While we were having afternoon tea in the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney a Pied Currawong flew into a bush nearby. It stayed for a few moments before flying off again. When ever I see this species – and its cousin the Grey Currawong – I am taken by that glaring eye. It almost looks malevolent in intent.
Now it is very unscientific of me to assign human characteristics to a bird, but I can get away with it here because this doesn’t pretend to be a scientific site by any definition one cares to dredge up. I just want to share with the world my bird sightings, illustrating them where possible with photos I have taken.
Having said that, I must say that describing the currawong as being malevolent from a human point of view is not all that far from the truth. Granted – the currawong is not intentionally being nasty; it just seems that way from the viewpoint of compassionate humans – and a whole host of small birds and animals.
Currawongs eat a wide range of creatures, including smaller birds, bird eggs and nestlings, small reptiles, spiders, insects and will even
steal take food at picnics, fruit from trees and garbage. All that may seem nasty and cruel to compassionate, animal-loving humans, but for the currawong it spells survival. The nestling of a honeyeater may mean the survival of the nestling of the currawong. It’s a huge, wild, nasty world out there.
And I still think its eye is rather evil.
On our last visit to Sydney to visit and look after our grandchildren we had a child-free day, so we took advantage of the lovely weather to visit Lane Cove National Park. This park is a wonderful natural environment along the Lane Cove River and is only a ten minute drive from my son’s home, and not much more to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
We drove through a section of the park we had never visited before, checking out the many picnic areas along the river. We eventually settled on a pleasant spot and set up on a nearby picnic table. It wasn’t long before several species of birds came to visit us, all in the hope of a free lunch. The boldest happened to be the Australian Magpie shown in today’s photos. The magpies in the Sydney area happen to be the Black-backed sub-species. Those we have at home – Murray Bridge which is 80km SE of Adelaide, South Australia – are the White-backed version. The Western Magpie is found in Western Australia, and there are many variations due to hybridisation on other parts of the country.
Although this bird was very bold due to being very used to human visitors to the park, we didn’t take pity on him and feed it any morsels which is a good thing; human food is generally not only unsuitable for our birds and animals, it can also be dangerous and even deadly to them. Please don’t feed the birds.
In the coming days I will show more close encounters with other species of birds during our visit to this lovely park.
- Plenty of magpies
- Wild weather and baby magpies
- Magpies up close and personal
- Magpies up close and personal #2
I must apologise to my regular readers who like to see regular updates on this site, along with seeing some of the bird photos I’ve taken. Life has been a little rugged lately with illness, busyness and having to give a great deal of assistance to my dear wife. She recently broke a bone in her foot as the result of a fall, though it seems to be improving steadily.
One of the results of the broken bone was our doctor insisting on a bone density test, so this necessitated a trip to Adelaide, an hour’s drive from home. On the way along the South-Eastern freeway near Mt Barker, I was amazed to see a very large gathering of Australian Magpies. It is quite common to see up to about a dozen feeding in a loose flock, but this gathering must have numbered between 50 and 60 – I couldn’t count them accurately while driving at highway speed, nor did I have my camera ready.
They were all feeding in the recently mowed grass on the roadside verge, an area of several tennis courts. Such a large congregation of magpies is, in my experience, quite unusual. I can only surmise that the mower, which was working about a hundred metres further along, had stirred up a feast of insects.
When we bought our home some 30 years ago we never heard or saw Grey Currawongs in our garden or anywhere on our five acre block. They are moderately common and widespread in the district, and this is also true throughout their normal range in southern Australia so it was surprising that we never saw this species in the first decade we lived here.
It appears that several birds moved into the mallee scrub area up the road about a kilometre on a hill overlooking our property. When they called – something which happened only occasionally – we were aware of their presence.
About ten years ago several individuals would occasionally either fly over head, or settle briefly in one of our trees before moving on. This happened every month or so. About five years ago a pair started frequently following their offspring onto our property. These visits occurred every few days.
Now they are relatively regular visitors, even coming to our bird bath on hot days. When they do this it gives me a great opportunity to take a series of photos, like those shown today. These were taken last week during our most recent heat wave.
When you have close up views of this species you suddenly realise how big they are, compared with most of the birds which visit the bird baths. They are much larger than the Australian Magpie-larks, a little larger than Australian Magpies and even the Little Raven. They are certainly much larger than the many honeyeaters which come to drink, and the dainty pardalotes, thornbills and silvereyes are positively minuscule in comparison.
And how about that glaring eye?
Positively gives me a creepy feeling.
A few mornings ago I was just emerging from a good night’s sleep when there was a very loud bang on our bedroom window. Light was just beginning to filter into the room past the edges of our curtains. After this sudden noise there was no hope of dreaming on – or of sleeping in for a while.
In my bare feet I padded across to the window and drew the curtains, expecting to see a half-dazed bird on the pavers of the path outside.
Nothing. After showering and dressing I went into the garden to investigate. Still nothing. But the bird which had crashed into our window had left two nasty after-effects.
Streaked across the glass was a huge mess where the bird had defecated on impact.
And the glass pane was neatly cracked – diagonally from one top corner to the opposite bottom corner.
We frequently have birds crash into our windows; it probably happens every few weeks. Usually they are just stunned for a few minutes before they fly off, wiser perhaps for the experience. Several times a year – perhaps only once or twice – a bird will be so badly hurt that it is killed on impact. Usually it is the smaller birds such as the pardalotes.
Collisions like this happen all over the world. The birds see a reflection of some trees or a park or a garden in the window and they assume that they can fly right on through – until they come to a sudden halt when they hit the glass. There is very little one can do to prevent this unfortunately.
On this occasion, however, there remained a puzzle. Which species had caused such a devastating impact on our window – enough to crack it so thoroughly? My first thought was a baby magpie just learning to fly. We have several of them around at present. Then I thought it could have been a Little Raven. Tough critters – but we haven’t seen many of those around recently.
This morning I realised that it could have been a Grey Currawong. Several have been hanging around the garden recently and with their enormous beak the impact could have been caused by one of them.
Unless they start talking to me, I guess I’ll never know!