Over the last few weeks the Rainbow Bee-eaters have be flying around our garden and mallee scrub. During the winter months they head north to warmer parts of the country, and every spring they head south for spring and summer.
It is always a delight when we hear them arrive. It’s a sure sign that spring has arrived. Almost every day for the last few weeks we’ve heard them around, or seen them overhead. Perhaps this year they will nest on our property like they did some years ago?
I find their nesting habit to be quite unusual. They make a short 30 – 40cm tunnel in a sandy spot and then construct a small nesting hollow at the end of the tunnel where they lay the eggs. Sometimes the burrow into the side of a road cutting, or the bank of a creek or river, providing the dirt is not too hard or compacted. I remember being fascinated by these birds as a child growing up on a farm in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. That fascination has remained to this day.
I meant to post this photograph a few months ago. It was taken at Goolwa in South Australia in January. This area is a wetland area near the barrage and only a few kilometres from the mouth of the River Murray.
I’m not at all confident in identifying many of our waders and shorebirds; their plumage changes from breeding to non-breeding can be challenging at best, and confusing most of the time. I think this is a Marsh Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage. If any of my readers disagree, please use my contact email form or leave a comment and I’ll make the necessary changes on the photo and this post.
Marsh Sandpipers are widespread summer migrant to Australia during their non-breeding phase, usually from about August through to April/May. They breed in places like Austria through to northern Mongolia. From there they disperse during migration to Africa, the Indian sub-continent, south east Asia and Australia and occasionally to New Zealand. They are one of those species who annually clock up many frequent flyer points.
I’ve seen this species on a few occasions before but never had the chance to photograph it. Thanks to Rod for stopping his vintage car long enough to get these shots.
I was out in our garden yesterday when I saw one of our resident Willie Wagtails chasing a bird I didn’t recognise at first. When it eventually sat still enough and I could get a reasonable look at it, I realised that it was a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo.
Nothing unusual about that. We often hear them calling in the spring time and sometimes during the summer too. Sometimes they stay around for a few days and at other times they are just passing through.
What is unusual about this sighting is the timing. Most of this species has already flown north for the winter by the end of March, or even earlier. This individual was either a little tardy in its migration, or it was lulled into staying by our warm start to autumn. On the other hand, some individuals of many of our cuckoo species here in Australia are known to occasionally “over winter”. This means that they don’t migrate to northern Australia but prefer to stay and enjoy our brisk winter. Probably saves quite an effort in flying all that way, too.
Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this species yet, and it had flown off before I could fetch the camera from in the house. Despite that, it was a nice sighting at this time of the year.
I’ve recently been busy updating my database of bird sightings. I must admit that while I have been doing my degree over the last three years that the database is sadly out of date. Still, I’m a bit more organised once again and making good progress on catching up on all those sightings.
One of the things that I suddenly realised while adding recent records to the database was the almost complete absence of cuckoos in our garden over the recent spring/summer seasons. Usually we hear them calling incessantly over many days, especially when host species like the honeyeaters are nesting.
The cuckoo species we usually get here here in Murray Bridge South Australia include:
- Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo
- Pallid Cuckoo (see photo above)
- Fan-tailed Cuckoo
- Shining-bronze Cuckoo (once only)
This year I’ve only heard the Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, and then only a couple of times. Strange.
I don’t think I said or written anything to upset or offend them.
Will have to wait until later this year to see if they come back.
The Rainbow Bee-eater would have to be one of my all time favourite birds. We regularly have these beautiful birds in our garden, flitting around catching bees and other winged insects. We always enjoy hearing their calls when they arrive in spring, and feel a little loss when they leave in late summer or early autumn. They are wise spending the winter months in the warmer parts of northern Australia.
This year we haven’t heard or seen them nearly as much as usual. Perhaps they didn’t hang around to nest in our area this year. Yesterday we heard about three or four of them calling from our mallee scrub. I went outside and had good views of at least two of them. Within a few minutes they appeared to have moved on. Perhaps they are already on their migration north.