I have to admit that I enjoy doing the clothes washing. It gets me outside in the sunshine and fresh air. except when it is raining and blowing a gale. On those occasions I usually hang the washing on clothes horses on the back veranda.
The main reason I enjoy doing the washing is to do a spot of birding while hanging the clothes on the clothes line, or when getting in the clothes once they have dried. Last Saturday was a beautiful spring day here in South Australia. we’ve had some foul windy weather this spring some it was a pleasure to get out in the beautiful sunshine.
As I was taking the dry clothes off the line and flock of about 20 birds flew overhead, circled high above our garden and then swooped down and settled on several trees – all only a few metres from where I stood. I immediately identified them as woodswallows, but to my excitement, there were actually two different species. Forgetting all about the clothes I raced inside, fired up my camera and started taking photos.
The flock was made up of about 10 Masked Woodswallows and 10 White-browed Woodswallows, both great species to see at any time. The last time I saw either species here was in the year 2000. The White-browed I hadn’t recorded in our garden since the early 1990s.
I took quite a few photos, the best are shown here. After a stay of about 10 minutes they all flew off together. Later I read online of several other sightings of these two species in various places around the state. They sure get around.
Over many weeks during November I’ve been outside quite a bit of each day. I have been trying to tame the garden and the rest of our 5 acre block of land. The Estate has been neglected over the last few years but I am finally getting on top of things.
While outside I tend to be more aware of the birds around the house and in the surrounding scrub. During my weeding, cleaning and mowing I’ve been aware on many occasions of small flocks of 10 – 20 woodswallows hawking for insects while on the wing on high. I wouldn’t have noticed them but for their calls which are quite distinctive and tend to carry far.
All those I saw were far too high for a photo; I could barely see them without binoculars, but I think they were Dusky Woodswallows. Besides, I didn’t have my camera at the ready. Instead, I have shown a photo above of one taken back in October when we took my grandson to Cleland Wildlife Park in the Mt Lofty Ranges near Adelaide. As the photo shows, this was of a captive bird in a walk through aviary.
I love seeing woodswallows here at home and anywhere on my travels. All the various species present in Australia have a distinctive call that attracts my attention skywards. More often than not I hear them overhead before I see them. In many cases they are so high up to be almost invisible. At other times the flock – which can number from a dozen or so up to the hundreds – can be soaring just a few metres overhead. When a few individuals settle on some handy nearby dead branch I can sometimes get a few photos of these beautiful birds.
On a recent visit to Adelaide Zoo I was able to get up quite close to several White-browed Woodswallows in one of their aviaries. Despite the wire netting I was still able to get a reasonable few photos of them, albeit a little fuzzy.
White-browed Woodswallows can be found throughout Australia (except Cape York and Tasmania) but can be seasonal in their movements. Large flocks can form and move quickly from one area to another, sometimes in response to drought or rainfall.
One of those infrequent visitors to our garden is the Dusky Woodswallow, shown in the photo above. In fact, they more often just fly over head on their way somewhere else and don’t even land in our garden. I still count in on my “Garden List” of birds seen. My rule is: if I can see or hear the bird standing in my garden, I count it. We did have them nesting in a tree in our front scrub, but that was many years ago.
Over the last week I have been working outside in the garden – when the hot, summer weather permitted. On a number of occasions a small flock of a dozen or so Dusky Woodswallows flew overhead, hawking insects for minute or two before gliding off elsewhere. They never seem to hang around for long.
Some of the woodswallow species here in Australia can be quite spectacular when they gather in large flocks. On a few occasions I have seen flocks numbering in the many hundred. Quite a sight.
A few minutes ago I had occasion to go outside. I needed a break from my writing and I needed to attend to something before the coming rain storm arrived. Of course I didn’t think I’d see anything unusual while outside so I didn’t take the binoculars.
Murphy’s Law and all that.
A small flock of about twenty woodswallows flew overhead giving their characteristic calls. Not totally sure but they were probably Dusky Woodswallows as that is the main species in this family we get around here. We don’t have them overhead all that often, and when they do come they rarely stay more than a few minutes before flying on. Even less often do they settle. For this reason I haven’t taken all that many photos of this species. The one featured above was taken inside a large aviary at Cleland Wildlife Park. The one below was taken some years ago just up the road – on one of the rare occasions when one perched for me in camera range.