Last night we had a wonderful visitor to our garden. Just before we turned on the television we heard the unmistakeable call of a Southern Boobook Owl in our garden. I immediately grabbed a powerful torch and head outside. Unfortunately the bird not only stopped calling, it must have flown off. I searched a few of the trees where I thought that the sound had been coming from but to no avail. Never mind, it was good to hear it and know that this species is still around.
It was a special visitor because we are so infrequently aware of this species of owl in our garden or in our little patch of mallee scrub about 80km east of Adelaide, South Australia. We actually hear it only a few times a year – at best. I guess we should switch off the television more often. Or perhaps I should head off with a torch and walk the “estate” more often – all five acres of it!
Because the bird we heard last night did not hang around very long, there was no opportunity to grab the camera for a photo. The photo above – possibly the same bird – was taken in one of our trees a year or so ago. On that occasion the bird obligingly posed for two photos.
Update October 13th: we heard it again this evening. This time it was closer to the house and we had a good view of it – twice in a few days is special.
Other nocturnal birds
Below is a list of nocturnal birds I have recorded on our property. Click on each to go to articles and photos of them.
The Night Parrot has long been thought to be extinct.
This has been the presumed status of the species for many decades. In fact, the majority of confirmed sightings were in the period 1870 to 1900. Since then, several dead birds have been found on roadsides and there have been tantalising reports of birders getting brief glimpses of the parrot in car headlights. The chance was always there; did it still exist in sustainable numbers – or any numbers at all?
On our many travels I will often challenge my wife to be on the lookout for two species when travelling at night: the Plains Wanderer and the Night Parrot. Sightings of either species would be most unlikely and being a supportive and loving person she agrees to keep a sharp eye on the lookout. We always enjoy this verbal banter with a little laughter.
However, the chances of seeing a Night Parrot have risen slightly in the last year or so. Ever so slightly. From 0% to approximately 0.001% – or thereabouts. Or to put it in Australian slang terms – from Buckley’s to Forget it!
Some facts we know about the Night Parrot:
- It is nocturnal – making it just that bit more difficult to observe.
- It’s preferred habitat in spinifex grasslands in the arid interior of Australia – that big space in the middle where very few travel and even fewer live, limiting chance sightings even further.
- It is small, green and yellow and dumpy, and runs and hops in preference to flying.
- It shelters in the clumps of the spinifex during the day making it almost impossible to find during the day – unless stepped on. Which you wouldn’t want to do to such a rare bird.
- It has never been filmed – until recently.
- Not much is known about the habits of the species, but that is about to change.
After well over 17,000 hours of field work over the span of a decade, this species was rediscovered and filmed by John Young.
In 2013 naturalist and wildlife photographer John Young captured several photos and a few seconds of video footage of a live bird in western Queensland.
After a search spanning many years, John was finally rewarded by an incredibly close-up encounter with a Night Parrot – often considered the ‘holy grail’ for birdwatchers and naturalists.
Global interest in the discovery was so intense that the exact location of this only known population remains a closely guarded secret to protect the birds from disturbance.
Quoted from the Bush Heritage Australia website.
What is interesting about the Bush Heritage article is the 3:34 minute video showing the bird and the habitat in which it lives, plus more information about efforts to conserve the area. There is also an appeal to raise money in this important conservation project.
I am sorry that I do not have a photo of my own to share with you. My wife will just have to keep looking.
Last night we were watching television with the lounge door open; it was a pleasant summer’s night. During a particularly quiet segment of the show we were watching we suddenly heard the churring call of our “resident” Australian Owlet-nightjar.
“He’s still around,’ we both cried out.
Now I need to clarify a few points here:
- I use the word “our” loosely. It is a wild bird in the natural environment so we do not own it.
- I am not sure if this particular bird is actually a resident on our 5 acre property. We do hear it often enough to think that it is here most days, but have no proof of that.
- I have no idea if it is a male or female – to call it “he” is more of a generic term.
Over recent months we have not heard this bird calling many times at all, so it was delightful to hear the call last night. I like to think that it is quite contented living around here most of the time.
A few years ago one bird – perhaps the same one – took up occupation of a significant hollow in one of our mallee trees in our back yard. Amusingly, during the cool winter months it would emerge from the hollow every morning around 11am and sun itself in the opening of the hollow, call a few times and then retreat to sleep until evening. Sometimes we would even hear it calling again as it went out feeding during the night., being mostly a nocturnal species. It was on one of those occasions that I was able to sneak up closer for a photo (shown above).
Over the last two summers the hollow has come under the “ownership” of a pair of Mallee Ringneck parrots who have successfully added to their family each time. Lately they have been busy feeding two very persistent young ones which have recently fledged.
- Australian Owlet-nightjar
- Australian Owlet-nightjar
- Australian Owlet-nightjar does exist
- Australian Owlet-nightjar in our garden
- A special call in the night
A few night ago we were suddenly aware of the familiar call of a Southern Boobook owl quite close to our house. I only took a few moments to locate it in the large tree next to our clothes line. I didn’t bother getting out the camera to get some photos because the last time I saw one in our garden I got the photo shown above. It is quite possibly the same bird.
It has been some time since we heard a Boobook in our garden; usually we have the television going at night and that tends to drown out the night sounds. On this occasion we had both been working on cleaning out the office, so the television was off. Perhaps we should do that more often!
Much to our delight we heard it calling again the following night. It would be lovely to be able to call it a resident bird present nearly every night, instead of just an occasional visitor every few years. It is quite welcome to move in and can have all the mice it can catch while it stays.
My wife and I are currently staying in Sydney with our son and his family. We are having great fun playing with our two grandchildren age 5 and 2.5. We will be here until Christmas.
Because of the configuration of the house, the spare bedroom is at the back of the house, next to some large bushes and near to some large street trees. Up until recent days the Laughing Kookaburras have woken us before 5am; one morning it was 4:33am. As first light filters through the trees the hundreds of locally resident Rainbow Lorikeets start up their screeching as they fly from tree to tree.
Because of those two noisy resident species we treasure every second of sleep we can get, especially when the grandchildren usually knock on our door well before 7am. So it was a little disconcerting to have a Tawny Frogmouth doing the overnight shift, calling just outside our bedroom window! Fortunately, the call was soft enough not to keep me awake.