlaps in parts of Australia. There is yet another species – the Black-eared Miner but that species is endangered and is only found in a few small isolated populations.
The Noisy Miner is an aggressive species and has adapted well to urban environments and introduced plant species. It acts aggressively towards many of our smaller bird species such as finches and wrens, chasing them away from parks and gardens, taking their food and nesting spots. Some people also find that their raucous calling can be annoying at times.