What a big Mallee Fowl

Mallee Fowl sculpture, Patchewollock, Victoria

Patchewollock

On my way to Sydney last week I took a slight detour to the small town of Patchewollock in the north-western part of Victoria. This small farming community is mostly based on wheat growing as well as sheep for wool. In the 2016 census, the population was 133, down from 350 in 2011, so it is a town which is struggling to survive. It still has a post office, a pub and a general store. When I drove around the town for a few minutes I drove past the school. Sadly, this closed a decade ago, so the children now go to school elsewhere by bus. This is a familiar story in the rural districts throughout Australia. One thing the locals are trying to do to increase visitors to the town is their annual Music Festival. It was being set up during my visit and I missed it by a few days.  You can read more about Patchewollock here.

Mallee Fowl sculptures in Patchewollock

One of the reasons for visiting this town was the possibility of seeing a Mallee Fowl. From time to time this elusive species can be seen crossing roads in the area. A few years ago there were reports of dozens being sighted on the Walpeup to Patchewollock road. This time I missed out entirely – but I was able to take photos of the very large Mallee Fowl sculptures shown above and below.

The sculptures are made from corrugated iron, a material very common on Australian farms. Many urban homes and sheds are also covered using this material. From the photo above you can gauge the scale of each construction. The picnic table on the left shows that each bird must be at least 4 – 5 metres high, quite a bit taller than the real bird which stands at 55 – 60 cm (2 foot) high.

Ironically, the nesting mound shown in the photo below is not far off the dimensions of the real thing. I have seen nesting mounds up to 4 – 5 metres in diameter and 1 metre high. The male tends the nesting mound for many months, scraping sticks, leaves and grass into the mound which acts like a compost heap, the heat produced hatching the eggs inside. You can read more about the so-called ‘incubator bird” here.

Mallee Fowl sculpture, Patchewollock, Victoria

Silo Art Work

Until I arrived in Patchewollock, I hadn’t realised that this little town boasted one of the now popular grain silo artworks. In the photo below you can see the portrait of one of the local farmers featured on the grain silo in the railway yards. This larger than life artwork is now featured on many grain silos across the rural areas of Australia, especially in Victoria and South Australia, but I have heard recently that several have been painted in Western Australia too. There are now enough in this area of Victoria to make a tour of these amazing art installations. For more information click here. It is obviously becoming very popular with tourists. When I visited, there were at least six other vehicles near me, the occupants also taking photos. More cars were near the store. This tourist attraction can only help to boost the future hopes of this small town, and others like it.

A local farmer ‘s portrait on the Patchewollock grain silo.

Artwork on Public Toilets

My final photo for today’s post is of the humble public toilets near the town’s store. This building also boats some artwork, albeit on a much smaller and humble scale. This reflects the town’s pride in its historic farming heritage. This kind of artwork is becoming common in many parts of rural Australia and I applaud this recognition of the past.

Artwork on Public Toilets, Patchewollock

Back on the road again

Lake Roberts, Lameroo, South Australia

It has been a while.

It has been far too long since I last posted an article here on this site. It has not been an easy year for me so far (read here to find out why). But now I am back and keen to post many more bird photos here, as well as relate some highlights of my travels and birding experiences.

A special birthday

Last week my family celebrated my grandson’s 10th birthday, so I just had to come over from South Australia to Sydney for the occasion. It’s a 14 hour, two-day drive so it is not a trivial undertaking. This was my first big trip by myself, so I decided to take three days and take it easy. I am pleased that I did because I saw a few birding highlights along the way. More of that in coming posts.

The birthday party was held in a park near my son’s home and it was very successful – despite the rain trying to spoil it. The invited guests were determined to have a good time, and they did not to let the rain spoil their fun. It was a huge success and the food was also great. Love party food.

Lake Roberts, Lameroo

When I left home in Murray Bridge last week, my first stop was at Lake Roberts on the edge of Lameroo, a small farming based community in the eastern part of South Australia. I stopped for a break and a cup of tea. As I was having my morning tea, I made a list of the birds seen and heard. I also grabbed my camera and took a few photos. The photo above is a general shot of the artificial lake. Behind me is a small caravan park and to my left is a picnic area with tables seats covered by a roof.

Bird list

My bird list for the twenty-minute stay is not long, nor is it exciting – except for one bird.

Galah
Australian Magpie (both white-backed and black-backed)
Welcome Swallow
Singing Honeyeater
Red Wattlebird
Willie Wagtail
Crested Pigeon
Magpie-lark
Whiskered Tern

It is the last species which grabbed my attention.

Whiskered Tern

I have visited this spot on many occasions on my trips to and from Sydney. This is the first time I have recorded a Whiskered Tern in this spot, and although it is a widespread species throughout much of Australia, it was an unexpected extra on this occasion. The photos are not great, unfortunately. Many of the photos were taken at extreme zoom, and are therefore not great.

The shot above is the one occasion that the solitary bird came to rest on the small beach along the edge of the lake. For the rest of the time, it kept flying around the perimeter of the small lake, diving into the water every ten seconds or so. I am not sure what it caught to eat, but it was quite persistent in this behaviour for most of the time I watched it. One of the better photos of it flying is shown below.

(Note to self: try to master photographing birds in flight.)

Whiskered Tern

Other species

I didn’t have much time to photograph all of the other species present on this visit. I have shown some of them below. One species not listed above is the Muscovy Duck. This is a feral bird found in a few places around Australia, usually near farmhouses, dams and artificial lakes and ponds. It is native to Mexico, Central and South America. Feral populations exist in many countries, mainly as a result of releases by people or escapes from farms and gardens.

Muscovy Ducks

Galah

Masked Lapwing

 

 

New Holland Honeyeater posing

New Holland Honeyeater

During the warmer months of the year, there is a constant stream of birds coming to my birdbaths for a drink. On hot days many of them will also come for a dip in the water. What always amuses me, however, is the number of birds which also come for a dip in the water on freezing cold days.

Some of the birds which regularly visit my birdbaths include 8 different species of honeyeaters, 3 kinds of parrots, Australian Magpies, Little Ravens, Grey Currawongs, White-browed Babblers, Superb Fairy-wrens, House Sparrows, Diamond Finches, Common Starlings, Grey Shrike-thrush, as well as at least 3 kinds of pigeons and doves and many other species. Over the years I have written articles and shown photos of most of these species. To find those articles just go to the search box above right or the Categories list on the right-hand side-bar. Or you could check out the archives section.

It is now winter here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, where I live. Over recent days we have had some very frosty mornings and cold nights. The water in the birdbaths is very cold and may even freeze on a night like tonight with the temperature due to go down to minus 1 degrees Celsius (30 degrees F). The birds will still be happy to have a drink during the day and even a short splash in the very cold water. I don’t think that I will be joining them in a hurry. They can enjoy it all to themselves.

Recently I took a series of photos (above and below) of a solitary New Holland Honeyeater enjoying the water. The individual was quite unhurried seeing it had the water all to itself. This is unusual because normally there would be anything up to a dozen birds or more, all splashing away happily and creating quite a noisy party with all of their excited calls.

Good birding,

Trevor

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

The beautiful Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosella

The beauty of our Australian parrots never fails to impress me. One of the most beautiful to my eyes is the Eastern Rosella which I have featured in today’s photos. All of the photos shown in today’s post were taken in my garden on the outskirts of Murray Bridge which is about 80 kilometres south-east of Adelaide in South Australia.

This particular individual has been resident in my garden for several years now. I usually see it every day but I am sure that it roams over a much greater area than my 2 hectare (5 acre) property. One of the odd things about this bird is that it continues to keep the company of a family of Mallee Ringneck parrots. The ringnecks are also a resident species and they also roam away from my property most days. Some days they will hang around feeding in my trees for most of the day, sometimes creating quite a din with their noisy chatter.

One of the odd things about this rosella is that I am quite confident that it is the same one I am seeing all the time. They are not normally found in this part of South Australia. Their usual range is the extreme south-eastern part of our state. They are also quite common in the Adelaide region and the adjacent Adelaide Hills (Mt Lofty Ranges) where they have been introduced.

This leads me to two possible conclusions about this particular bird:

  1. It has escaped, or been released, from someone’s cage or aviary. (They are a common pet in Australia.)
  2. The species is extending its range, either from the south, or from the west.

I lean towards the first conclusion, mainly because I have not seen any more of this species anywhere around this area. Whatever the reason, I am delighted that it has decided to call my garden “home”. I am also pleased that it frequently visits the bird baths I have close to my sunroom. This enables me to get good photos of it every so often.

Up until this series of photos were taken, I hadn’t fully appreciated the beautiful markings on the back. The photo below shows these markings really well.

Good birding.

Further reading:

Eastern Rosella (view of its back)

Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosella

World Environment Day

Eastern Rosella

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2018

World Environment Day is celebrated on the 5th June every year. I cannot remember posting anything about this day in all of the years I have been writing on this site. This is a first for me.

I live on the edge of a large country town in South Australia. My property is about 2 hectares (5 acres) in size, with over half of it either natural scrubland (mallee trees), or planted trees and shrubs. I have lived on this property for well over 30 years and have kept a bird list for all of that time. The current list has reached 112 different species, the high number due in part to the presence of suitable habitat for a wide range of species.

Over those years we have planted many hundreds of trees and shrubs in addition to those occurring naturally. Not only have we taken delight in the wide range of birds that visit or are resident, we also enjoy the many flowering species of plants. Planting is one easy and very rewarding way of improving the environment. Even if you only have a small courtyard for a garden, having a few plants – both native and exotic – will attract our native birds for you to enjoy. The same could be said for those who live in a high-rise apartment with a balcony. Even having five or six plants in pots improves the environment, as well as helping your own well-being.

Another way I like to encourage the birds in my garden is to have several bird baths. I have placed these within close viewing distance from our sunroom. Over the years this has given me much pleasure. On really hot days, the birds flock to the baths in large numbers, either to drink or to bathe. Today I have included some recent photos taken of birds which have visited my bird baths. These were all taken when the weather was much cooler than our hot summer days, so even in cool weather, we have the delight of many birds coming to visit the bird baths.

Enjoy.

White-browed Babbler

New Holland Honeyeater

Galah