Over the last few weeks the Rainbow Bee-eaters have be flying around our garden and mallee scrub. During the winter months they head north to warmer parts of the country, and every spring they head south for spring and summer.
It is always a delight when we hear them arrive. It’s a sure sign that spring has arrived. Almost every day for the last few weeks we’ve heard them around, or seen them overhead. Perhaps this year they will nest on our property like they did some years ago?
I find their nesting habit to be quite unusual. They make a short 30 – 40cm tunnel in a sandy spot and then construct a small nesting hollow at the end of the tunnel where they lay the eggs. Sometimes the burrow into the side of a road cutting, or the bank of a creek or river, providing the dirt is not too hard or compacted. I remember being fascinated by these birds as a child growing up on a farm in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. That fascination has remained to this day.
Over recent weeks we have heard one or two Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos calling from various vantage points on our property or nearby; their call usually carries well over a hundred metres. On one occasion I saw two in the tree shown in the photos here. One was chasing the other so I suspect that mating was imminent. The tree in question is about 40 metres from our back varanda.
Most of the various cuckoos in Australia are like the true cuckoos of Europe except for their call. They are parasitic breeders, laying their eggs in the nests of a wide range of host parents who then incubate the eggs, hatch and raise the young. In many cases the cuckoo will dispose of the host bird’s eggs, or the cuckoo chick will hatch first and remove the eggs or young as the hatch.
We also get the Pallid Cuckoo and the Fan-tailed Cuckoo in our area most spring times but I haven’t heard either of them yet this year. On only one occasion we had a Shining Bronze-cuckoo in our garden, and it is possible to have the Black-eared Cuckoo here too, but I’ve yet to record that species on our block of land.
Over the last weekend my wife and I had a short four day holiday on Yorke Peninsula. We stayed in a holiday unit at Edithburgh, about a four hour drive from our home. Edithburgh is a small town near the bottom of the peninsula, directly opposite Adelaide which is on the other side of Gulf St Vincent.
It has been far too many years since our last visit. The peninsula offers some interesting birding with mixed farming covering most of the region, mainly wheat and sheep. There are also remnant mallee scrub areas, particularly in the south and of course the long coast line offers good birding opportunities where there is access to the beaches. One major goal was to spend time in Innes National Park on the southern tip of the peninsula.
On this visit I didn’t anticipate making a long list of birds seen. Many of the migratory seabirds have long since flown to warmer parts in the northern hemisphere. In another blow, the weather forecast was far from promising good birding; gale force winds and rain. Still, we had a booking in one of the many holiday units and we were looking for a relaxing break regardless of what was thrown at us.
I didn’t see any of my target birds: Mallefowl, Western Whipbird and Hooded Plover, but I still managed some great birds, including Crested Bellbird, Blue Bonnet parrot, Rock Parrot and great views of Ospreys.
Over the coming days I will share some of my sightings, along with the usual photographs.
I meant to post this photograph a few months ago. It was taken at Goolwa in South Australia in January. This area is a wetland area near the barrage and only a few kilometres from the mouth of the River Murray.
I’m not at all confident in identifying many of our waders and shorebirds; their plumage changes from breeding to non-breeding can be challenging at best, and confusing most of the time. I think this is a Marsh Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage. If any of my readers disagree, please use my contact email form or leave a comment and I’ll make the necessary changes on the photo and this post.
Marsh Sandpipers are widespread summer migrant to Australia during their non-breeding phase, usually from about August through to April/May. They breed in places like Austria through to northern Mongolia. From there they disperse during migration to Africa, the Indian sub-continent, south east Asia and Australia and occasionally to New Zealand. They are one of those species who annually clock up many frequent flyer points.
I’ve seen this species on a few occasions before but never had the chance to photograph it. Thanks to Rod for stopping his vintage car long enough to get these shots.
I was out in our garden yesterday when I saw one of our resident Willie Wagtails chasing a bird I didn’t recognise at first. When it eventually sat still enough and I could get a reasonable look at it, I realised that it was a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo.
Nothing unusual about that. We often hear them calling in the spring time and sometimes during the summer too. Sometimes they stay around for a few days and at other times they are just passing through.
What is unusual about this sighting is the timing. Most of this species has already flown north for the winter by the end of March, or even earlier. This individual was either a little tardy in its migration, or it was lulled into staying by our warm start to autumn. On the other hand, some individuals of many of our cuckoo species here in Australia are known to occasionally “over winter”. This means that they don’t migrate to northern Australia but prefer to stay and enjoy our brisk winter. Probably saves quite an effort in flying all that way, too.
Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this species yet, and it had flown off before I could fetch the camera from in the house. Despite that, it was a nice sighting at this time of the year.