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. 

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