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

Happy New Year

Galahs at nesting hollow

Happy New Year.

I hope that 2011 brings you many interesting and wonderful birding experiences. I am certainly looking forward to getting out birding a lot more in 2011 than I did over the last few years. Now that I’ve completed the requirements for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree I am determined to get back to more birding. It has been an intensive time of study, writing, staring at the computer monitor and generally late nights. This New Year has so much promise and so many possibilities. I hope to continue to share my interest in Australian birds here on this site and to encourage my growing readership to participate through the comments section of each article.

New Venture

This year might see a completely new venture on this site. Our daughter is planning on spending half the year teaching overseas. My wife and I are hoping to visit her few a while and I will be taking plenty of photos of birds to share here on this site. We haven’t planned our itinerary yet but let me assure you that we are planning on visiting some very exciting birding parts of Africa. More news on this in coming articles.

First birds for 2011

The New Year is nearly 12 hours old as I write this, but I still haven’t been out birding. After our celebrations I needed to sleep in a little. Just after midnight I heard a solitary Galah flying over our house. What it was doing flying around in the dark I don’t know; perhaps it was on its way home from New Year’s Eve celebrations! I thought I also heard an Australian Owlet-nightjar calling but it didn’t call a second time so I’m not sure about that one. Then at first light there was a Little Raven calling raucously outside our bedroom window. So much for trying to sleep in!

Little Raven

Little Ravens feeding their young

Juvenile Little Ravens

Juvenile Little Ravens

The common raven around this district is the Little Raven. We sometimes get loose flocks numbering many dozens feeding in nearby paddocks and grassy areas. At times their persistent calling can be quite raucous, especially if they happen to be sitting on the television antenna or in a tree near the house. Sometimes they are bold enough to come quite close to the house, even on to the veranda.

Recently we have witnessed them carrying food to a nest in a tree in the neighbour’s front yard. A few days ago the young left the nest and come over for a visit. I caught two of the youngsters sitting in the grass at the base of one of our bushes. A few moments later by parents came along to feed them, but I didn’t manage to catch them actually feeding the young because they hopped around to the other side of the bush.

Juvenile Little Ravens

Juvenile Little Ravens

Juvenile Little Ravens

Juvenile Little Ravens

Update: This post was updated on July 13th 2015.

Little Ravens caught thieving

Little Raven about to steal some of the mat on our back veranda

Little Raven about to steal some of the mat on our back veranda

Over the years I have found that many birds can be quite enterprising in their daily endeavours. One such example occurred a few days ago on our back veranda.

Little Ravens are very common in our part of the world here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. I often see a dozen or more flying overhead. Sometimes they gather to feed in a loose flock of many dozens in the paddock opposite our block of land.

Recently I had seen several of them close to the house and in the garden. I’d also seen them carrying nesting materials. A few days ago I looked out through one of the windows overlooking the back veranda, only to see one of the ravens tugging at the mat on the edge of it. In the photo above you can see how frayed one end of it has become, so I gather they’ve been thieving from our mat for some time.

And I thought the mat was becoming worn through wiping our muddy shoes on it!

Attracting small birds to your garden

Red Browed Finch

Red Browed Finch

I regularly receive comments and questions about birds on this blog. I also receive comments and questions via my contact page here. I welcome these interactions with my readers.

This morning I received a question from a reader who is concerned about the finches in their garden.

We have been establishing a large area of garden for finches. Unfortunately I have a few crows now living around as they have decided my chook pen is a good restaurant. I have now cut off the egg supply but they are still around. Will they be deterring the finches from living here and are they a threat to them?

Thanks to Lee for that question.
Lee should be congratulated for these gardening aims. I assume that you have done your homework and planted bushes and grasses suitable to attract birds in general, not just finches. Finches – along with many of our smaller birds like honeyeaters, thornbills, weebills, chats, wrens and pardalotes – require a certain level of bushy shrubs to feel safe from predators. Plants like callistemons, grevilleas, melaleucas and hakeas provide protection, food sources, nesting sites and roosting sites.

Finches, being primarily seed eaters, also require a range of native grasses. These are becoming increasingly popular in gardens, not just to attract birds. Their colours and textures add significantly to the Australian feel of a native garden. Finches also love a reliable source of water, so a bird bath is essential to keep them around.

Crows, ravens, butcherbirds, currawongs and even magpies are all species that will raid the nests of smaller species of birds, including finches. They often take eggs and will also raid nests for the hatchlings. This is the natural cycle of life. Birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and kites will also raid nests, and also have the ability to take the adult birds resting or even flying.

The crows in your garden are probably resident birds. This means that they are not only present every day, they breed there or nearby. Your chook pen just provided them with an easy option. Closing access to the chook eggs was just a temporary setback to them. There must be sufficient food available for them to hang around.

Providing the finches have sufficient protection, a reliable food source, nesting and roosting sites, they should thrive in your garden. The crows and other predatory species I mentioned are a threat but probably not a deterrent.

For more information about Australian plants go to my wife’s blog: Mallee Native Plants

Good gardening – and enjoy your birds.

Diamond Firetail Finch

Diamond Firetail Finch