Nankeen Kestrel breeding

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

This morning I was working out in the garden early before the heat of the day. I had been doing some mowing after all of the rain we’ve had over winter and spring. I’d just switched off the mower, that noisy beast, when I heard a familiar bird call overhead.

Three Nankeen Kestrels were flying low over head, two of them chasing after the first while calling. I recognised the call as that of the young birds begging for food. They are a regular breeding species here in Murray Bridge, South Australia but I don’t often get to hear or see the young ones. It’s good to see this species thriving here.

Nankeen Kestrels are found throughout Australia but they are uncommon in Tasmania I understand. They are one of our raptor species and are the smallest of the kites found in Australia. The Letter-winged Kites and the Black-shouldered Kites are just marginally larger.

This species is most commonly encountered along country roads in rural Australia. They can been seen hovering 5 to 10 metres above the ground or hanging motionless on a stiff breeze while searching for a feed. Their diet consists usually of mice, grasshoppers, insects and small lizards.

Their preferred habitat is grasslands, plains, farmlands as well as roadside verges, but they are equally at home in the built up CBDs of towns and cities.

Perhaps the most spectacular view I’ve had of this species was an individual soaring at eye level within metres of where I stood on a visit to the control tower of Melbourne Airport.

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Pacific Black Ducks breeding

Pacific Black Duck

Pacific Black Duck

It is with some embarrassment that I post this article. For several reasons.

The first is that during the cooler months of the year we have two and sometimes three Pacific Black Ducks visit our garden, specifically to take a dip in our swimming pool – or should I call that Le Swamp? (I’m not very good at maintaining it.) On several occasions we have had to rescue about a dozen little ducklings that have followed their mother into the pool, only to find that they cannot get out again and head off down to the river a few kilometres away.¬† We love seeing the ducks up so close, but I do feel embarrassed about the state of the “pool”.

Late last week I was sitting on the back veranda enjoying the lovely spring sunshine and reading a good book. It could have even been The Good Book. The ducks flew in and skidded on the surface of the pool water before settling down for a spot of sun as well.

After about ten minutes they both entered the water and began  excitedly circling each other, constantly dipping their beaks into the water. Now comes embarrassing admission #2. I actually witnessed them in a moment of passionate embrace! The male mounted the female, grabbing her neck feathers in his beak and holding her head just out of the water. Her body was totally submerged.

This wonderful moment was followed by ten minutes of excited flapping, splashing, ducking under the water and general preening as the couple celebrated their union.

I wonder if we’ll have a raft of ducklings in the pool in a few weeks time?

Pacific Black Ducklings, Bordertown, South Australia

Pacific Black Ducklings, Bordertown, South Australia

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.

Happy birding.

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.


Mallee Ringneck parrots nesting

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Almost every day we have two or more Mallee Ringneck parrots in our garden or nearby. We love to have these colourful parrots flying around and feeding in the trees, grasses and bushes around our house. The only time they are not welcome is when they take to our ripening pears and other fruits. In many cases they eat the unripe fruit, so I hope they gets some pains in their little stomachs for damaging our fruit.

In recent weeks two of them have been hanging around one of the trees near the garage. This is an old growth mallee which could well be over a century old. Being so old it has developed several hollow branches. They have been fussing around one of the larger hollows, sitting on the branch, walking along a nearby branch, entering the hollow and sitting in it. Are they a pair? And are they preparing to nest in this hollow?

We can’t be certain that this is a genuine breeding attempt. We will just have to keep an eye on the situation – and have the camera at the ready.

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Mallee Ringneck parrot

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Mallee Ringneck parrot

Very Common Starlings

Common Starling feeding young in nesting hollow

Common Starling feeding young in nesting hollow

Common Starlings are becoming far too common around here in Murray Bridge South Australia.

At the moment their breeding season is in full swing. Our home is situated in several acres of old growth mallee scrub. Being old trees, they have many hollows. The starlings take advantage of this and use every available hollow for nesting. The sound of begging young fills the air. I decided that it was time I took a close up photo of the parent birds entering the nest to feed the young ones.

They are very wary birds around their nests, so I had to be a little cunning. I actually used our car as a bird hide in order to get a close up shot.

Who was I kidding?

They must have seen me getting into the car because the adult photographed was still very hesitant about entering the nest. Eventually, after about a ten minute wait, the calls of the young must have become too insistent, and I managed to get the shot I wanted.

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