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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Lunar eclipse

What I like about a red moon is how, when viewed through binoculars, we can see it in a three dimensional effect with the stars beyond - much better than that through a telescope, or when the moon is too bright.

Last night, October 8th, at about 2150 hrs, I photographed the Lunar Eclipse as the blood red colour began to wash off the lunar surface. A night with a  full moon is usually a good time to watch Tawny Frogmouths, or any other nocturnally active animal as they can be seen without artificial light or night-vision equipment. Not under a red moon though, it was too dark. I don't normally take flash photographs of frogmouths, but I took this one to see if there was a chick beneath the adult bird sitting on the nest. I just couldn't see for sure. However, the camera didn't help. Yet there was one, as I saw a little later when the bird's mate, the female, came in with some prey and passed it to a tiny chick hidden by the nest rim. The adults red eye-shine reminded me of the red moon.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Grey Butcherbird

A Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus arrives at its nest with food for its young
The bird breeding season around Canberra is a protracted affair, with some birds like the Wedge-tailed Eagles and Superb Lyrebirds laying their eggs in winter, as well as a few small birds such as, for example some Buff-rumped Thornbills. At the moment a White-browed Scrubwren is incubating eggs in a nest in our garden - due to hatch any day now. However, Spring is the main breeding season and for most species; whether building nests, laying eggs, incubating them, feeding nestlings or caring for fledglings, some part of their breeding programme usually occurs then. It simply makes sense, timing their offspring's fledging and dispersal into the population to fit the period of the year when most of their food is abundant. Depending on species, the birds' food can be flower nectar, fruit, insects or other smaller animals such as, well, young birds. And each species times its breeding period to fit their young fledging when their food is most abundant

I often find these birds in the woodlands when I am monitoring the Tawny Frogmouths,
and this pair were nesting in a small tree next to a Frogmouth nest tree
Insects are becoming more abundant every day as the weather warms up, although flying insects can be difficult to catch and often it is their larvae that are bigger and more nutritious than the adult forms, such as moth caterpillars. Butcherbirds catch most of their prey on the ground, like the big fat grub that this one caught.

All butcherbirds have hooked tips to their bills - for catching and holding prey efficiently
There is a reason for all bird behaviour and all bird anatomy. Evolution if driven by efficiency

But birds' bills are sensitive organs and the butcherbird thrust the food
deep into its chick's throat without the slightest bit of harm

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Double-pink sitting quietly in her roost 
Double-pink, a female Tawny Frogmouth that has been breeding within my frogmouth study area in Canberra now for three years. She was released by the RSPCA after a road accident and subsequent treatment, and it was they who put the two pink colour-rings/bands on her legs. These are obviously not having any effect on her as she and her partner reared two chicks two years ago, then another last year.

Now she is back in the same home range and the pair again have eggs in their nest.

One of her pink rings - she has one on each leg
The eggs were probably laid last week, and incubation takes about a month. So it might be a while before I post any updates on their progress, but keep in touch. Last time I posted on their breeding there were lots of viewers.

Her partner sits on the nest all day

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Buff-rumped Thornbill fledglings

A brrood of three fledglings is typical of Buff-rumped thornbills.
It is always worth paying attention to the numerous calls of the bush, as they all mean something to someone, and they can lead to a little bit of wildlife action. Yesterday, I heard a busy series of thin squeaking coming from an acacia shrub. It could have been almost any small bird creating a fuss at my approach, but I stopped and listening more closely. Then with experience of bird calls gathered over my lifetime, I knew that it was a begging call, although more complicated. A bit more time soon broke the calls into the same type from more than one individual, and I could also now make out an alarm call, so that clinched it. There was a brood of small young birds close by, and after a minute or so watching for movement, I found a brood of Buff-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza reguloides.

There were three fledglings huddled together on a branch making begging calls for their parents to feed them. I stepped back a few metres and soon an adult bird came in and fed them. They were quick, I barely saw a flick in the back of the shrub, then a bird was popping food down into a chick's throat. And then it was gone. The whole procedure only took seconds. Then the other parent came in and repeated the process. I took some optimistic shots and managed to capture a couple of food passes by holding the camera with the chicks in frame and focus. I watched their behaviour and when I saw them become excited and focused on something out of frame I pressed the shutter release which was set on high speed continuous shooting  mode.

The adults were soon foraging farther for food and the impatient chicks began to fidget and eventually could not wait any longer. They jumped from their perch and followed their parents into the next clump of foliage. In a few minutes they were well away as the family worked their way through the wood. Only their calls told they were there.

A parent bird thrusts food down into a fledgling's throat

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cockatoo Sunset

I was out yesterday sunset watching the sun go down over the Brindabellas, our local hill range, when I saw this pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos Cacatua galerita come in to display and call in an old dead tree. Dusk is a wonderful time of day, with so much wildlife activity going on. And these birds certainly drew one's attention with their raucous calls - they don't sing too well.

They looked so splendid with their crests erect against the pink sky - terrific birds. I like them despite their reputation for wanton vandalism and noisy neighbourly behaviour.

And now, if you have a song in your head click here and sing along ........