A short stopover at Pheasant’s Nest, NSW

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

After a cold and wet stay with family in Sydney earlier this year we headed back home. We were planning to travel home via Bathurst but the roads that way were closed due to a heavy snow fall. We decided to head home the way we had come.

After negotiating the Sydney traffic – the Lane Cove Tunnel is a quick way to get out of Artarmon where my son lives – we headed SW towards Wagga Wagga. Mid morning we stopped at a roadside rest area and service centre at Pheasant’s Nest. No – we didn’t see any pheasants. In fact, I saw very few birds.

A few Noisy Miners scratched around on the grassed areas near the car park, and several Australian Ravens flew overhead while we were having our cuppa and morning tea. A few minutes later a flock of about 20 Pied Currawongs flew out of the nearby forest and began foraging in and around several rubbish bins in the car park.

And that was it.

Oh… I nearly forgot. The wind chill factor felt like it was going to snow at any moment, except for the lack of clouds and bright sunshine I guess it would have snowed. I found our later that it had snowed that morning a little further north. It was a most unpleasant break in our journey. I didn’t even bother to get the camera out, so I’ve included a photo I’d prepared earlier.

Pied Currawong

Noisy Grey Currawongs

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawongs are common and widespread in the area where I live in South Australia.  Until the last few years, however, they only occasionally visited our garden and the mallee scrub near our home. Their visits have become very regular of late and on a few occasions they have been feeding semi-independent young., often accompanied by raucous begging from the young.

They usually do not hang around too long and only pass through our 5 acre property in a few minutes. Over the last few hours today, however, their calling has been very persistent and loud. Not sure what all the fuss is about, but it has been going on few some hours. I can’t really work out why they are hanging around for so long.

Mind you, it is generally a pleasant sound but could get annoying if it went on all day.

Further reading

Young Grey Currawongs

Grey Currawong (juvenile)

Grey Currawong (juvenile)

Over the last week or so we have had two young Grey Currawongs visiting the garden almost every day. They are still quite downy and their begging calls are quite pathetic compared to the far reaching, ringing calls of the adult birds.

They didn’t nest in our garden or on our block of land. I guess they nested up the road a short distance where there is a considerable patch of mallee scrub. The adults are regular visitors in our garden every day or so, but I can’t really call them resident as they come and go. We  often we hear them calling in the distance.

Click on the photos to enlarge the image.

Grey Currawong (juvenile)

Grey Currawong (juvenile)

Grey Currawong breeding

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

I was sitting outside on the back veranda having breakfast this morning and I heard an unusual bird call, one that was vaguely familiar but I wasn’t sure.

I looked up to see that three Grey Currawongs had flown into a tree near my wife’s Australian native plant nursery.  Two of them  still had downy plumage and both were not very confident moving around the tree. They flew to another tree and I could see that they were recent fledglings barely out of the nest. The third one was kept busy searching for beetles and spiders under the bark of the trees while the young ones persisted in begging for food.

Before long they flew off to another part of the property. It was already far too hot to go chasing after them through the scrub with a camera. Here in South Australia it is supposed to be spring with lovely sunny days with temperatures in the low to mid 20s. Instead, we are experiencing an unseasonal and record breaking heat wave. Later today it reached 42C under our veranda. That might be fine for the height of summer in January and February – but not in November.

Curry the Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Every now and then a reader makes a comment or sends me an email with an amazing or amusing story about a relationship with a bird. Today Cath from the Adelaide Hills sent me the following story about her pet currawong.

Hello there,

I have a currawong here with me at Littlehampton in the Adelaide Hills. Curry came to me via a circuitous route – he was stuck upside down for some hours high in a tree in Crafers last September, rescued by a neighbour of a workmate and finally came to me as they didn’t know what to do. I had never raised a currawong before and I can say it has been a very rewarding experience. I adore the bird.

The bird hadn’t fledged, only had downy feathers and could not stand for about a week. This is back in September. It was just a huge beak surrounded by down.

Plenty of boiled egg, meal worms (with heads squashed), strawberries, blueberres and mulberries. Shards of apple each day. Small lump of cheese for calcium. And mice and rats. At least now Curry is big (voice has broken, eyes now yellow instead of gray-brown) I don’t have to scissor the rodents into pieces for him. He eats them whole. Fresh corn kernels are a favourite. Bits of steak rolled in Wombaroo insectivor mix, too. As a baby I fed him every two hours, now it’s 3 or 4 times a day.

The bird rides on my dog’s back, he just loves the dog. This happened by accident really as once the bird fledged he spent a couple of months free ranging in a big room in my house for part of the day and overnight – outside for most of each day in a big cage for sun and to acclimatise to sounds of the wild. The dog would go into the room and sleep on the couch. So I guess the bird knew very early the dog was no threat. They nestle up to each other and Curry pulls out dog fur and swallows it to use for digestion. They chuck up casts like owls do.

Curry presents me with the wiper blades of my car, steals my lighter, lies on its back at my feet, peeping and squeaking like a chicken, flies onto my shoulder, sits inside the ute on the dashboard if I leave the window down (beware leaving bills and paperwork on dash, they get stolen or shredded).

The bird has teamed up with a magpie of last spring so they are the same age. The magpie comes when I call “Curry chicken” at the top of my voice. They eat together but Curry is jealous and chases the magpie away eventually. He won’t let me carry around my galah, which I have had 4 years and has only 1 wing. Curry flies up and grabs the galah’s tail while she is perched on my shoulder, all the while screaming.

Curry also loves teasing the bantam chooks and has them completely bluffed. All in all, an amazing character and part of my extended animal-only family.

So what to do now? I am moving back east to NSW, to a farm in the middle of the state, and plan on taking the bird with me. It has been in the ute plenty of times and has travelled to the vet’s twice in a small cage and was not worried with his doggy mate sitting right there next to him.

This is how I plan to undertake the big trip east. I feel he will die here as he does not know he is a currawong. Although he responds to the calls of the odd currawong that passes through, I have caught him chasing another juvenile, and hiding from older birds.

The magpies, and there are dozens here, have accepted him finally and he and his magpie mate fly around together and play chasies a lot. But 3 or 4 times a day he wants food from me. He finds his own slaters and earwigs, I know that, and uses his beaks to fish out bugs in the trees overhanging the house. The only neighbours have  cats and I fear he would hang around them if I left him here alone.

I’d like to know what you think. Should I transport the birds in the day or overnight? The trip will be a nightmare with the dog, bantams, galah and cockatiel all in the car too. They all know each other though, although I reckon Curry sees the cockatiel as lunch.

Since the bird came from Crafers, I guess he is a grey currawong? Are there any pied currawongs here in SA? It’s bit hard to tell from the photos on the web but he looks like the bird at the top of this site. He has a definite white patch under the tail, white tail tips and white wing tips on the longest wing feathers.

That is an amazing story Cath. Thanks for sharing this with my readers.

You are correct in thinking it is a Grey Currawong. The Pied Currawong is only found in the extreme SE of South Australia. Animals can be quite resilient and I’m sure they will all cope with the journey. I’d be inclined to travel in the cooler hours of the day unless you have reliable airconditioning in your vehicle.  All the best with the trip.

Depending on where you are going to live in NSW, you may be in an area that has both Pied and Grey Currawongs.

Pied Currawong

Pied Currawong