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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Some creatures on this earth are beautiful, some downright ugly, some delightful and some scary. Spiders fit into the last category, though I do know that spiders may only be scary to a few ... I am one of the few!

Until I came to Australia spiders were mainly only seen outdoors and none, apart from the Katipo which I have never seen, were harmless. The Katipo I suspect is a first cousin to the Red-back spider in Australia and perhaps the Black Widow is of the same genre. As you may guess I try not to study the habits, or the varieties of spiders! Too often spiders form part of my day in the mid-west of Australia; some I ignore, others I scream loud and long enough for My Man to come to the rescue.

My last encounter did however grab my attention. My Man was sitting outdoors under the verandah; I was indoors knitting. Sounds a boring type of late afternoon doesn't it?

My Man called out, "Your friend is out here."

"Pardon?" Well my hearing does leave a little to be desired especially if I am not really expecting conversation.

"Your friend!"

I decided to go out and take a look. There on a rubber mat, half hidden from my view by a chain, sat, or stood [how does one tell?] a rather large spider. I resisted the temptation to cry out. It was a huntsman and rather large ... [a ball point pen is to its left in the photo ... carefully placed there for a size comparison].

My Man commented on the unusual lumps on its body. Quite frankly I hadn't taken that close a look! A glance had told me it was a spider; there was no more I needed to know. He poked at it with a piece of wood and it jumped/dropped/fell to the concrete. It was then I noticed a large number of what at first I thought were ants rushing from the accident scene. I looked again. Ants do not moved like that! A closer look told me the little creatures were baby spiders. It was then I remembered that somewhere, sometime, I had read spiders carry their young on their back. I know that to be a truth! Junior spider uses a parent as a taxi.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roo Highway

This planet, viewed from above, must appear as a series of highways. I wonder what extra-terrestrials, if they exist, must think when they see the criss-crossing of roads and tracks, some leading to the city, others out of the city, and many simply tracks to scattered homesteads. I know that map reading is not the easiest! It's OK if we are on country roads, but city streets ... no way! I leave navigating to the driver; it is easier on my nerves.

Today we drove to an air show choosing to take the byways instead of the highways where traffic is invariably always in a rush. Admittedly the byways are seldom tarsealed but one gets used to hanging on to the bar placed in front of passengers who have travelled on sealed roads.

Not far from our venue we stopped; it was coffee and biscuit time; not an essential stop I know, but after rising early and breakfasting as the sun rose, I deemed it desirable to indulge in a sugar hit.

To our left My Man pointed out the 'Roo Highway'. I did stare blankly for one moment until it dawned exactly what he had said. I looked out.

A distinct track led down the berm, a roll of fur on the bottom wire of the fence showed that a kangaroo had pushed its way under the fence line. Initially I assumed kangaroos jumped a fence! However the evidence pointed to the truth. Across the road three different tracks down the slope merged before the Roo Highway.

Had we been earlier we may have witnessed kangaroos crossing their highway as they headed to the thicker ground-cover down the hillside.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What was that?

The weather is cooler making life in the Mid-West enjoyable again. Once the almost unbearable humidty left our shores the habit of carrying a hand towel all day just to wipe excessive perspiration is no longer necessary.

The creatures of a stifling summer have departed. Little gnats that managed to find a small entrance indoors to congregate around the light bulbs have diminished. An outside light left on all night did help to redirect them outdoors! Moths crashing into the glass door have found other places, or perhaps our adult tawny frog-mouths have devoured them.

After a long hot dry summer when dust and wind were the order of the day, a couple of small showers [Yes ... RAIN, if one can call the almost 2mls of water in the rain gauge rain] brought to light other creatures. Australia is a land of creatures!

Yesterday as I dropped momentarily into the armchair I happened to glance downwards. There, near the edge of the mat a creature with what seemed a million legs, lay quietly. I didn't scream! [Now had it been a mouse I may have!] I looked closely. A centipede, or a millipede ... I am not sure which is which ... carefully camoflaged by the mat, lay on its back. Something had caused its demise; for which I was thankful. My task was simple ... tell Dave to put it outdoors. He obliged ... just imagine if one had to knit little socks for such a creature!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Stick?

The understatement of this year would be a comment on the weather! At last we have had some decent rain, 50mls over two days, but even that is drying out with the winds that whip across.

At the moment of a storm bird life and animal life disappears from view, apart from Jack the 'Lassie dog' that lives across the way. He takes it upon his undoglike self to stand, high on the mound created from a septic tank sump, and bark at the rain while his long usually well groomed coat attains the status of 'drooping'.

One evening whilst taking rubbish to the bin, and after strong winds had whistled around the eaves all day, I noticed a strange looking piece of gum tree. Not often did a fresh green twig fall to the ground, unless of course the wind was relatively strong. Mmmm ... I stooped to pick up this branch to place it in the bin with the kitchen debris of the day. It was then that I noticed a horde of small ants grouping around this branch. I took a closer look. This branch was not a branch! It was a stick insect!

I will confess that picking up insects is not part of my job requirement on this planet. Calling My Man to the rescue, I managed to persuade him to place it on top of the gas water heater for a photo opportunity.

It is amazing how creatures on this planet disguise themselves to fit into their environment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet nothing

I have written before of 'The Avenue', which is a track down to the water pump; its name coming from the glorious white-barked gum trees that line this gravel walkway. It was in one of these gum trees that I spied a morepork [owl] though must confess his residency was short lived. Perhaps this little bird, for it was a juvenile, decided that it didn't appreciate a daytime sleep being interrupted by humans walking to and fro past its hidey-hole. How can a bird sleep under such difficult circumstances!

The meter-box that hid, for a short time, the black snake that still causes me to shake at the thought, is towards the end of 'The Avenue'. In spite of the snake, and I am convincing myself that snakes do not go to the same place twice [a comforting thought!], I trail regularly down The Avenue to switch on the water pump. Most days this is indeed a pleasant pastime that cuts wash-day blues into a smaller part.

Now that the days are hot, and the gum trees are in full blossom, that walk deceives the mind into thinking it must be near an airfield where small planes buzz, buzz, all day. However there are no aeroplanes in sight. The noise is simply bees gathering honey. Small honey bees flit from perfumed flower to perfumed flower; that perfume remarkably heady in the morning air. When one wanders along a city street many perfumes waft by ... most are artificial, and many are unpleasant causing one to wrinkle the nose and wonder why, oh why, a human body can dab such odours in places designed to send perfumes far and wide.

The other morning the buzz of the bees busily gathering honey sent me back to the house for the camera. Would I be able to capture the hive at work? The result is below ... the bees seem to not be bothered by human presence, and I wonder if they realise that this particular human is partial to a slab of fresh bread spread with honey?

Monday, January 10, 2011

It was black!

As is the case with many homes in 'the bush', our water supply emanates from a bore. Thankfully the water is not brown, nor does it stain any place it lands. The water from our bore is pure and clear. Not that I drink it except in coffee or tea ... I buy bottled water from the supermarket. This is because of the propaganda one reads about germs in water.
Anyway, back to the story in hand.
Our water is pumped by electric pump from the bore to a holding tank near the house. Each time I wash the clothes, as part of a routine, I wander down 'the avenue' and switch on the pump, which isn't as efficient as it could be. Any where from an hour to and hour and a half later the tank overflows and I hurry down to switch the pump off. Easy! 'The Avenue' [so named by no other than myself] is a formed track lined with an avenue of gums that have a fascinating bark. At one stage of their growth the bark is almost white, then in a certain time of the year the bark tends to peel off, much like a cast orange skin that just misses the trash bin. Bark lies in interesting shapes along the track.
Another phenonomen that is beginning to occur at this time of year is the ritual stripping of end leaves, and small twigs, of the gum trees by galahs and twenty eights. The Avenue then displays a carpet of crunchy green ... until the sun's heat dries it when it turns into a rather pretty shade of pinky beige. One can imagine a cool living room decorated in the colours of the leaves still on the tree [a cool almost lime green], with accents of the pinky beige.
Recently the house tank overflowed. I had a larger wash than usual so hurried down to switch the pump off. Upon opening the door of the meter box, to my utmost horror, something black sprung up from the base of the box. I slammed the lid down and almost ran back to Dave insisting he come and see.
Once upon a time a family of geckos lived in the meter box ... sometimes one would fall out when I opened the door as it had been too close to the edge. What I recoiled from was not a gecko!
Dave armed himself with a tool designed to hold snakes at bay. I armed myself with a spade. Tools of the trade if we were in the business of disposing of snakes! By this time I was persuaded that what I had seen must have been a snake ... if it wasn't simply the piece of stick that rested on the bottom of the box, just in case Mrs Redback decided to make a birthing spot for her babies.
Refusing to open the door ... I am not silly ... I insisted Dave undertake that honour. Gingerly he opened the door. There was nothing there!
For a moment he looked doubtfully at me. Did he think I had imagined the black thing?! I persuaded him that I had indeed seen something, and that something was black and sprung up.
There was a small arpeture at the bottom of the box; we surmised that Mr Snake, which I was informed most likely was a harmless python [still a snake!!!], had most likely slid earthwards through this small opening. Needless to say it was with some trepidation that I switched the pump on and off for the next few times. Now I realise that a snake would probably not go back to the same place twice if its source of food was no longer available.
Yesterday one of the geckos, or one of its relatives, had returned. I will now continue to be careful when opening the door to the meter box.