Calling up a Brown Quail

Brown Quail (top right)

Brown Quail (top right of photo)

 

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday.

To celebrate we went out to lunch with friends, and then drove south to Wellington on the River Murray. After crossing the river on the ferry we drove the short distance to the Pangarinda Botanic Gardens (formerly known as the Pangarinda Arboretum). My wife enjoys exploring places where native Australian plants are the feature. You can check out her site about Australian plants here.

We found a shady spot in the middle of the gardens, complete with a table and seats. The garden all around us was alive with birds, especially dozens of New Holland Honeyeaters. We also saw White-browed Babblers, Red Wattlebirds and Little Wattlebirds, along with dozens of Tree Martins soaring on the breeze hawking for insects (photos to come in a few days’ time).

As we were having a cuppa and some delicious birthday cake, we heard an interesting call nearby. It wasn’t long before we spotted a quail-like bird skulking through the garden about 50 metres away. I checked my bird app on my phone and immediately recognised the call of the Brown Quail. I knew that I didn’t have a photo of this species, so I set off in pursuit. I actually managed only two photos which I have cropped and shown here today. They are not brilliant photos, but they are the best I have.

This is the first time I have seen this species, even though they are relatively widespread in the region where I live. They can be quite shy birds, hiding in grasses and bushy areas. I guess that they have found these gardens to their liking and are getting used to people being around quite often. I was amused when my friend Keith started imitating the call – and both birds answered him from nearby. They also answered the call from the app on my phone. Neither Keith’s call, nor that from my phone made them come closer to investigate. At one point one of them did fly low over the table where we were sitting, but it went straight into a bushy area and out of sight.

As far as I can tell from my memory and records, this sighting is a “lifer“, that is, it is the first time in my life I have seen this species.

Further reading (click on the title):

Below I have included several flower photos taken yesterday.

Brown Quail (middle of the photo)

Brown Quail (middle of the photo – behind a tuft of grass)

Banksia flowers at Pangarinda

Banksia flowers at Pangarinda

Eucalypt flowers at Pangarinda

Eucalypt flowers at Pangarinda

Mallee Ringnecks on a hot day

Mallee Ringneck parrot at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrot at our bird bath

During the hot weather we have experienced so far this summer here in South Australia I have had many opportunities to take photos of the constant parade of birds visiting our bird baths. We have positioned the water containers where we can see the birds from our sun room, a room we use often so we can enjoy the birds in our garden.

The Mallee Ringnecks shown in today’s set of photos are resident birds in our garden. This means that we see them every day. On several occasions in recent times they have raised a brood of young ones. We love seeing their colourful feathers as they fly around the garden and especially when they come to drink and bathe. At those times we can really get to appreciate their colours up close.

On the other hand, we have a love-hate relationship with these birds. We hate it when they get into our fruit trees, nibbling at the almost ripened fruit before we have a chance to rescue the fruits of our labours. This year, because of a bad back, I have not been able to cover the trees with netting. Consequently the birds – and possibly the resident possums as well – have taken some of our fruit. We were especially looking forward to a large crop of nectarines. (Those we were able to rescue were delicious.) I must get to the pears before the birds get to them as well.

Further reading:

Mallee Ringneck parrot at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrots at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrots at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrots at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrots at our bird bath

Mallee Ringneck parrots at our bird bath

 

 

Hot weather birding

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Over recent posts I have written about the very hot conditions we have had here in South Australia this summer. I won’t bore you by stating the obvious yet again. When the weather gets much over 30C (86F) I tend not to go out birding, though I have on occasions been out in much hotter weather.

When the temperature soars here in Murray Bridge (80 km SE of Adelaide) I tend to stay indoors as much as possible. It is one of the joys of being ‘retired’. On these occasions we have the delight of a constant stream of birds coming to our bird baths. These containers are strategically placed in our garden where we can observe – and photograph – the birds at our leisure. On very hot days like we have had over recent months the stream has sometimes been a flood.

When the¬†Grey Currawongs¬† come to drink, most of the smaller birds keep their distance. I am not surprised by this; the Currawong’s bill and head is about the size of birds like the thornbills or the wrens. I guess that the smaller species know instinctively that the Currawong is capable of raiding their nests for eggs and baby birds, and so they remain at a respectful distance while the bigger birds are drinking.

During one of our recent hot spells this juvenile Grey Currawong came for a drink. I can tell that it is a young one not long out of the nest because of the downy feathers, as well as the yellow gap on the bill. Only a few days before these photos were taken I saw the juveniles being fed by the adults.

Once the Currawong had finished drinking, the smaller birds quickly returned.

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

Juvenile Grey Currawong

 

Bird baths are not just for birds

Brown Snake at our bird bath

Eastern Brown Snake at our bird bath

Over the many years that we have had several bird baths in our garden we have seen many different kinds of birds visit for a drink or a bath – many times both. You can see a full list here.

Several of our bird baths are located in the garden close to our sun room, a place where we read the paper and often have our meals. The large picture window gives us a good view of that part of the garden and I often sit there with my camera at the ready. The room provides me with an excellent bird hide. Many of the photos I have shared on this site have been taken in this way.

Over the last few months I have often written about the extreme heat we have experienced here in South Australia over that period. Sure, we always expect some hot days in the 40 – 45 degree range (45C = 113F) but this summer – and the spring before it – has been exceptionally hot, breaking many records. Ironically, I am writing this on a quite cold day. It is currently only 20C and I have just decided that I might need some warmer clothing on.

On a hot day earlier this week we were sitting at the table when my wife spotted a metre long Eastern Brown Snake coming towards one of the bird baths. We were able to observe it for about five minutes. It actually stopped and had quite a long drink – perhaps for 20 – 30 seconds (see photos below). Although one individual approached quite close to the same bird bath some years ago, this is the first time I have observed one drinking.

Our five acre block of land on the outskirts of Murray Bridge has many of the typical habitat features preferred by this species. Although this is regarded as the world’s second most venomous snake, we are not overly concerned with their obvious presence near our home. If we leave them alone they just go about their lives in a non-threatening manner. Although several are probably resident on our property, we probably only see this species two or three times a year.

In reality we appreciate having them around. Our mouse and rat problem would be so much worse without them about. On only three occasions over 30 years of living here have we been concerned. The worst was when one found its way into the house; we were able to help it find an open door using a large piece of cardboard. The second was when a baby snake came towards me in our swimming pool. Babies can be just as dangerous as adults. The third occasion was one sunning itself in the entrance of my wife’s garden shed. All of these were unsettling events, but we avoided any harm.

Further reading:

Eastern Brown Snake at our bird bath

Eastern Brown Snake at our bird bath

Eastern Brown Snake at our bird bath

Eastern Brown Snake at our bird bath

White-browed Woodswallow at our bird bath

White-browed Woodswallow

White-browed Woodswallow

I must admit that I really enjoy seeing any of the six Australian species of woodswallows. On the downside, we only can expect to see three of those six species in our garden. To see the remaining three species I would have to travel several hundred kilometres to the north.

In fact, we only have fleeting visits from any of the woodswallows which occur in our area. They might hang around for a few minutes and then they are gone again. On most occasions I only see them swooping around high in the sky, presumably catching flying insects. On one special occasion two species flew in together and settled briefly – but long enough for photos.

Several weeks ago on one of the very hot days we are experiencing here in South Australia a solitary White-browed Woodswallow came to visit one of our bird baths – as recorded in the photos shown today. It was my wife who spotted it first and she was quite surprised; I don’t think that she had seen one up as close as this one. Because it was very thirsty it stayed around for quite a few minutes, long enough for me to take a good number of photos. At one stage it was not afraid to share the water with an Australian Magpie Lark (see below), a much larger species.

Further reading:

 

White-browed Woodswallow and Australian Magpie Lark

White-browed Woodswallow and Australian Magpie Lark