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.
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
The White-browed Babbler is a common bird species around where I live in Murray Bridge, South Australia. They could almost be considered as a resident species in our garden and on our five-acre block of land, but we don’t see them every day. Frequently – but not every day. Their range must be larger than just our property.
A few days ago my wife and I had been out for the morning. I drove down the driveway and we stopped in the car for a few minutes to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine. It was a cold, blustery day with occasional showers. As we sat there chatting, we noticed a White-browed Babbler hopping along the driveway in front of the car. It had a few small twigs in its beak and was pecking at the ground, collecting more twigs. As it flew towards us, it looked like it had whiskers sticking out from its beak.
The bird flew immediately into the Grevillia bush next to the car. We immediately realised that it had been carrying nesting material. After a minute or so, we saw it fly out of the bush to another spot in the garden where it started collecting more twigs. While it was gone, I went to the bush and easily found the partly made nest. I did not linger long because the nesting building bird was on its way back to the nest.
Over the next few days, the Babblers in our garden busily kept working on the nest. I had another peek into the bush the day before we left on our four week trip to Sydney. The nest then looked complete, but I did not want to hang around too long to check whether any eggs had been deposited in the nest. If there are eggs in there, they will probably hatch out before we return home. We may be just in time to see the new hatchlings when we return.
Last week my wife and I were sitting on our back veranda having lunch. We were enjoying a brief burst of spring weather and the sun was most welcome. We have had a long stretch of very cold, showery, wintery weather for well over a month, so the change was very much appreciated.
I often have my binoculars at the ready in case I want to check out any of the many birds we see in our garden. Sometimes I even have my camera at the ready, too. As we were enjoying a cup of tea after lunch, a flock of about a dozen New Holland Honeyeaters set up a terrible racket in the bushes about ten metres from where we were sitting. I immediately thought that their warning calls meant that there was a bird of prey in the sky overhead, or else it was in the trees nearby.
On looking around, and checking the sky, I could not see any evidence of anything they could be getting upset over. All of the honeyeaters kept calling and fluttering around, obviously quite agitated by something on the ground. I cautiously walked towards them. They took no notice of my presence and kept calling loudly.
A metre long Eastern Brown Snake was trying to stay inconspicuous in the shadows, but I caught a glimpse of it as it made its escape into the undergrowth – and away from the keen eyes of the resident honeyeaters. I slowly made my retreat, intent on not getting too close to one of the world’s deadliest reptiles right there in our garden.
Every summer we usually see one or two Brown Snakes in our garden, on our five-acre property, or crossing the road leading to our home. We usually give them a wide berth when we see one and never try to get too close. They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. I prefer to let them be because not only are they protected under our laws, they also do us the service of keeping mice and rat numbers down to a manageable level. My only concern was that this was rather early in spring for our first sighting; summer won’t start until December.
I guess that we will have to keep an eye out for them in the coming months. Proceed with caution.
- Bird baths are not just for birds – this post includes photos of a Brown Snake at one of our bird baths,
- Brown Snakes and Woodswallows
- Beautiful birds, leaping lizards and slithering snakes
On my database, I record the birds I see in our garden, or on our five-acre block, or flying overhead. I have done this every month for well over 30 years now. In more recent times, I have started recording them on a weekly, and sometimes daily, occasions. This has built up a great base of information about the birds we have resident (present every day), regular visitors (every few weeks or months) and occasional (perhaps one or two sightings a year). So far, the tally is over 110 different species. (I don’t know the exact figure because my database is not quite up to date.)
Surprisingly, one of the rarer occasional visitors is the Laughing Kookaburra. This species is widespread throughout southern and eastern Australia and is common in many places. It is a widespread species here in the Murray Bridge region of South Australia too, especially along the Murray River. Despite that, it is a rare visitor to our garden. In fact, until a few weeks ago, our last sighting was just over ten years ago.
The individual which paid us a recent visit did not have a good time. As I was getting some photos – shown on today’s post – a Grey Currawong kept on harassing it until it flew off in disgust at the poor welcoming party. I guess that the Currawong chased the kookaburra away to discourage it from visiting its nest, though I have not seen any evidence of the Grey Currawongs nesting so far this year. The Currawong itself is not slow about robbing the nests of other birds, either.