Birds at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010
Last week I attended the 2010 Adelaide Writers’ Week. This popular event is an important feature of the Festival of Arts held here every two years. Writers and readers come from all over Australia and attendees are treated to a large contingent of guest speakers, some Australian but many from overseas, with a sprinkling of local talent. Writers for children are conspicuous by their absence.
This event is spread over six days and is held in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens in the beautiful park-lands of Adelaide, just an easy five minute stroll from the CBD. All sessions are free – except for several evening sessions in the Town Hall. Panel discussions, book launches and meet-the-author sessions are run concurrently in two large marquees set up on the lawn, while a third is the book tent where you can buy the books of guest speakers and get them signed. There is also a catering tent for food and drinks.
While attending three days of this year’s Writers’ Week I was able to position myself during most sessions where I was also able to see out of the tents and observe the passing bird life. Being set in the gardens, and very close to the River Torrens, I was able to get a nice little list of bird seen. Below is an annotated list.
Galah: small groups seen flying over head along the river.
Rainbow Lorikeets: fast flying flocks seen and heard over head and feeding in nearby trees.
Noisy Miner: several heard calling from nearby trees. Interestingly I only saw one bird.
Australian Pelican: two seen gliding low over the river where they presumably landed (the trees obscured my view).
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos: several small flocks of 4-8 flew noisily overhead.
Australian Magpie: two heard carolling in nearby trees and several feeding on nearby lawns.
Silver Gulls: one or two seen often flying over head or along the river.
Australian Wood Duck: flock of about a dozen feeding on the grass within a few metres of the tent, quite unperturbed by the large numbers of people.
Black Swan: One seen sitting on the grass near where I parked the car next to the river (I was lucky enough to get a park each day very close to the venue).
Welcome Swallows: About 5 seen flying over the river.
Crested Pigeon: one seen feeding on the grass near the tents.
Pacific Black Ducks: Two flew between the tents at just over head height, narrowly missing people as they mingled near the Book Tent.
Little Pied Cormorant: one seen flying over the river.
What parrot was that again?
On my recent trip to Pinnaroo east of here in Murray Bridge I saw the above bushfire prevention sign on the side of the road. As I flashed past I thought, “My readers might like to see that.”
So I came to a screeching halt and backed up. Well – I checked the mirror first. Good thing too – a big truck was following me about a hundred metres back. I let him pass before taking the photo.
Most local councils in Australia have strict regulations about lighting fires, especially in rural areas. Many farmers still use burning off as a strategy for controlling weeds. Lighting a fire during the summer months is asking for trouble, hence the signs.
The message of this sign seems to be appealing to bird lovers.
But what kind of bird?
The two parrots depicted by the artist appear to be rosellas, but they are nothing like any of the rosellas in my field guides. I guess the artist wanted to depict a generic type of parrot, appealing to a very broad audience.
I suspect the artist has adapted an illustration from a children’s colouring book. I’m sure I’ve seen something very similar in one of those “Colour by Number” type books.
I doesn’t matter – if it gets the message across and prevents fires, then it has achieved its purpose. Pity though – I’d like to have a photo or two of the parrots featured. They’d look good here on my blog.
Australian Magpie sunning itself
I’ve had this set of photos waiting for several months until I found the time to post them. I finally got around to it.
I observed the male Australian Magpie shown in the photos in our garden one sunny day. I can’t remember how hot it was, but I was intrigued by the bird’s behaviour. It was quite unconcerned by my presence a few metres away, but this is not unusual. Our resident magpies are quite used to us moving about the garden, and although they are still a little wary, they will come quite close.
This one stayed almost in the one spot over about five minutes while I took the series of photos shown here. It did some preening of its feathers, but it also appeared to be sunning itself. Sunning behaviour is quite common in many Australian species. I have most commonly seen it in various species of pigeons and doves. Sometimes I’ve also seen it in association with sand bathing; House Sparrows often do this.
One of my reference books records instances where the wings of magpies can stretch above the head until touching during sunbathing behaviour. The bird I observed only briefly opened the wings.
These photos were taken mid morning. Many species will use sunning behaviour first thing on cold mornings. I guess we all need a good stretch and warming up on a cold morning.
Update Feb 29th, 2016: It is thought that birds probably sunbathe to rid their plumage of lice. Read the article Sunny Side Up for a long discussion on this.
I have seen this sunbathing behaviour in the following species: Crested Pigeon, Spotted Turtledove, House Sparrows, Red Wattlebirds, and Noisy Miners.
I have since written another article about this behaviour called Topsy the Crested Pigeon.
For a much longer explanation of why birds sunbathe read this article: Sunny Side Up on the Australian Birdlife site.
Nest boxes for wildlife: a practical guide
On the weekend I bought another book to add to my already vast collection. (Can one ever have too many books?) This one is a very practical book; it says so on the cover!
- Nest boxes for wildlife: a practical guide by Alan and Stacey Franks (2006, Bloomings Books, Melbourne)
We already have quite a few species of wildlife nesting in hollows on our property. At times however, the competition seems to be intense. This has been worsened in a the last few years by the large numbers of the introduced European Starling taking over many of the suitable hollows. They have forced some of our native species to look elsewhere. Over the next few years I intend giving some of our native birds and animals a helping hand by providing some nesting boxes. We have enough suitable trees for several dozen such nest boxes.
This new book of mine has plans included for some of the more commonly constructed nesting boxes. These plans include many different birds as well as boxes suitable for possums, gliders and bats. Of course I could have gone ahead and bought some boxes, but I enjoy making things with timber so I’ll have a go at them myself. It’s a bit late to be putting up these boxes this year because the breeding season is in full swing. I plan to have some ready for next spring.
I’ll keep you posted.
Special Note: this book deals only with Australian fauna. For suitable nesting boxes for your country, please look for publications dealing with you local fauna.
Synchronised flying by wattlebirds
I regularly get comments and questions from readers of this blog. It is one of the delights of having a blog. Today I received a question via my email contact form. I must admit I’ve never witnessed this strangely compelling activity on the part of Red Wattlebirds. Can any readers help?
I stumbled on your page while doing a search on what we call Synchronised Red Wattle Birds. For the past few years we have noticed an interesting behaviour of 2 red wattle birds in our back yard (Coromandel Valley, South Australia). They fly in unison from the back fence and land at the same time on the railing of our balcony. Then they squawk at each other turn around and fly off at exactly the same time and land again on the back fence at exactly the same time. They can repeat this for up to 1/2 an hour at a time.
If one accidentally takes off before the other, it quickly returns, squawks and then they leave together. Have you seen this behaviour before and do you have any idea what it is all about? We thought maybe flight training for young but perhaps they are practicing for a synchronised flying competition.
It is great fun to watch and they look like they are having a super time.
This sounds like they are having great fun. Could it be just play? Is it sexual behaviour? I’ve done a search of my reference books and there is no mention of this behaviour. Over to my readers – use the contact form or the comments section below.