Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is there a point to all of this?

Sometimes I just want to

It is hard to be enthusiastic about photographing and filming birds in this town when there is so much destruction happening here. You don't really see it happening every day but over time you do. It is what people don't do that makes me wonder if people here care about anything other than themselves.

The real problem in Tenterfield is a lot of trees and bushes are removed every year but it doesn't look like the plants are being replaced by new ones. Tenterfield is becoming drier and hotter as a result. The birdlife just can't adapt to what humans do to plants so they are forced to move out of the area.

Birds are incapable of becoming residents as they have very little plants to nest, roost or feed from and that's within an area of 24 squared kilometres. What little plants are available here are only good for a small number of birds. Less than 40% of those plants are perfect for small nesting birds.

Now the strange thing is any bird species that is in the area and is looking for a mate usually finds a mate nearby. There seems to be no problems with young birds finding mates. The territories of birds seems not to be a problem either. There's a lot of bush surrounding Tenterfield and most of it is nothing but trees. Nesting sites seem to be a problem with some species but generally birds adapt and breed anyway with what vegetation is available.

Protection from storms, especially hail, is definitely a problem here for birds. One hail storm producing up to 7cm hailstones can kill hundreds of small birds in just 20 minutes. With all the open space and people mowing vast amounts of grass you'd think they'd plant a few trees and bushes so they have less to mow. But no... people just continue to mow their paddocks and grass to keep it neat and tidy. All that people care about in this town is the visual appeal of mowed grass!!!

If people do buy native plants to put in their garden they don't, generally, seem to realize that it takes new native seedlings up to 7 years to produce their first lot of flowers. Generally 7 years is the standard amount of time one has to wait. That is a long time for a bird to wait for a native plant to flower. The bird could be dead by then.

The main thing I'm whinging about is if the observed information I provide about all these species is of any benefit to anyone out there? With some species I can provide an unending source of information as those species are residents. The majority of species listed on this site are species that either live here temporarily or are just passing through. Any information gained about these particular species is just an added bonus. In Tenterfield the birds have it tougher than normal. Any given moment a human can come along and uproot their food supply, destroy a bush or tree with a bird's nest in it with no consideration at all for the birds, or cut down a tree that was producing shade. Any human activity is a big threat to the bird life in this town yet no-one cares less or does anything to protect what little habitat there is left in the area.

Brown Goshawk sighting

Having the opportunity to film any kind of Raptor or Owl in the area is "You have to be in the right place at the right time to do so". This opportunity arose and I grabbed it with what tools I had in my possession at the time. Brown Goshawk sightings in Tenterfield is rare, rarer than sighting a Tawny Frogmouth which is pretty rare these days. Apparently Brown Goshawks are secretive birds but there was nothing secretive about this sighting. The poor bird was under attack by Pied Currawongs. Let me explain what happened.

On the 12th of January 2013 a bird landed in one of the gum trees in my neighbour Carol's side garden. At first all I heard and saw was just a commotion of activity of birds in the trees. Pied Currawongs were flying everywhere in and out of the trees. They all seemed to be chasing each other. That was my first impression. But when the Pied Currawongs began chasing a bird out of the tree I knew something was up. Pied Currawongs don't usually chase anything, especially not any local species. They are quite timid and relaxed birds. But the Pied Currawongs were going mental in the trees.

I started filming the birds and saw a larger bird than a Pied Currawong in the tree. It made a sound I'd heard before and instantly knew it was a raptor of some sort. The Currawongs were swooping it and getting really close to it. The raptor tried mostly to ignore it's attackers but spent a great deal of time chasing after the Pied Currawongs to get them to leave it alone.

Studying the videos I took of the whole incident it seems there may have been 2 Brown Goshawks in the trees. I can't be certain though. I done some research on it's call and learnt it was a Brown Goshawk.

This attack went on for quite some time before and after I stop filming it. I noticed that the House Sparrows in the area panicked when the Brown Goshawk was around and ended up over at my place, hiding in the tree by my bedroom window. This happened after I finished filming the attack by the Pied Currawongs. The Sparrows sounded nervous and panicky. Then they went quiet after a while, hoping not to be heard.

Brown Goshawks used to frequent Tenterfield a lot but now they rarely come to this part of the woods. I had never seen one in a tree before. I always used to see them on wing in the air. One of their main food sources is House Sparrows.

It must be really hard for raptors to be constantly chased and attacked by other birds. The Brown Goshawk obviously just wanted to rest for a while but whilst in those trees it barely got any rest at all.

The Brown Goshawk was in the area for about 4-5 days prior to me filming them. After filming it was gone about 24-48 hours later, never to be seen or heard from again.

Below are the 2 videos I recorded of the Brown Goshawk. I have a digital camera that refuses to zoom.




I filmed this raptor because I love the sounds they make. It reminds me of when I was living in South Australia where there were plenty of raptors. My experiences with wild raptors have been up close and personal, for they ventured close to me back then. Now they don't, and filming this raptor was something I didn't want to miss.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis

Way back on the 22nd December 2012 I was bored and decided to whistle to the birds just to see what would happen. Now, in the area a Bar-shouldered Dove (I've only just identified this bird call as that of the above mentioned Dove) had moved in just a day or three beforehand. There was only one bird calling out therefore I assumed only one individual was in the area. I heard no more than one bird of this species whilst it was here. It made the odd call which made me alert to it's presence. When it called out it only done so 3-4 times then went quiet. I didn't hear the bird again for several or more hours later. I haven't hear this bird in Tenterfield anymore but in the past I have heard it here often.

The Bar-shouldered Dove started hanging around the Crested Pigeons. I heard them both calling out from the same tree several times prior to recording this video. They were all together when this video was recorded I believe - I just can't remember precisely right now.

Anyway, I went outside and decided to start recording a video as there was nothing else to do. There was no "different bird activity" happening at the time and nothing new to take photos of. I was bored out of my brain so I just started whistling. Deciding I would whistle to the birds was an act and idea of spontaneity.

I am not a good whistler. I can't whistle properly and I've never learnt to whistle properly so I apologize for my terrible and loud whistling in this video in advance. I held the camera too close to my face.

Moments before I started whistling the Bar-shouldered Dove was quiet. Actually I hadn't heard it call out for 1/2 a day. I had no idea if it was even in the area still. To my surprise the Bar-shouldered Dove responded to my very first whistle and kept responding by calling after I whistled again, and again, and again, etc. I couldn't believe my ears that this bird was calling back to me over and over and over again. I wasn't even whistling the same note as it was yet it still responded to me.

Below is the trimmed video (from the original) that just has this bird calling back to me. At the end of the video I changed the note I was whistling and the bird stopped calling back to me. Go to this video (on my Youtube channel) to find out what bird calls are heard next. (There's 2 videos to my whistling spontaneity.)


I never saw the bird in irder to get a photo of it, and I could not see it when I went looking for it in the tree. The Bar-shouldered Dove left Tenterfield several days after this video was taken and I haven't heard it since. It was last located by itself for at least a day in a large gum tree near the edge of another neighbour's paddock before it disappeared.

Bar-shouldered Doves left Tenterfield some time ago. This particular individual was passing through town as there were no others of his kind in Tenterfield.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Think before you chop plants down

GIVE THE LITTLE BIRDS A CHANCE TO BREED PEOPLE!!!! THINK BEFORE YOU ACT.


The Flats where I live are under new management (new owners) and we (the renters) were told all the plants in the garden (front and back) are to be removed and planted out with Grevilleas along the boundary line within the next 3 months. The new owners care about, or so they say, about the birdlife.

Well, yesterday turned out to be the day when everything was chopped down. No-one had a say about any of it. Everything was chopped down except 4 tiny Grevilleas and 2 tiny Photineas and a few smaller plants only 4 of which were fully mature plants. All the other plants chopped down were mature or semi-mature shrubs/trees. Earlier in the morning I was filming a small bird that kept going into one of the Jasmine? bushes and another bush and I had been curious as to why it was also going into the plum tree in the middle of the lawn between Flat 2 and 3 for several weeks now. The plum tree had been mutilated so much it was now a bush not a tree.

All the birds in the area, the small ones anyway, had finished breeding, and this was a new species of bird in the area. I didn't understand what this particular bird was doing. This morning I checked the videos I had recorded yesterday and I learnt, to my horror, the bird was actually nesting and in fact had 2 to possibly 3 nesting sites in the front garden - meaning 2-3 separate nests.

Well, so much for the new owners caring about the birdlife. The nesting sites were chopped down within a matter of minutes. I just hope there were only eggs in the nests and not chicks but I suspect that the adult bird may have been feeding chicks, going on passed video recordings of nesting behaviour of another small species. The adult bird remained in the Pine tree across the road as it watched helplessly in horror as it's nesting sites and possibly it's children were killed and destroyed by a man wielding a chainsaw and Roundup poison.

Today there is no sign of the adult bird/s and they have left the area. If they plan on starting again I have no idea where they would find new nesting sites with such dense foliage as was found in the front garden. I've seen the type of plants in the area, and there are no dense foliage plants within at least 1km of where I live, especially in flower right now.



LISTEN UP PEOPLE: If you plan on cutting anything down make sure no bird is nesting in the plant first. If the plant has to be removed, and there is a bird nesting in it, WAIT FOR THE BIRD TO FINISH NESTING IN IT FIRST. Think before you act.

Let's say you don't know if a bird is nesting in a bush or tree that you want to cut down. Firstly look at the plant you want to cut down. What type of plant is it - does it have dense foliage or thin foliage? Thin foliage means you can see individual branches and the branches are not bunched together to form a dense layer for anything to hide in. If this is the case it is safe to remove the plant knowing nothing will nest in it.

However, with a plant (shrub) that has dense foliage you need to study the plant and what birds goes to it before you remove it. You must watch and listen to any birds going to the plant for about 2 weeks prior to removing the plant. You should notice, if a bird is nesting in it, that the same type of bird (and generally they call out when hanging around a nest or potential nesting site) will visit the bush quite a few times during the day, especially in the morning.

If nesting in the bush/plant the bird will disappear into the bush/plant and not come out for about 5-15 seconds. It may just look like the bird is feeding from the bush, if the bush is in flower at the time. But looks are deceiving.

If this is the case with any bird going into the bush DO NOT CUT THE BUSH DOWN UNTIL ALL BIRDS HAVE COMPLETELY ABANDONED THE BUSH, which will be several weeks after first seeing them going into the bush.

Don't be hasty in chopping any plants down until you know for certain there are no birds nesting in it or about to nest in it. To do so will cause birds to grieve and never return to your garden.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I doubt this is a Noisy Friarbird

Way back on the 21st December 2012 at 10:28AM I heard a very strange noise. It was the noise of a Noisy Friarbird, so I've learnt through researching this bird's call. But thinking about this bird, whatever it was, was here just 3 days after the 45cm Pied Butcherbird arrived in the area. In all my time I have never heard this type of bird call before, and have not heard it since. It does sound somewhat remotely similiar to some of the sounds the Pied Currawongs make though.

The bird in the video was about the size of the 45cm Pied Butcherbird, and may have actually been the Pied Butcherbird for several reasons.

  1. I have never seen nor heard a Noisy Friarbird in Tenterfield and I've been here since 1995.
  2. The juvenile Pied Butcherbird, being new to the area and lost, made lots of different calls during the first month it was here. It appeared it be distressed and frightened and was alone dispite it's parent looking for it.
  3. The Pied Butcherbird juvenile is able to mimic the sounds of an Eastern Koel and other bird species quite accurately even at a very young age.
  4. This bird was being attacked by smaller birds which is what happened to the Pied Butcherbird when it arrived. It seems only the larger birds are attacked by smaller birds. Normal sized Pied Butcherbirds are not attacked by small birds in the area. I haven't seen it occur anyway.
  5. During the first few weeks of the Pied Butcherbird being here it flew frantically across Tenterfield making all kinds of noises. It was the most distinctive and vocal bird in the area at the time.
  6. If this bird were indeed a Noisy Friarbird it would have at least stayed in the area overnight before moving on. It's call would have been heard more often and I may have actually seen the bird.
  7. This bird was behaving like it was lost and frightened rather than just passing through town.


I honestly believe that this is the distress call of the Pied Butcherbird juvenile. I remember listening to this bird for several hours straight and felt totally sad that it was lost and in distress. I heard it call out like this for most of that day, relentlessly calling out in hope to be heard. I hoped that it's parents would hear it calling out but they never did. It's plight to be heard by it's parents seemed futile but it hung around the area. This bird was relentless in everything it done.

It wasn't until about week 3 that I believe the bird gave up and decided it would never see it's parents again and was homeless. So it began to settle down and got on with more important things in it's life. Those 3 weeks must've been torture for the bird as no other bird gave it peace nor comfort. No bird adopted it either. And no bird stopped chasing and attacking it when it was distressed. But the last time I saw this bird it wasn't being attacked by anything. Birds left it alone.

Why the bird had been separated from it's parents is anyone's guess really. Perhaps a raptor chased it but couldn't catch it and the bird kept flying as it was so scared until it found itself lost in Tenterfield? All I know it is not a bird from Tenterfield as there are no extremely large Pied Butcherbirds here.

I cannot help but think that if this bird becomes a parent, which it will in time, it will be very protective of it's chick/s. For some reason I think it will not let it's chicks go through what it went through. But I'm just guessing here, as I really don't know how birds react in this situation with their own chicks.

Hey, who's eaten all the frogs?

Slowly the frogs in the Tenterfield Creek began to stop croaking day after day until finally none could be heard within the creek itself. That was about a week ago. Their silence (or absence) seems to be a common occurrance in the area. With the increase of large water birds in the area, although only temporarily, maybe the frogs decided it was safer to leave the creek altogether than risk being eaten by these water birds?

Frogs can usually be heard any time of the day or night in the creek. That was until recently but now the creek is empty of frogs. I am actually in two minds over whether the frogs have been eaten or not, as I'm starting to think that although some of them may have been eaten, I also think frogs just moved out of the creek either to breed or to go somewhere safer during their non-breeding season. Come to think of it, it is more common to hear frogs along the side of the road than it is to hear them in the creek. That's over a 12 month period by the way.

Generally frog-eating birds do not hang around the sides of the road away from the creek. It is even rare to see these type of birds close to human houses. But frogs hanging around people's gardens is common.

Any surviving frogs tend to move away from the creek - to puddles on the side of the road or even move into people's gardens. For example, the closest frog to the creek in my area is at the corner of Francis and Douglas Streets, a whole 3/4 of a block away from the creek (more than 100 metres). There are more frogs on Francis Street, north side of Douglas Street, but they are about 1/3 the distance closer to the Tenterfield Creek.

Going further away from the Tenterfield Creek, between Francis and Rouse Streets, along Clive Street, there are several different species of frogs on the edge of the road at the moment. The area is grassed and it dips down to form a ditch on the side of the road and they are concentrated around and near water culvets.

Frogs calling out along Clive Street. When the frogs go quiet
all you hear is a cricket.

Unidentified nocturnal bird in creek after dark

It was well after all the birds had gone to sleep but before it was completely dark outside when I was walking home from the service station and walking across the Douglas Street bridge. I looked down at the creek but couldn't make out any details of anything on the ground near the creek. I sort of saw the creek's water which was pitch black in colour. Moments later in the area I was looking at a bird startled and it took off like a rocket under the bridge. It made no sound except for the noise it's wings made on the water as it flapped. It was approximately the size of a duck going on an approximate wing span comparison of ducks being startled on the water in that area.

When this bird took off it did not fly at all and it was about 5 feet into the water from the water's edge. It was retreating like it was pretending it couldn't fly but could still flap it's wings and ran through the water whilst flapping them. It flapped it's wings frantically to move itself across the water to safety. It may have actually ran across the water's surface whilst flapping it's wings. The bird was by itself as far as I could tell. I have, only on rare ocassions in the past, seen this bird night time behaviour before. Only now am I trying to identify the species.

When an Australian Wood Duck is startled during the day they tend to fly away. They can either fly a short or long distance away when startled and have been known to fly at night when disturbed. I do know that sometimes ducks can be heard during the night time but never so early as to just after going to sleep for the night. As this bird was alone I doubt it was a Wood Duck.

I very much doubt it was the White-faced Heron female either as I have yet to hear her during the night time. She is always up early in the morning. As far as I know White-faced Herons are not nocturnal.

Ruling out Australian Wood Ducks and the White-faced Heron leaves only Masked Lapwings and Pacific Black Ducks. It was not a Masked Lapwing as they were all up on Francis Street at the time. This time of the year all the Masked Lapwings flock together as they are not breeding right now.

The Pacific Black Duck is not, as far as I know, nocturnal but I am not ruling it out as a suspect. The Pacific Black Duck rarely makes a sound during the day but I have yet to study this species. It is possible that this bird I saw tonight - well heard flapping across the water - could be a Pacific Black Duck, and what I saw it do is normal startled night time behaviour for this species.

I very much doubt it was an owl or a Tawny Frogmouth as I've never heard of any of them actually feeding in the water. I can also rule out raptors too for this exact same reason plus I don't know of any raptors that are nocturnal.

There are no other known species that spends a lot of time in the water here in Tenterfield that are on my list of what this bird could be. This brings me back to it possibly being a Pacific Black Duck, and possibly nesting somewhere nearby in the water maybe even under the bridge itself. The "possibly" bit is looking more like a "more than likely it was a Pacific Black Duck" than anything else right now. Tomorrow I'll go to the bridge to see if there are any Pacific Black Ducks in the immediate area.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What do birds do when it is a hot Summers' day?

What do birds do when its too hot? Not much really. All the birds tend to sit in the trees somewhere in a shady spot and just rest for hours on end. I've observed a few different species during the hot weather, so I will write about them.

EASTERN ROSELLAS

Eastern Rosellas generally talk a lot when it is quite hot outside. They tend to sit just below the upper leaves of a tree's branches - if its a small tree - or in the top 1/3 part of a large gum tree. They tend to rest from about 12 noon until 5PM without moving from the tree or eating/drinking.

Here is an example of a male Eastern Rosella. The male was looking out for danger whilst his mate was in the next tree to the left. My brother got a bit too close to the tree where they both were seen together in, and they flew out of that tree into separate trees.

When I first spotted the male in a different tree....
Then he began to slouch down so I couldn't see him.
With Eastern Rosellas it is pointless trying to photograph them when it is hot. They hide themselves really well in the canopy of the tree they are in, and actually hide themselves behind leaves. On a separate day I searched for 15 minutes trying to spot a pair of Eastern Rosellas (the same individual and his mate as in these photos) in a small tree I was standing underneath, and I could not see them. I could hear them but that was about it.

LAUGHING KOOKABURRAS

A baby Laughing Kookaburra. Photo taken on 17 february 2013
This photo was taken at 2:49PM and the Kookaburra's parent was hiding in the tree canopy of a smaller gum tree to the left of this tree. The young Kookaburra was exposed in this tree, on a low branch probably about 8-10 feet off the ground. It was a hot day, probably about 37 plus degrees celcius. My brother and I were walking home from doing some shopping in town at the time. We were on the other side of the road when I took some photos of this baby Kookaburra. Only when I spoke to the Kookaburra asking it where it's parents were did the parent respond by giving off a quiet Kookaburra laugh for about 10 seconds then it went quiet. As if to say I'm over here in this tree and I am watching you!

PIED BUTCHERBIRDS



This video above is of the sounds of a Pied Butcherbird during a very hot day and it is mimicking the sounds of an Eastern Koel. The Pied Butcherbird stayed in the tree the longest and was in the tree for more than 5 hours before it flew away. The tree in which this Pied Butcherbird was in was the large Eucalypt tree. I could not see the bird as it hid well amongst the tree branches. I did not want to scare this bird from the tree even though it was really high above the ground, so I stayed on the verandah. If I moved toward the gum tree on the ground the bird would fly to another tree as I tried that prior to the filming of this video.

This particular Pied Butcherbird is the same 45cm Pied Butcherbird I've previously written about on this site.

AUSTRALIAN MAGPIES


Australian Magpie
This photo was taken on 13 October 2012 at 11:39AM. It was a really hot morning and day in general. For about a week between 1 - 4 Magpies hung around my neighbour Carol's front yard in the shade of this particular slow growing tree. The Magpie was about half way up the tree in the shade. Sometimes when Australian Magpies are resting from the heat they will quietly sing but most times they are quiet and just observant of what is going on around them. The juveniles are the ones that sing quietly when it is hot. Magpies usually rest in the trees from around 12 noon until about 3-4PM. Juveniles stay in the trees about 1/2 an hour longer than the adults do and only hunger will make them move out of the tree/s.

Why are the birds not coming back to Tenterfield?

For the passed few years I have noticed a steady influx in the return of certain species to Tenterfield but at the same time these same species are not staying here any more. Some species have opted to only raise a family in Tenterfield and then move on again, whereas others have taken up residency here albeit are tiny numbers. The large majority of birds that left Tenterfield became migratory species, only rarely coming back to Tenterfield and only for food.

Tenterfield has somewhat remained the same over the years and although only a small handful of trees have been removed for various reasons (including via floods) it does not make sense to me that the birds would not become residents again even with the return of the rain. Something is missing in this scenerio that I am overlooking as to why the birds are not moving back to Tenterfield.

The majority of the species are attracted to the Tenterfield Creek whether to nest near the water or to use it somehow. Its strange but I've never actually seen any birds drink out of the Tenterfield Creek. They seem to prefer to drink from puddles away from the creek itself.

Birds follow food sources, whether it be natural or offerings by humans. Birds prefer natural food over artificial sources in this area. They only eat human offerings because of the lack of their own food in the area. But this is strange because no great loss of flora has been happening in the area since 2001. Plant and tree seeds are still being eaten by birds, nectar is still available in the area - otherwise the rosellas (Eastern) would've left by now. Insects are in abundance right now; and aquatic life is flourishing as the White-faced Heron was seen a few days ago with a male, so she may decide to breed again - twice in 12 months.
Even birds of prey have been on the increase, hence being sighted or their scats found - so there is not much to really stress birds out in the way of a lack of food right now. But I have noticed the King Parrots have not come back yet - even though they may be breeding right now - they should be back by now.

Maybe trying to solve the mystery of why King Parrots left in the first place (some years back) might help to solve the mystery of why many other bird species left. Okay, let's find out what King Parrots eat...
Firstly they eat seeds, and lots of them. In the areas I've observed them eat the seeds of Pine Trees, Oak trees, Wattle trees, and grass seeds. Doing a bit more research on the net, King Parrots also eat fruit, berries, Eucalyptus nuts and buds, wild tobacco, honey, and insects.

If this is what King Parrots depend upon to survive it might explain why the majority of this species left town, as there is not much of anything available in between early Autumn and early Spring. All the gum and pine trees go to seed in Summer; Wattles go to seed from October to December; Oaks in Summer; there are no native fruit or berries in the area - all blackberry bushes have been poisoned by the Council; no wild tobacco in the area; which leaves honey and insects. There are Banksias in the area but I'm not sure when they go to flower. Native bees are in such small numbers that any honey is simply not enough for one King Parrot let alone a lot of them. Insects have been numerous - not prolific - since the rains returned in October 2012. I doubt it has anything to do with this because over a period of time these food sources (except the Blackberries) have remained constant and in the same quantity of plants.

In the last few years the temperature has fluxuated dramatically. We have had quite a few warm to hot winter seasons but that seems to be going back to normal now. I really think it has something to do with the weather than their actual food supply that not only made these birds leave but to also not come back.
 
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