Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Ending

At last there is happy news about the Tawny Frog-mouth family.

The new nest built in a more sheltered situation never-the-less had to face the storm force winds that shook the branch bringing leaves to the ground.  The Golden Orb spider web constructed near the nest needed constant mending, and is now falling into disrepair ... where is the spider?  Did it become a tasty morsel for Junior Tawny Frog-mouth?

We travelled to the southern city early in the month, around the time of a full moon.  After observing the nesting and hatching habits of these not really pretty birds, but still birds of immense character, a conclusion was drawn that the days surrounding full moon were important.  The egg is laid around full moon, and it hatches around the following full moon.

Upon our return from down south I immediately checked out the nest.  Eggsitter sat; the other parent perched on a nearby tree.  This was as it always had been.  No sign of a baby.  Perhaps my conclusions were incorrect!  I looked down, and there, under the nest, lay a small white fluffy bundle ... already ants had found the baby tawny frog-mouth.  Yet Eggsitter still sat.  I wondered if there had been two eggs in this new nest.

Daily checks showed nothing.  Then at the end of last week I spied another baby, one whose white feathers were replaced by the tawny feathers of a fledgling.  Success!!!  A baby hatched and growing, in spite of the inclement conditions.

This morning I was amused to watch the curious antics of this baby ... all babies need a name ... Bambino seemed suitable.  Bambino was curious stretching it's body so far forward that for a moment I feared it would fall to the ground.  Eggsitter appeared disinterested ... no doubt 'putting up' with the camera clicking as it has over the past several years whenever a baby, or two, appear.

One day soon this little bird will find the use of its wings and hopefully will move closer to the trees around the house sheltered from strong winds.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tawny Frog Mouth

I have written previously of the Tawny Frogmouth family that inhabit the trees in our vicinty. 

This year a nest was perched high on the overhanging gum tree directly above where the vehicles are parked; close to the house.  I watched with interest as this was going to be the year of close obsevation.

The tawny frogmouth began egg sitting around August full moon.  For some time I suspected these birds organise the important function in their lives around the moon, as I had noticed hatchlings appeared close to full moon, and wondered if perhaps the incubation time was indeed one month.

About a week before September full moon a storm swept through; the branches swayed rain falling in torrents onto the hapless parent and the insubstantial nest.  Tawny frogmouths are not builders of extensive homes!  A suitable branch, often near a fork in the tree, with a wisp of grass  forming a basis on which to lay the egg.  We watched anxiously but the parent sat tight.

A few days later the parent bird became agitated.  It [I do not know whether the male or the female sits on the egg during the day, but suspect that the night shift is shared] stood up and seemed to walk on the egg.  I thought it was moving the egg and wondered if the baby needed help in entering this world.  This unusual behaviour continued through the next day.  However by then the bird had taken to 'catching flies' that were hovering.  These flies were obviously a cause of great annoyance indicated by regular snapping of the beak.

One afternoon I happened to notice small pieces of egg shell on the ground.  Aha, I thought, the chick has hatched.  No sign of it in the nest, no sign of it sheltering under the parent.  What was going on?  A day later the bird did not sit on the nest.  Instead it was in another tree, a regular haunt of this pair, sitting with its mate.

I wonder what happened to the first chick?  Did those cold stormy days make it impossible for the parent to keep the egg warm and viable?  Did it hatch out and promptly die?  We will never know as the branch is far too high, and I imagine the flies would have destroyed any evidence within a short time.

For a couple of weeks the pair rested in the 'other haunt' during the day, no doubt doing their exercise and food gathering in the hours of darkness, as tawny frogmouths are nocturnal.

This week only one bird settles in the 'other haunt' during the day.  I have wandered under several gum trees, gazing upwards in the hope of finding another nest.  As yet ... to no avail.  If my observations are correct, and if the weather and conditions are suitable, I hope a chick will begin a new life sometime around next full moon.

One hour later:

More wheelbarrowing leaves!  This time a discovery!!!  As I tipped the barrowload of leaves onto the heap my eyes wandered, ever watchful, ever hopeful, on the nearby gum trees.  With a wonderful result.  There, on a branch waving in the breeze, I happened to notice a dark blob that didn't look like it belonged.  I walked quietly over, and there not many feet above the ground, but more than reaching distance, was my 'Eggsitter' tawny frogmouth.  It heard my approached; it glanced downwards.

Of course this was the camera opportunity I wanted, and how relieved I was that once again I could observe what I hope will be a successful hatching.
The tawny frogmouth sitting on an egg; maybe two!??

And not 10metres to the left, in the tree where they both resided just a week ago, was 'The mate', beak in the air in an effort to persuade me it was not there. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Man's Best Friend

A popular song in Australia some time ago was 'Every Man Needs a Shed', though frankly I would have thought a better song may have been 'Every Woman Needs a Space to Call her Own', but for the moment inspiration hasn't inspired!

There is another saying, that a dog is man's best friend, ~  woman should be included in that title as well!

The other week we headed south to the Big Smoke to house/dog sit for my son and his partner as they holidayed in the sunny and much warmer Northern Territory.  House sitting at this home presents us with the opportunity to watch TV.  OK, my football team lost by 1 point!  I was not amused, but as a right-thinking woman I [hope] they will fare better in the future, though with injuries, that future may be next year ... or the year after.  After over a week watching the television I am happy we do not have that distraction; it is difficult to sew whilst watching, and impossible to read.

Dog sitting is a pleasure!  This little part poodle/part something else that I forget, but a terrier of some breed, takes little looking after.  Dave takes her for a walk each morning; around the block including some streets of another block.  She loves it coming home with a glint in the eye and heads straight for her water bowl.  The next wee while is spent recuperating on the cushion, plumped by her feet into just the right shape; it is there she recovers lost energy.

I have a part to play in this 'dog looking after caper' ... I keep her fed and watered, though because of a slight problem with her rear-end meat was off the diet, which meant no tidbits at the table.  I am sure a tiny crust of toast would have done no harm, and that little action kept us in her good books. 

Even after her 'parents' arrived home Cassie still found a place to sleep near wherever we sat ... I have an idea she likes to keep in our good books as well ... no doubt there will be more 'dog/house sitting' episodes in the future.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kookaburra in the old gum tree

Is there any image more Australian than the sight of a kookaburra in the old gum tree? 

Most days the maniacal laughter of resident kookaburras echoes across the landscape making me wonder how the early settlers thought when they first heard the unusual, and loud, call of the kookaburra.  Surely their first thoughts would have been that they were indeed going crazy or that some unknown person were in the bush intent on scaring the living daylights out of them.

Living in the country affords us the opportunity to observe the antics of many varieties of bird life.  Admittedly the kookaburra is mainly an early morning bird [who needs an alarm clock?] or a dusk bird, but occasionally its laughter flits across the air waves reminding us of its presence, and announcing to all that 'this is my territory'. 

Late yesterday afternoon a kookaburra laughed just outside the house;  I looked.  Not just one, but two of these birds of the kingfisher family, hurried to grab the camera and was lucky enough to capture two on film.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What is it?

This morning I had a find!  Wandering back from switching the water pump on my eyes were drawn to what, initally, looked like a plant, but not a plant I had ever seen.  I walked closer.  No, it was not a plant.  I called My Other Half and he said it was a creature [he picked it up!  I like to look, not touch!]  Back to the house for the camera ... and a few photos of what could be a winged praying mantis, but I am not sure. 
This creature was quite large and I know I would have screamed had it flew into me in the dark of night!  Most likely I would have yelped had it flew towards me in the light of day as well. 
Whatever it is the wings are spectacular, delicate gossamer and such a pretty shade of pink. 

Can you identify this 'creature'?

Thanks to Robyn for a reply:  In reply to her reply I add two more photos [the deceased mantis lies in a shoe box in the refrigerator].

I tried to capture a close-up of the head ... and while I could clearly see a row of teeth !!!! when looking at it, photographing that was not so easy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Red Tailed Black Cockatoo

Winter has arrived.  After almost a week of welcome light rain that has turned the countryside from wizened dry vegetation into a carpet of wonderful green, the creatures in the mid-west show their appreciation.

Yesterday was a bird day.  Cockatoos whirled, landed on the tops of dead gum trees that are a favourite site, because the lack of leaves allow the bird to take off unencumbered with the clear risk of crashing their long wings into branches.  I watched as they called to each other, one pair circling and screeching ... was that a courtship? 
Eventually common sense arrived and I decided to take some photos.  It is not easy to get a photo of the red tails.  I only have a small digital camera and stand paused to 'click' at the critical moment.  Sometimes this means 'click', 'click', 'click' one after the other.  Sneaking up quietly for a closer view has its downside ... one step too far and the flock takes off ~ photo opportunity lost!  However, perserverance prevailed!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cockatoo V Galah

Early one morning last week, as the wind whirled and whistled through the gum trees, my attention was drawn to noisy birds. We have many gum trees, several wattle trees, and a few dead gums with their barren grey branches reaching nakedly towards the sky. Usually the dead branches at the very tops of the gum trees are empty, apart from early morning when the red-tailed black cockatoos perch to greet the day. Feathers occasionally drop from their red tails and a hunt in the long grass will offer up a treasure of a feather, distinctive and bright, lying amongst the dry undergrowth.

This particular morning the screeching did not come from the red-tailed black cockatoos; instead the pink and grey galahs had taken over ownership of the dead branches. Poor black cockatoos circled and whirled, eventually settling on different branches several metres away. The two following days saw the same pattern repeated, but this morning the red-tailed black cockatoos had once again resumed ownership of their tree.

The photo shows the galahs in the tree tops.