Silvereyes come for a bath

Silvereyes

Silvereye (Yellow-rumped Thornbill in background)

In my last article here I posted some photos of Yellow-rumped Thornbills bathing in the small pools of water which gather after rain on our swimming pool solar blanket. On the same day, a small number of Silvereyes also came for a drink and to bathe. I have shown these in today’s post.

Our swimming pool is in our backyard, a short distance from our back veranda. On nice sunny days when it is not too hot in the middle of summer, or not too cold in the middle of winter, we enjoy sitting on the veranda to have our lunch. Sometimes we take a mid-morning break there for a cup of tea or coffee. We have also taken an afternoon break when gardening.

On all of these occasions, we enjoy the constant parade of birds in our garden, perched on the fence or in the trees nearby, and on the pool cover like the Silvereyes shown today. I often have my binoculars and camera at the ready while we sit there. On this occasion, I managed to get many photos of the Silvereyes and the Yellow-rumped Thornbills. A Grey Fantail was also fluttering around, but you will have to return in a few days’ time to see those photos in my next post.

The water that gathers on our swimming pool cover in the winter and spring months are visited by many birds over the course of each day. In addition to the species I have already mentioned, another frequent visitor is the Magpie Lark. Both the male and the female come on a daily basis, often perching on the pool safety fence and calling loudly, their antiphonal singing a delight to hear. (Antiphonal: when the two birds sing a duet in parts.)

Our resident Australian White-backed Magpies also come to drink, and the bossy Red Wattlebirds will chase the smaller birds off. White-plumed Honeyeaters flit in and out nervously, while the Peaceful Doves take their time, gradually getting closer and closer until they gather the courage to stoop and drink. The Crested Pigeons also come for a drink, though they are usually more interested in mating displays than drinking.

The Welcome Swallows occasionally swoop low over the pool but more often they are seen much higher in the air. The many House Sparrows and Common Starlings come frequently to drink and bathe, but the resident Mallee Ringnecks rarely do so; they prefer to feed in the nearby trees. The Willie Wagtails, however, are frequent visitors to this part of the garden.

As you can see, it is never boring in our garden if you are a birder like myself.

Good birding,

Trevor

PS: Over the years, I have written articles about all of the birds mentioned in this article. To see photos of them, and to read more about each of them, use the search facility in the top right-hand corner of any page.

Silvereyes

Silvereyes

Silvereyes

Silvereyes

Silvereyes

Silvereyes (Yellow-rumped Thornbill in the background)

Thornbills come for a swim

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

In our garden, we have a swimming pool. At the moment, it is more of a swamp. It will need a LOT of cleaning before the warm summer days come blowing in from the north over the coming months. We enjoy our pool on those hot, summer nights because it is so relaxing. And the exercise is good for us, too. (When we have the energy!)

We also have a solar blanket on the pool. This has a number of purposes:

  • It warms the temperature of the water so that we can enjoy an extended swimming season, even in the cooler months.
  • It reduces the need for chemical treatment to keep the water safe for swimming.
  • It reduces evaporation; our water prices in South Australia are some of the highest in the world and the blanket minimises the amount of topping up the pool needs, thus saving money.
  • It keeps things like leaves from nearby trees out of the water which saves me time and effort cleaning the pool.

With the solar blanket on during the winter, the rain we have had tends to gather on the surface in pools. Many of our resident bird species take advantage of this fact. They come to either drink or to bathe in the water. Recently, a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills did just that. they had a glorious time splashing around in the water. They totally ignore the nearby bird baths. Why use a bird bath when you can bathe in your own swimming pool?

Good birding,

Trevor

Further reading:

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

A visit to Monarto Conservation Park

Southern Scrub Robin, Monarto Conservation Park

Southern Scrub Robin, Monarto Conservation Park

A few months ago my wife and I paid a visit to the Monarto Conservation Park in South Australia. This park is south-east of Adelaide and south-west of Murray Bridge where we live. It is about a twenty-minute drive from home. The park is mainly mallee scrub but it contains a good range of small and medium-size native wildflowers, some of which I have shown in the photos below.

On the day we visited, I did not see or hear all that many birds. This is not unusual; some days are like that and very few are seen, while other days you don’t know where to look first – there are so many birds to watch. On this occasion, the only bird I managed a reasonable photo of is the Southern Scrub-robin shown in the photo above. I have found this species to be a somewhat shy bird that skulks in the undergrowth. I followed this individual for about five minutes before it disappeared from view. I could hear it – and others – calling from time to time, but none of them came out in the open to enable a better shot.

This park boasts a wide range of native Australian wildflowers. There always seems to be something flowering, so honeyeaters are common in the park. One can also expect to see, or hear, both types of Pardalote, several species of pigeons, parrots and lorikeets, as well as the elusive Shy Heathwren. Fairy-wrens are also common in the park, as are several species of birds of prey, usually seen soaring overhead. You can also see Australian Magpies, Grey Currawongs, Little Ravens, Grey Butcherbirds and several kinds of swallows.

Access to the park is via Ferries-McDonald Road, a sealed road off the South-eastern Freeway. There is a carpark on the right as you travel south. There are no facilities in or roads through the park, but there is a well-defined walking track starting at the carpark. This is an easy 45-minute walk through a variety of habitats in the north-eastern corner of the park. All of the photos featured today were taken along this walking track in early July of 2017.

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park – Holly Gravillea

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park – Sundews

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park - orchid

Wildflowers in Monarto Conservation Park – orchid

 

I was swooped by a wattlebird

Red Wattlebirds

Red Wattlebirds

On our trip to Sydney last week, we stopped for a brief rest at the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens. This is one of our favourite stopping places on our way from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, when we are going to Sydney to visit family. On this occasion, we stopped there to have morning tea, and to change drivers.

The botanic gardens in Wagga Wagga have a good representative range of both Australian and exotic plants. The gardens are beautifully set out with plenty of areas of lawn for visitors to have picnics. The good range of plants means that visitors can see something flowering at most times of the year. This also means that there is also a good range of birds present in the gardens and the surrounding environment no matter when one visits.

On this occasion, we were somewhat pressed for time, so I only had the chance to make a small list of the birds I saw. I didn’t even get my camera out, so the photos in today’s post were taken a few weeks ago near our home. I was in the middle of having a cup of tea and looking around at the flowering Grevilleas and Callistomens in the Australian Native Garden section.

I saw a Red Wattlebird land in the bush next to me. I thought it was about to feed on the many flowers in this bush. Instead, as it perched there, it screeched at me – as if it was growling at me. It flew off briefly, returning very low over my head and clacking its beak as it again flew into the bush. It repeated this action several times, each time swooping low over my head. It seemed to be irritated by my presence.

Its next action revealed its true intention. A small crumb from my piece of cake fell to the ground. Immediately, the Wattlebird swooped down and picked it up. It was obviously calling to me to feed it some cake. I guess many visitors do feed the birds during their picnics. In Australia, this is discouraged because many forms of human food are actually harmful to our birds. There is no reason to feed our birds because they have access to a wide range of natural foods.

The most interesting thing about this close encounter was that this individual had learned to swoop humans in order to get food handed to it. I have been swooped by Wattlebirds before, but it is a fairly rare occurrence in my experience.

Good birding,

Trevor

Further reading:

Red Wattlebirds

Red Wattlebirds

Red Wattlebirds

Red Wattlebirds

 

Where are all the Emus?

Emu

Emu

Recently we began another road trip, once again visiting family in Sydney. From home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, it is just over 1300 kilometres or about 14 hours actual travelling time. Whenever we stop, I try to jot down a list of all of the birds I see or hear. When it is my wife’s turn to drive, I am able to concentrate on the birds I see as we are driving along, listing them in my notebook as I see the birds. Sometimes, if I see something unusual, or noteworthy, I will even ask my wife to note this in my notebook when I am driving. She is great that way – and she even points out birds I may have missed.

On all of our trips over to Sydney, I particularly enjoy crossing the Hay Plains between the towns of Balranald and Hay. To most people, this is a dreary, featureless plain covered by saltbush. We find it endlessly fascinating, watching the subtle changes in vegetation as well as the birdlife along the way. On this trip, we saw quite a few birds of prey, something which is not surprising due to the frequent encounters with roadkill. Many kangaroos, rabbits and foxes are killed by the hundreds of trucks traversing this route day and night. We saw plenty of Black Kites, Black-shouldered Kites and Nankeen Kestrels but no Wedge-tailed Eagles which is surprising.

Of particular note, however, was the lack of Emus. Normally we see dozens of this species, sometimes more than a hundred, often in small, loose flocks of 5 to 10 birds. Occasionally, we even see a male Emu followed by a group of up to a dozen immature birds. (The male incubates the eggs and cares for the young for up to 6 months after hatching.)

This time the grand total of Emus was one. In fact, it was the only Emu for the entire 1300km journey.

I cannot account for the absence of Emus on this trip. Perhaps there was no food for them near the road, or they are nesting away from the road. Maybe we will see more on our return trip in three weeks’ time.

Further reading: