Saturday, September 29, 2012

Masked Lapwings haven't bred this year either but hope may be around the corner

The breeding season for Masked Lapwings is actually almost over for them, and none of the pairs I have encountered in Tenterfield for the passed 2 months have shown signs of breeding yet. However, as we have had some recent rainfalls this month (3 to be exact), just yesterday I noticed when walking passed 2 Masked Lapwings they were not moving on the ground. I only heard them as I could not clearly see them from a distance. They called out but did not move. This may be a really good sign that they might have finally begun breeding again.

However, nothing is certain right now. How long the rain actually lasts for is uncertain. How long these birds will be determined to raise a family is another story, as they might abandon their breeding cycle should the rain cease again.

More Masked Lapwing birds have moved out of Tenterfield in the last 12 months. No new breeding pairs have moved into the area either. With very small numbers of these birds in Tenterfield the possibility of this being the next species to move out of town is almost certain, if the drought continues.

I don't know the exact Masked Lapwing numbers for Tenterfield but I'm guessing it is less than 10 breeding pairs now. In all my travels around Tenterfield I have only ever seen, in the last 12 months, at most 3 breeding pairs, and they all are in the south-west area of Tenterfield. This species is becoming "uncommon" in Tenterfield.

I just hope that the rain returns to Tenterfield.

The drought is severely affecting the local Australian Magpie family

The drought began back sometime between 1998 and 2001. By 2001 it was noticeable that the rainfall was decreasing. That year brought many major outbreaks of bushfires to the area, 7 bushfires in total surrounding Tenterfield itself, and more than 15 burning throughout New South Wales within days or weeks of each other being put out. Lightning was to blame for most of them but humans started some of them as well. Outbreaks of bushfires became increasingly common until about 2005 when they seemed to stop.

About a month ago I noticed the adult male Magpie began roosting in a new area, down by the creek to the left (looking east) of the Douglas Street bridge. This is where his mate has always roosted from the moment she came into his territory as his new mate. It is on that block of land where their new territory seems to be centered, and not their old territory anymore.

For about a week and a half now I have not seen the adult male Magpie that has made this territory home for about 14-15 years nor have I seen him nesting. His territory, like that of other Magpies in town, are approximately one to two street blocks of land in size (or approximately 300-400 by 300-400 metres in size (Is that squared metres?)).

Last Thursday when I was walking along Pelham Street toward Miles Street I saw an adult Magpie with 2 juveniles on the ground in the High School's Agricultural Property (2 paddocks) where this block of land had been abandoned by Magpies for several years. The adult Magpie was obviously a male as it was being aggressive toward one of the juveniles which was upside down on the ground. The adult male stopped and looked at me as I spoke to him - only the local male Magpie behaves in that manner. The other juvenile was just standing around watching on. Even from a 50 metre distance from the birds I could tell the juveniles were a male (the one upside down) and female (looking on) just by going on their behaviour in reponse to the adult male's aggressive behaviour - exactly what the local Magpie pair had last Spring.

Update: I have just had the juvenile 12 month old male come beggiing for some food. I threw out some mixed nuts and he ate some. Within minutes the adult female showed up, and she came flying in from across Douglas Street, from where she normally roosts. Not long after that the 2 year old juvenile showed up next but no sign of the adult male on my front lawn yet.

So why has the adult male extended his territory and relocated his home to the creek? Firstly, despite the fact that the paddocks surrounding his new home are empty, they normally contain domesticated animals (cows and sheep). There is always a lot of manure laying around on the ground. There may be an untapped source of Dung Beetles in those paddocks too. Secondly, birds are birds and they must follow and locate food sources if none are no longer available in the immediate area of where they live. The insects the Magpies eat have obviously been exhausted and the Magpies are now rarely seen finding insects in their old nesting territory area. Their old territory, like most of Tenterfield itself, is suffering from a severe drought. It barely rains in Tenterfield anymore (perhaps several times a year at best) and as such the insect populations have dropped to an alarmingly low level. Obviously the insects that they eat have been extremely difficult to find, and to locate a consistent amount of food to sustain young babies for a whole year, let alone for themselves as well.

Unless conditions improves in Tenterfield I do not foresee any Magpie families breeding this year. Even though it has begun raining in Tenterfield a bit more consistently this month this does not help any bird species to recover from the drought. Unless the rains become regular, and the drought breaks, and the insects recover and begin breeding again, it is possible that the Magpies could literally starve to death in Tenterfield, or be forced to move out of town.

2012 will be a first for the Australian Magpie species in Tenterfield to put off breeding for a full year. No nesting birds have been sighted in town as yet, and it is almost October.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yellow-faced Honeyeater eating Grevillea nectar

Thinking I was hearing House Sparrows out in my front garden I was quite surprised to see what I first thought was a House Sparrow eating nectar from the Grevilleas in my garden. House Sparrows don't eat nectar as far as I know. I've never seen them eat it anyway. I was a little bit suspicious of this bird being a House Sparrow so I got my digital camera out and put it in video mode, and found it was not a House Sparrow but rather a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. I couldn't ID the bird at first glance. I had to watch the video and pause it, then compare it to the Yellow-faced Honeyeater photo I took, that I've added to this site.

The bird was first located in the bush where I first zoomed the camera into, then it flew down into the Grevilleas closest to me. It look me almost 2 minutes into this video to locate the bird in my Grevilleas as the native Plum tree's leaves were mostly in the way. I could not also get the right angle to view the bird properly, and my reaction was slower than normal as I have pulled my right arm muscles and it hurts to move the camera and my arm.

This honeyeater species is the size of a House Sparrow. It is somewhat a noisy bird, just like a House Sparrow is, and it loves nectar. This is the very first video I have of this bird species in Tenterfield, and going on the rustling sounds and calls it was making I believe there were two of these birds but the other one always kept out of sight.

There are very few Grevillea plants in Tenterfield that I have seen, which makes it difficult for honeyeaters to locate nectar from these type of plants. It therefore must eat nectar from various other plant and tree sources in the local area. This particular bird's residence, I believe, is in the Tenterfield Creek well away from the roads, near my home.

Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are much easier to video record and photograph than an Eastern Spinebill. It moves slower and ocassionally takes a rest as viewed in this video. However, it is a somewhat shy bird, and it prefers thick plant cover to hide in - or at least to roost in. This species may allow you to approach it from a distance if you do so slowly but that is just a guess right now.

Below is the video I took around 12PM today - give or take a few minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae

Laughing Kookaburras are common throughout the township of Tenterfield but their territories are at least 1.4 kilometres in size. There must be at least 2-3 pairs of these Kookaburras in town but that is just a guess. Laughing Kookaburras tend to eat lizards, mice, and basically anything else including some small snakes.

Before sunset Kookaburras tend to get together.

Where to see Laughing Kookaburras:
The best place to see these birds are on power lines away from the main street. An adult Laughing Kookaburra has been observed on the power lines at the back of Bi-Lo supermarket on the edge of the grass park area, opposite the Catholic Church. They are also spotted and heard to the south-west of the Post Office (1.4kms from the Post Office).

I don't have a photo of a Laughing Kookaburra as yet but I do have this short video. I'm still trying to get my camera to focus on things above my head, and still need lots more practice with it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More notes on unidentified olive backed and aqua blue winged bird

In a previous post I wrote a brief description of this aqua blue winged bird that I am trying to identify. The bird in question has not been sighted since by me.

There are a few other things about this bird that I remember that differentiates them from Blue-faced Honeyeaters. Firstly, Blue-faced Honeyeaters are quite noisy yet the birds I saw in the past and the individual I saw most recently made no noise (that I remember) at all.

Secondly, the ones I saw years ago were hanging around Australian King Parrots, feeding with them. I saw these aqua blue winged birds close up at Jubilee Park. The King Parrots, at the time, were not afraid of humans as lot as they were not startled by them. These other birds were the same, were unafraid of humans too. You could easily get within 7 - 8 feet of these birds, even if you were just walking passed them and they were on the ground. They just seemed fearless of humans. I did not see any blue markings on these birds' faces, which tells me it was not a Blue-faced Honeyeater. It was also a different shape to the Blue-faced Honeyeater, and had a much shorter tail.

Thirdly, they ate seeds. What else they ate I do not know. And I only ever saw them, years ago, at Jubilee Park either in the presence of Australian King Parrots or with a few of their own kind hanging around the play equipment. Back then I did not see them anywhere else in Tenterfield, except for flying into the trees or onto the playgrounds' equipment railings when they finished eating the seeds on the ground.

These birds rarely squabbled with one another, unlike the King Parrots. They seem well organized and very co-operative birds. They never hassled the King Parrots at all but sometimes the King Parrots hassled them if they got in the way of them hassling other King Parrots of their own flock - if they were both on the ground eating the same type of seeds.

Actually, the bottom half of their bodies were pure white (not cream) coloured. In flight, they are basically a white bird with aqua blue coloured wings. Their olive coloured back is noticeable too but only on certain angles to seeing the bird fly off. The olive colouring backs were very noticeable when they were on the ground.

After much thought about the weather conditions of Tenterfield some 11 or so years ago, I have concluded that these aqua blue winged birds prefered wetter rainfall conditions than droughts. In Tenterfield, back in 1996-2001, the annual rainfall was about 600mm per year. This is when the birds were sighted, roughly. Prior to October 1995 I don't know if the birds were in Tenterfield as I was living in South Australia up until that time. When they actually disappeared from Tenterfield altogether I simply cannot remember but it was roughly between 2001 - 2005. 2001 was when the rainfall began to decline in Tenterfield, and each passing year brought less rain than the previous year.

I have been extensively searching the Internet for a visual identification of this bird but I have had no luck so far. However, I have found one image that may be useful, see below:

The bird on the left is a Blue and Yellow Macaw. Its not the bird I saw but it actually has the same aqua blue wing colourings as the birds I saw. This particular blue colour in this photo is the colour I saw on the birds' wings. It is an usual blue colour, and the sort of blue colour you do not forget in a hurry. There are very few Australian birds that actually have this particular blue colouring on their body.

The birds I saw had, if my memory serves me correctly, entirely blue wings just like this Macaw does in this image. And where this Macaw has a yellow belly, breast, and blue throat and chin, with the birds I saw all those areas were pure white.

Now, what is even harder to locate than a blue and white bird is a bird that also has a solid olive coloured back and mantle. Nothing I have found on the Internet thus far has matched the bird I am trying to identify.

However, as I can assume the bird in question is a tropical bird, I may be trying to locate a bird that may not even be native to Australia. If bird colourings has anything to do with which country they originate from I may be looking at a bird that may have come from Central and South America or the dense forests of Asia somewhere.

The birds length was about 26 - 28cms and it had a short tail and to look at them they were about 3/4 the size of a King Parrot.

Thinking back about seeing these birds I always remember seeing these aqua blue winged birds at the playground area in Jubilee Park, on Manners Street. They always seemed to be there for as long as I can remember - and that covers at least 4 years straight. Not once were they not there. They were always there like how trees can't get up and walk away. They did actually make a noise but can't recollect what sound they made now.

The only thing I regret is never having taken a photo of these birds since I've been in Tenterfield as it is the only thing preventing me from identifying this bird species.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Exposed garden environments & bird behaviour

In Tenterfield there are various types of flora environments including decidious trees that are exposed to open areas. In my neighbour Carol's garden there is such an exposed environment, and in Winter to early Spring, birds fly into this area and then keep perfectly still so they cannot be detected by anyone or anything.

In this video below I saw a female or juvenile Satin Bowerbird fly straight into this area, hopped around a bit on some lower branches and then stopped moving. The bird went silent and was completely motionless for quite a while after I ended this video. There is one tiny little bird eating the blossom from the flowering tree in the centre of area in which I scanned to locate the Satin Bowerbird in this video. I'm not even sure if I can see the Satin Bowerbird in this video. I've tried but can't locate it. It's in there somewhere.

This is not the first time a medium sized bird simply disappears from your sight when looking into these branches when they are exposed like this. Most of the birds that go in here do the exact same thing - they hide themselves and keep perfectly still.

With other area of Carol's garden it is a lot more open and a lot more exposed than this area. Birds fly around her garden, land in the open or near cover and are quite content to stay there for a while just foraging for food. Just something worth mentioning.

Annual bird sound changes

I have decided to identify and record audio sounds that birds make here in Tenterfield over the course of 12 months. This will be difficult but not impossible. Every other day I video record daily mundane sounds birds make, specifically those bird species that tend to change their calls to match the breeding season and just general sound changes they make if any.

Throughout winter and spring birds make different sounds to what they normally make during the rest of the year, and those sounds usually differ as each day passes. Literally as each day passes I hear new bird sounds. What these new sounds means is anyone's guess but I will endeavour to record them all and will eventually have a large collection of all the sounds each species makes throughout the course of 12 months.

Currently I have started restructuring the bird sound post pages differently and the end result will be: I will place all the sounds recorded for an entire year of one bird species on one single page. Each new recording will be in a link format, which when clicked on, will display in the media player popout on that page.

I am starting this off with the sounds I have recorded of the Eastern Rosella.

AUDIO - Unidentified bird that croaks like a frog

When I was down by the Tenterfield Creek the other day I heard this bird in the bushes that sounded like a frog. I had to listen really hard to make sure it was not an actual frog. I finally determined that the frog-like sound was indeed coming from the bushes at a fair hight above the ground, and not from the water. I have no idea what the bird species was/is and I did not see the bird, but I am suspecting that the bird may be one of two bird species: 1. the medium sized bird that looks something like a Jacky Winter which I am yet to identify; Or 2. It could be a Grey Fantail which has only been recently sighted in this area. The frog-like sound and sighting of the Grey Fantail seem to correspond and match each other but further investigation is needed to confirm my beliefs.

In the video below you will hear and see Red-browed Finches (just before the end of the video) and Double-barred Finches (right at the end of the video). The bird I try to zoom in on is either a Pied Currawong or juvenile Australian Magpie. I can't be 100% certain as to which one it was.

The sound can be heard between 19 and 20 seconds in the video above. Turn your speakers up if you can't hear any of the birds.

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles

Photo taken 13 October 2012 by the Tenterfield Creek
Masked Lapwings, or commonly known as Plovers, are not your average bird. I have nicknamed these birds in Tenterfield "the birds that never sleep". They can be heard during the night time calling out if they are disturbed.

Masked Lapwings are normally sighted in pairs throughout the entire year. Only single or unmated juveniles seem to flock together in small groups in the non-breeding seasons.

These birds are one of the more commonly sighted birds in Tenterfield and can be seen together in open paddocks. They are always on the alert for any danger, and you will hear them before you see them, generally. These birds are alerted to your presence before you get anywhere near them, sometimes even before they can see you, so I've noticed. Their hearing is exceptional and they squark at the slightest disturbance of grass or gravel/dirt being trodden on.

For some unknown reason Masked Lapwings will spend a great deal of time in paddocks with cows and/or horses and are not disturbed by these large animals. Yet when humans are around they are disturbed by our presence.

Plovers eat insects they find in the ground. What else they eat I do not know. Depending upon the location of where they decide to lay eggs, which is generally in Spring (or October of each year), an open water source is usually nearby - within walking distance most times, whether it be the Tenterfield Creek or a culvit runoff water pipe that is attached to the side of the road.

Masked Plovers are one of the bird species that swoops you when they have chicks that have left the nest. They only swoop if you get too close to their chicks. Both parents will swoop you, or any other animal like a cat or dog, that is in the immediate area of their chicks. They can do some serious damage to you if they get their claws into your skin as they have spurs on their feet which also contains toxins.

The breeding rate of Masked Plovers in Tenterfield is poor to average, depending upon the location of where they breed. The closer they breed to the CBD of Tenterfield the higher chances of them losing their chicks to either a cat or some other animal, or to their chicks being run over by cars. Once this happened (two years ago) in the park area directly behind Bi-Lo, and the two Plovers mourned their offsprings' death for several weeks before they moved on and left the area. They seemed very disheartened by their loss and seemed to lose hope just to stay alive. They never nested in that area again.

Because of the severity of the drought that seems to be going on and on and on as each year passes, Masked Plovers are taking their time in finding the right location to breed right now. They seem to be delaying breeding. Last year I did not see any Masked Plover chicks at all, so I'm guessing these birds will put off breeding in really bad seasons, just like some Kangaroos do. These birds generally have chicks out of the nest before the Australian Magpies do. They generally begin swooping you one week before Australian Magpies begin swooping. But, back in 2009 I think it was, there were some odd swooping behaviour of Masked Lapwings when it was not breeding season. It was about July of that year when one Plover began swooping at the back of Bi-Lo (the park area). Around the same time or a month beforehand an Australian Magpie swooped me. Unnatural behaviour due to the drought or the birds' biological clocks being thrown out of whack? It's possible.

The Masked Lapwing numbers in Tenterfield have begun to decline in the last 3 years. Some of the adult breeding pairs have actually moved out of Tenterfield, the remaining pairs are not breeding at all as far as I can tell. Masked Plovers may be another species that finally moves out of Tenterfield if this drought continues and the rain continues to cease falling.

Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa

On Thursday, 13 September 2012, I was by the Tenterfield Creek and this little Fantail came from the other side of the creek to this tree and began catching insects. I must have disturbed the insects as I walked passed the tree the first time. The second bird in this video is a Thornbill of some sort which I am still yet to identify.

In this area of the Tenterfield Creek at the back of my neighbour Carols' property, there is an amazingly high amount of different bird species confined to one tiny area of remnant bushland (in about 10 plants and one Eucalypt tree maximum). They all are either nesting in that small area or have made that area home. I have counted (identified) at least 6 different bird species, mostly the smaller birds though.

The Grey Fantail was first noticed in the area a few weeks ago by myself but it is more than probable it was there all along. I have only seen one Grey Fantail so far, but going on how active all the birds are it is possible that there are more than one Grey Fantail in the area. All I know about this species is they eat insects, catch insects in flight, and wag their tail like a Willy Wagtail. They also are solitary birds until they need to breed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Return of a Pacific Koel to Tenterfield today

For most of today I heard the Red Wattlebird call out. Then around 3 or 4pm the Red Wattlebird went quite and was replaced by the calls of a Pacific Koel that was last heard in Tenterfield about the first week of July this year. Apparently Pacific Koels head north for Winter (often going overseas) and come back to Australia in late September early October of each year to breed.

It is undecided just yet as to whether the Pacific Koel I heard today is the same one that inhabits Tenterfield's south-west urbanised area or not. If it is still here tomorrow and in the following days to come is a whole different story. It could just be passing through as it rests for a while here.

UPDATE: 2 OCTOBER 2012 - The Pacific Koel was not heard from again after I took this audio recording. It has moved on. Whether any Pacific Koels return to Tenterfield at all this year I cannot be certain right now.

Red Wattlebird - Tenterfield population: one

Over the passed week I have noticed that the female Red Wattlebird has not returned. The behaviour of the remaining Red Wattlebird has changed, and seems to be making itself a new territory. It has been heard between the Skatepark near Manners Street and Laird & Pelham Streets corner, as well as places in between, especially near the Tenterfield Creek.

Video of the bird eating alone on my neighbour's back lawn.

UPDATE: 2 OCTOBER 2012 - The bird in the video is actually of a juvenile Red Wattlebird, perhaps 2 years of age, identified by the fact that it's tail and tail feathers lean to the left. The other 2 Red Wattlebirds I have observed in the past are adults and more than likely the parents of this Red Wattlebird. The parents have still not been sighted or heard and have more than likely left Tenterfield.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops

Today, whilst taking photos of House Sparrows in my neighbour's garden when waiting for her to come home, I took this photo of what I first thought was a House Sparrow. But the photo reveals some other bird, perhaps even a Fantail or Wren of some sort. This bird just flew into the tree then moments later it was gone.

Having spent the last hour trying to identify this bird, even though the photo is somewhat blurry and I cannot identify any colouring, going on the facial markings and size alone, it is identical to the Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

If you enlarge this photo you will see a distinctive light coloured streak that runs below the eye, and a up then backward curved streaked directly behind the eye.

I do not know anything about this species. Taking this photo was just by luck. Only one individual bird was sighted.

Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala

Noisy Miners are called that for having a very loud voice and for making it's call which is repeated continuously by other flock members. Many people don't like these birds for the sounds they make as it becomes irritating after a while.

Although these birds are common in Tenterfield, their numbers have decreased due to the drought, because a lot of the birds went elsewhere several years ago.

Noisy Miners are easily identified by their grey, black and yellow colouring as well as by their call. You normally hear these birds before you see them but often they can be silent and are just seen without being heard. They normally flock in small groups but seeing flocks of them in Tenterfield has become rare. They are now normally seen alone, in pairs, or very small family groups of less than 10 birds.

I have seen a Noisy Miner eat nectar from my Grevilleas as well as blossom from the native Plum tree by my bedroom window. They also eat small insects, fruit, and sometimes small reptiles. They have been known to eat human food.

White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae

A breeding pair of White-faced Herons taken on 13 September 2012.

Whilst down the Tenterfield Creek waiting for my neighbour to come home I spotted these two White-faced Herons. I have only just been able to identify these birds as this is the first photo I have of them side on and of their faces. They usually don't like humans hanging around them, let alone being in close proximity to them, and will always fly away rather quickly. About 30 seconds after this photo was taken both birds flew away.

White-faced Herons can be seen in the immediate area surrounding the Tenterfield Creek, and actually in the creek itself. They seem to prefer the shallowest water to wade in, in order to find aquatic insects to eat. Rarely will they venture further away from the Tenterfield Creek to find food.

These birds generally are solitary until they breed, which in Tenterfield, in in Spring. These two birds do not nest in the immediate area. I have no idea where they nest actually but they make a nest of sticks that is placed in a tree.

White-faced Herons are between 60 - 70cm tall, averaging around 65cm. They apparently have legs that are a dull yellow colour. They are common in Tenterfield but their numbers are extremely low.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Superb Fairy Wren couple visiting my front garden

Each Spring, as far as I can remember, a pair of Superb Fairy Wrens visit my front garden on a regular basis. The male is seen eating either grass seeds or nectar from my Grevillea flowers (left side of the flywire screen window). The male first lands on a high branch in front of me and then the female approaches. The male seems to encourage his mate to look into my bedroom window through the flywire screen section. Are they looking at me or just generally looking at everything in my bedroom? Who knows! The female seems quite fascinated about what she sees, and comes for a closer look on the higher branch. She is recorded singing or calling out.

The female Superb Fairy Wren seemed to be looking at the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos at one point. The two Superb Fairy Wrens were disturbed by the flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos that were flying passed and the Wrens eventually flew away.

These two videos were taken minutes apart.

Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

Eastern Spinebills are very shy birds and are easily frightened. They love nectar from Grevilleas. I have 4 Grevilleas in my front garden, one that only flowers in Spring, and 3 dwarf Grevilleas that flowers all year round. All 4 Grevilleas have red flowers. The Eastern Spinebill that visits my Grevilleas does so (preferably) a day or two after it has rained, giving the nectar a sweeter flavour. However, the bird visits the Grevilleas all year round, despite the lack of rain. About once a week I water the potted plants that are near the dwarf Grevilleas, so the dwarf grevilleas do get a bit of runoff tap water from the plants I water.

Late Sunday or Monday afternoon, about dusk, I noticed there were 2 Eastern Spinebills eating the nectar from my dwarf Grevilleas as I was about to unlock my front door. I had just got home from a walk into town. I have never seen 2 of them before. I was elated to say the least. One flew off into my large Wattle tree, and the other one stayed in my garden but hid itself in the taller Grevillea bush. So obviously these birds are solitary birds and only come together and form pairs when they are breeding or about to breed.

I am still yet to get photos of this bird. I do not know which gender it is either. Here are two videos I took of the Eastern Spinebill eating nectar from my Grevilleas. The 3 dwarf Grevilleas are to the right of the flowering tree/bush. The tree/bush in the middle is a native plum tree sapling. It, along with the main parent plum tree, as well as my Grevillea (far left) were mutilated and cut back to barely nothing.

In the first video I sneeze at about 18 seconds so turn the volumn down as the bird does not make any noise.

It is seen eating the blossom nectar from the native plum tree at first.

Unidentified olive backed and aqua blue winged bird

It was very common to see these birds in Tenterfield but they were one one the species that left because of the drought. A few days ago I saw just one of these birds for the first time in a few years. They used to be commonly sighted at Jubilee Park on Manners Street. Well, that's where I used to see them the most.

These birds are a medium sized bird about the size of a 3/4 grown Satin Bowerbird and is similiar in shape (and stockiness) as well, so too is the length of it's legs. They look somewhat like a Satin Bowerbird in shape. They have an olive green coloured back with almost an aqua blue colour on their wings, I believe. They are a very distinctive looking bird.

It is not the Blue-faced Honeyeater, as the aqua blue colour is much more noticable when the bird is viewed side on or from behind, and/or is in flight. When the bird is not flying, about 1/4 of it's body is the aqua blue colour, and the colour is very distinctive and noticable. It is noticable like how the Crimson Rosella is mostly seen as a red and blue bird in flight.

Going from memory of the bird I saw the other day (and from previous sightings of it in the past) it has a white or light cream coloured underside. It's beak is similiar to that of an Australian Magpie's beak but probably a bit thinner.

I am hoping to get a photo of this bird if I can remember exactly where I saw this bird the other day. For the life of me I just cannot remember where I saw it now.

This bird species is not in the list of all the birds of Tenterfield that I have thus far collected. Nor is it listed in the website, which I use to identify a lot of the birds sighted in Tenterfield.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Juvenile female Australian King Parrot

Juvenile female Australian king Parrot.
Photo taken by Eleesha Hardy, © August 2012.
Here is a photo of a juvenile female Australian King Parrot taken by my daughter late last month. As you can see the female King Parrot does not have the yellow colouring around her eyes yet. The yellow circle around the eye is only visible in adult or mature King Parrots.

The head of this bird is a green colour but it is not a deep rich green as seen in adult female King Parrots. There is also no pale green colouring in the wing feathers.

The chest and throat colouring is nearly identical to that of the adult females but the colouring is a bit on the dull side.

Currently, the only way to identify this bird from the other female King Parrots in the area is the dark green patch of feathers around her right eye. I am not sure if this same patch of dark green feathers is on the left side of her face or not. It will be interesting to see if she loses the dark green feathers or whether they get darker or lighter the more she matures. Apart from that she looks identical to an female adult King Parrot.

Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans

Photo taken by Eleesha Hardy, © September 2012
Crimson Rosellas used to inhabit Tenterfield many years back but moved out about 4 - 6 years ago due to the drought. They have only begun to return to Tenterfield in the last 2 - 6 weeks despite the drought continuing here. Recently, one pair of Crimson Rosellas have so far been sighted in town, in the south-west area.

They are easily recognisable as the only bird that is almost entirely red and blue in colour, with blue cheeks, and black on their back and tail feathers.

These birds are between 32 - 36cms in length and mainly eat seeds from grasses, eucalypt trees and shrubs, as well as some insects.

There have been no recorded sightings of cross breeding with other rosella species in the Tenterfield area of these birds. Crimson Rosellas in other parts of the country have and are cross breeding with Eastern Rosellas and Pale-headed Rosellas. The pure bred Crimson Rosellas are what you will see in Tenterfield and they prefer to hang around their own kind but will tolerate Eastern Rosellas as well as Australian King Parrots if in close proximity to them.

How to tell the difference between a male and female juvenile Australian Magpie.

A juvenile Australian Magpie - gender unknown.
This must be one of the hardest things to do. To look at the juvenile Australian Magpies at first glance they all pretty much look the same. Each juvenile, like it's parents, have their own unique feather patterns and colouring, giving them sort of fingerprint like markings on how to identify them apart from each other visually. However, going on my own study of the local juvenile Magpies when they are out and about, it is much easier to tell them apart when they are one year old or very close to that age - in Spring of each year.

Firstly, with juveniles under the age of 12 months, I have noticed that the adult male Magpie tends to mostly feed the juvenile male, whereas the adult female tends to mostly feed the juvenile female - if any, that are born. That feeding pattern can vary quickly so it is not actually reliable for identifying their genders. The young juvenile male Australian Magpie tends to act more dominant than the juvenile female, and is more demanding on it's parents for food. It seems to be louder when it squarks for food and tends to push the female or other male out of the way just so it can get all the food. Often fights break out as to who gets the food when only 2 juvenile males are born.

However, when the juveniles are one year old you can easily identify their gender by their behaviour and attitude. At the age of one year old, when the adult Australian Magpies are nesting again and the adult male becomes aggressive toward it's previous offspring, juvenile males begin to become aggressive toward other bird species (specifically Magpie Larks) and any other juvenile males within the same family unit. Juvenile males begin to mimic exactly what adult males do but due to their inexperience tend to go overboard with their fighting and chasing of Magpie Larks. Juvenile females, however, are not as aggressive and are usually reluctant to get into a fight or chase any other bird.  They are curious about why their brother/s are fighting or chasing other birds but often turn to the adult female for guidance on what to do next and how to deal with the situation. Juvenile females will mimic the behaviour of their mother.

Juvenile male Australian Magpies are generally destructive around human habitats, often destroying potted plants, ripping apart polystyrene foam containers, standing on and often crushing potted plants, and generally getting into all kinds of mischief. These juvenile males appear to be very curious about their surroundings, and have often been seen playing with various objects, natural and manmade, like how human children play with toys. This behaviour only last for one Spring but it occurs every Spring with each passing generation and I believe is a precursor to it's adult mating and nesting behaviour.

It is roughly about this age (12 months) when juvenile females begin their mimicry singing, and is how I identify, mostly, the juvenile girls from the boys. Male Australian Magpies do not mimic other sounds they hear. By this time the 2 year old offsprings begin moving out of the family unit's territory and find mates of their own. They will not leave the territory until they have definitely found a mate to mate with and have established a territory of their own in which to raise a family within.

How long do Australian Magpies live for?

The exact age of how long Australian Magpies live for not is quite known but it is somewhere between 20 - 30 years. The male adult Australian Magpie that lives in my area is approximately 16 years old, being born roughly between 1996 and 1998. He has a distinctive pattern of feathers but I mostly identify him by his lopsided right wing that broke when he was a juvenile. He regularly tries to lift his right wing back up as it has a tendency to fall down. It does not affect his ability to fly though. Below are a few photos of the male Magpie, that was taken last month.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Unidentified black bird with white wing feathers sighted today

Just before I took some photos and a video of some Common Starlings when I was out walking today I saw two birds fly away from a power pole. They were both slightly larger than a Common Starling but as they flew I could see white wing feathers in a circle like shape underneath their wings. The white wing feathers were on the outside part of wings but still underneath the wing itself, and not in the centre of the wing like with a Pied Currawong. At first I thought these birds were White-winged Choughs but they were way too small. White-winged Choughs are as big as Ravens and Crows (about 48cms in length) and have a curved bill so I've researched/learnt.

I believe (?) I got a somewhat blurry photo of one of these birds, as one of them decided to fly back to the power pole.

I thought I was taking a photo of a Starling!

Photo of sunset on previous street before I took
this bird photo.
It would be nice to identify these birds I saw. Notice the white feathers on it's right wing. This was not caused by sunlight as it was close to sunset when this photo was taken and the whole area, including this bird, was in deep shade. The sunset made taking this photo even worse as a lot of sunlight was being blocked by smoke from a bushfire.

Within minutes of the photo of the bird being taken most of the Starlings flew away. I don't know if this other bird was still there as I wasn't really paying that much attention to it.

On the way home I took some other sunset photos as the sun was a deep orange colour and the smoke in front of the sun was a deep pinkish orange colour. Cameras do not do Tenterfield sunsets any justice. Tonight's sunset was gorgeous and breaktaking but smokey as heck. Below are a few more photos of the sunset I took about 8 minutes later.

Enlarging this bird photo doesn't make sense. I think this bird might just be a common starling. The white area of it's wing it too close to it's feet to be a wing, plus it is underneath the tail feathers. I'm just guessing here but the white area could be just something either caught in it's right foot, or it has something in it's right foot. Nesting material?

The two birds I saw first I will try to locate soon to see if they are still in the area of Scott and Miles Street intersection. A lot of Starlings hang around that area all the time.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

A Male House Sparrow next to the Post Office.
As normal when I go out anywhere I usually take my new digital camera with me. Today, Tenterfield was covered in smoke, by a bushfire. I don't know where the bushfire was but it did not stop the birds from being active.

When I was in Rouse Street posting a letter I heard a Sparrow in the tree next to the Post Office building. So I took these photos of the bird as it was singing.

House Sparrows are common small bird in Tenterfield but they are also an introduced species to Australia. These birds are normally seen in small flocks mostly hanging around buildings. They can be seen just about everywhere in Tenterfield including the main street.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Female Australian Magpie using fake injury on humans

I am not sure if that is the correct words for the title of this post but it will do. I have come across something very suspicious about the female Australian Magpie that visits my front lawn wanting food from me. A recent discovery tells me the bird is probably faking it and using the fake injury to make me feel sympathetic toward her so I would feed her or something to that nature.

It all started about 3 - 4 years ago when the male Australian Magpie had to find a new mate. His previous mate suddenly got a scare of her life by something unknown and invisible, and simply flew away never to be seen again. That happened on my front lawn which I witnessed. But as this occurred after their chicks had hatched, the male had to raise the juveniles alone and they had 2 chicks to feed.

Anyway, it was a week after the male got a new mate (the following Spring) when she suddenly developed a curled up right foot. Her foot was fine before then and she walked normally. Ever since then I had always seen her limping on her right foot as it curled up as she walked and ran along the ground. Here is a picture of her:

The female Australian Magpie is the bird to the left.
This photo was taken on the 20th August 2012. I don't really have any earlier photos of her with her right foot curled up - that is noticeable anyway. She would walk like this all the time in my presence. She has been doing this for about 3 years now.

In between the time of 20th August and when I took this next photo I saw her in a paddock near the creek. She was near the fence line of my neighbour's property, well within the range of identifying her visually as I walked passed her. Normally I talk to the Magpies as I walk into town to let them know it is just me. But when she just stood there looking at me her right foot was not curled up at all. Actually both her feet were stretched out into the normal position. She did not seem anxious or nervous about my presence at all and seemed relaxed to just stand there without moving. But the moment I opened my mouth and began talking to her suddenly her behaviour changed. She suddenly curled up her right foot, turned around and began limping as fast as she could run to get away from me. After about 10 feet she stopped running and just stood there with her right foot curled up just looking at me.

A lot of thoughts went through my head at this point - the main one was "She's faking her injury!" But why would this female Magpie do such a thing just to gain my sympathy? Did it have anything to do with the fact that I had already formed a bond with her male mate? Or did it have a much deeper meaning? After all the male's previous female mate formed a really close bond with me, and I could actually hand feed her, but when she suddenly disappeared and was never seen again, perhaps the male Magpie didn't want that to happen again so he told his new mate to not get close to me nor properly trust me. That does seem to be happening here and she does not get physically close to me. But she does respond to me calling out to her even though she is always weary around me.

Photo taken 12th August 2012 - CAUGHT IN THE ACT!
To this next photo.... I was quite surprised when my brother, Daniel, took this photo of the female Magpie on my front lawn attempting to eat a chicken drumstrick. She has her left foot curled up, yet her right foot is wrapped around the chicken bone. This photo is proof that she is faking her injury.

However, the female Magpie was curling up her left foot in the presence of my brother, Daniel, not me.  Why suddenly change which foot is injured in the presence of another human who is also familiar with this bird?

Something is going on in this female Magpie's head - but what is the question? 

I have, momentarily, read somewhere on the internet that the curling up of a foot is an actual disease within the Australian Magpie population. If this is an actual disease and this female Magpie has the disease then why are her offspring not affected by it? Why are their feet normal and healthy? Why does the female Magpie only display this behaviour in the immediate presence of humans and not when no humans aren't around? The adult male Magpie does not display this behaviour at all. In my opinion this curling of the feet behaviour is a psychological behaviour rather than an illness or disease. It also may be a submissive female adult behaviour. The female Magpie may consider me to be the alpha female considering I have sort of bonded with her mate? Who knows really.

Whatever is going on with this female Australian Magpie her behaviour is not normal for a Magpie. Her behaviour around me may be the clue - that she is always weary of me and does not fully trust me. Or maybe it is not me she does not trust but something else that she can see but I cannot and she fears it? Perhaps she fears she will be chased off by unseen forces like what happened to the male Magpie's last mate?

There is something else too. I have noticed that in some cases where Australian Magpies have sort of become domesticated (got used to being close to humans and have somewhat bonded with them) that they exhibit this curled up foot behaviour. I have no idea what that means as I am not able to read the minds of Magpies or tell if these birds are stressed out or not. All I know is that it means something!

Juvenile male Australian King Parrot

Whilst taking happy snaps of the King Parrots today, I took this quick photo of what I first thought was a female. Well, it's actually a juvenile male. Only the male King Parrots have the pale green on their wings.

Looking at this bird reminds me of a cross between a male and a female King Parrot. The bird has a half green and half red head and red belly, green back and wings. It also has the pale green markings on it's wings. Adult males have entirely red heads. The adult females have entirely green heads.

The eye colouring of the juvenile male is almost the same as the adults however it does not have the yellow colouring around the eye like the adults have. The beak colouring is also the same as the male and female adult birds.

The distinctive green colouring around the juvenile male's chest and head is what looks out of place but makes this bird look so unique. it was spotted in a small family group with an adult male King Parrot and possibly a female King Parrot or another juvenile plus 3 or 4 other King Parrots. I didn't really pay that much attention to the other birds to identify their actual genders.

How old this young male is I do not know but it was very close to fully grown, if not fully grown - length-wise. Still much more research to do on this species.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The female Red Wattlebird is back

This bird I can tell is the female by the slightly visible
yellow colouring of feathers between it's legs and a lack of
the same colouring on it's chest.
Today a Red Wattlebird was sighted and I took this photo. At first I thought it was the male but after viewing the photo on my pc it turned out to be the female. I first saw the female fly down for some bread at my neighbour, Carol's, place. The bird stayed for about a minute eating several pieces of bread before being approached by Carol's dog so the bird flew into a tree.

Moments later 2 Red Wattlebirds flew out of the tree and headed in a west north-west direction. I did not see the second Red Wattlebird until the first one flew off. The second bird (the male) did not come down for some bread at all when the female was on the ground.

With the presence of both birds in my neighbour's garden this time of the year can mean many things really. It could mean their eggs hatched and the male is accompanying the female while she alone feeds. It could also mean that the eggs did not hatch or, it could mean the female is mating with another male. Either way the female looked hungry from egg sitting.

Chaos with nesting sites

The first branch that came down on 12 August 2012
About a week and a half ago my neighbour, Carol, had a Weeping Willow (tree) branch come down in her garden. That was the second branch from the same tree within a month. The recent branch falling down resulted in the near demolition of the Superb Fairy-Wren's nest in her backyard. The large main branches missed the bush completely. Only the small pencil thickness branches landed across the bush. The tree branch didn't do any major damage to any garden plants but it did restrict the Superb Fairy-Wrens from entering the bush where their nest was.

The entire Weeping Willow tree is being cut down and removed today and soon will be replaced by another tree. It is being removed because the tree has been affected by borers and all the main branches are rotten on the inside.

As a result the Superb Fairy-Wrens abandoned the bush they were nesting in and took over (probably by force) the nesting sites of the Red-browed Finches. I spotted the Superb Fairy-Wrens flying from Carol's Wattle tree to their new nesting site. They may have been collecting nesting material from the Wattle tree or just feeding their nesting partners on the nest. Either way, the birds were flying from the Wattle tree to the new nest area rather quickly and consistently.

Here are some photos of these birds in the immediate area of the Wattle tree which were taken on the 31 August 2012.

The male Superb Fairy-Wren
One of the female Superb Fairy-Wrens

There were a few days where I did not see the Red-browed Finches at all in Carol's garden but late yesterday afternoon I spotted them down by the creek. It appears they have moved into a small bush near their old nesting site. Their new nesting site is not as green as the old one, nor as big or well protected from predators but I am glad to see that they are still in the area.

Breeding information of the Red Wattlebird

The "unidentified Red Wattlebird" mentioned in this blog was last seen on the 14th August 2012 collecting nesting material (a long strand of plastic-like material) from my grey rug on my clothes line. It's daily visits to my neighbour, Carol's, garden ceased from that moment onward, with only one exception.

Going on the fact that the other Red Wattlebird sighted here is obviously a male, the "unknown Red Wattlebird" must therefore be a female. Information about which gender sits on the eggs see here states that often the female will sit on the eggs alone. This may be the case for the Red Wattlebirds in this area but I am just guessing because the female has only been seen once since 14th August. The male has been sighted more often but his visits are less frequent and no longer on a daily basis. Where their nest  is is anyone's guess as it is not in the immediate area of where I live.

Finding out more information about their breeding cycle is difficult as this pair of Red Wattlebirds do not stay in the immediate area to breed or nest. As the female has less yellow colouring (if any at all) on her belly (I'm still trying to get close up photographs of her especially from underneath her), it is hard to tell if their eggs will even hatch. But going on the activity of the male alone I would say that the eggs did indeed hatch, as he seems more relaxed than the previous 2 weeks. He seems happy but still nervous around other birds when it comes to getting food. Prior to the breeding season the male would happily wait for food to be thrown in his direction, despite the presence of Noisy Miners, and was always quick to get the food. Yesterday, Noisy Miners took the food as he tried to get it, and instead of waiting around he simply flew off and didn't come back down for a second chance at getting the food. The male also does not stay for very long. Normally he would sit on a nearby tree branch, in the tree where Carol's bird feeder is, or on top of the clothes line. He rarely does that now during the breeding season.

The genetic diversity for breeding may be severely reduced as I have not yet seen or heard any other Red Wattlebirds in other areas of Tenterfield when walking about town. I'm sure there are more Red Wattlebirds somewhere in Tenterfield (or nearby) but I have just yet to see or hear any of them. I hope there are more anyway.

On this website it states that the (eggs) incubation period is 14 - 16 days and and the young birds fledge at about 15 - 18 days. So, in theory, anywhere from the 17th September onwards I should start seeing juvenile Red Wattlebirds with their parents in the area again. It is now a waiting game!
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