Friday, December 21, 2012

Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides

I went outside last night around 11:45PM and all I heard was this strange noise coming from a low branch in one of my neighbour, Carol's, gum trees. At first I thought it was some sort of owl, as it was around the same time of night that one would normally hear an owl here. But I couldn't figure out what was making the sound. I knew it wasn't a Masked Owl nor a Powerful Owl. I ended up by walking over to the gum tree and was about 10 feet underneath the bird that was calling out. The bird called out for about 20 minutes before it disappeared. It was not anywhere to be seen this morning in any of the trees.

After taking a few videos from a distance I finally got a clear recording of the bird's call which I'm adding below. If you can't hear anything then turn your speakers up to 100%. The bird call can be heard about half way through the recording.

This is not the normal sound one would hear from a Tawny Frogmouth. Whether the bird was a male or female I do not know. I know nothing about Tawny Frogmouths except what they look like and the fact they are nocturnal. Tawny Frogmouths disappeared from Tenterfield a few years back and the fact that this bird flew away 20 minutes later indicates that it appears to be doing the exact same thing as the Masked Owl that travels through Tenterfield about 2-3 times a year. It is nice to see that Tawny Frogmouths are still in the area albeit scattered. What caused them to disappear from the area is a mystery.

This morning I done a bit of research on Tawny Frogmouths, and their voice is similiar to what I recorded on my digital camera. But the sound/call I recorded and heard is not the same as what I found for Tawny Frogmouths on the Internet. I know all birds make different sounds especially during the breeding season, so I'm taking a stab in the dark here and calling this bird a Tawny Frogmouth until proven otherwise.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rufous Songlark information

I am not entirely convinced that the birds I have observed in the immediate area are indeed Rufous Songlarks. THEY MIGHT BE THOUGH AND STARTING TO THINK THEY ARE RUFOUS SONGLARKS. I have identified these birds entirely by their song alone. See here for the original recording which I identified these birds from. From behind and in flight these birds look like a female House Sparrow. But a side on and front on view, the ones I have seen up close anyway, look different to the image on the birdsinbackyards website. They have a more rusty orange-brown chest or side colouring but have the typical House Sparrow coloured wings.

Currently they are about the size of a White-naped Honeyeater. They all appear to be the same size right now, which tells me they are juveniles and are still growing, and more than likely they recently fledged and left their parents' company. Yesterday I saw 4 of them chasing each other around the bushes.

These little birds can easily be mistaken for House Sparrows until they open their mouths and sing. They eat insects from just about every bush and tree in the area, and wherever insects may be hiding elsewhere. I have seen an individual come underneath Carol's back verandah and do a sweep of the underside of the roof for spiders and other insects. It's funny to watch as it looks like the bird is trapped and trying to escape through an impenetrable roof.

There are 2 plants in which these birds frequent the most, Carol's Hydrangeas and her butterfly bush. The butterfly bush is entered from an open space at the bottom and then the bird/s move their way up the stems to the outermost leaves in search of insects. Once the bird/s reach the outermost leaves they fly out of the bush into a taller bush or tree. The butterfly bush is the most visited plant in Carol's garden by these birds. The Rufous Songlarks, if undisturbed, will spend up to 15 minutes each visit feeding on insects in the butterfly bush. The Hydrangeas, which are currently in flower, are visited by these birds by them landing close to a clump of flowers, and then the insects are just picked off the flowers or bush itself. There are obviously not many insects on the Hydrangeas as the Rufous Songlarks fly away after a few moments.

In the last week to week and a half their songs have changed - or should I say become very varied. They occasionally make the typical call of the Rufous Songlark but now that call mostly occurs in the mornings and mid to late afternoon. During the rest of the day they make a whole host of different sounds which I am attempting to record and convert to mp3 files. These other calls are not the same as their typical call, and if you listen carefully to one of the calls, they actually sound like a Superb Fairy Wren calling out.

I'm still trying to get photos of these birds but in time these birds are becoming less scared of humans and I am finding they are coming to me. They are very curious little birds.

Red-rumped Parrots observed information

These gorgeous birds are a regular visitor to my neighbour, Carol's, garden. They spend at least 2 hours each morning eating grass seed on her back lawn from about 9 o'clock onwards. They fly into her garden over the west side gum trees as a flock and then separate into pairs or individuals and begin eating. If disturbed they will generally fly away as a flock into the nearest trees but scatter as a flock rather than all going to the same tree. Some will go this way, the others will fly another way.

When on the ground eating grass seed they avoid areas on the ground that are infested with ants, or even just have a few ants. Ants, even the small ones here, tend to bite anything that touches the ground. Their bites hurt as I've been bitten by ants numerous times just walking barefoot on the grass.

The Red-rumped Parrots generally do not eat from Carol's bird feeder as it usually has a few ants over the feeder. Those ants bite harder than the ants on the ground. However, I have noticed the Red-rumped Parrots spend time in the Silk Tree's top canopy branches (the bird feeder is attached to one of it's branches) especially before they change their feeding location. The Silk Tree is currently in flower which I believe may be attracting the birds in the first place. The Silk Tree is not in the immediate area of their grass seed feeding ground, and is about 10-15 metres away. The birds seem to flutter about in the Silk Tree, hopping from one branch to another before they all fly away.

The Red-rumped Parrots have not been observed eating anything else. However, I did count 15 of these birds when I first spotted them about a week ago and their numbers were about the same today. Their numbers have reduced over the course of a week due to some of the birds not coming into Carol's garden every day. Also, for the passed 3-4 days the outside temperature has been exceptionally high and very humid. This species travels in a flock with at least 2 adult males, an unknown number of adult females and juveniles of between newly fledged/6 months old to about 2 years of age (valid for only this flock). Most of this flock are juveniles of various ages which might actually explain why the parrots are gorging themselves on grass seed, to help the juveniles grow and be strong and healthy.

Generally, Red-rumped Parrots are rarely seen in a flock here in Tenterfield. You'd normally only seen them flying around in pairs, if at all. So it is safe to say that they only flock together when their offspring are old enough to fly around the place in a group - when the juveniles are strong enough to do so - and the chances of being eaten by a predator are reduced when in a flock but also it helps reduce the numbers of individuals being eaten by their "scattering" behaviour.

Click here for the recent Red-rumped Parrot photos of the flock.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2 White-faced Heron chicks sighted yesterday

I had a job to do yesterday and that was to water the newly planted trees along the edge of the Tenterfield Creek adjacent to my neighbour Carol's property. I also placed handmade tree guards around the seedlings. I found a cheap way of making tree guards by cutting up all variety of boxes that normally get thrown in the bin. The type of boxes I'm using are from cereal; frozen dinners; icy poles; biscuits - including the "Shapes biscuits" boxes; and basically any food stuffs that comes in a box. I cut the ends off the boxes and then fold the box in half by placing the 2 sides together and create a new fold along either side, creating a six-sided shaped box with holes at either end. For holding the things around the trees I use bamboo sticks - actually I broke them in half to make 2 out of one stick. But as I don't have any bamboo sticks left I'll be using just normal tree branch sticks in the future. Use whatever you can find already laying around, that's what I reckon!

So, as Carol, Eleesha and I were down by the creek, and I was collecting the water from the creek itself to water the young tree seedlings, I noticed in the area of one of the tree seedlings there was high grass covered in bird poop. I'm talking about a 6-8 foot square area of poop covering the long grass. So I looked up and right above that area was the Heron's nest. The mother Heron never poops that much nor in that area of the outer branches beside the nest. Upon closer inspection of the branches surrounding the nest, and by looking at the nest I saw 2 herons. At first I was excited thinking the mum and a chick were up there. Next thing one of the Herons moved from an outer branch to the nest. The other Heron was already in the nest. Both Herons then began squarking a bit in the low voice that they have and after realizing that I wasn't their mother they went quiet but nudged each other. The young Herons were a light brown to tan colour and were about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of their mum.

Yesterday, around sunset, the Heron mother was sighted flying low over my neighbour Carol's back yard and then around her shed down toward the creek where her babies are in the nest. It actually looked like she was finding food and being sneaky about it in Carol's back yard for her chicks. More specifically it looked like the Heron mum had come from somewhere close to Carol's back door as she took off. When fist sighted she was very low to the ground, below the roof line, and flew from the back door area of Carol's backyard. She was sighted flying away from Carol's house as Carol, my daughter and I were walking back up to Carol's house through the back gate.

What do the White-faced Herons eat around here is a really interesting question and is open for a lot of guess work really. It says on just about every bird website that I've come across that these birds eat fish, insects and amphibians. The variety of non-bird and non-mammal/marsupial/monotreme wildlife in the immediate area are your normal ground insect species; your aquatic insect species such as dragonflies; water beetles; etc; frogs; water dragon; and skinks and the odd snake (Red-bellied Black and a type of Brown Snake (King Brown or Eastern Brown). Before the 2011 flood there were fish in the immediate are but now there are none. There were also a type of yabby in the creek as well but there numbers declined because of the 2011 flood. The yabbies and fish declined for two reasons - the actual flood killed 99% of the population; and 2 the aftermath of the flood changed the flow of the creek, and in sections of the creek where the water flowed freely there is now sand and sand rubble built up creating sand banks and islands in the creek itself.

Here is a list of critter that appear to have gone missing from the immediate area, that are more than likely have been gobbled up by the mother Heron:

1. The birds that croak like a frog - these may actually be skinks.
2. All the frogs in the Tenterfield Creek adjacent to the edge of Carol's property.
3. All the baby skinks that I have sighted around Carol's garden in the passed few months.
4. No baby Eastern Water Dragons have been sighted at all even though there are 3 adults in the immediate area.
5. There has been a massive decline of large beetles in the immediate area - the ones that are all brown in colour, and the ones known as Christmas Beetles. I've only seen one Christmas Beetle all Summer.

The White-faced Heron is also supposed to eat fish, but as far as I can tell there are no fish in the immediate area of Carol's property and/or within 200 metres of the Heron's nest. So, the question is what other foods are the Herons eating that is enough to feed two growing chicks and the mum? Dog food is not being ruled out here, as strange as it seems, and nor is large skinks either. You see, these birds are quite large and obviously need more food to sustain themselves than Australian Magpies.

In the past before the mother Heron mated she was sighted eating insects from just below the ground's surface. This is the same sort of food that Australian Magpies eat which is in abundance here at the moment due to the rainfall increasing since the beginning of October.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

There are no more species in Tenterfield

I've finally come to the end of the line here and, as far as I can recall, there are no more bird species that inhabit Tenterfield. I may have forgotten one or two species mostly because they are unidentifable and are lone individuals of their species that inhabit Tenterfield.

With most of the species already gone due to the drought there is nothing more to write about. This blog may become inactive for a while until I can find something to write about. I will try to add mp3 audio files to the bird calls pages in the meantime.

I am still waiting for the swifts/wood/swallows to come back to Tenterfield. I don't know their exact species. They come in large numbers well, probably 100 individuals, and they make nests at the back of Bi-Lo supermarket. It is 1st December and still no sign of them. They fly around the Bi-Lo complex catching insects that are attracted to the lights, and I've only seen them feed as a flock on sunset. It's an awesome experience trying to walk through a flock of these birds as they collect insects for their young. They often fly at 3 feet above the ground to higher than the roof top as a flock. They stay until their young ones are old enough to fly long distances then together they all fly away as a flock never to be seen again until the next summer. They've been coming here for years to breed.

But anyway, birds really don't do much of anything that is interesting. They wake up, eat, rest, eat some more, poop, socialize, breed, play, and sleep. That's it really.The brreding season for all the birds that breed in Spring is over. All the young birds have left the nest and are elsewhere with their parents. Once the birds have left the nest the family flies off and searches all of Tenterfield for food. Where they go to I do not know. What they eat, I don't have a clue unless I stumbled across them when I am in town. Breeding occurs for just a short period of time and most of it is done in secrecy by the birds themselves. Some species, like the Eastern Rosella and Torresian Crow, you can only guess when the young birds have fledged. There is no warning signs at all. One day they're feeding their young in the nest, next day the nest is empty and it has been abandoned. And they do not return to the nest or even the same tree to roost afterward either. Their roosting sites is anyone's guess as well.

I'll post something as soon as I have something new to post.
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