Murmurations of Starlings

I’m excited to share a short video I took recently of the amazing flying patterns of starlings known as murmurations.

I only happened upon it by accident one evening as I was near the end of my walk at the Tamar Island Wetlands.  It was totally unexpected, and since then, I have taken my camera with me and tried to get some video of the starlings incredible flying formation. However, it’s difficult because they don’t seem to fly like this all the time, and now as winter approaches, I can’t get there early enough.

 

Amazing isn’t it! I could watch this all day! 🙂

There has to be hundreds of starlings coming in to settle for the night at the Wetlands. It certainly sounded like it when I walked past them! I wonder what they were saying to each other?

 

The European starling (also known as the Common starling) is an introduced and invasive bird here in Australia, but even so, it is a very pretty bird when the sun shines on them exposing their metallic rainbow of colours, and they also have a beautiful song.

European starling (not my photo)

Have you ever seen a murmuration of starlings or any other bird?

 

 

 

Frankie The Welcome Swallow

The last few weeks I have noticed a welcome swallow perched on the railing on the front porch or on one of my window sills. He is there so often, I’ve called him Frankie. Isn’t he cute?

Welcome swallows are a common bird native to Australia. They are mad flyers, catching their food on the fly. They fly so fast it can be quite difficult to get a good photo of them. But they are a joy to watch as they fly overhead catching insects.

I haven’t seen much of these birds before now, but one swallow seems to like my house (or perhaps it’s the mirror tint on the windows!). Of course, I can’t tell if it’s the same bird I see all the time, but it’s funny how this bird perches on the front railing watching me when I get home from work almost everyday, like it’s welcoming me home. 🙂

Even on rainy days, Frankie is there.

One time I caught Frankie sunbathing on a window sill. At first I thought something was wrong with him, but then I realised he was simply enjoying some warmth in the sun on a cool day.

(Yes, I know I need to clean the windows :D)

Welcome swallows have a delightful call, I have come to easily recognise it now since Frankie visits practically everyday and lets me know he’s there by his singing.

And here he is again on another day. I love the leg stretch!

I enjoy Frankie’s visits, I hope he keeps coming back. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Mimicry of the Pied Butcherbird

Many Australians may be familiar with the little black and white pied butcherbirds that frequent parks and backyards and their beautiful bird song they have, but something I discovered recently was that they are mimics, and rather good ones at that!

Pied Butcherbird

One of my regular pied butcherbirds was visiting on the veranda and I was inside the house listening to it singing away merrily and then I thought I could hear other bird calls in amongst its tunes. Being curious, I grabbed my camera and went out onto the veranda and waited. After a bit, the bird started singing again and then I heard it sing a currawong call! I started filming and was blown away by all the different bird calls this pied butcherbird sang, it was amazing!

This little birdie sang for quite a long time, so I have just taken the last 2 minutes of the recording which shows the variety of bird calls it was imitating.  Have a listen for yourself:

No one believed me until I showed them my video. I have been visited by this bird a few times now on rainy days, and it is such a treat to listen to all its tunes. Maybe it gets bored and wants to entertain me! 😀

Wildlife Visitors in March 2018

Some welcome rain in March (but maybe a little bit too much!) made for a very tropical climate for the beginning of autumn. There was plenty of wildlife around plus I also had the opportunity to capture some bird audio recordings which might be of interest to my overseas readers.

One morning, a couple of sulphur crested cockatoos dropped by to be annoying as they were screeching and carrying on as they do. This is the only one that sat still for a minute before taking off with the others and leaving us all in peace.

The eastern water dragon isn’t seen as often now, but here he is basking in the late afternoon sun.

The kookaburra family is often seen in the surrounding gum trees or perched on my veranda. The baby kookaburra is on the far right of the photo and it’s getting harder to tell the difference between them all now. (I think the one on the far left is having a bad hair day!)

I’ve seen more and more of the lovely grey butcherbirds and regularly hear their melody during the day.

Here is just a snapshot of some of its calls:

 

I am still visited by the grey butcherbird’s nemesis, the pied butcherbirds, who also have a lovely repertoire.

Pied Butcherbird

Here’s just a sample of their song:

 

And here’s a quick snippet of another of the pied butcherbird’s song, this one near the end sounds like the bit in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind when they are playing the musical notes with the alien ship. 😀

 

The pied currawong is one of my favourite birds. This is the male of the adult pair that live around my home.

Pied Currawong

I love the different calls of this bird and I managed to capture them calling just on dusk one day.

 

This is a noisy miner, a very common bird and a nuisance a lot of the time. Small and gregarious, these birds often gang up on other birds.

Noisy Miner

I got this recording when there were about 8 of these birds in a tree carrying on about something.

 

Here’s my magpie family, Maggie on the left and one of her juveniles on the right.

The carrolling of the magpie has to be one of the most recognised bird calls of Australia.

 

Hope you enjoyed seeing (and hearing) some of my backyard wildlife visitors.

This is my participation in a monthly event called Wildlife Wednesdays hosted by Tina of My Gardner Says… You can see the wildlife visitors of other participants here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife Visitors in December 2017

December was a busy time leading up to Christmas, and it was hot, but I do have some wildlife visitors to share with you. And I am really excited to introduce you to several brand new visitors in my backyard! 🙂

The kookaburras have become regular visitors once again.

A pair of kookaburras

And here at long last, is my first glimpse of a baby kookie!

There have been plenty of noisy miners about, as usual. Here are some taking advantage of some lorikeet feed after the lorikeets flew off when they got scared.

Noisy miners

The pair of pied currawongs have been bringing up 2 young this time. This is one of them, still being fed by mum, but she’s now pecking them after she feeds them, maybe to start pushing them out on their own.

Juvenile pied currawong

Igor and Maggie, our local magpies, also have 2 babies who are growing up fast. Interestingly, one seems to be colouring up quicker than the other. They are starting to feed themselves now.

Juvenile magpie
Another juvenile magpie.

A few Torresian crows have started hanging around. This one was pretty hot, sitting in the gum tree with its beak open.

Adult Torresian crow

I’ve also seen several of these pretty pale headed rosellas.

Pale headed rosella

There have been lots of rainbow loirkeets around and I even managed to spy a baby lorikeet! What a racket they make! 😀

Baby rainbow lorikeet
The noisy little thing finally getting fed

Here are two pigeons taking a stroll around the lawn in front of the house after it was mowed. These are common bronzewing pigeons. They may be the most common pigeon seen in Australia, although I don’t recall having ever seen them before, but they are first time visitors to my backyard!

Common bronzewing pigeons

One early morning I was sitting on the veranda and above the bird chatter I heard a new birdcall. I set a recorder for a few minutes and have edited it so you can hear the call 4 times.

 

I’m pretty sure that bird sounds like an eastern whipbird. They are found along the east coast but I have never heard one in my backyard ever! I wasn’t able to see it or get a picture of it, but here’s what it looks like (photo taken from Birdlife Australia).

Eastern Whipbird photo from Birdlife Australia

The warm weather has seen the reappearance of the eastern water dragon. This one is full size, a metre in length from head to tail and the red colouring shows it’s a mature male.

A male eastern water dragon basking in the late afternoon sun

There has been lots of activity regarding our late night visitor possums. You might remember I have two possums living in our outside laundry occupying a box we put in there. Well, I discovered one morning that both of them have a joey! The possum I named Chloe is all grown up now and has her very first joey. Here’s a glimpse I got of the little one.

If you look closely just above the carrot, you can make out a little paw and pink nose of the little joey.

The possum I named Heidi (Chloe’s mother) has an even younger joey!

Heidi in the possum box with a pinky joey

The poor mum was just waking up when I took the photo, and clearly it was hot inside the box too. That little pinky is definitely the littlest joey I have ever seen in my backyard. How special was that!! You can see more photos of these two possums in my previous post here.

What a month – lots of baby birds begging for food, tiny possum joeys making their first appearance, the long awaited arrival of the baby kookaburras, and even a new bird species dropped by!

This is my participation in a monthly event called Wildlife Wednesdays hosted by Tina of My Gardner Says… You can see the wildlife visitors of other participants here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife Visitors in November 2017

November is the last month of spring here in Australia and this post is all about birds! With the local magpies finally giving up their vicious territorial attacks on other birds, we had many old feathered friends returning.

This is an adult grey butcherbird and I have also seen one juvenile begging for food.

One of the adult grey butcherbirds
The juvenile grey butcherbird

I spotted these two kookaburras  which appear to be the same ones that previously visited. The exciting thing is they appear to be paying lots of attention to the termite mound on the tree where they had babies last year, so maybe soon we will have little kookies!

Two adult kookaburras

The pied butcherbirds have returned as well. It’s so nice to have them sit on the veranda and sing their songs (though it’s a shame about having to clean up after them again!).  Check out my short video of these 2 songsters.

And here are the rainbow lorikeets in all their glory!

Rainbow lorikeets lining up for a feed

The galahs are still being seen around too. I captured this photo of 3 of them together.

Just a couple of galahs. 🙂

I also spotted 2 scaly breasted lorikeets. Such dainty little things!

Two cute little scaly breasted lorikeets

Igor and Maggie, our resident magpies, had 2 babies to bring up this time. Here’s a shot of mum and dad with one of the young ones having a snooze.

There was a bit of excitement early one morning when three king parrots turned up for a visit. There were 2 males and a female, and normally they all take off as soon as someone goes out the door, but on this occasion, two of the birds actually came onto the veranda when they saw me go outside. I think they may have mistaken me for someone else!

The female king parrot who seemed to take a liking to me since she attempted to fly onto my shoulder a few times before I freaked out too much and went back inside!
One of the male king parrots on the veranda
The other male king parrot close by in a tree

And finally, I have an audio recording of a mystery bird. I remember hearing this bird occasionally every now and then, but it was always in the distance. One evening, I clearly heard it in a gum tree behind the house so I was able to record it. It was heard at 6.45pm just on dusk, so it was too dark to make anything out at the time. If anyone knows what this bird is, please let me know!

 

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my backyard wildlife visitors. 🙂

This is my participation in a monthly event called Wildlife Wednesdays hosted by Tina of My Gardner Says… You can see the wildlife visitors of other participants here.

Pied Currawong Family

The pied currawong is one of my favourite birds. I’ve been lucky enough to have a pair of these birds live around my home. Mum and Dad currawong have been raising a family here every year since 2012 and I’ve gotten to know them quite well. (You can see full size photos and better quality videos on my blog site rather than in the feed)

A rare photo of male and female pair together. (Male is on the left).

The pied currawong is a large bird, about 50cm in length, and is black in colouring with dark grey legs and a white patch under the tail and white tips of the wings which you can see when they’re in flight.

These birds are found on the east coast of mainland Australia and live in forests but have adapted to suburban living.

They eat small lizards, insects and berries. These birds will also take baby birds or small birds like finches, which I think is why many people don’t like currawongs. The food is either eaten immediately or stored away in a fork of a tree to eat later. The hook on their large beak is used to shred the prey.

It’s very difficult to tell the sexes apart with these birds, so the only way I can tell with this pair is that the male looks more robust and is not scared of me, while the female is a bit thinner and is quite timid. And when there are babies around, it’s obvious which one is the female as she is the one who feeds them.

male pied currawong

Above is the male currawong in a photo take in December 2012 when the pair had babies. You can see he’s looking a little worse for wear having been busy feeding Mum while she’s sitting on the nest.

Here he is in June 2017, looking stunning and very healthy during winter.

Here he is again. What a look on his face!

The female currawong is pictured here in some photos from November 2016 when there were young around. She looks like she’s having some time out.

And who can blame her wanting some quiet time when she has 2 or even 3 babies constantly bothering her for something to eat.

Here is a video from December 2015 of one of 3 young currawongs the pair raised that summer.

From my observations of this pair of currawongs, I’ve noticed that Dad feeds Mum while she’s on the nest, and seems to help out a little feeding the babies until they fledge, then Dad goes it alone, leaving Mum to continue feeding and raising their young. However, Mum does things a bit differently to what I’ve read about them raising their family. Year after year, I’ve seen Mum currawong feed her babies and then after barely a month, she starts pecking them quite viciously after she feeds them, to get them away from her, then hardly a week goes by and the young ones have already left and moved on. From what I’ve read about these birds, Mum should be looking after them for a lot longer. Maybe she’s just not a very patient mother.

The currawongs are never demanding birds (unlike the butcherbirds!) so I don’t mind giving them a bit of meat to eat. They seem to have a bit of a ritual going where they wait in the gum trees near the house, and when they see me appear on the veranda, they fly closer, forever on the lookout for the mean magpies that could attack them, then they fly over to the railing and wait to be thrown a bit of meat or for me to leave a bit for them to take.

This is short video of me feeding the male currawong. You can hear a baby begging for food in the background.

And this is a short video of the female currawong coming to get a bit of meat then flying off. You can see the young ones following her. You can also see the white wing tips as they fly.

The poor girl looks in dreadful condition, missing feathers at her neck, skinny, harried, and panicky about getting attacked by the local magpies (they have babies at the same time so it can be a bit of war zone at times).

It’s taken me a long time, but I have managed to record a few of the pied currawong’s calls. They seem to have quite a few different ones. You may need to turn up the volume to hear the recordings properly.

I love the sounds in this first recording. I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s 2 birds, each making a different sound.

 

This next recording is what I hear quite often. I’ve noticed they make this sound during flight.

 

This last recording is like the one above but has an extra inclusion.

 

I hope you found this post interesting and that it gave you an insight into the life of a pied currawong.

Living With Torresian Crows

The Torresian Crow, Corvus orru, is a native bird to Australia and is found in the northern and western parts of the country. Interestingly, it can also be found in Papua New Guinea and the bird is named after the Torres Strait which separates Australia and PNG.

The Torresian Crow has a life span of 30 years and is about 50cm in length. It has all black plumage, which is glossy on the back and dull on the front, with the base of the feathers being white. The feathers on the throat are shorter and are referred to as hackles. In the right lighting, you may even see the lovely metallic blues and greens, and sometimes purple, shining from their feathers.

The chicks hatch with blue eyes, while the juveniles have brown eyes until they are about a year or so old and the adults have striking white eyes. The video below is of a juvenile and adult Torresian crow and as well as seeing the different eye colours, you can hear the different sounds between an adult and juvenile and also glimpse some of the white downy feathers.

The diet of the Torresian crow consists of mice, grubs, insects, berries and fruit. They also eat carrion (roadkill) and can even be seen amongst rubbish, such as at the local tip or hanging around garbage bins in the street or parks. It has also been observed that Torresian crows are able to successfully eat the introduced and invasive cane toad without ingesting the toxins by flipping them over and eating their belly.

Torresian crows are often mistaken for other crows and ravens in Australia as they all look very similar. One way to tell if a bird is a Torresian crow is if it shuffles its wings when landing on a perch. Aside from that, you can tell a Torresian crow by its unique calls. Here are a few that I have managed to record.

This one is a classic call of the crow (you may need to turn up the volume for this recording – don’t forget to turn it down again!).

 

This recording has two crows who seem to be talking to each other.

 

This recording has that funny weird snoring sound they do (you may need to turn this one up a bit too!).

 

These birds are highly adaptable to many habitats and indications from reading material on the internet are that the population of these birds is on the increase, possibly by as much as 40% in South East Queensland alone. The Torresian crow was also the 5th most sighted bird in the Gold Coast area in the 2016 Backyard Bird Count conducted by Birdlife Australia.

As an example of how these crows are intelligent and flexible in their ever changing suburban environment, it was reported in January 2017 that in the Brisbane region, the birds had begun nesting in manmade structures instead of trees. As a result, the chicks hatched in such a nest will then also nest in similar manmade structures when it’s their turn to breed. You can read the interesting and short article with photos on the ABC website here.

Although many people may find Torresian crows noisy and a nuisance, they are a native bird and are protected under legislation. The birds also play an important part in biodiversity so we need to be tolerant of these large and loud birds, after all, it’s their world too.

The photos in this post are of the Torresian crows that live around my house. You can read more about the crow family here. You can also read about an experience I had with a crow who kept attacking a glass door in my house here.

If you have crows hanging around your place bothering you, check out the Living With Crows page by the Queensland Government for some tips on how to manage the situation.