Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Gang-gang Cockatoos in Glenquarry Hawthorns

Gang-gang Cockatoos (Callocephalon fimbriatum) love Hawthorn berries. This is a well known fact. I remember approaching these birds very closely, when they were feeding on Hawthorn and other introduced thorn trees in the streets in Canberra. In Glenquarry there are many Hawthorn trees growing along the edges of farming properties, and along creek gullies.

Last Sunday, Bernie and I were driving (Bernie was at the wheel) along Tourist Road and I spotted these birds. Bernie, (not being used to driving with a fanatical birdwatcher as passenger), was slow to react to my call, and by the time he realise I wanted to stop, we were well past these birds, and heading into a series of tight bends along Tourist Road. No place to stop there. Coming back about half-an-hour later, we slowed down, and sure enough this flock of Gang-gangs was still there, munching their way through an enormous feast of Hawthorn Berries. They are like that. When they find a good food source, they just sit there, happily feeding themselves.

There are 15 Gang-gangs in this one photograph, (some are hard to see in the small scale image
as they are at the back of the tree, facing away). 5 of these birds are mature males. I love the friendly female (low, at left) who was feeding on a seeding Hawthorn. She let me walk slowly to within about 3 metres, before she flew to the main tree.
It was at that point that I got out and walked across the road, to take these photos. Of course, I did not have my long lens with me (Why not?). So these are the best images I could produce. Yet another photo opportunity missed!

Of course, from a weed control point of view, these Gang-gangs are contributing greatly to the spread of Hawthorns. But they do also provide very wonderful opportunities for birdwatchers to get a really good look at Gang-gangs, "up close and personal".
This flock of birds is almost certainly the same group as I saw several months ago, taking refuge in the large gum trees further down the road into Glenquarry, after the SCA's burn-off. I mentioned then that this species is classed as "vulnerable" under the NSW Threatened Species listing. That is an example of why I was so cranky at the SCA for the negligent manner in which they conducted that burn-off, not burning on a "mosaic pattern", (where they are supposed to leave unburnt sections of forest), as recommended by the Dept of Environment and Climate Change in its very thorough study of the "Terrestrial Vertebrate Fauna of the Greater Southern Sydney Region". At least these birds are safe, at present, but this food is not their natural diet (although they do love it). More importantly, they cannot nest in this open farmland habitat. They need tall Eucalypt forest for a year-round food source, and for nesting.


Joe said...

Thanks for sharing these magnificent photos!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Joe

I keep hoping to get better photos of these birds. The previous group of Gang-gangs feeding beside the road were all young birds. This was the first time in many years where I had seen adult males like this.

The occasions when these birds turn up like this are few and far between. Of course, I had the wrong lenses with me on this occasion.
The old rule - "never leave home without the camera", just got modified to: "always have your full kit of lenses with your camera".

Thanks Joe.