Last week I had a close encounter with a very uncooperative Eastern Spinebill (see photo above) in the Ku Ring Gai Wildflowers Gardens in St Ives in Sydney. My wife and I enjoy visiting these gardens every time we come to stay with family in Sydney. Usually, there are many Australian native plants in flower. This year, however, it has been very dry in recent months in the Sydney region, so the flowering was not as good as we had expected. I still managed a few good photos, some of which are shown at the end of this post.
When the gardens are in full flower they can be wonderful. The numerous honeyeaters in this part of Australia flock to gardens and national parks like this and the birding can be wonderful. On this occasion, the bird life was very quiet and the Eastern Spinebill and the Little Wattlebird (see photo below) were the only honeyeater species present the day I visited.
Although I saw quite a few spinebills, the only photo I managed was the one above. The bird I managed a shot of turned its back at the crucial moment. It then flew off before I could get another photo. Such is the life of a nature photographer.
On my wanderings around the various paths in the gardens, I managed only a moderate list of birds. It was one of those slow birding days and not much was calling or coming into view of my binoculars. I managed a few photos of an Australian Raven (see photo below) and a very poor shot of two Laughing Kookaburras (not shown here because it was not in focus because they were too far away and then flew off before I could get closer).
Other birds seen or heard include:
- Striated Thornbill
- Eastern Yellow Robin
- Rainbow Lorikeet
- Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
- Australian Brushturkey
- Magpie Lark
- Eastern Whipbird
- Pied Currawong
Interestingly, I did not see any Australian Magpies on this visit. I usually see a few in the picnic areas. Nor did I see any of the resident Swamp Wallabies which often come out of the bush into the picnic areas as well.
Now for something different. Below, I have included some more photos taken in the gardens. These are some of the beautiful native plants flowering at the moment.
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.
A few months ago my wife and I paid a visit to the Monarto Conservation Park in South Australia. This park is south-east of Adelaide and south-west of Murray Bridge where we live. It is about a twenty-minute drive from home. The park is mainly mallee scrub but it contains a good range of small and medium-size native wildflowers, some of which I have shown in the photos below.
On the day we visited, I did not see or hear all that many birds. This is not unusual; some days are like that and very few are seen, while other days you don’t know where to look first – there are so many birds to watch. On this occasion, the only bird I managed a reasonable photo of is the Southern Scrub-robin shown in the photo above. I have found this species to be a somewhat shy bird that skulks in the undergrowth. I followed this individual for about five minutes before it disappeared from view. I could hear it – and others – calling from time to time, but none of them came out in the open to enable a better shot.
This park boasts a wide range of native Australian wildflowers. There always seems to be something flowering, so honeyeaters are common in the park. One can also expect to see, or hear, both types of Pardalote, several species of pigeons, parrots and lorikeets, as well as the elusive Shy Heathwren. Fairy-wrens are also common in the park, as are several species of birds of prey, usually seen soaring overhead. You can also see Australian Magpies, Grey Currawongs, Little Ravens, Grey Butcherbirds and several kinds of swallows.
Access to the park is via Ferries-McDonald Road, a sealed road off the South-eastern Freeway. There is a carpark on the right as you travel south. There are no facilities in or roads through the park, but there is a well-defined walking track starting at the carpark. This is an easy 45-minute walk through a variety of habitats in the north-eastern corner of the park. All of the photos featured today were taken along this walking track in early July of 2017.
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
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