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
In recent posts here I have written about our visit to the Capertee Valley last year. You can read about this visit by clicking on the links in the “related reading” section below.
In my last post, I highlighted the birds I saw in and near the small village of Glen Alice. We had afternoon tea there and this gave me the opportunity to do some birding. As we were driving through the town, we went past the local primary school. I was really taken by the school emblem or crest on their notice board, and I actually backed up the car and took a photo of it. Not many schools feature a bird as their school emblem. Good for them.
The sign also informs the community that the children were going on a camp-over ‘Zoo Snooze’ on the following two days. This was probably at the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo. The zoo is just over 200km to the north-west and it often caters for overnight stays by school groups.
The fact remains that this valley is one of the strongholds of the Regent Honeyeater, one of our most threatened species of birds here in Australia. This interesting honeyeater is found throughout the Capertee Valley where suitable habitat exists. Sadly, much of its natural habitat has been cleared for farming over the years. Its natural range extends from south-east Queensland, through eastern New South Wales and into north-eastern Victoria. Nowhere is it common and conservation efforts have a focus on preserving this species and increasing its preferred habitat through revegetation programmes.
During our time in the Capertee Valley, I was not fortunate enough to see a Regent Honeyeater. In fact, I am sure that it is one species I have yet to see in the natural environment. The photos above and below were taken in a walk-through aviary in the Cleland Wildlife Park near Adelaide. This park is one of several zoos attempting to breed populations of this species, some of which have been released back into the wild.
- Glen Alice in Capertee Valley
- My first birding visit to Capertee Valley
- Threatened birds of Australia – Regent Honeyeater
- Capertee birder – an amazing collection of articles about the birds of the valley and sound files of some of the birds.
Quaint old church
Near where we stopped to have afternoon tea, there was an old historic church, opened in about 1874. It sat comfortably in amongst the gum trees in a typically Australian bush setting. If I had been involved in building the church, I might have insisted that the windows be made much bigger. In that way, I would have been able to admire God’s amazing creation just outside. Knowing my tendency to get excited about birds, it might have also been a big distraction from what was occurring inside the building, or what was being said. Sigh. (I have been known to actually make lists of birds seen through a church window while the service is in progress.)
The little sign leaning against the wall facing my camera reads “Glen Alice Union Church.” Below the photo of the church, I have included a photo of the sign just inside the fence. I am annoyed that I didn’t capture the whole sign which gives a little of the history of the area.
Over recent days we have had both hot weather and lovely weather. This is normal for mid-summer days here in South Australia. For any new readers, I live about 80km or an hour’s drive south-east of Adelaide. Summer temperatures are usually in the high 20s or low 30s (30C is equal to 86F). During our worst summer days, temperatures can soar as high as 45C (113F), but thankfully such days only occur a few times every year.
Over recent weeks, many days have been in the mid-20s, which is very pleasant. On such days I love to open the large window next to my writing desk and let the fresh air into my office. If there is a breeze as well, that is an added bonus. One of the side benefits of this arrangement is the easy access to the bird life in our garden. I don’t even have to get up out of my chair to watch the birds. They come to me.
One one occasion, a friendly Australian Magpie (see photo above) sat on the rail of the pergola on this side of the house. He was in full view from where I sat. He suddenly stopped his carolling – our magpies are wonderful songsters – realised I was there and leant forward to get a better view of me. When I chatted with him, thanking him for the visit and the song, he answered me. How lovely.
On several occasions over the last week, one or two Peaceful Doves have alighted in the branches of a nearby tree, coo-ing persistently for about ten or fifteen minutes before moving on elsewhere in our garden. Their soft calls are very peaceful, so they are aptly named.
Only yesterday I had to stop what I was writing and look out to the garden bed next to my office window. A small family of White-browed Babblers were playing around in the bushes there, scolding each other as they scurried here and there. They were joined in this game by several New Holland Honeyeaters, their screeches usually a warning sign that a hawk or eagle is about. I think they were just having fun with the babblers. Even a couple of House Sparrows joined in the fun.
One species we don’t always have around is the Rainbow Bee-eaters, a delightfully named bird with their many-coloured plumage and their liking for catching and eating bees and other flying insects. I smile when I see one sitting in a nearby tree, banging a bee against the branch to dispatch the sting of the bee before swallowing it whole. Yesterday two or three could be heard out of my window while I worked, and later I saw two gliding overhead. Delightful birds, and we miss them when they fly north for the winter.
For many years we never had wrens resident in our garden. They were only occasional visitors from up the hill. Then five years ago on our return from an overseas trip, we were greeted by two Superb Fairy-wrens, one of two local species. They have been a resident breeding species in our garden ever since, producing several broods over those five years. They are so secretive about their nests that I have yet to find one. They have plenty of good bushes around to build their nests. From time to time they will also come by my office, their twittering, tinkling calls easy on the ears as they hop along near my office window, jumping up occasionally to snatch a fly or mosquito silly enough to hang around too long.
I don’t need to have the window open to hear our resident Mallee Ringneck parrots screeching outside as they fly from tree to tree, or over the house, or just sitting in a nearby tree wagging their tails joyfully. This tail wagging is probably a mating display. They have raised several broods successfully in recent years, their nest hollow being only 30 metres from my window.
What birds do you have in your garden?
Please tell me in the comments.
Over recent years, my wife and I have visited the Lane Cove National Park just west of Chatswood in the heart of Sydney. We try to get there whenever we visit family living in Artarmon nearby. Despite being in the heart of a bustling part of the city, this park not only preserves some remnant bushland for all to enjoy, it also boasts a good range of wildlife. I am particularly interested in the birdlife – hence this website. I also take an interest in other forms of wildlife, as well as the plant life, an interest which flows over from my wife.
On a visit there last October, I managed a few photos of some of the resident birds, as well as some other wildlife. A few weeks ago I shared a photo of two Long-necked Turtles here. I have also written about the local Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and the Australian Wood Ducks I saw in the park.
One of the very common birds in this area is the Noisy Miner, shown in the photo above. This individual landed on the picnic table alongside where we were sitting. I guess it was looking for a handout of human food, just like the local Laughing Kookaburras and Brush Turkeys. Noisy Miners are certainly the most common of the Australian honeyeaters in this part of Sydney.
I have noticed on all of our visits to this park that the Eastern Water Dragon is a very commonly observed reptile in the park. I think that we have seen many of these lizards on every visit to the park. The one shown in the photo below was quite friendly and unafraid, coming up quite close to where we were sitting.
As I write this we are in Sydney visiting our son and his family. We enjoy visiting him because it is a precious time of blessing as we spend time with our two grandchildren, ages eight and five. It is always great to see them growing and developing. During our times here in Sydney we have limited opportunities to go birding, so any free time we have is really appreciated. On this particular trip, we have visited Lane Cove National Park on several occasions, both times for lunch. This national park is only about ten minutes away by car, depending on the volume of traffic and time of day.
On a recent visit, we set up our folding chairs in a shady spot with a good view of the river. We placed our picnic lunch on the side table of our chairs. Before we could take a bite I observed two Long-necked Turtles sunning themselves on a log protruding from the water (see photo above). I handed my binoculars to my wife so that she could have a closer look at them.
That was when we were robbed!
A cheeky Laughing Kookaburra swooped down from a nearby branch. It snatched a part of my wife’s sandwich and flew off with it. As it dropped the sandwich makings on the grass nearby, another kookaburra flew down to share in this ill-gotten booty. Not long after this, as they were squabbling over their prize, a Noisy Miner joined in the fun. Noisy Miners are one of our native honeyeater species; they can be quite aggressive towards smaller birds and they are obviously quite at home matching it with the much larger kookaburras.
My wife was incensed. She had lost a portion of her lunch to a thieving bird. Later, she read a small plaque on one of the park picnic tables. In fact, all tables have copies of the same message: “Visitors are asked not to feed the birds and animals” or words to that effect. Perhaps the rangers should also put up signs instructing the local wildlife not to snatch human food.
Naturally, we guarded the rest of our lunch very carefully. No sense in losing any more of it. A few minutes later, two Brush-turkeys came mooching around. They looked as if they also wanted a handout. In fact, I held out my empty palm towards one of them and it approached to within a few centimetres of my hand. It left disappointed.
Please do not feed the birds
I think it would be prudent of me to make mention of the fact that it is strongly recommended that people in parks, gardens and even their own gardens refrain from feeding our native birds. Most human food – especially bread – is actually quite dangerous – even deadly – for our birds. By all means, provide fresh drinking water in a birdbath, but resist the desire to feed them. It’s for their welfare.
PS Go to below the comments section to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. These newsletters will contain extra news items and special insights and photos not available in my regular posts.