Birdcage Rest Area, central NSW

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

ON the second day of our journey home from a holiday in Sydney we stopped at the Birdcage Rest Area between Narrandera and Hay in the Riverina region. The sun was valiantly trying to disperse the clouds but the bitterly cold wind continued. We had a mid morning cuppa and snack and tried to enjoy stretching our legs briefly, despite the cold conditions.

The birding in this spot has been quite good other times we have stopped here, but I think that the birds were also discouraged by the cold conditions. The following list of species heard or seen is not long:

Australian Magpie
Australian Magpie Lark
Australian Wood Duck
Willie Wagtail
Yellow Rosella
Grey Shrike-thrush
Australian Raven
Laughing Kookaburra
Pied Butcherbird

We were entertained by several little creatures hopping around the picnic table and near the car park. There had been a recent plague of House Mice in many parts of Australia and that is probably what they were. Interestingly, they were brave – or stupid – enough to come out into plain view in the car park, and while we watched, several were taken and eaten by the local Australian Ravens.

Yellow Rosella

An efficient mouse catcher

Australian Magpie, Victor Harbor, South Australia

A few days ago we were having lunch on our back veranda. When the weather is fine we often do this and we enjoy watching the garden birds going about their daily routines. They bring us great joy and much entertainment.

Things were a little different the other day. I’d just finished coking the BBQ and we’d already sat down to eat. Without any warning or fuss, one of our resident Australian Magpies swooped down from a nearby tree into the grass nearby. (I must get around to mowing it soon.) Next thing it emerges with a House Mouse firmly gripped in its mouth. We cheered. That’s one pest that made it into our home.

Over the next ten minutes while we enjoyed our food, the magpie repeatedly banged the captured mouse on the paving bricks until it was either dead – or very concussed. It then proceeded to use its beak to tear off bits of the mouse to eat. At one point another magpie tried to steal a bit of the tasty lunch but the successful hunter kept guard over his prize.

It made me think. I often observe the diggings of mice in the garden and in our paddock, especially when I’m mowing the grass. I guess many of these mice become magpie delicacies. They are doing us a service by dispatching them. I also know that they must eat an incredible number of bugs, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and other garden pests. More power to the magpies, I say.

Good birding.