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Tag: Western Australia

Osprey

Osprey

The Osprey is a bird that makes me think of family.  Not because they are family oriented birds, but because every summer when I was a child we’d take our family holiday on Rottnest island, and there was always at least one pair of osprey nesting somewhere.

I was suprised to learn that our Ospreys are actually Eastern Osprey.

Which makes me think back to family again when it comes to their nest building habits.  We have an uncle who lives near BisVegas. He started building his ‘nest’ when his lovely wife was pregnant with the first of their four girls. With each successive breeding (and non breeding) season he has added to the ‘nest’ so that it now spans four floors. Interestingly enough all four former fledgling return often to the nest with their new partners. This may be where I stretch the analogy too far.

The point I am trying to make far too verbosely is that like the Osprey, Uncle L has added to the nest making it bigger, better and more impressive every year, which is exactly what an Osprey pair often do with their nests.

The nest above is the nest at West End, Rottenest Island. As you can probably tell there have been ospreys nesting here for as long as I can remember, which presumably means they are not the same pair as Osprey only normally live to 20-25 years of age. And I’ve been around a bit longer than that…

On my cycle to work in the morning I am often lucky enough to see a pair of these amazing birds perched at the tip top of a pine tree that stands on the banks of the Swan River, just south of Kings Park. It is a reminder that, like us, many birds are creatures of habit.

And then, just to keep you guessing you’ll find them somewhere new.

In this case, resting at low tide with the gulls, swans and ducks just south of Claisebrook Cove.

 But pretty much you’ll find them in all sorts of places along the river and along the coast.

 Osprey are fish eaters and it is an amazing sight to see
them plummet into water in pursuit of their prey.  On this occasion the
Osprey came up empty.

This is what he would have looked like if you replaced the stick with a fish.

Being a raptor does not make you immune to the taunts of the ravens.  Hardly a suprise I know.  The way of the world seems to be that Willy Wagtails and Ravens will take on anyone, anywhere, anytime.

After much huffing and puffing both the ravens and the Osprey took flight and were off.

More information

Pandion cristatus
Family: Accipitridae

http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/eastern-osprey

Lake Cooloongup

Lake Cooloongup

Today was an reminder that I need to do a bit more research before I go charging out into the field to go exploring.  I did five minutes of googling to find a park near the Rockingham train station and came up with Lake Cooloongup.

So, to start with the lake is a bit further away form the train station than I had anticipated.  Not a huge distance, just further than I thought. Secondly the lake is actually further from the lake than I expected.  Well, further from the trail that looks like it runs around the lake when you look at the map.  That is, I didn’t get to see the lake from the path.

I am getting ahead of myself.

I caught the train to Rockingham station which was nice and easy.  Off the train I took what may well have been the scenic route along the bike path as shown in red dots on the map below. In truth, I ziggged and zagged a bit more than this, but the truth rarely makes the best story, so we will stick to the red dots.

Once I got to the ‘lake’ part of the track I tossed an imaginary coin and decided to head south.  It’s like a choose your own adventure book, except I can’t flick back through the pages to see how else it might have turned out.

I heard a LOT of birds. I saw a few. I got good photos of none.

Perhaps if I had more time, more patience and more skill I would have got better pictures of the many splendid wrens that were in the brush. With all of those limitations I got a to see a few flashes of blue, which was just an tease really.

There were also a number of raptors (unidentified) , some very small, nice sounding birds that were too damn quick, and some flycatchers.

Between bits of bush most of the place looked like this.

Sadly the only thing I got close enough to photograph was a tiger snake, and then it was me that wanted to get the hell out of there.

This picture was taken with a zoom lens, and is cropped. If I know nothing else from growing up in Australia, it is that spiders and snakes deserve as much respect and distance as you can possibly give them. I was wearing hiking boots, thick socks and all that stuff, but I was sure to make as much noise as possible and watch extra carefully where I was putting my feet for the rest of my walk.

The place where Tigger and I met is marked on my map with an artfully reconstructed squiggly line.

At this point my lift home called to say “where the hell are you?” to which my only response was, “that is a damn fine question”. My iphone maps and google maps were giving me different options so I just legged it as fast as I could while making lots of noise and checking to see where I put my feet.

Eventually I made it a track that runs along Mandurah road.  Unfortunately there is NO WAY OUT from  there.  I followed the track south and finally decided to hop over a small wire fence rather than continue and do battle with a large barb wire laden cousin that shields the bush form Safety Bay Road.

A day out is always a day out.  I went somewhere I hadn’t been before so there is always a win in that.  The snake didn’t get me and it didn’t rain. Will I be racing back?  Probably not. Apparently there is a picnic facility there, so maybe if I do go back I’ll choose that other adventure and look at the northern part of the lake.

Zebra Finch

Zebra Finch

Zebra finches are the trend setters of Western Australia, following a boom and bust breeding cycle to take advantage of rain rather than iron ore.

Unlike the ‘youth of today’, Zebra Finch nippers are out of the house at 35 days of age (days that is not years Gen Y), and are soon having families of their own.

These little beauties were freely flying in and around the Armadale Reptile Park when I was there last year.

From his chestnut cheek patches you can see this is a male.

These finches are like many modern (heterosexual, stereotypical) couples. 
She’ll pick the property, he’ll run up to Bunnings to get the building
material, then she’ll make decisions about how the nest should look. They both look after the eggs and the bubs when they come along, but let’s face it, 35 days…

More information

 Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)
Family Estrildidae

http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/zebra-finch

Springtime in Perth

Springtime in Perth

Spring was well and truly sprung in  Perth over the last week.  The counter balance to my hideous hayfever is all the new little birds that are popping up all over town.

Black Swan – Cygnet

When they are really little it is difficult to imagine how they got the name of ugly ducklings.  As they grow into adolescence it is easier to understand, but weren’t we all like that at that age?

 

Purple Swamphen

This rather inelegant name suits the babies much better than their babies.

Dusky Moorhen

The bright red heads and wing tips of these little fluff balls does not stop them from being ugly but cute little suckers.  They appear to be cared for by friends and relatives as well as their parents.

Pacific Black Duck

This little one swam off in the wrong direction then started crying out for mum. When Mum came back to collect her little stray she gave him a telling off.

That did not compare to the yelling and splashing match she had with a coot that came too close to her brood.

 

Australasian Shelduck

Great Cormorant

I’ve seen ibis breeding colonies at Tomato Lake and outside Bunnings at Morley (bless the sausage in a bun) , but this year was my first discovery of the Great Cormorant island in Maylands.

 Australasian Grebe

This is still a work in progress as mummy grebe sits on her eggs. These pictures are heavily cropped and taken at a distance so as not to disturb her. She is at a nice public place so I hope I’ll get to see her offspring (pun) soon.

Red-capped Robin and Scarlet Robin

Red-capped Robin and Scarlet Robin

The robin is one of those birds that gives you a little thrill when you see one. Maybe it brings back memories of Dicken in the Secret Garden, a much loved story from my childhood.

In Western Australia we have two types of  these flamboyant birds, the Red-capped Robin and the Scarlet Robin.

I happened across this Red-capped Robin on the road west from the Kingston Barracks at Rottnest Island. While he wouldn’t let me get too close, he did hang around for a while and seemed quite interested in what I was up to. Perhaps he could see his reflection in the camera lens.

Red-capped Robin

The Scarlet Robin and his mate were enjoying the winter sunshine at Araluen Botanic Gardens. 

Scarlet Robin

Actually, now I think about it the boy in this case was checking out his
reflection in a window most of the time, so either these birds have
narcissistic tendencies, or they are a bit territorial.

Male (left) Female (right)

It was great to see the pair together as I could see the differences. Unlike the female Red-capped Robin, the female Scarlet Robin has a lightly blushed chest, but is still far less showy than her mate.

More information

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Petroica-goodenovii
http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/red-capped-robin
http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Petroica-boodang
http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/scarlet-robin

Southern Boobook Owl

Southern Boobook Owl

I was brought up to think of owls as being creatures of the night.  You can imagine my surprise, when walking the dogs along the firebreak on a property in the south west town of Northcliffe, to see a Southern Boobook Owl just hanging out in a tree at about 10am. It’s hard to say if he/she was staying up well past bed time or was up super duper early.

 In either case,  this owl was very settled and just sat in its tree to watch me watching it.

These owls are widespread across Australia. They don’t have the typical heart shaped, flat face that story book owls have either.

This one had the most beautiful chest feather. They look like a chocolate and cream hounds-tooth check to me.


More information

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Ninox-novaeseelandiae

Feral bees

Feral bees

One of my many failings is a lousy sense of direction. My inability to tell my left from my right is legendary among family and friends.  Sometimes that works out OK.

I was up at Whiteman Park last week, and I followed the Wunanga Bush Trail. The guys and girls up there do a fantastic job as all the trails are really well marked with painted bollards all along the way so you can’t get lost.

Oh, and the lovely lady at the visitor centre had fitted me out with a great map and info sheet on the the trail as well.


That didn’t stop me from getting distracted and wandering off the trail to an alternate track, not once, but twice. If you have ever been up there you will be scratching your head and wondering how the hell I managed that and that is a very fair comment. However, sometimes these accidents turn out for the best.

I’ve been reading a bit lately about the plight of the black cockatoos in WA.  My last post was on one of the creatures that take up the nesting hollows that those birds use.  One of the other competitors for these hollows are feral bees.

And, you guessed it, on my off track excursion I came across a bee hive in one of those hollows;

It was after pausing to look at these bees that it occurred to me that I couldn’t see any of the painted bollards, and that perhaps I should retrace my steps, which I did  and found my way safely back to civilisation.

I initially found it a little challenging to begrudge the bees their hollow. After all, world wide the health of our bees is critical to our overall survival and there are too many things they need to be worrying about. However, these bees happen to be an imported species, and taking up valuable real etstate, and resources, that might otherwise be available to threatened native species of bird.

So, what makes a bee ‘feral’ anyway? The term is used to describe European honey bees that have mounted an escape from their artificial hives (which makes me think of  the movie Chicken Run for some reason) and are now living on the land.  They are generally a bit agro, and don’t add much value in the pollination of plants or commercial production of honey.

We get quite a few bees in our backyard.  I have no idea if these are feral or if they belong to someone and are doing useful work. I do know I like to give them a bit of room.

In our last house we had a swarm of bees make their home in the ceiling cavity of our pantry.  It was a two story home and you could hear them humming from below and above.Very creepy.

For more information of feral bees here are some links;
http://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/online-exhibitions/cockatoo-care/feral-bees
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/bees/
http://www.aussiebee.com.au/bees-in-houses.html

Pink and Grey Galah

Pink and Grey Galah

Pink and Grey Galahs are as much apart of the Perth landscape as Cottesloe Beach. Whether it is flocks of them feeding on the school ovals as the day wears on, or a screeching pair in flight they seem ubiquitous.

I am coming to realise that this ubiquity may not actually be a good thing.

Oh sure, they are native, pretty, smart and funny.  But they are also highly competitive and in their high numbers restrict the number of nesting sites available for the rarer and threatened species of Black Cockatoo that also call Western Australia home.

I happened across a scene in a Maylands park last week where a pair of galahs seemed to be having a stand-off with a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets over a hollow in a tree. 

The Rainbow Lorikeets are an equally common and competitive species so I don’t suppose it matters much which one ends up winning, but the spectacle was very interesting to watch and hear. As the Rainbow Lorikeet is an introduced species to WA I suppose it would be better for the galahs to get the nursery.

In this picture you can see the male with the dark eye and the female with the “I didn’t get enough sleep last night” red eye.

I always call these guys pink and grey galahs (because they are) and that infers there are other galahs out there. I haven’t been able to find any information of other kinds, apart from the human variety.

For more information see;

www.birdsinbackyards.net
birdlife.org.au

Pacific Black Duck

Pacific Black Duck

Yesterday was a good day for ducks.

Actually, I’m not certain that ducks like the rain any better than anyone else.  After the rain they do come out to feed, but when it is bucketing down, as it did for about 24 hours, I’m sure they seek shelter like the rest of us. In any case, today was a good day to take pictures of ducks.

Many people think of Perth as being dry and sunny all the time, and we are very lucky with our outdoorsy climate. Some people are surprised to discover that although we have far fewer rainy days, we get more average annual rainfall in Perth than Melbourne.

To celebrate the wet a mushroom decided to scoot up through the earth in our backyard.

Back to ducks.

The black duck is native to Australia and I thought the Pacific Black Duck was one of the most common water bird around here. However, having done a little googling on the subject it appears that its future may be threatened by a tendency to be more than kissing cousins with the introduced Mallard.

 Sadly this
interbreeding may lead to the extinction of the Pacific Black Duck as
the Mallards and their hybrids propagate.  That’s bad news for everyone as the resulting hybrids may not be as well suited to the boom and bust of the Australian climate.

Telling the hybrids and the real things apart seems to be a bit of a
challenge, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I have misidentified any of
them here.

The black duck It is also very poorly named as you can see.  Unlike this little black duck, our black ducks aren’t black at all, except for that stripe over the eye.



 It strikes me that ducks are also very flexible…

It is difficult for me to know if this quacker is black duck or a hybrid. The speculum feathers looks more blue than green, but that can change depending on the angle and the light.
I don’t consider these ducks to be the brightest birds on the duck pond either.  When they have ducklings they will lead them across busy roads, bringing traffic to a standstill on a good day.

  
Several times a year ducks breed on the campus of the University of Western Australia, and invariably bring their ducklings down to the Reid Library moat. The facilities management people are very understanding of this and put a little ramp in to allow the ducklings to get in and out of the water without distress.  When they figure it out.

Of course, the ducks are not the only birds that hang out
in the gardens, and many of these fluffy little cuties are snapped up by
kookaburras and crows as a tasty snack.  Sad, but so it goes in the
animal kingdom.

The pictures were taken at Maylands and  Kings Park but they also make themselves at home in other odd places.  I once lived in a block of flats that had a drainage problem in the car park.  For the month or so that you had to wear wellies to get to the car, a pair of these ducks made the temporary pond their home. 

For more information see birdlife.org.au or www.birdsinbackyards.net.

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

Our backyard is like New Holland Honeyeater heaven at the moment. It has to be a pretty dark and stormy day for us to walk outside and not hear the chorus of these birds as they dart about the place.



Sometimes you have to stop and think before you realise where certain phrase and cliches come from.

Flighty for example.

I go out in my backyard several times a day, and I’m sure that the birds
that hang out there are the same ones that see me come out, sit and
read while having a cup of coffee, or hang out the washing, or play
with the dog. And even though I have never done anything to offend, they
will dash away as soon as I get too close.

Quite sensible really – but
‘flighty’ – oh yeah – like with wings…

They are very social little neighbours and hold corroberees as soon as they wake up in the morning, and again before evening. Apparently they are actually very active birds because they are all hopped up on the sugary nectar they get form the flowers – like little kids on red cordial.

It was only when preparing this post that I discovered that there was another, very similar looking honeyeater – the white-cheeked honeyeater. But I’m confident that these guys are the New Holland Variety as they have a light coloured eye rather than a dark eye.

 As far as I can tell these birds aren’t in any danger at the moment. They are a wonderful part of our urban environment.

For more information see birdlife.org.au or www.birdsinbackyards.net.