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.

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