Sunday, 20 March 2016

Visitors to the garden pond

A Red Wattlebird sits on the edge of the pond
I had a camera trap set up at our garden pond in Canberra over the summer to see what birds visit it for bathing and drinking. The temperature was up in the high 30's C in late February - early March, so the birds seemed to appreciate the ready supply of cool water. 22 species used the water, 19 native and three alien. See below for the full list, and I have included a link to a video to show several of the birds that came by. To watch the video click here.

The video opens with a group of Red Wattlebirds and Eastern Rosellas splashing in the water. Then it shows two Eastern Rosellas with three young Crimson Rosellas. A single adult Crimson Rosella has a good splash in the middle of the pond and an Australian Magpie calls while coming in for a drink, followed by a young male Satin Bowerbird. He lives in the area and occasionally brings in pieces of blue plastic, in early-learning attempts at building a bower in the garden.

The large birds seemed to come for a drink in the afternoons. A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo takes a drink followed by an Australian Raven. Then as the light began to fade the smallest birds came in. A grey Fantail flitted about nervously, and a White-browed Scrubwren took a few dips under the cover of the falling light while a flock of cockatoos call in the background as they settle to roost. It was almost dark by then.

A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo comes in for a drink

During the night, only the local Brush-tailed Possums came down, but I'll keep setting the camera up as one night something unusual might come in for a drink. Food scraps are easy for animals to find in suburbia, but clean water is not so easy to find.

The highlight of the session? That easily goes to the Giant Water Spider Megadolomedes australianus, although I never managed to catch a picture of her. She was magnificent - they grow to up to 18 cm leg span, and they can eat fish. What a spider.

The full bird list for the garden pond:

Native species:

Crested Pigeon
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Australian King Parrot
Eastern Rosella
Crimson Rosella
Grey Fantail
Superb Fairy-wren
White-browed Scrubwren
Brown Thornbill
Red Wattlebird
Noisy Friarbird
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill
Magpie lark
Australian Magpie
Pied Currawong
Australian Raven
Satin Bowerbird

Introduced species:

House Sparrow
Common Myna
Common Starling


  1. I've started trying to photograph the birds visiting my bird bath, and it's quite interesting at times to see interactions between species. On the recent COG trip to Bawley Point, we had really interesting bird bath birds - yellow thornbills, striated thornbills and a whipbird were the highlights, with a few new holland honeyeaters and red-browed finches also seen. What was odd was that all species appeared in a single 10-minute time period, as though someone in bird land had rung a bell and said "get in for your bath now..". 10 mins later all had disappeared, but at one time during that 10 minutes, 4 thornbills in the bath, new hollands waiting in the overhanging shrub, the whipbird peering out of another shrub, ready to jump in...

    1. Birds are aware that they are at risk of predation when they go to drink. Flock behaviour is one way to reduce the risk and there are others I can share with you, but too detailed to describe here in a short note.