My wife and I are currently staying in Sydney with our son and his family. We are having great fun playing with our two grandchildren age 5 and 2.5. We will be here until Christmas.
Because of the configuration of the house, the spare bedroom is at the back of the house, next to some large bushes and near to some large street trees. Up until recent days the Laughing Kookaburras have woken us before 5am; one morning it was 4:33am. As first light filters through the trees the hundreds of locally resident Rainbow Lorikeets start up their screeching as they fly from tree to tree.
Because of those two noisy resident species we treasure every second of sleep we can get, especially when the grandchildren usually knock on our door well before 7am. So it was a little disconcerting to have a Tawny Frogmouth doing the overnight shift, calling just outside our bedroom window! Fortunately, the call was soft enough not to keep me awake.
We had a very pleasant encounter while having breakfast this morning. I was focussed on completing the daily crossword in the newspaper when my wife excitedly drew my attention to the Sacred Kingfisher just outside the window of the sun room where we often eat our meals.
My bird records are not completely up to date, but we are certain it has been several years since we had seen one in our garden, making the sighting just that little bit extra special. I had preciously taken a few photos of this species but rarely at such close quarters. This was about 5 metres away and he couldn’t see us through the glass due to the early morning reflections.
I raced to the office to get my camera – yes – even at my age I can still raise a trot, albeit a modest one. For the next 15 minutes the kingfisher posed in a number of ways for my camera. The results speak for themselves.
In between taking photos we were able to observe some of its unique behaviours. As it sat almost motionless on a dead branch – typical perching behaviour – it would gently bob its tail. It would then turn its head slightly, usually peering intently at the ground. During the 15 minutes it stayed the bird dived like an arrow to the ground to catch its prey. We couldn’t see clearly what it was eating but this species eats beetles, grubs, cockroaches, small lizards like geckos and an assortment of small insects.
This species usually gives away its presence in the bush by its far-reaching ki-ki-ki-ki call. On this occasion it was silent throughout the 15 minutes.
The Sacred Kingfisher is found over much of Australia. They are migratory, moving south to breed in the summer months. Other kingfisher species in the region where I live in South Australia include the very similar Red-backed Kingfisher and the well-known Laughing Kookaburra.
This is just a sample of the best photos I took – out of 36 all together.
I was so inspired by this event that I went and wrote a poem about the encounter. You can read the poem here.
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 35CÂ (95F) – for at least the next 5 days and perhaps even a week.
Time to attend to some indoor projects, methinks.
Several days after Christmas last year we had a family picnic at Lane Cove National Park. It was a hot and humid day and the bird life was rather quiet. My son often comes here with his camera looking for birds to photograph. I did manage a modest list for the day, but this was not my main objective. I wanted photographs of species I don’t see at home in Murray Bridge.
After a long walk along the river we came back in time for lunch – hot, tired and not a little sweaty. As we were eating this friendly Laughing Kookaburra joined us. He flew on to a branch only five metres from our picnic table, eying off any food he might snatch in a moment of human inattention. Had he succeeded he would have tasted some of our delicious Christmas lunch leftovers.