I recently went with my son and grandson to Little Athletics at the Rotary Athletics Field, Lane Cove, Sydney. On many occasions when I am in Sydney visiting my family, I have enjoyed seeing my grandson compete in the various events. He is quite talented and has even reached competing at the state level.
During the morning’s events, I made a note of all the bird species seen or heard. I have done this on most occasions on our visits to this athletics ground. On this occasion, all of the events had finished and the equipment was being packed away. My grandson and I bought some food for lunch from the barbecue which is provided every week and we were sitting on a nearby picnic ground adjacent the track. A Masked Lapwing flew in and landed only metres from where we sat. People were heading to their cars and it was quite unconcerned by their presence.
The bird actually came up to within a metre of where I was sitting. I am not sure if it wanted me to share some of my sausage or bun or was expecting some worms to fall out of my lunch. It hung around until I was finished eating and I managed to get my phone out of my pocket and take the photo above. No zoom needed – it was very close.
A little further off near the barbecue area, someone dropped a sausage on the footpath. It was only there for a few seconds until two Laughing Kookaburras swooped down from the nearby trees to grab the sausage. My grandson and I were amused by what happened next. The kookaburra picked up the sausage and proceeded to bang it on the ground, either to “kill” it or to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.
This incident reminds me of another occasion on a visit to the nearby Lane Cove National Park where we experienced some lunch snatching kookaburras.
Many people don’t like lapwings (plovers), especially the Masked Lapwing shown in today’s photos. The reasons are various, including the fact that they make their nests on the ground, usually a lawned area like that shown in today’s photos. The Australian Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan have large areas of lawn or grassy areas, suitable for picnics and large gathering such as concerts. The local community had celebrated their Christmas Carol singing for 2013 the night before we were there. While it is ideal habitat for the Lapwings, their preference brings a conflict with humans. Most people are reluctant to mow the grass or lawn while the birds are sitting on eggs.
Breeding season for the Masked Lapwing brings about another point of conflict with human occupation of the same space. Lapwings aggressively defend their nest and territory, swooping any person, dog, cat or cyclist who dares invade their domain. A screeching, swooping lapwing – it’s more of a attack fighter plane dive – is a terrifying experience for some and an unnerving encounter at best. Young children are particularly at risk. The spurs on the “elbow” of the wing can cause injury if the swooping bird contacts the intended victim. I might add that contact is rare, and injuries usually minor. Psychological damage can be the most severe outcome; some people are definitely traumatised by a close encounter.