Archive for the 'Nests' Category

A little birding at soccer

Watching my grandson playing soccer

Watching my grandson playing soccer

We are currently staying with our son and his family in Artarmon, a suburb of Sydney. We try to get over here from Murray Bridge where we live at least once and preferably twice a year. While we are visiting I take every opportunity to do any incidental birding. There are significant differences in the range of bird species present here in Sydney when compared to at home.

On the last two Saturdays, we have had the opportunity to accompany our grandson to watch him play soccer. The photo above was taken with my phone at yesterday’s match. It was held on some pitches in Chatswood West, near the Lane Cove River. The match was a little uneven with my grandson’s team winning 10-0. He scored a goal, hit both upright posts and did a creditable job as the goalkeeper for the second half.

While I managed to mostly keep my eyes on the game from my folding chair, I was aware of some bird activity nearby. There were plenty of  Noisy Miners nearby, their constant calling forming a backdrop to the noise of the game. My concentration on the game was tested on occasion when numerous raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos came wheeling overhead, landing in the trees surrounding the pitches.

After the game my wife and I found a comfortable garden seat near the playground adjacent to the soccer fields. This area was surrounded by many trees and bushes. While we sat there we were entertained by two Rainbow Lorikeets working at a hollow in a branch of a nearby tree. Within a few minutes a small flock of about 5 or 6 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos came into the same tree, squawking very noisily. The lorikeets vacated the hollow, their protesting screeches making the cockatoos know that they were far from happy. Several of the cockatoos inspected the hollow before leaving it. The hollow would have been too small for the much larger birds.

Other birds seen in the vicinity include:

  • Australian Magpie
  • Magpie Lark
  • Common Myna
  • Laughing Kookaburra
  • Welcome Swallow

Now for the sad news.

I forgot to take my camera. The above photo was taken with my phone, but taking bird photos requires a much better camera setup than that. Had I remembered to bring my normal camera from home I would have managed to get some great shots of both the lorikeets and the cockatoos. The cockatoos had their yellow crests up on display for much of the time that we observed them. As well as those two species displaying for us, we also had a Laughing Kookaburra flying down to the lawn just in front of us to gobble up a tasty morsel for lunch.

For a moment, I thought I would be able to use my wife’s camera which was in the car. On opening up here camera bag, we found that the batteries were flat, including the spare set. Sigh. We will just have to return there while we are still here. In the meantime, I have included several photos of cockatoos and lorikeets taken elsewhere.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

The Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets

 

 

 

White-crowned Black Wheatear in the Sahara

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

On our tour of Morocco a few years ago we stopped for breakfast in the garden of an auberge (hotel) on the fringe of the Sahara Desert. We had spent the night in a Berber tent in the desert. It happened to be Christmas Eve – one we will not forget because it was so different. During breakfast, I was able to add quite a few photos of birds hanging around the gardens and buildings of the hotel.

One of the delightful birds I saw and photographed was the White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga). This was a “lifer” – the first time I had ever seen this species in my life. I was so pleased to get several good photos of the bird. At the time, I didn’t know what it was and I have needed to do plenty of research here at home, both for this species, and for many others seen on the trip.

I have discovered that wheatears were once regarded as members of the Thrush family. In more recent times the experts have agreed that they are, in fact, members of the Old World Flycatcher family of birds.

They breed in the stony deserts from the Sahara across northern parts of Africa and as far as Iraq. It also occurs as a vagrant in parts of Europe, even occasionally in Great Britain. It makes a nest in the crevices of rocks or walls.

This species eats mainly insects. It also has a loud song, but the one I saw wasn’t calling.

You can read more about this species on Wikipedia here.

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear in Merzouga, Morocco

Baby birds everywhere

Willie Wagtail nest

Willie Wagtail nest

Over the past month or so the area around our garden has been full of birds nesting, sitting on eggs, feeding young or busy feeding the fledglings after they leave their nest. Spring time here in South Australia is the main breeding season for many species of birds, especially the bush birds. Many of our trees and shrubs are also flowering which means plenty of food for the birds, both the nectivorous and insectivorous species.

Here is an annotated list of the species I have observed nesting or feeding young this spring, plus a few species I suspect have been nesting nearby. All of these observations have been in our garden or on our 5 acre property in Murray Bridge, South Australia.

  • Willie Wagtail – the photos of the nest (above and below) on today’s post are of the nest with two babies just peeping over the top of the beautiful cobweb lined nest. They have since fledged and are flying around begging for food.
  • Australian Magpie – I knew that our resident magpies were nesting but it was only when the young started calling to be fed that I found the nest. They had made a nest in a completely new tree this year. Last year’s nest tree was blown over by one of our winter storms. (Must cut it up for firewood.)
  • House Sparrow – these seem to be always nesting, not just in the spring.
  • Common Starling – about a dozen tree hollows had nests in them and it is quite obvious when there are babies in the nest; their calling for food is incessant. Most of the starlings have now flown off to the fruit growing districts nearby.
  • Red Wattlebird – there have been several fledged young wattlebirds getting around in recent weeks. I suspect that the adults may well be nesting again. The male continues to boss all the other smaller species quite unmercifully. They don’t like sharing their food, even though there is plenty to go around.
  • New Holland Honeyeater – I saw several parents feeding young just out of the nest quite a few weeks ago. They may well be nesting again, but their nests are usually well hidden in dense bushes.
  • Peaceful Dove – we saw a pair mating and they have been hanging around close to the house for many weeks. I have yet to find the nest – in part due to a very bad back at present.
  • Crested Pigeon – this species always seems to be breeding, but they chose a bush quite a distance from the house this spring.
  • Spotted Turtledove – again, due to my back I haven’t yet found their nest.
  • Galahs – this one is tragic. After many attempts at breeding over several years in a tree hollow near the house they finally hatched a brood of young, only to see them die in the nest during an unseasonably hot spell several weeks ago.
  • Common Blackbird – this species often makes a nest in our garden shed, but this year they seem to be nesting next door and only visit our garden occasionally.
  • Australian Magpie-Lark – again, this species has chosen to nest in the neighbour’s tall trees. They visit our garden frequently to catch food for the young.
  • White-winged Chough – another species which visits frequently – except in recent weeks. I often see them down the road about a hundred metres away, so they are probably nesting there.
  • Little Ravens – although several of this species visit almost daily, I have yet to record them nesting in one of our trees, preferring to keep away from the magpies’ nest, I presume.
  • White-browed Babblers – it has been quite a few years since they last nested in our garden but they are regular visitors – except in recent weeks – they must be nesting somewhere nearby.
  • Superb Fairy-wren – our resident pair still seems to be around the house garden, but they are very quiet and secretive about the location of their nest.
  • Cuckoos – we have heard the calls of the Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo a few times several weeks ago but have seen no evidence that they stayed long enough to nest.
  • Other possibilities: White-plumed honeyeater, Singing Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Striated Pardalote, Spotted Pardalote.
Willie Wagtail nest

Willie Wagtail nest

A Mistletoebird pays a quick visit

Male Mistletoebird

Male Mistletoebird

Yesterday my wife and I were taking a short break from the jobs we had been doing. Sitting on our back veranda we were enjoying the lovely sunny spring weather we have had this week. It was afternoon tea time and we were enjoying a well deserved cup of tea. The back veranda has been a bit of a mess over the winter months and the weather has been too cold to spend too much time cleaning it up. Now that the spring weather is here we had a renewed enthusiasm for being outside.

While we sat there we enjoyed the constant parade of birds hopping around in the garden nearby. Many others were calling and we enjoy trying to identify them by call alone, a good way of honing one’s identification skills. Our resident Superb Fairy-wrens entertain us every day, as do the Mallee Ringneck parrots, the Eastern Rosellas and the Galahs. We can’t work out if the Galahs are actually nesting or not. The Spotted Turtledoves often join in the chorus and in recent days we have had the delight of Peaceful Doves also hanging around near the house.

As we sat there we were delighted to have a female Mistletoebird fly in and alight on a bush in full view just three metres from us. We were able to see the soft, dull grey colours of the feathers on her back, a stark contrast with the blue-black feathers of the male (see photo above). I didn’t have the camera handy, and the bird flew off after less than a minute, so I have shared a photo of the male taken some years ago. I do have one photo of the female, but unfortunately it is not in focus. Sigh.

I cannot categorically say that this is a resident species in our garden and on our 5 acre property, but it is certainly a regular visitor. I hear its call almost every week. Many years ago this was the first species to nest in one of the trees we planted after moving here. There may have been other species before it, but this was the first one we positively recorded doing this. The nest is a delicate pear-shaped container with a small entrance near the top. It is made primarily from spiders’ webs, small leaves, lichen and other soft materials, and hangs from small twigs or leaves. They are just coming into their breeding season, so I need to keep an eye open for a nest. This species is found throughout mainland Australia except in the driest regions. It is not present in Tasmania.

Further reading:

 

It’s nesting time again

Baby Willie Wagtails

Baby Willie Wagtails

It’s that time of year again in Australia – spring nesting season.

Birds everywhere are making nests, sitting on eggs in nests or feeding young just out of the nest. In southern Australia – the region I am most familiar with – the “spring” nesting season stretches from the winter months of July and August, through the entire season of spring (September – November) and even well into summer (December – January).

Having confused all of my overseas readers I should explain three things:

  • Most of the breeding occurs in the spring months.
  • Some species – like our honeyeaters – will nest multiple times, raising 2 or more broods a season.
  • Some species will even raise as many as five broods over a six month period.

Being late September nesting is in full swing here on our 5 acre (2 hectare) property in Murray Bridge,  South Australia. The following is a quick annotated list of those species I have observed in the breeding mode in recent weeks:

Willie Wagtail: our resident birds have been very quiet and I suspected that they had a nest somewhere but I only found it yesterday. It contained two eggs. The photo above shows a fluffy family of Willie Wagtails just out of the nest a few years ago.

New Holland Honeyeater: last week I saw two parent birds fussing over and feeding two fledglings just out of the nest and barely able to flutter, let alone fly.

Red Wattlebird: I saw one bird sitting on a nest high in one of our trees but haven’t checked it in recent days. Other wattlebirds in our garden are being bossier than usual, so I guess that there are young around somewhere.

House Sparrow (introduced species): they always seem to be mating and nesting, so nothing unusual there.

Common Starling (introduced): the resident dozen or so birds all seem to have taken up occupation of a number of tree hollows in our mallee scrub, but I haven’t yet heard the persistent calls of the nestlings begging to be fed.

Mallee Ringneck parrots: our resident birds were feeding young a month or so ago, and I have seen them constantly investigating a tree hollow. Earlier this week we saw two of them mating, so the next brood could be on the way soon.

Cuckoos: I haven’t seen any cuckoos yet this season but I have heard Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos calling several times, so they could possibly be nesting too.

Galah: I’m not sure what our Galahs are doing. They come to a hollow in an old growth mallee tree near our clothes line and enter the hollow every day but nothing else seems to be happening. This has happened now for several years so I will just have to keep an eye on proceedings.

Australian Magpie: this is a really puzzling one. The resident magpies showed all the right activities a few months ago when they defended their territory but since then everything has gone quiet. We daily see several birds feeding around the garden and in the paddock, but I have yet to locate a nest. Very strange.

I have highlighted just 9 species in this article. Over the last 30 years I have observed many more species either breeding, or feeding young, on our property. I am quite confident that there would be other species currently nesting somewhere here, possibly including:

  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Common Blackbird (introduced)
  • Spotted Turtledove (introduced)
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Yellow-rumped Thornbill
  • Weebill
  • Spotted Pardalote
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Mistletoebird
  • White-plumed Honeyeater
  • Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
  • Singing Honeyeater
  • Little Raven
  • Pacific Black Duck (they bring the ducklings to our swimming pool!
  • Superb Fairy-wren
  • Australian Magpie-lark
  • Grey Butcherbird

Further reading:

Click on the following article headings to read about successful breeding attempts in past years: