Wattlebirds have been a long time feature of our backyard and I think we’ve had pretty much the same family, or pair, around since we moved to our country abode. I’ve always thought of them as somewhat timid, nectar eating, birds that prefer to mind their own business as much as possible. How wrong could I be. Wattlebirds are simply evil, spawn of the devil, in the way they have been behaving this last year. And I don’t think it’s anything to do with the virus we’ve experienced since late last year. We have two families as best as I can tell and both are right royal bastards when it comes to the other birds that live and visit our backyard.
Over the last year, I’ve been giving our backyard birds, those that are meat eaters, a little bit of mince each day just to see how they react. And because we’ve been under COVID lockdown for most of the year, this has become a regular event in the mornings and evenings. The amount of mince that I give them is quite small, no larger than a ping pong ball in size each morning and evening, and this is for four Kookaburras, two Magpies, two Butcher Birds and a Wattlebird, with the occasional Crimson Rosella snaffling a small piece. The birds, naturally, have become quite accustomed to this (though surprisingly quickly) and I now have nearly all of them taking mince from my hand, or when placed very close to me on our veranda balustrade.
Summer is now behind us though the warm weather is still lingering about, which is a good thing as last year we had the fire well and truly going by now. However, with bushfires burning nearby and warnings of hot and wild weather forthcoming, and then not as it got cold and heavy rain arrived, it’s interesting to sit on our veranda and watch the comings and goings of our feathered friends. Most have been fairly scarce during the Summer, so I haven’t had much reason to bring out my camera. But recently we’ve had an influx of a variety of birds that generally pay us a visit, so once again I’ve had a chance to take a few photographs of the characters that we call our friends. We might call them friends, but I suspect that to them we’re just odd ground dwellers that somehow have food.
The world is gifted with many birds that have a melodious and wonderful sounding song, but there are also a few that somewhere along the genetic line missed out miserably and ended up with something that no one could seriously consider melodious. Amongst the latter are the likes of Crows, Gang Gang Cockatoos, Yellow Crested Cockatoos, Black Cockatoos and Corellas, to name five regulars that inhabit our region. Thankfully these five tend not to be constant visitors to our backyard, but you do hear them in the distance from time to time. We’re more blessed with the pleasant tunes of the Magpies, Rosellas, King Parrots, Blackbirds and Kookaburras; yes, Rosellas and King Parrots do have a pleasant sounding song (when they are whistling for food). Out of all the unpleasant bird noises, the Little Corellas must have the loudest and most discordant sound possible, given their size.
Apologies to one of Australia’s iconic bands and their most well known song, but it was the first thing that came to mind with this story (even before I started writing). As the song goes, I was sitting on my patio (veranda) with the heat and humidity high, hoping for a predicted thunderstorm to bring some relief to this unpleasant weather, while the subjects of this story were having a field day in the trees. And, as in the song, I was in a complete sweat while taking photographs for this story. So with all of these things coming together, I think it was kind of apropos to associate this story with the band GANGgajang and Sounds Of Then (This is Australia). But this story is about another type of gang that, at times, makes sounds kind of like that of a raspy guitar, the Gang-Gang Cockatoo.
As Summer slowly winds it’s inevitable path towards Autumn, we’ve had quite a range of weather in the last few months, from wet and miserable to hot and humid (also miserable). We’ve tried to make plans for a short camping trip, but each time when we are able to take the time, the weather has turned for the worse, almost mocking us. But what this weather has appeared to do, is bring out all manner and numbers of birdlife into our backyard. There was even a Whipbird in the garden that unfortunately I wasn’t able to photograph (these birds move like the Road Runner), though I did manage to catch a Butcherbird that was also a new arrival.
Two of the most regular and prolific breeds of bird that visit our garden are the King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas, and they are always welcome, especially if the King Parrots stay in small numbers. Oddly, for some reason, when there’s one group around, the other is not far away and it’s almost as if they rely on each other in some way. Over Winter, the appearance of both become few and far between, and where they go I have no idea; however, come Spring, they most certainly make their presence known. Like our Magpies, Blackbirds (with an unfortunate scientific name), Red Wattlebirds, Kookaburras and recently a pair of what appear to be Common Bronzewing Pigeons, they seem to make this area their home, or at least a regular haunt, which is fine by us.
I was recently going through a bunch of photography files dating back 10 or so years and came across a number of photographs of birds that I’d taken way back when and had pretty much forgotten I had them, so thought it might be interesting to revisit these old photographs and see how they come out with a refreshed outlook. I’ve never really been into bird photography in a dedicated sense, so it’s little wonder that I’d forgotten them. That said, when birds are about, I like to photograph them as much as possible and, after moving to the country, I’ve become far more interested in their activities. Now none of these photographs are from Gippsland, with the closest from Melbourne and the furthest from Queensland, but what the heck.
Summer has officially been upon us for a month now and hot, sweaty, days are yet to loom (but coming soon), and we’ve still been getting our fair share of rain over the last few weeks. It’s the time of year when Gippsland changes perhaps most significantly, for many and varied reasons. One of the first things that I noticed (coming back from our bush Christmas) was the return of the birds, of all varieties. It’s the first time that I’ve seen Gang-Gang Cockatoos in our backyard, which weren’t the easiest to photograph initially, as they were feeding in the denser foliage of the trees. But over the next few days they started to move about a lot more and provided much better opportunities, as well as making an awful mess stripping leaves.
I guess there was one interesting activity that happened while camping on the Melbourne Cup Weekend at Neerim South and a simple story is as good as any. On one of the days there was an almighty cacophony in the gully opposite to where we were camping and, upon investigation, we discovered that a Wedge-Tailed Eagle had caught an Ibis. This had raised the ire of numerous birds, especially several Magpie Larks that were in major attack/harassment mode around the eagle.