Birds in the heat
We are only half way through summer here in South Australia and already we’ve had some very hot days and several heatwaves. (In this part of the world a heatwave is considered to be five or more consecutive days of 35C (95F). ) During this last week we had several days where the maximum hovered around the 42 -45C mark (45C = 113F).
During our hot days, and especially during a heat wave, our native birds suffer terribly. Many beat a path frequently to the various bird baths we have in our garden. On a few occasions some of them have gathered near the windows where the cool air from our evaporative air conditioning leaves the house.
A few days ago I saw a different technique for keeping cool. The wind was blowing a gale from the north and the temperature reached 45.2C. A flock of 17 Yellow-rumped Thornbills, two Brown-headed Honeyeaters and a Willie Wagtail gathered on the leeward side of the house in the shade. It seemed to do the trick on a very nasty day.
Active Yellow-rumped Thornbills
One of the common resident bird species in our garden and on our five acre block is the Yellow-rumped Thornbill. Every day we see flocks of 8-10 foraging on the ground in most parts of our property. I love seeing them hopping around or flying low across the garden, their bright yellow tails brilliant in the sunshine. They are regular visitors to the bird baths too during the warmer months of the year.
At present they are extremely active. The warmer spring weather is with us and so they are probably nesting somewhere too. It’s just that I haven’t yet found their nest.
No picnic at Hanging Rock
After visiting Mt. Macedon, John took us to the picnic area called Hanging Rock. This volcanic outcrop was made famous in the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) directed by Peter Weir and based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. The film tells of the mysterious disappearance of a teacher and three girls while on a picnic at Hanging Rock. The story is told in such a way that you think it is based on fact, but the author never indicated whether any part of it was based on true events.
We decided to take the stroll to the top, but found that near the top it is more strenuous than merely strolling. I forgot to take any provisions with me (which was silly of me, I know) and my sugar levels dropped dramatically and so I didn’t quite make it to the top. That’s the trouble with diabetes (sigh). A lovely ice cream from the cafe at the base helped to correct the problem.
Because I had never been to this spot before I was more interested in taking photos of the rock formation – which were spectacular – rather than take photos of birds. I did manage to get the poor photo above of a Striated Thornbill. I also saw some Brown Thornbills.
There were a few trees flowering so the honeyeaters were out in force, including Red Wattlebirds, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and White-eared Honeyeaters. This was the only time I recorded the White-eared HE on the trip.
There was another Flame Robin to enjoy, as well as a Grey Shrike-thrush and many Superb Fairy-wrens. I also heard a treecreeper but didn’t get to see it.
And no – we didn’t find Miranda.
Birding around Gisborne, Victoria
On our holiday earlier this year we stayed for several days with friends in Gisborne, north of Melbourne. I didn’t deliberately go our birding while there but we did go for several drives in the district and I’ll write about those in coming days.
Instead, I took note of those species I saw or heard around the garden and on a walk we did one evening. I was quite surprised by the numbers of Common Mynas now present in Gisborne. I can’t recall ever seeing so many on previous visits. On one occasion there must have been at least 30 sitting on a neighbour’s roof and fence. That is too many!
The town still has large numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Long Billed Corellas. Several times I heard a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying over. Crimson Rosellas (photo) are also quite common in the area, but I can’t recall seeing or hearing any lorikeets or Galahs on this visit. They must have been around, but I didn’t record any this time.
The common garden birds, apart from the mynas, included House Sparrows, Common Blackbirds, Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. Interestingly, the Mynas seem to have replaced the Common Starling.
I also saw a small flock of thornbills moving through the garden. None would give me a good enough look to positively ID them. They might have been Little Thornbills, but I can’t be sure.
An air conditioned Thornbill
We are in the midst of a heatwave this week. On Monday it reached 40C (104F), yesterday 45C (113F) and it looks like another 40+ day today.
Our poor garden birds – along with birds everywhere, suffer greatly during such extreme temperatures. I try to keep the supply of water in the bird baths up during these times, something they much appreciate if the constant stream of birds is anything to go by.
During the worst of the heat yesterday I was working in my office. I was being kept cool by the gentle flow of cool air from our evaporative air conditioner. This type of cooler needs an open window to create a flow of cool air into a room. The window alongside of me was ajar a few centimetres.
I was suddenly aware of a Yellow-rumped Thornbill cooling itself in the flow of air escaping from my office. He twittered in appreciation for about five minutes, wings held out to catch the refreshing air, before flying off to catch afternoon tea.
It was a lovely interruption to my afternoon of writing.