Tag Archives: bird

Snapshots of Australian Birds.

Perhaps, I should’ve tossed my research hat out the window, when we arrived in Byron Bay. That way, I could appreciate a pretty photo for what it is without having to research everything I see to the nth degree. Clearly, I ask too many questions and if I were a less complicated soul, I could’ve simply posted these bird photos without any explanation at all. Not even a name.

Consequently, what started out as brief snapshots of some of the birds we encountered around Byron Bay, has expanded into something much more complex and I must admit I’ve learned quite a lot myself along the way. After all, I take my role at Beyond the Flow as Australian tour guide seriously. I not only want you to see what I saw. I also wanted to share some local, lived insights which you won’t find in a more scientific account of my stunning feathered friends.   These photos were taken in my in-laws’ backyard and at the Macadamia Castle, which has a bird aviary. It’s not quite the same as seeing them in the wild, but it does make it easier to get a good photograph. Yet, as much as I love photography, I’d naturally prefer all birds to fly free.

So welcome to the cast:

Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo

Although this guy lives at the Macadamia Castle, sulfur-crested cockatoos are very common in the wild where we live on the NSW Central Coast and in Sydney. You can’t appreciate these crazy characters from a simple photograph. They’ll perch up in the trees or telegraph wires and swoop down kamikaze style across car windscreens and only narrowly escape being hit. They’re absolutely cheeky, and don’t let that gorgeous feathered-face deceive you. They’re very destructive and are renowned for chewing through wood-trim on your house, your balcony, and stripping fruit trees bare. Moreover, behind that beautiful smile, lies an ear-piercing screech. Yet, despite their shenanigans, they still want to be your best friend and crave attention. They seem to love posing for the camera with a huge cheeky grin and you might even get a “Hello”.

Jacko

Jacko with family cropped out.

When I was a young child about 8 years old, my Dad bought a baby sulfur-crested cockatoo, called Jacko. He initially lived in a cage in the laundry inside where he had the joy of listening to my father’s voice on an old tape recorder. Indeed, it was an old tape recorder then, although I think cassettes were somewhat new at the time. It was 1977. I still remember that old recording and will take it to my grave…”Hello Jacko! Hello Jacko!” Jacko made it outside into the aviary but didn’t stay with us for very long. We were moving house and there seemed to be some kind of “discussion” between my parents. Although we were moving onto five acres, it seems there was no room for Dad’s birds and Jacko went to live with friends. So, not unsurprisingly,  sulfur-crested cockatoos have a special place in my heart.

Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbow Lorrikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets are the happiest little birds on earth and on sunset you can here them chirping away drunk on nectar in the trees if you’re lucky…or not depended on your perspective. My friend’s mum planted a red bottlebrush outside his bedroom window and he was woken up by a swarm of rainbow lorikeets at the crack of dawn whenever it was in flower. He was not amused.

Amelia Rainbow Lorrikeet

Our daughter feeding seed to the Rainbow Lorikeet  at the Macadamia Castle last week. 

The Rainbow Lorikeet isn’t as outgoing or interactive as the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo and seem reasonably gentle. Back in the day when we mere mortals weren’t as educated about looking after wildlife, we’d coat a slice of bread in honey and soak it in water on a plate and put it out in the backyard. The Australian museum refers to such backyard feeding as “artificial feeding stations”, but the birds didn’t mind. That bread and honey was a sure-fire magnet. They loved it.

The Galah

Galahs

Galahs feeding in the backyard.

These galahs were photographed in my in-laws’ backyard, where they had quite a large flock of galahs. Apparently, numbers there have increased lately due to the drought and possibly also the fires. The in-laws have planted bird-attracting plants, but given the drought, have also been putting seed and water out for the birds. It’s been interesting watching the changing cast of characters out at the seed bowl. The galah’s are at the top of the pecking order, and shoo away the doves who sit perched up on the wire above waiting for the galahs to buzz off. There are also some pretty red-breasted finches who have their own seed bowl in the thicket.

Galahs were originally located in arid, inland Australia, and only expanded into their present, vast range in the early- to mid-20th century. The galah’s scientific name is Eolophus roseicapilla. Its holotype was collected in Australia in 1801 by biologists on the Expedition led by France’s Nicolas Baudin and is held in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.

The word galah comes from Yuwaalaraay and related Aboriginal languages of northern New South Wales. In early records it is variously spelt as galargillargulah, etc. The word is first recorded in the 1850s. The bird referred to is the grey-backed, pink-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus, occurring in all parts of Australia except the extreme north-east and south-west. It is also known as the red-breasted cockatoo and rose-breasted cockatoo.

The term “galah” has also entered the Australian vernacular, and is a derogatory term meaning a “loud-mouthed idiot”, “fool”, “clown” and is also use to describe gaudy dress. It  has also inspired a number of colloquial idioms: To be “mad as a gumtree full of galahs is to be completely crazy. “To make a proper galah of yourself” is to make a complete fool of yourself. A “pack of galahs” is a group of contemptibly idiotic people. If you’re a fan of that great Aussie TV export Home and Away, you might’ve heard Alf Stewart complain: “Ya flamin’ galah”, which means you’re a complete idiots.

The Laughing Kookaburra

kookaburra2

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. They might look cute and sound hilarious but they have the last laugh once they’ve snatched the snags off your BBQ!

Of course, even these brief snapshots of Australian birds, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the kookaburra, even though it didn’t feature central stage. Indeed, the photo I’ve included here was taken at Pearl Beach round the corner from home where they’re rather partial to stealing sausages (Or snags in the Aussie vernacular) straight off the BBQ without any concern about burning their beaks!! We spotted a few kookaburras while we were on holidays around Byron Bay, but what I remember most was hearing the kookaburras laugh while I was floating on my back at Brunswick Heads watching fluffy white clouds scud across the deep blue sky. There was absolutely no doubt I was in Australia. Indeed, over the years, the sound of kookaburras laughing has been used to create a sense of Australia in movies over the years.

Aunty Rose & Kookaburra

My Great Great Aunt Rose Bruhn with her pet kookaburra who appeared on Brisbane radio.

Australian King Parrot

Male King Parrot

Male Australian King Parrot

This parrot is living at the Macadamia Castle. Although I’ve occasionally seen them in the wild i.e. my backyard, they’re quite shy and not all that common. Indeed, it’s a real treat to spot one.

Male Australian King-Parrots are the only Australian parrots with a completely red head. Females are similar to males except that they have a completely green head and breast. Both sexes have a red belly and a green back, with green wings and a long green tail. King parrots are normally encountered in pairs or family groups.

The Emu

Emu

We also saw the emus at the Macadamia Castle. I had no idea how the emu originally got it’s name. However, it turns out that ’emu’ isn’t an Aboriginal word. Rather, it might have been derived from an Arabic word for large bird and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers and applied to cassowaries in eastern Indonesia. The term was then transferred to the Emu by early European explorers to Australia.

Emu2

Emus are a funny-looking flightless bird, which also makes quite a peculiar sound. Not that I’m being judgemental. I haven’t spent a lot of time with emus, although they used to have a few at the Australian Reptile Park up the road from home, and they were savage food thieves. In the wild, packs of emus have been known to decimate farms. I think my grandfather used emu oil to treat his arthritis.

Emu feet

Emu feet. 

My childhood memories of emus, include a show called: Marty and Emu. It took a bit of detective work to dig that one out of the memory bank. They appeared on a kids’ show called: The Super Flying Fun Show, which was hosted by “Miss Marilyn” Mayo. Of interest to Australians, Darryl Somers appeared later on in the history of the show, and you can see how Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Darryl and Ossie Ostrich evolved from there. It turns out that Rod Hull had appeared with emu on the show before my time  and a duplicate emu was made when Hull returned to the UK and continued his performances over there.

Marty & emu

Marty Morton & Emu (I was so excited to see them again!)

Of course, when we’re talking about cultural representations of the emu, you can’t go past John Williamson’s classic: Old Man Emu:

These are only some of the birds we saw on our travels. The ones we photographed or found most interesting. We also saw a large flock of black cockatoos on the drive North, which we had no chance of photographing, but they were good to see. There were also crows and magpies.
I’ll sign off with this photo of a duck in plastic kiddies wading pool at the Macadamia Castle. Usually, this pond is full. However, there’s been such low rainfall that the pond’s dried up for the first time in the 15 years we’ve been going there. These are clearly hard times for our wildlife (and domestic ducks).
duck
What is your favourite Australian bird? Please share in the comments below.
Best wishes,
Rowena

References

When it Takes the Village…Friday Fictioneers.

There was no reason why he couldn’t ski off the edge of Mt Kosciusko. Fly across the valley with the crow. Not even for the smallest nanosecond, did he actually consider his human form. That while his spirit soared, that he was made of flesh and blood and belonged to the Earth.

“Joshua! Joshua!” The crow was calling his name.

“Joshua!” His mother’s scream echoed across the valley. Only the power of prayer could save him now.

The stranger could almost sense his skis mysteriously turning under foot, then spotted the troubled young man and understood. His time had come.

……..

100 Words

This story is dedicated to families who love and cherish children with special needs and the constant vigilance required to keep them safe. An 11 year old autistic boy was run over and killed by a train in Sydney last week after escaping from a care facility.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

The Australian Magpie.

I photographed this magpie or “Maggie” at my friend’s place today. While they can become territorial and aggressive during Spring, they’re found  throughout most backyards, at least around here, and are mostly very tame. It’s quite clear that they’re worked out humans are a great source of food and they make themselves part of the family. Our elderly neighbours were being eaten out of house and home by their baby magpie who’d also make quite a lot of noise demanding to be fed. My friend volunteers for an animal rescue service and the magpie has discovered the puppies food bowl and helped itself. I guess you could call it “fast food”. Apparently, we have a family of maggies living in our jacaranda tree out the back. Geoff tells me that they’re “resprayed” our Morris Minor.

What types of birds do you have in your backyard? Please share in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

The Path…A Magnetic Poem.

Today, I was struck on the head by the magnetic muse in what could only be described as a “coup de foudre”.

In case you “ne comprendez pas”, that means falling in love at first sight. I thought falling in love, or becoming addicted, sounded much more dramatic in French.

Like a proverbial matchmaker,  Merril D Smith  introduced me writing magnetic poetry online at http://play.magneticpoetry.com/ It’s so much fun. I chose the nature theme and I was thrilled with the results. I felt my poetry gained very rich symbolism and I put images together which I never would’ve thought of combining before, yet made such sense and expanded my vision exponentially.

Dare I ask you what you think?

Well, here goes:

The Path

Shine moon spirit.

Listen.

Breathe.

My soul is withered.

I wander down a lonely path.

Every daffodil Spring,

the bright, blue bird walks

through the fresh earth.

Garden tendrils rustled.

Then some seed said:

“Use intuition.

There’s a sanctuary.”

Secret winds murmur:

“Climb the ancient mountain.

Know her peace.

Rest.

Leave moss be.

Make song.”

Behold,

I thrive.

Rowena Newton

Magnetic Poetry 23rd November, 2016.

Have you been struck by the magnetic muse? I’d love to hear how you went.

xx Rowena

Bird O’Clock

For the bird lovers out there, here’s a extension of my recent Lazy Birds post https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/lazy-birds-of-byron-bay/.

Kath Unsworth from Minuscule Moments has some beautiful photographs of some of our beautiful Australian birds. You can check her post out here:  http://kathunsworth.com/2015/09/15/bird-oclock/

xx Rowena

Minuscule Moments of Inspiration

DSCN7112 (copy)

Sometimes when inspiration won’t come and I feel like I am stagnant and uncreative I know I need a reboot. I go on an outing, I did this with my last trip to the zoo and getting out and about is a great way to fuel those creative fires.

An opportunity arose to visit a bird aviary on my recent trip to Canberra.

My husband wanted to see the War Memorial, art galleries all the usual stuff the Capital city has to offer. We agreed to see as much as we could in the three days, whilst the kids were at school camp.

The aviary went way beyond my expectations. They had many species of birds from all over the world. The time passed quickly. I sat captivated. Looking up to the tops of the aviary I did feel a little sad. The birds were not free but most of them had only known…

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Lazy Birds of Byron Bay

Humans aren’t the only ones to flock to Byron Bay.

It seems that Byron Bay’s reputation as a tropical, hippy haven hasn’t been lost on the local bird population who flock here in droves. It seems they’ve found a free meal ticket cleaning up after messy, grotty humans as well as turning to begging and crime: “Please Sir. I want some more!”

So, rather than introducing you to all the stunning, more popular birds, today I’m exposing the lazy hangers-on. What are often referred to colloquially as “pests”.

Starting off with the native White Ibis, we spotted this birds foraging through rubbish bins, which didn’t raise an eyebrow because these birds literally survive on such junk food and have even been rumoured to eat battery acid from old car batteries. I know that doesn’t sound very compassionate but try eating a sandwich in the park near one of these birds and no guesses who’ll win. These birds can be thugs!

If you look left, you can see Ibis foraging in the grass like a herd of cows.

If you look left, you can see Ibis foraging in the grass like a herd of cows.

Although we Australians should be enamored with all our native bird species, even the sea gull, the Ibis is often considered a pest. Known colloquially as “dumpster divers”, “flying rats” and “tip turkeys”, Although you currently find them in urban and coastal environments, they hark from wetlands further inland which have significantly shrunk since the 1970s. However, unlike other affected species, the ibis made the surprise move to near the coast, where their numbers thrived. I recommend you read: The Ibis: A Native Bird Misunderstood:

Couldn't find any photos of sea gulls at Byron Bay so these ones are closer to home.

Couldn’t find any photos of sea gulls taken at Byron Bay so these ones are closer to home.

The Sea Gull is another notoriously lazy bird. Although I’ve read that Sea Gulls are actually rather smart and can crack molluscs open by dropping them on a rock,you’ve got to wonder how much real food they eat when they feast all day on hot chips. Indeed, when it comes to feasting off human beings and living the lazy bird life style, seagulls have got it down to a fine art. Moreover, unlike dogs, they don’t even have to use puppy dog eyes to get what they want.
Mister feeding left over bread to the sea gulls back in 2009, aged 5.

Mister feeding left over bread to the sea gulls back in 2009, aged 5.

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

However, although sea gulls can be rather annoying and they’re so common that they’re not all that exciting, I still have a soft spot for them. You see, one of my favourite books of all time is Richard Bach’s Jonathon Livingstone Sea Gull. It’s an absolutely incredible, life-changing book. So, if you haven’t read it, get a copy immediately. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.00.

Pied Currawong, Byron Bay Lighthouse looking towards Julien Rocks.

Pied Currawong, Byron Bay Lighthouse looking towards Julien Rocks.

At Byron Bay Lighthouse, we also spotted the Currawong, which was cleaning up biscuit crumbs.

While Currawongs don’t bother humans, they are the bully boys of Australian birds. There is good evidence that Currawongs are targeting babies of other birds to feed their own nestlings. Currawongs have been recorded taking babies of small birds like Thornbills and Fairy Wrens, Bronze-winged pigeons and even ducklings….and you thought it had a pretty face! http://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/conservation-the-environment/currawongs/#.Vhjgzisve4o

That face also seems to tell me:”It’s all lies. It wasn’t me!”

Don’t believe it! Scientists are vigilant and they have proof!

Brush Turkey Crossing the Car Park, Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Brush Turkey Crossing the Car Park, Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Now, we’re onto the Brush Turkey.

Indeed, a Google search on the much maligned Brush Turkey pointed straight to Brush Turkey Solutions http://www.brushturkeysolutions.com.au/ . These people will relocate a bush turkey which has moved into your backyard. I’ve got to say that Australians historically have not dealt with such pests well and it’s a relief to find a fully qualified animal behaviourist who will help you re-home this birds in a humane way. Their web site also has some great information about the Brush Turkey and is well worth a read. http://www.brushturkeysolutions.com.au/#!bush-turkey-biology/cfvg

Personally, I love Brush Turkeys. Large, ground-dwelling birds are quite a novelty. Indeed, I only saw my first Brush Turkey about 10 years ago. They used to turn up at playgroup in Pearl Beach and the kids used to chase them. So, really all I saw back then was a “flash”.

In this time, however, populations of Brush Turkeys have taken off and their huge mounds where they incubate their eggs aren’t always appreciated in suburban backyards.

We saw quite a few Brush Turkeys while in Byron Bay and I must say that pretty much like the Ibis, they don’t seem to mind humans and were quite close. Usually, I’ve known them to be more shy.

Magpie on the roof of the lighthouse keeper's cottage, Byron Bay lighthouse.

Magpie on the roof of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage, Byron Bay lighthouse.

A late addition…not to be forgotten, the Magpie. Most of the time, relations between humans and magpies are very good. Indeed, quite often humans adopt wild magpies and feed them on a daily basis. Our pensioner neighbours back home feed meat to the magpies every day and welcome them. That was until junior became a bit too demanding and was deemed a pest.

During nesting season, however, magpies can be quite terrifying as they swoop at passersby.

To hear the magpies amazing song, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYEYc8Ge3nw

So, I apologise for not introducing you to the more popular Australian birds. Stay tuned. It’s coming up but not any time soon.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

xx Rowena

Bird Rescue

I am trying to think like a pigeon…a mother pigeon.

My kids, bless their cheeky little souls, decided to “rescue” two baby native pigeons from the nest in their climbing tree and now we are trying to reunite them with their mum.  This all happened yesterday when Mister was home sick from school and I have been fighting off some kind of tummy ache for weeks. It’s amazing how a sick kid can still get up to mischief…even if it’s well-intentioned!

Miss with a baby bird

Miss with a baby bird

Anyway, we put the birds back in the nest yesterday afternoon and waited…and waited. By 10.00PM when there was still no sign of the parents, we brought them inside for the night and returned them to the nest this morning.

The nest is in my kids’ climbing tree and it’s probably only thanks to Minecraft that the kids had not found the nest sooner. My kids are budding naturalists and love anything that moves.

You could just imagine their excitement when they found two live baby birds in “their tree”!!!!

I was still in my PJs and barely walking but called out to them to leave the birds alone. Put them back!

Then Mister pipes up: “I’m rescuing them so they can go to the RSPCA. “

“What????” I’m thinking to myself. “They already have a Mum and Dad. They don’t need to be rescued!!” I said matter-of-factly.

By this stage, however, mother bird was flapping in the tree and flew away and each pair of little hands was carefully clutching their prized baby bird. They found containers for them and made them nests despite them already having a nest and their own bird parents where they had been quite happy and content before being supposedly “rescued”.

I also have to admit that as much as I was trying to be the responsible adult, I was drawn to the tiny, fluffy fledglings myself. They are the size of a chicken chick and fit perfectly into your hand. It was very tempting just to keep them but we can’t feed them. They are still crop fed and need their mum.

The bay birds sitting on their towel nest

The baby birds sitting on their towel nest

The tree is right next to Mister’s bedroom so I could get a good view of the nest from in there to see whether the parents had come back. Much to my horror, the nest had fallen over and I rushed to the base of the tree to find what had become of “my” baby birds. I scooped them up and returned them to our nest inside.

The Nest

The Nest

It was time to take more serious action. This is where things became more difficult. You see, if you are a native animal, WIRES will take care of you. If not, you’re off to the RSPCA and I’d have a longish drive to get them there, which is beyond me at the moment. The WIRES phone line specifically mentions that they do not help pigeons. I was feeling a bit down but also quietly confident that I’d be able to find someone around here with a big heart (other than our friends who have recently rescued about 5 cats. They have big hearts with room for way more animals but I sense a slight incompatibility issue here.)

I was feeling a bit sad about such I guess discrimination and how your fate can depend on where you were born or your type and it wouldn’t be so bad if these “rules” just applied to injured wildlife.

Anyway, our little pigeon chicks had a reprieve. Geoff mentioned that they’re a breed of native pigeon called a Crested Pigeon. They were fine.

I was just about to call WIRES when I heard a tell-tale pigeon noise near the tree and spotted mother pigeon. This is why I’m trying to think like a mother pigeon. How is she going to know that her babies are sitting in the box wrapped up in a towel? The babies are motionless and silent. How would she know they were in there? Could she smell them? Are they making sounds I can’t hear? I don’t know. I’m just trying to give them a bit of space so they can get reunited before I try to get the nest back up in the tree. Actually, I suspect I’m going to have to make a nest or at the very least find a container for their nest. The original is looking rather worse for wear.

As you could imagine, I didn’t need this bird drama. I have been quite unwell lately and I’ve actually arranged for some help getting the kids ready for school and friends are taking them to and from school while my tummy recovers. I haven’t eaten properly for almost a week. I’m not sure whether it’s stress or a virus and the way people keep implicating gluten, that’s also a possibility. I just want to feel better and get my energy back. I’m exhausted. The strange thing is that I perk up at night and then have had a bit of trouble sleeping.

Getting back to the birds, as bad as it was for the kids to take the birds out of the nest, I can understand it. Not just from a curiosity point of view. One of our favourite books used to be The Bird with the Broken Wing by Bob Graham. It is a beautiful book which tells the story of a pigeon which flies into one of those mirrored glass buildings, breaks its wing and falls to the ground. Everyone just walks passed it leaving it for dead until a little boy comes along. He picks the bird up with his mum and they take it home until it gets better and then they return it to the park. It is a beautiful story of hope and recovery, which is why I read it so often to the kids. Mummy could get better too!

WIRES rang me back and were very helpful. Turns out our pigeon isn’t a native after all but she told me how to make a nest out of an ice cream container to get the birds back in the tree. I’m going to put their original nest inside. Apparently, WIRES insurance prevents them from rescuing non-native animals but she said they’re always happy to offer advice. An animal lover is an animal lover, after all…as long as it’s not a pest!

Old nest...new nest

Old nest…new nest

So it’s starting to look like the bird drama is almost over. However, it seems like I’ve pulled a calf muscle climbing up the ladder. I know I’m not super human but sometimes I forget.

I’ll be watching those kids like a hawk this afternoon. Those little birds really are simply irresistible and I know that even though they’ve been told to stay away, they will be doing their utmost to have “a peek”.

As night falls, we have decided that our birds are actually Peaceful Doves and not pigeons after all.

If you enjoyed this bird story, you might enjoy a very different bird story about when a bird flew inside our house and became stuck. I totally freaked out!! https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/you-can-count-on-me-when-a-bird-flew-into-my-house-4/

By the way, I thought you might be interested to know what else the kids were up to on our sick day…making volcanoes on the back deck. I am starting to wonder how Mrs Einstein coped with an inquiring mind…

Making volcanoes using bi-carb and vinegar and my very special vintage Sunbeam Mixmaster bowl

Making volcanoes using bi-carb and vinegar and my very special vintage Sunbeam Mixmaster bowl.

xx Rowena