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Female Figbird

Female Figbird

The National Parks Association of NSW & Birds in Backyards 2015 summer Bathing Birds survey is happening this month from the 23rd January to 23rd February 2015.

It is easy to take part. All you need to do is register, unless you have already participated in the 2014 winter Bathing Birds survey or the Koala Count.  For those people, all you need to do is send email to Dr Gráinne Cleary at grainnec@npansw.org.au

The survey aims to find out which birds are using birdbaths & how gardening habitats & behavioural practices influence bird species using birdbaths.  For this survey, a traditional birdbath is fine, as is a pond or any container containing water put out for the birds.

They ask that you watch your bath for 20-minutes a day up to three occasions a week.  You can elect to do your survey in the morning or afternoon, but only do one survey a day.

Full instructions can be downloaded here – http://bit.ly/1xEXSus

The top 20 birds recorded in the 2014 winter Bathing Birds survey were – (an asterisk signifies the top 10 birds in NSW).

  • Rainbow Lorikeet *
  • Noisy Miner *
  • Pied Currawong *
  • Australian Magpie *
  • Crimson Rosella *
  • Eastern Spinebill *
  • Lewin’s Honeyeater *
  • Satin Bowerbird *
  • Red Wattlebird
  • Spotted Dove
  • Magpie-lark
  • House Sparrow
  • New Holland Honeyeater
  • Superb Fairy-wren *
  • Common Blackbird
  • Grey Fantail
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo *
  • Crested Pigeon
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Eastern Yellow Robin.

Of interest, Common Mynas (also known as the Indian Myna) did not make it into the top 20 birds, except in Victoria.  , where  Overall they were number 24.

The 2014 winter Bathing Birds survey can be read here – bit.ly/1rq8az7

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

White-faced Heron finds a snack in the saltwater wetlands at Tempe Reserve

A young White-faced Heron finds a snack in the saltwater wetlands at Tempe Reserve

White-faced Heron near its nest. They lay 3-4 eggs on average & can lay up to seven..

White-faced Heron near its nest. They lay 3-4 eggs on average & can lay up to seven.

The first ‘Aussie Backyard Bird Count’ is happening this month from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th October 2014.

The event is organized by Birdlife Australia & Birds in Backyards & they want as many people as possible to take part.

All you have to do is spend 20-minutes counting birds in your backyard, school, local park, beach, forest, paddock – wherever you are.

They are very happy for individuals to submit multiple checklists of 20-minutes, so you can count birds at your home & other places in your local area if you wish.

You can either enter your count through the Aussie Backyard Bird Count website at – http://aussiebirdcount.org.au

or via a free app available to download here – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aussie-bird-count/id917024019?ls=1&mt=8

You do not need to be an expert on birds to take part. A field guide is built into the app to help you identify birds. There is also a list of colloquial names to help you identify birds.

This is an opportunity for all of us, young & old, to get involved in this very important citizen science.  Development, loss of green space, trees & forests, as well as a changing climate has an impact on bird life.  Birds give an immediate picture of an area’s environmental health & this information can be used to help improve habitat & biodiversity.

Grey Butcher bird

Local Grey Butcher bird – the parent of the fledglings below.

Local Grey Butcher bird fledglings

Local Grey Butcher bird fledglings.  They were hard to find.

Five local Noisy Miner fledglings.

Five local Noisy Miner fledglings.

One of the first Magpie chicks to hit the grass at Mackey Park.  Dad is on the left.

One of the first Magpie chicks to hit the grass at Mackey Park. Dad is on the left.

Just for fun: we watched this Noisy Miner stealing multiple sachets of sugar yesterday & eating from them, sometimes sharing with a friend. Who would have thought birds would have discovered the delights of sugar.  Birds in Backyards say the Noisy Miner “feeds on nectar, fruits & insects. Very occasionally they will eat small reptiles & amphibians. Food is either taken from trees or on the ground.” Unless they grew up near a café.  They have listed  the Noisy Miner in ‘birds behaving badly’ category.   http://birdsinbackyards.net/species/Manorina-melanocephala

Noisy Miner stealing a sachet of sugar

The nest from the beginning to completion

A friend of mine who lives in Tempe sent me this photo of a little Willie-Wagtail who has just completed building its nest on the pergola beam outside the backdoor of her house.  The nest is built mostly with dog hair & looks like an upside-down felt cap.  They are going to be very snug & comfy baby birds when they hatch.

Maybe the baby birds will ride on the back of her dog as they grew up with his smell & will see him as a friend. Too cute for words.

I went to the Birds in Backyards website & found the following  (bold is my emphasis) –

The Willie Wagtail’s nest is a neatly woven cup of grasses, covered with spider’s web on the outside & lined internally with soft grasses, hair or fur. The soft lining of the nest, if not readily available, is often taken directly from an animal. The nest of the Willie Wagtail may be re-used in successive years, or an old nest is often destroyed & the materials used in the construction of a new nest. Nests are normally placed on a horizontal branch of a tree, or other similar structure. Although it is active in defending its territory, the Willie Wagtail is very tolerant & tame around humans, often feeding & nesting in close proximity of houses & human activity.

Well, this pair is acting true to form using dog hair & building their nest at the backdoor.  They also chase after sheep & ride on their backs so watch out doggie.

You can read about the Willie-Wagtail & listen to its song here – http://birdsinbackyards.net/species/Rhipidura-leucophrys The website Birds in Backyards is a fabulous website providing information & a sound-bite of 40 common Australian birds.

How often do you see this? The body of the Willie-Wagtail seals the nest from drafts keeping those eggs (probably 3) warm as toast

 

Currawong

This months Festival of the Trees is looking at food for wildlife.  Marrickville LGA has quite a lot of  wildlife for an inner city urban area, especially with the Cooks River, the Tempe Reserve & Wetlands & some of our major parks.   The presence of nearby Girraween Park  at Wolli Creek helps our urban wildlife enormously.  However, when we first moved into our home 15 years ago there weren’t many birds in our immediate neighbourhood.  There were some of course, but we were not as aware of them as we were in our previous home.  They were mostly Pied Currawongs in winter, Common Mynas all year round & a couple of Turtle Doves as well.  Over the years this has changed significantly.  Now birds feature strongly in our neighbourhood.  So what happened to bring the birds here?

The neighbourhood around us changed in that many new people moved in & they did 3 things.  They removed the cement from their garden, reduced the size of their lawn or did away with it altogether & they planted trees & shrubs, many of them Natives.  Some of my neighbours are spectacular gardeners converting their bare gardens into mini-botanical havens filled with a variety of bird-attracting plants.  The transformation has been dramatic & they still kept the lemon tree.

birds sunning themselves

The other thing I noticed was that many people started putting birdbaths and/or ponds in their gardens.  This combination of water & food brought the birds back in droves.

It also brought the frogs seemingly by magic.  We put in a pond & 2 days later a rare frog breed arrived.  Now we have small frogs that hibernate under our very small piece of lawn.  They wake up in summer & leave at night.  We hear them, but rarely see them.

At least 24 Turtle Doves live in our block now so their family extended. There are many White Eyes, Willy-Wag Tails, Red Wattlebirds, Magpie-larks, Australian Magpies, large groups of Noisy Miners, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Crested Pigeons, a Common Koel or two, Grey Butcherbirds, Olive-backed Orioles, Silvereyes, Figbirds & Pallid Cuckoos.  Masked Lapwings fly over-head on their way to the river.  Even a couple of Spotted Pardalotes have moved in.  This is amazing as they live in areas with many Eucalypts, not Sydney’s Inner West.

small part of a large flock of Cockatoos who visited

Large groups of Cockatoos fly over most days & when the nuts & fruit are ripe, they descend on mass devouring them.  It’s a gorgeous sight & they are very noisy.  The powerlines can be covered with white birds all with something to say.  Both neighbours who grow the food the Cockatoos like to eat do not mind the invasion of these birds.

We still have the Pied Currawongs & Common Mynas, but they are not so destructive now they are out numbered.  The Common Mynas tried to get everyone to move, but the sheer numbers of birds had their power reduced to almost nil.  They now just get on with living.  We also have native bees & a Ring-Tailed Possum or two.

From a reasonably quiet area in terms of birds, our neighbourhood has become filled with bird song & bird activity.   I love the change.  It seems somehow more like I remember things used to be when I was a child & the presence of birds was taken for granted.

The Australian Museum has a wonderful web-site called Birds in Backyards. They list 40 birds & provide a fact-sheet & a short sound-bite of each bird call.  It is a wonderful reference for school children as well as people like me who don’t know much about birds.  Through this site I have been able to identify 20 of the 40 birds listed that I can hear & many times see from our own back garden.  http://birdsinbackyards.net/feature/top-40-bird-songs.cfm

Birds provide white noise that is soothing & helps block out traffic & other noises that can lead to stress.  They also help you in the garden by eating the insects that eat your plants.

White-eye

If you want to attract birds into your garden & neighbourhood, all you need to do is plant a variety of bird-attracting Australian native plants & provide a source of water.  The water is best placed near other plants as this gives the birds a sense of safety.  They will use a birdbath in the middle of a lawn, but if there is another in a better location, they will use that one first.

Our birdbath needs filling often & sometimes daily during hot weather.  A wide range of birds use it to drink & bathe at many times during the day.  Sometimes there is a line up.  The larger birds go first with the smaller birds in surrounding trees watching & waiting for them to finish.  At night, much to my delight, the bats use it. I haven’t managed to see them yet, but I hear the “woop, woop, woop “as they take off vertically.

If you can, plan to plant a range of plants of different heights & thicknesses.  Some birds love to go into small shrubs & eat the nectar from flowers & insects while hidden from sight.   Others are not afraid to sip nectar from flowers high up & in open view.  A range of plants will ensure a variety of birds visit.

Cockatoo eating something from my neighbours garden

Native grasses offer a great source of food as well.  I have seen them used in very creative ways by my neighbours.  Most Australian Natives do not require much water once established & thrive in poor quality soil, though they do appreciate mulch & regular fertilizing with a Native fertilizer.

Native plants can be used successfully with a cottage garden if that is your preferred look.  Many are prolific flowerers & some have flowers all year round.  Most respond to pruning allowing them to be kept in a shape you like. Pruning encourages more flowers & bushiness.

From being a person who preferred cottage gardens I have become someone who would rather plant something that gives food to another.  I do think the long drought we had stressed the wild birds & animals, as their water sources shrunk & their food sources didn’t flower or simply died.  The Ibis who have decided to stay in Sydney are an example of this.  Even though it’s raining torrents in Sydney & parts of NSW have flooded, the drought is not over by a long shot.  16 areas or boundaries in NSW (a little over half the state) are classified Exceptional Circumstances. This is done when drought is regarded as severe.

As a number of people have indicated they want ideas for native shrubs & trees, I’ll do some research & put together a list soon.  It will be good learning for me as I am not an expert in this area either.

Kookaburra

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