Chicks, chicks and more chicks

Magpie-Larks - Take Off

Magpie-Larks – Take Off

I love springtime and I love seeing chicks.  There’s plenty of action around at the moment.  The magpie-larks have left the nest but are still living in the garden, semi-reliant on mum and dad for feeding.

Chicks in nest

Chicks in nest

 

We had 4 chicks hatch.  Sadly, 1 fell (or was pushed) out of the nest very early on.  Even more distressing was when another was squeezed out only a week or so before it would have been able to fly.  It was very stressed – so were the parents.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t survive.

 

Leaving the nest

Leaving the nest

 

 

For several days the chicks left the nest but stayed in the tree, hopping between the nearby branches and practicing flapping.

 

 

 

Wagtail nest

Wagtail nest

 

 

This is the tiny nest of a Wagtail.  The nest is about 2m below the magpie-larks’ nest and it’s only about 6cm across.  They don’t seem to have eggs yet as they aren’t sitting on the nest much.

 

Purple Swamp-Hen Chick

Purple Swamp-Hen Chick

 

 

This is a purple swamp-hen chick.  Something of an ugly duckling, but it won’t be long before he looks like this …….

 

 

 

Purple Swamp-Hen

Purple Swamp-Hen

 

 

Adult purple swamp-hen at Yanchep National Park.

 

 

 

 

Cygnet

Cygnet

 

Lots of the swans now have cygnets. This one was at Herdsman Lake but Lake Joondalup plenty too.

 

 

 

 

Panting Osprey

Panting Osprey

 

And the ospreys?  Still no chicks, but mum is sitting on the nest and I think it should only be about a week before the eggs hatch.  It’s up at 30 degrees C now so it’s hot work sitting out in exposed sunlight all day.  You can see the mum ‘panting’ to keep cool.  Hopefully I’ll write another chicks post in a few weeks with wagtails, wattle-birds and ospreys in action.

 

Australian White Ibis

Ibis Ready to fly

Ibis – Ready to fly

On my very first trip to Australia I saw an ibis in a in a park by the cafe, begging for scraps like a pigeon. It seemed really odd to have such an exotic looking bird acting like a pest and being shooed away.  One of it’s nicknames is ‘tip turkey’ because of it’s habit of scavenging rubbish.

Ibis flying over

Ibis flying over

 

It’s still strange seeing them now, especially when they fly overhead. They’re quite big and it seems like quite hard work.

 

 

 

Ibis Nest Building

Ibis Nest Building

 

 

This one flew over with a stick – nesting time.

 

 

 

Tree full of Ibis

Tree full of Ibis

 

It still seems really odd to see them roosting in trees in such numbers.  They somehow seem too big and too heavy for the twigs that they sit on.

Ibis Head

Ibis Head

 

 

 

 

Their bald heads remind me  of vultures, with wrinkly skin and no feathers until lower down their necks.  This was was at Herdsman Lake, home to hundreds of ibis.

 

 

Straw-necked ibis

Straw-necked ibis

 

I sometimes see the black ‘Straw-necked’ ibis, but they are hard to get good pictures of.  I don’t know why, but they seem to be more nervous than the white ibis, so my pictures are all taken at quite a distance – any nearer and they all fly off!

 

 

The straw-necked ibis below were at the Sandalford Estate, by the lake in the vineyard.  One day hopefully I’ll have more time to spend on getting a bit closer and getting a more detailed picture of one of these.

Straw-Necked Ibis

Straw-Necked Ibis

Magpie-Lark, Spring is in the Air

Male Magpie-Lark

Male Magpie-Lark

Spring is very much upon us and the magpie-larks have nested in the front garden.  This is the male taking his turn on the nest.  When I first saw the nest I didn’t think it looked anywhere near big enough, but it seems to be just fine at the moment.  The problem is that if too many chicks hatch, one or two are likely to be pushed out of the nest.  It’s made out of mud

Female Magpie-Lark on the nest
Female Magpie-Lark on the nest

and grass and really well anchored onto a fork in the branch.  We had a fierce storm this week with winds of 50+ miles per hour (80 km/h) and I worried about whether the nest would cope, but I should have had a little more faith in nature as it was still there the following morning.  This is the female taking her turn.  She has a vertical black band over her eye, the male has a horizontal bar, so it’s easy to see who’s in residence.  About every 15 mins, the bird on the nest calls to the other one and they do a quick swap.  If the crow arrives, they both join in with the wattle birds to harrass and chase it away.

Magpie-lark displaying

Magpie-lark displaying

 

This is the male when he was displaying.  He looked very scruffy and not at all well preened, but it must have impressed as it did the trick.

 

 

 

Female Courting
Female Courting

And this is the female during courting.  Very active and very noisy.  And I’m not sure why it involved flying back and to in front of my back door.  It’s strange that they react very strongly to the crow, the magpies and some of the small honey-eaters, but they are completely at ease with me or the dog around the garden.  We don’t raise an alarm cry at all.  Magpie-larks are well known for dive-bombing people who pass too close to a nest site so I’m not sure why this pair is so trusting.  Maybe once the eggs hatch it will be different.

Big Question –‘Who Named the Magpie-Lark’? Why? Because it’s not a magpie and it’s not a lark.  According to that fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia, it was an Englishman named John Latham who named it after birds it reminded him of from home.  Not very scientific.

Fingers crossed I’ll soon be able to post pictures of a little row of beaks peeping above the nest edge.

Not a magpie or a lark, but an Australian Bird

Not a magpie or a lark, but an Australian Bird

 

Fairy-Wrens – A Fantastic Show

Splendid Fairy Wren (Male)

Splendid Fairy Wren (Male)

It’s been a fantastic week for Fairy-Wrens, and this one certainly lives up to his name – ‘Splendid’.  His colours really are amazing.

You may remember that the Fairy-Wren featured on my Top 10 Classic Australian Bird list.  Pictures of them appear on so many items like on calenders, mugs and tea towels.  I was keen to see them but, since I arrived, I hadn’t seen the males in their breeding colours.

Male Splendid Fairy-Wren

Male Splendid Fairy-Wren

 

This male was showing off at Yanchep National Park.  Not the least bit concerned about me, or even my umbrella, he was out in the open for more than 5 minutes.  I’m sure he would have let me get closer to photograph him, but he was in the tiger snake reserve so I decided that the lawns were close enough.

 

Splendid Fairy-Wren (Female)
Splendid Fairy-Wren (Female)

 

There were 5 others with him.  This was one of the females. There may also have been immature males in the group who look very much like the females.

 

 

White-Winged Fairy-Wren (Male)
White-Winged Fairy-Wren (Male)

 

This little White-winged Fairy-Wren put in an appearance on the coastal path the following day, giving me a great opportunity to get a photo for a comparison.  He wasn’t quite such a show off.  He spent more time in the bushes and moved about very quickly, so it was a bit harder to get a photo.

White-Winged Fairy-Wren (Female)

White-Winged Fairy-Wren (Female)

 

He also had several others in his group.  This was one of the females.

There are still several types of fairy-wrens left for me to see, but I’m really happy with the ones I’ve seen this week.

White-Winged Fairy-Wren (Male)

Appearance of the Black-Tailed Native-Hen

Until last week I’d never heard of a Black-Tailed Native Hen, never mind seen one.

Australian Black-Tailed Native-Hens by Lake

Australian Black-Tailed Native-Hens by Lake

 

At the weekend I had to drop off one of my sons at Yanchep National Park. While I was there, I thought I’d go for a walk, and I came across these.

 

Aussie Black-Tailed Native-Hen Hiding

Australian Black-Tailed Native-Hen Hiding

 

 

 

Not for long though, as they scuttled into the undergrowth when they saw me.  They turned out to be quite shy.  They ran and hid very quickly, but they soon came back out when I waited quietly.

 

Kangaroo at Yanchep

Kangaroo for company

 

 

And look who I had for company while I waited.

 

 

Australian Black-Tailed Native-Hens
Black-Tailed Native-Hens

 

 

The following day when I had to collect my son, they were still there.

 

 

 

They’re similar to a moorhen or a coot and seem to prefer the same sort of area to live, by the water’s edge and with plenty of undergrowth.

They aren’t rare or endangered in any way, but it is unusual to see them in this area, especially in such a large group.  They appeared because we had recently had rain.  They may well stay at Yanchep for long enough to breed, then disappear again once the young are old enough.  If so, hopefully I’ll be able to get some pictures of some chicks in a month or so.

Black-Tailed Native-Hens, Australian Birdlife

Australian Black-Tailed Native-Hens

 

Whoever Saw An Emu Swim?

If someone took some oversized, left over, mis-matched parts and stuck them all together, but in the wrong order (and a few of them back to front), they might come up with an emu.  And in an ironic twist of fate, living in one of the hotter, drier areas of the planet, it was given the ability to swim but not to fly, (just like the penguin, but with not so much water).

I think everyone associates emus with Australia (and also Rod Hull for anyone over 30) which is why emus featured in my Top 10 Australian Birds and they really are a treat to see. But what are they like and what are your chances of seeing one?  Well, they look like this.

Emu - Australian Bird

Young Emu

We recently took a friend to the Pinnacles National Park and we told him that there was a very slim chance that he might see an emu while we were there.  We were only a few minutes into our walk when I spotted one in a bush a couple of hundred metres away.  We all headed towards it, trying to ‘sneak’ in case it ran away (they aren’t big on flying).  When we got there I noticed that it had 4 legs rather than the traditional 2.  As it appeared from the back of the bush, it turned out to be 2 of them and they disappeared into more bushes.  The 3 appeared from those bushes, and 1 of the first pair was missing.  Eventually there were 5 of them – a father and 4 young.  Not tiny young, but definitely not adults yet.

Emus Drinking - Australian Birds

Emu Family Drinking at The Pinnacles, Western Australia.

It had rained the night before and water pools had formed in the rocks – excellent troughs at just the right height for an emu.  I needn’t have worried about scaring them off, they were fine as long as we were still and more than a few metres away.  I was well aware that, if he thought we were a threat to his young, the father might have chased us or even given us a kick, so we didn’t try to get too near.  We watched for a long time until they disappeared into the bushes, then we carried on with our walk.  Within 10 minutes they were back, following the same path as us.  So we really couldn’t have had a better view.

If you’re not in Oz for long, and you really want to see one, then most wildlife parks and zoos have them.  In the wild, I’d say they’re much less common than a kangaroo, but much more common than a koala, and you can find them over almost all of Australia.  We’ve seen them several times in the wild, but you have to be lucky.  Improve your chances by heading into the countryside away from built up areas. If you do get close to one, be careful where you stick your hand.  We all remember what trouble it got Rod Hull into in the end.

Emu - Western Australia

Emu

Red Wattlebird

The first time I saw one of these birds I was quite worried that it may have been attacked by a cat. I kept noticing the pink fleshy marks on its neck. It was in a bush and I tried to get a closer look but it kept hopping away from me. It didn’t seem too distressed though. About every 30 seconds he’d give out a single ‘pock’ noise. My husband found my concern quite amusing, and said he thought I might have seen a wattlebird. And he was right. A red wattlebird in fact. It looked like this.

Red Wattlebird

Red Wattlebird

 

Wattlebird Fedding in King's Park

Wattlebird Fedding in King's Park

 
Now you can see where he got his name – the red fleshy wattles on the sides of his neck. I became quite used to hearing him in the park each morning. Then the numbers started to rise, and rise, and rise. Now there are masses of them. It seems they are very common in southern Australia, and they tend to move in this direction in the Autumn. They are actually part of the honeyeater family. In fact, they are the biggest of the honeyeaters. They love to eat nectar, so anywhere with lots of flowering plants, especially banksias, will attract them.

 

Where better than Kings Park? So many varieties of plants flowering at whatever time of year you visit. It must be something of a banquet for them. So now I know. They like nectar, there are lots of them, they’re actually honeyeaters and they haven’t all been attacked by cats.