Happy New Year.
I hope that 2011 brings you many interesting and wonderful birding experiences. I am certainly looking forward to getting out birding a lot more in 2011 than I did over the last few years. Now that I’ve completed the requirements for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree I am determined to get back to more birding. It has been an intensive time of study, writing, staring at the computer monitor and generally late nights. This New Year has so much promise and so many possibilities. I hope to continue to share my interest in Australian birds here on this site and to encourage my growing readership to participate through the comments section of each article.
This year might see a completely new venture on this site. Our daughter is planning on spending half the year teaching overseas. My wife and I are hoping to visit her few a while and I will be taking plenty of photos of birds to share here on this site. We haven’t planned our itinerary yet but let me assure you that we are planning on visiting some very exciting birding parts of Africa. More news on this in coming articles.
First birds for 2011
The New Year is nearly 12 hours old as I write this, but I still haven’t been out birding. After our celebrations I needed to sleep in a little. Just after midnight I heard a solitary Galah flying over our house. What it was doing flying around in the dark I don’t know; perhaps it was on its way home from New Year’s Eve celebrations! I thought I also heard an Australian Owlet-nightjar calling but it didn’t call a second time so I’m not sure about that one. Then at first light there was a Little Raven calling raucously outside our bedroom window. So much for trying to sleep in!
Just as we were heading off to bed last night we heard a Southern Boobook Owl calling. It was calling persistently, even when I went up close to it with a torch. I raced back inside for the camera and managed two reasonable photos before it silently flew off again.
This owl species is wide spread throughout Australia where suitable habitat exists. Its call is familiar to many people but the bird is not as often seen. It has been quite a while since we last had one calling in our garden.
Other nocturnal species I have recorded in our garden over the years include:
- Barn Owl
- Australian Owlet-nightjar
- Spotted Nightjar
- Tawny Frogmouth
On my recent visit to the Adelaide Zoo I managed to get some good photos of some of the animals and birds on display.
This photo of a Tawny Frogmouth is not one of them.
I was really struggling to get a good shot because of a number of factors:
- I was shooting through some rather thick wire. There were several large black cockatoos in the same aviary and they will easily chew through thin netting.
- The light was dodgy and the flash reflected off the wire.
- The keeper was in the aviary replacing some of the decorative tree branches, and so the frogmouth was uneasy.
- Frogmouths are naturally well camouflaged. Can you pick it out against the tree stump on which it is sitting?
If you click on the photo you can enlarge the image, and that might help. (Hint – the bird is right in the very centre of the photo.)
Update: I’ve recently posted a new article on this species, including a better photo here.
I was working late at my computer tonight when I heard a sound outside. I raced out, torch in hand. Sure enough – I heard a Southern Boobook owl calling. I tried to follow the sound but after walking across our five acre block of land it was still no closer.
I expect it was at least a kilometre away because the night was very still and sounds travels a long way on evenings like this. Still, it is a significant recording. On checking my bird database on my computer it is over 22 years since I last recorded this species here at home. That’s exciting.
The Southern Boobook is found over a large part of Australia and is our smallest owl. It is also called a Mopoke because of its call. It feeds on small mammals such as mice, insects, bats and moths. It is almost entirely nocturnal but is sometimes seen out hunting on dull, cloudy days.
As yet I do not have a photo of this species taken in the wild. Instead I have a photo of a Powerful Owl taken through the wire of an aviary at the Adelaide Zoo.
You can read more about this owl on the Birds in Backyards site here.
You can read more about my encounters with owls, frogmouths and nightjars here.
During recent evenings there have been times when our house and garden are undisturbed by noise. No television and no noisy neighbours – the nearest are about 60 metres from our house. During these times we are aware of the wildlife in our garden – if they call. Last week it was a Brush-tailed Possum – I’ll write about that soon.
Tonight and last night we heard an Australian Owlet-nightjar calling briefly – not long enough to get a torch and track it down. Being nocturnal it had come out of its hiding place to feed. The photo above was taken a few years ago now. It shows “our” nightjar sunning itself in the entrance of its roosting hollow. You don’t often get a chance to see this species in broad daylight.
The Australian Owlet-nightjar looks like a miniature owl. It is only 20 – 24 cm long. It can be found all over Australia but is more often heard than seen.