Archive for the 'Magpies and Currawongs' Category

Upset birds in Artarmon

As I start this update post, I regret to say that I do not have any photos to share. The reason is simple. This article resulted from an experience I had last week while playing cricket with my six and half year old grandson. We were in his backyard here in Artarmon, north Sydney, where we are visiting at present. We were really into our game when our attention was drawn to the sound of many alarmed birds near the garden, in the street and in nearby properties. I did not have time to race inside and collect my camera.

First it was the alarm calls made by at least a dozen or more Noisy Miners. They were really upset about something but we couldn’t tell what it was. Naturally we stopped playing our game and started looking around, trying to determine the cause of their distress. My grandson, despite his youthfulness, is often aware of the birds wherever he goes. My intense interest has rubbed off on him and his father.

Next thing the local Pied Currawongs joined in the chorus, along with four or five Australian Ravens. A few seconds later three Laughing Kookaburras joined in the loud calling, along with several local Australian Magpies going stir crazy as well. The local Rainbow Lorikeets, always here in large numbers and always very noisy, set off flying in all directions, calling madly. Three Crested Pigeons skedaddled off over the roof to an unknown destination while the Noisy Miners kept up their protestations.

Meanwhile, the enormous racket unsettled both the Grey Butcherbirds and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, their raucous calls just adding to the general confusion. The only birds not upset were the softly twittering Welcome Swallows soaring over head. Or perhaps their twitters were in response to the noise below.

My grandson and I never discovered the reason for the commotion. We saw no evidence of a bird of prey, or an owl, or whatever had disturbed the locals. It generated quite a discussion with him about the possible causes.

We will never know. We can only speculate.

Good birding.

Pied Currawong and that glaring eye

Pied Currawong

Pied Currawong

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.

Pied Currawong

Pied Currawong

An uninvited lunch time visitor

Australian Magpie on our picnic table

Australian Magpie on our picnic table

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.

Further reading:

Australian Magpie on our picnic table

Australian Magpie on our picnic table

Australian Black-backed Magpie on our picnic table

Australian Black-backed Magpie on our picnic table

Australian Magpie above our picnic table

Australian Magpie above our picnic table

 

Plenty of magpies

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.

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Giving an evil eye?

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

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.

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

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.

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong

Grey Currawong