Blog Archives

Rainbow Lorikeets and a flowering grass tree

A grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) perches precariously on the edge of a cliff in our garden. Every couple of years, the grass tree throws up a flower spike—much to the delight of the Rainbow Lorikeets in the area. Here’s a closeup of a couple of the birds on the flower spike:

Here’s the grass tree on the cliff, with the flower spike shooting up. The grass tree is the one with long, thin, spiky leaves at the base of the flowering spike, not the fleshy big-leafed succulents that surround it:

You can only fit so many lorikeets on a flower spike at once. So, the trick is to line up on the nearest power line and take turns. This video shows the interaction between the birds as they wait in line:

Evidently the nectar from the flowers on the spike is deliciously sweet. Australian Aboriginal people use it to make a sweet drink. Europeans used to burn it as incense in churches. The birds feel it’s worth waiting in line:

It turns out you can fit quite a few lorikeets on a flower spike:

Common name: Rainbow Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2017 (Winter)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Blue puffballs: Male Variegated Fairy-wren and partner

Two Variegated Fairy-wrens dropped in for a flying visit. The most visible one, with electric blue feathers, is male. The female has softer colouring, with blue tail feathers. Their excited chirping drew me to the window in time to make a quick video.

Common name: Variegated Fairy-wren

Scientific name: Malurus lamberti

Approximate length: 13 cm

Date spotted: 13 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Two chirpy Variegated Fairy-wrens

Followers of this blog will know that I’m building up a collection of pictures of fairy wrens, bit by hard-won bit! They’re tiny little birds that like to flit around the undergrowth, granting observers tantalising glimpses but not much more.

These two female Variegated Fairy-wrens were out in the open for a few seconds, which has to be some kind of record. They’re chirping sociably to each other as they hop along next to a bush path.

Common name: Variegated Fairy-wren

Scientific name: Malurus lamberti

Approximate length: 13 cm

Date spotted: 12 February 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’47.9″S 151°15’02.7″E

Magpie serenade

Two magpies hopped onto a branch and serenaded each other as I walked past.  They had to battle a fairly fierce wind, as you can see from the ruffled state of their feathers.

Common name: Australian Magpie

Scientific name: Gymnorhina tibicen

Approximate length: 40 cm

Date spotted: 26 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Long Reef near Dee Why, New South Wales, Australia: 33°44’21.1″S 151°18’30.8″E

Kookaburra baby cackling and feeding

The kookaburras around our neighbourhood are very noisy at the moment. A couple of juveniles drop by regularly to practise their cackling skills. They’re cute and funny.

In this video, you can see one youngster crooning to himself, and another behind the branches. In the background, other birds chime in to show him how it’s done. A parent comes by a couple of times too, to feed the ever-demanding little one.

Common name: Laughing Kookaburra

Scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae

Approximate length: 47 cm

Date spotted: 31 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Kookaburras cranking up for a cackle

You’ve probably heard kookaburras in full voice, cackling and hooting raucously. I think the sound they make when they’re preparing for a full-voice yodel is funny and cute. It happens in particular when there’s a group of birds. They chunter at each other, perhaps in warning or perhaps companionably. They sound a bit like rusty saws in a dusty attic.

These two were in a tree high above my lounge window:

I encountered this disreputable, slightly dangerous looking character deep in the bush:

Common name: Laughing Kookaburra

Scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae

Approximate length: 47 cm

Date spotted (second video): 26 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location (second video): Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’50.4″S 151°14’59.6″E

Currawong in song

Currawongs are medium-sized birds that look similar to magpies and butcher birds. An easy way to tell them apart is that currawongs don’t have white markings on their heads, where magpies and butcher birds do have white collars or caps. Currawongs have yellow eyes, where magpies’ eyes are red.

The song of the currawong is varied, with clear bell-like sounds, whistles, and yodels. This video shows a currawong listening to the song of others around him, and responding every now and then.

Common name: Pied Currawong

Scientific name: Strepera graculina

Approximate length: 45 cm

Date spotted: 16 October 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Approximate latitude/longitude: 33°46’42.1″S 151°14’59.3″E

Cockatoos teasing

Cockatoos are playful, sociable creatures. Yesterday I watched a pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos high in a gum tree. One of them was grooming. The other was teasing its companion, prodding it and seeming very satisfied with the startled response.

A couple of minutes later both of them flare their wings and crests, squawking gleefully.

Common name: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Scientific name: Cacatua galerita

Approximate length: 50 cm

Date spotted: 8 October 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam Park, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’51.5″S 151°14’51.7″E

Noisy Miners feeding chicks in nest

Noisy Miners live up to their name. If they lived in California, Hitchcock would surely have used them as inspiration for The Birds. They cheep and squeak at everything in sight, and frequently attack everything in sight too. They’re also known as Australian Miners.

This nest has three chicks, cheeping continuously. The adult birds drop in to feed them every now and then. At one stage in the video, one of the chicks stretches up and flaps its wings. Getting ready for that first flight.

Interestingly, the adult birds feeding the chicks aren’t necessarily the parents. Other birds in a Miner colony often help to feed the babies. Noisy Miners are honeyeaters. They eat nectar, fruit and insects.

Noisy Miner chicks in nest

Common name: Noisy Miner, also called Australian Miner

Scientific name: Manorina melanocephala

Approximate length of adult bird: 26 cm

Date spotted: 13 September 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’13.7″S 151°15’39.8″E

Wild call of the black cockatoo

The banksias are in seed, and the black cockatoos are in town! Out strolling in the bush today, I came across a large group of these majestic birds. Their raucous squawks are typical cockatoo, but they add a wild, shrieking call that sounds more like a fish eagle, and a chitter chatter that’s all their own.

The first video shows a dead tree with plenty of interesting cavities and perches for a curious cockatoo. You can hear the wild calls as the birds take off and land.

In the next video, the birds chatter and call to each other as they clamber around the same dead tree. I hadn’t heard this type of chatter from black cockatoos before today.

What does a gum tree full of black cockatoos sound like? This is the same flock, high up in a gum tree.

Details of this sighting

Common name: Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Scientific name: Calyptorhynchus funereus

Approximate length: 65 cm

Date spotted: 27 August 2016

Season: Late winter

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’50.7″S 151°14’53.7″E

A few days earlier

The following video and photos show an encounter with a group of the birds a few days earlier (22 August) in a different area of the reserve (33°46’35.1″S 151°15’16.7″E).

Perched high above the bush:

Black cockatoo at Manly Dam

A final cheeky look:
Black cockatoo Manly Dam