I recently went with my son and grandson to Little Athletics at the Rotary Athletics Field, Lane Cove, Sydney. On many occasions when I am in Sydney visiting my family, I have enjoyed seeing my grandson compete in the various events. He is quite talented and has even reached competing at the state level.
During the morning’s events, I made a note of all the bird species seen or heard. I have done this on most occasions on our visits to this athletics ground. On this occasion, all of the events had finished and the equipment was being packed away. My grandson and I bought some food for lunch from the barbecue which is provided every week and we were sitting on a nearby picnic ground adjacent the track. A Masked Lapwing flew in and landed only metres from where we sat. People were heading to their cars and it was quite unconcerned by their presence.
The bird actually came up to within a metre of where I was sitting. I am not sure if it wanted me to share some of my sausage or bun or was expecting some worms to fall out of my lunch. It hung around until I was finished eating and I managed to get my phone out of my pocket and take the photo above. No zoom needed – it was very close.
A little further off near the barbecue area, someone dropped a sausage on the footpath. It was only there for a few seconds until two Laughing Kookaburras swooped down from the nearby trees to grab the sausage. My grandson and I were amused by what happened next. The kookaburra picked up the sausage and proceeded to bang it on the ground, either to “kill” it or to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.
This incident reminds me of another occasion on a visit to the nearby Lane Cove National Park where we experienced some lunch snatching kookaburras.
A few weeks ago my wife was attending a convention in the southern parts of Adelaide in South Australia. This is an annual event and we usually go with several other couples, staying in our caravans. Previously this convention was always held in Victor Harbor on the south coast. This year the venue changed to a suburb in Adelaide, so we changed our destination for the weekend to the Brighton Caravan Park. We had never been there before and we were very pleasantly surprised. A nice clean park with new facilities and many new cabins. The van site we had included a cement slab. Our van was a mere twenty steps from the toilets and showers.
Always on these special weekends, I look forward to doing some birding. This can take place at any time during the day while the men are lounging around, eating and drinking tea or coffee, nibbling on biscuits and solving the world’s problems. Well… having an opiinion on world matters.
My plans briefly went astray from the first minute after we had pulled up at the entrance. When I entered the office to check in, the caravan park staff were in a mild state of panic. One of the employees had accidently run over an elderly lady staying in one of the park cabins. She had a cut under one eye from where she hit her face on her glasses, and she was quite shaken. As it turned out, her friend took her to a nearby hospital and I spoke to her the next day. She had recovered well from the experience, though she had a nasty looking black eye. The worker who had backed into her bought her some lovely flowers.
After this small amount of excitement, I checked in and then set up the caravan and annex ready for a few days of relaxation. On Saturday morning, the men in our group of friends sat at the edge of the park overlooking the beach. We were entertained by the local sailing club having a small regatta almost right in front of us. Most of the sailors were juniors and several boats tipped over as the sea breeze stiffened a little.
We enjoyed chatting, drinking our coffee while I did a little casual birding. There were plenty of Silver Gulls and Crested Terns flying past, along with occasional Pacific Gulls and Cormorants. Several Willie Wagtails flittered around on the lawn and nearby low bushes covering the low sand dunes. I could also hear Red Wattlebirds and Rainbow Lorikeets in nearby bushes. We were amused and entertained by the numerous Crested Pigeons feeding on the grass, chasing one another and displaying their feathers.
I will write more about this visit in my next post in a few days’ time.
From time to time I see some amazing, interesting or even bizarre things where birds are concerned. At first glance, today’s photos could fall into that category. Masked Lapwings (plovers) are usually found on grassy areas – lawns, ovals and roadside verges. What is this one doing on the roof of the Australian Reptile Park (near Sydney)?
Oddly enough, this is quite common behaviour with this species. In fact, they often prefer to nest up on the roof of a house, shed, office or factory in some situations. How the little hatchlings survive the drop onto the ground amazes me; they must be quite tough little balls of fluff. Perhaps all that downy fluff helps them to bounce like a tennis ball.
When you think about it, nesting on a roof is a better survival strategy than nesting on the ground like they usually do. Not only does this help minimise the threat from cats and dogs, it generally does away with interfering people and their mowers.
In this case however, it is the one safe place to nest away from the hundreds of visitors to the park every day – that’s a lot of shoes tramping around on every available bit of grass. Eggs don’t take kindly to stomping feet.
Many people don’t like lapwings (plovers), especially the Masked Lapwing shown in today’s photos. The reasons are various, including the fact that they make their nests on the ground, usually a lawned area like that shown in today’s photos. The Australian Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan have large areas of lawn or grassy areas, suitable for picnics and large gathering such as concerts. The local community had celebrated their Christmas Carol singing for 2013 the night before we were there. While it is ideal habitat for the Lapwings, their preference brings a conflict with humans. Most people are reluctant to mow the grass or lawn while the birds are sitting on eggs.
Breeding season for the Masked Lapwing brings about another point of conflict with human occupation of the same space. Lapwings aggressively defend their nest and territory, swooping any person, dog, cat or cyclist who dares invade their domain. A screeching, swooping lapwing – it’s more of a attack fighter plane dive – is a terrifying experience for some and an unnerving encounter at best. Young children are particularly at risk. The spurs on the “elbow” of the wing can cause injury if the swooping bird contacts the intended victim. I might add that contact is rare, and injuries usually minor. Psychological damage can be the most severe outcome; some people are definitely traumatised by a close encounter.
It has been far too long since my last post here on my birding site. Over the last two months my energy levels have been very low due to a prolonged illness but I’m almost over that now, thankfully. I’ve also been overwhelmed by my workload with my lecturing job, but I’m now getting on top of that too.
Late last week we had a quick road trip to Sydney to help out family. Along the way I always enjoy watching out for any birds, seeing if something unusual pops into view. On the road from Tooleybuc to Balranald in far western NSW our approaching car disturbed 4 Banded Lapwings feeding on the edge of the road. Travelling at around 110kph is not ideal for taking a photo; the camera was inaccessible anyway. So instead, I’ve posted a photo I took several years ago in the Murray-Sunset National Park in far north-west Victoria.
As I commented on that posting, this species is something of a bogey bird for me. I’ve only seen it on a handful of occasions in the last 40 years. I must get out birding more often to increase my chances of seeing this delightful species.