A new species at the bird bath

European Rabbit in our garden

European Rabbit in our garden

Our bird baths give us a great deal of pleasure, especially during the warmer months of the year. I am sure that the birds appreciate it too.

I have written often about the birds visiting the bird baths, and many photos featured here on this blog are taken while they are enjoying a drink or a splash.

One of the bird baths sits on the ground. We don’t have much of a problem with cats here so the birds are generally happy to use it. Some of the local lizards also enjoy drinking the water provided, as did a fox one evening.

The new species to avail itself of this water source was the  introduced European Rabbit. For more than twenty years we have rarely seen a rabbit on our property. The rabbit calicivirus almost wiped them out in the district, but not quite. Over the last two years numbers have increased to the point where we have about 5 or 6 resident rabbits, including very young animals, and we see them on a daily basis. Not good news. I’ll have to rabbit proof the vegetable garden this coming winter.

Further reading:

  • Time for a bath – contains a complete list of birds and animals recorded coming to our bird baths.  The post also includes a selection of the best photos.

An air conditioned Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Canberra

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Canberra

We are in the midst of a heatwave this week. On Monday it reached 40C (104F), yesterday 45C (113F) and it looks like another 40+ day today.

Our poor garden birds – along with birds everywhere, suffer greatly during such extreme temperatures. I try to keep the supply of water in the bird baths up during these times, something they much appreciate if the constant stream of birds is anything to go by.

During the worst of the heat yesterday I was working in my office. I was being kept cool by the gentle flow of cool air from our evaporative air conditioner. This type of cooler needs an open window to create a flow of cool air into a room. The window alongside of me was ajar a few centimetres.

I was suddenly aware of a Yellow-rumped Thornbill cooling itself in the flow of air escaping from my office. He twittered in appreciation for about five minutes, wings held out to catch the refreshing air, before flying off to catch afternoon tea.

It was a lovely interruption to my afternoon of writing.

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Australia Day 2009

Laughing Kookaburra, Lane Cove National Park, Sydney

Laughing Kookaburra, Lane Cove National Park, Sydney

Happy Australia Day to all of my readers.

I’ve included a photo today of that iconic Australian bird, the Laughing Kookaburra. It is one of our most recognisable and well loved birds, and its distinctive laughing call is familiar to almost everyone in this country as well as many people who have never been to Australia.

Even though it was a public holiday I didn’t go out birding. It was too hot, reaching 40C (104F) under our veranda this afternoon. Instead I spent some of the morning working on a project on the back veranda until the heat chased me inside to air conditioned comfort. I spent some of the day in front of the television watching South Africa beat Australia in the cricket game here in Adelaide.

The birding all day was rather slow in our garden. The heat does that to the bird life. I’d forgotten to fill the bird bath this morning and so there was little action there. A few Galahs flew over during the cooler part of the evening. Several Little Ravens were calling loudly nearby. The Australian Magpies seemed to be keeping a low profile today – we didn’t even see them. The regular patrol undertaken every day by our local White-winged Choughs never happened, and even the bossy New Holland Honeyeaters seemed subdued. At one stage a small group of Mallee Ringneck parrots flew past noisily, but they didn’t hang around for long.

It does not bode well for the birding over the next week. The forecast is for a heatwave – that is, temperatures over 35C  (95F) – for at least the next 5 days and perhaps even a week.

Time to attend to some indoor projects, methinks.

Magpies in the heat

Australian Magpie on a hot day

Australian Magpie on a hot day

Yesterday we had the hottest day of this summer so far. It reached 45C under our front veranda – that’s 113F for those of you who use that temperature scale.

It was hot.

Very hot.

Apart from needing to go to the Post Office early in the morning I stayed indoors all day. The evaporative air conditioner chugged away nicely from late morning until well into the evening. One aspect of this form of cooling is that you need to keep a few windows partially open to keep the flow of air moving. We often open the sliding door shown in the photo above a few centimetres. It wasn’t long before the resident magpie family found the lovely cool air coming from the house.

Earlier they had been enjoying bathing in the bird bath, but this was even better evidently. At one stage I noticed six birds taking advantage of the cool air. It will be interesting if other species follow suit on the hot days still to come.

Australian Magpies on a hot day

Australian Magpies on a hot day

Diamond Firetail Finches

Australian Finches would have to be on many people’s lists of beautiful birds. Some, like the Gouldian Finch of northern Australia, are simply stunning. It is no wonder that they are highly popular with aviculturalists.

Diamond Firetail

One of the local finches here in Murray Bridge South Australia is the very beautiful Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata). It is slightly smaller than the common House Sparrow found in many of our parks and gardens. The Diamond Firetail is widely spread in this district but is not common anywhere. According to the New Atlas of Australian Birds its distribution covers most of south eastern Australia south of a line from Port Augusta to Brisbane. It is not found in Tasmania. (To view map click here)

The Diamond Firetail is a small bird some 12-13cm in size. It has a bright, unmistakable red beak and red rump with a black tail. Its throat and breast is white with a black band across it. The white spotted black flanks give it the appearance of diamonds studded along its sides.

Diamond Firetail Finch

Diamond Firetail Finch

Local occurrences

I have observed this beautiful species in a number of localities near my home. The best sightings have been in our own garden where it is in infrequent visitor. On several occasions it has delighted us in visiting our bird bath. Every time it has been such a brief visit. Its next visit must come soon – it hasn’t been since I bought my new camera. I’d love to get a close up photo of its stunning colours. [UPDATE: the photos on this page were added in March 2007]

An unusual sighting of this species was recorded recently near Callington (about 20km west of here). A large flock of over 35 was reported on Birdpedia. I have usually only seen them in ones or twos.

Diamond Firetail Finch

Diamond Firetail Finch