Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, December 18, 2009

A season of plenty - plenty of squarking

The recent evenings have been soft and gentle - almost how one imagines English summer evenings are.

Butterflies have been mobbing the Buddleja bush. This is what these bushes are famous for, hence the popular name "Butterfly Bush".
This butterfly is the "Yellow Admiral" - Vanessa itea
Quite literally is is common to see something approaching 50 Butterflies around one bush, at any one time. This is the "Australian Painted Lady" Butterfly (Vanessa kershawi)
Another plant which is in full flower is a cultivar of the Tea Tree (Leptospermum spectabile). This plant produces copious nectar from the floral disc. And its flowers attracts bees, beetles and hover flies.
Here you can see the green floral disc to which I have just referred. The petals are red, and the sepals creamy white. The stamens are very prominent, still holding their pollen (as yet unripe). The little brown "bags" on the ends of the stamens will open to release the pollen, once it is ripe (at "dehiscence" - the shedding of the pollen).
In my yard, King Parrots (Alisterus scapularis) are uncommon. They are around, but I seldom see them feeding in my place. The people of Robertson do spoil them, by offering "bird seed" (which I do not do). I feel it makes them too dependent on supplied food. I prefer to wait and on occasions, find a King Parrot doing some more natural feeding. This handsome male is in a planted Acacia decurrens (not a local plant, but a garden specimen). But the King Parrot has observed that the wattle has set seed, which is as close as can be to "natural" food for the Parrot.The Acacia seed pods are visible above the Parrot's head - as straight, slightly brown pods, with nodules (bumps) visible. Each bump represents a seed (as in a classic "Pea Pod" structure).

Having boasted about not providing "bird seed" for the King Parrots, I do give the birds an occasional piece of fruit. I was hoping to attract a Bower Bird (which I did), but the top of the line birds at this season are the Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina). Within a few minutes of me leaving two small pears out on the feed table, the Currawongs were into them. The Bowerbird sat quietly by - an unusual occurrence.
I always "fix " the fruit onto a spike (a screw). The theory is that it prevents the fruit from rolling off the table, when the birds are pecking at it.
This bird outsmarted me. It grabbed the Pear by the stem, and lifed the fruit in a single attempt. It seemed surprised, for an instant, then it flew off into the bush carrying the Pear, closely followed by two nagging, squarking fledglings.
Notice the enormously powerful feet of the Currawong.
Next time I will cut the long stem off the Pear. I don't want to be outsmarted again. I did not see, but it is very likely the Bowerbird scooped up the remaining piece of the Pear. I hope so.

Here is one of the young Currawongs. Note the grey plumage and the yellow gape (the joint of the upper and lower mandibles of the beak). That is a residual feature of young "passerines" which grow a very wide gape when very young, to facilitate feeding by the parents when in the nest. Once they fledge, the soft tissue shrinks to normal hard beak tissue. This youngster's eyes are grey, not bright yellow.And just to set the scene of the "soft evening" there was a pastel sunset on the little pile of clouds out over Fitzroy Falls..On evenings like this I like to use the very droll Aussie expression:
"Ya wouldn't be dead for Quids".

10 comments:

mick said...

All very beautiful and a 'soft and gentle' evening sounds the nicest of the lot. The Currawong photos are great! Very smart birds - and very cheeky too! The photo of the young one is interesting as I haven't seen enough Currawongs to ever see a young one.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
.
I thought you would like the soft and gentle evening.
.
I meant to write about the abundance of food at this season, but in truth I have only seen Lewins Honeyeaters chasing Butterflies on the Buddlejas. Not the Currawongs.
I do know the Currawongs chase beetles and moths in the late afternoons. You can see them fly awkwardly upwards, then make a grab at something, then sweep back down to the trees.
.
Cheers
Denis

Mosura said...

In Scotland I sometimes put apples out for the Fieldfares but they would sometimes end up hidden under the snow. Putting then up high on a spike would have been a good idea. At least I'd have been able to locate them even if the birds couldn't :-)

Tyto Tony said...

Lovely stuff. We're all quids in banking on beauty!

Gaye from the Hunter said...

Hello Denis,

nice to see some of the birds of your backyard. I am somewhat surprised that King Parrots are uncommon visitors to your yard. I have been surprised and delighted to have almost daily visits by King Parrots now that I'm in town (Singleton).

Some of the Acacias have splendid seed pods, and indeed, splendid seeds.

The Currawongs certainly are clever birds. It will be interesting to know how they tackle the pear without the stem next time.

And what a wonderful evening sky you enjoyed in the mountains.

I have been watching bowerbirds this week too, with some extraordinary entertainment. I have shared this on my weekly observations post on my bird blog:

http://australianbirdblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/weekly-observations_15.html

Cheers,
Gaye

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura.
From memory, Fieldfares are large Thrushes. They would like apples. The spikes are simple and work quite well. Long screws driven up from underneath the feeder table. It avoids the need to put an edge on the table, which in a wet area, would trap rain and make any food soggy. That's one other reason why I don't use grain. Messy.
Cheers
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

Tony
Nice idea. Millionaires of Beauty, eh?
Cheers
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gaye
The King Parrots are around the Village, but seldom come to my place.
They do come to vegetable gardens, and where people feed the parrots.
Your birds were feeding yellow berries, I notice. Probably some introduced plants. In Canberra they love Cotoneasters, and Pyracantha and even Rowan Tree Berries and Hawthorns.
In the long run, they create a weed problem, but not just the King Parrots are to blame for that. Currawongs eat many of the same berries.
Checked out your birding blog. Nice story of the Spotted Bowerbirds.
Cheers
Denis

Gaye from the Hunter said...

Hello again Denis,

thanks for the names of some trees/shrubs that the King Parrots get into. I am trying to identify the one in my yard (introduced garden plant), and I'll check out those ones to start with. It has mauve flowers before the yellow berries, and is a pest really as seedlings come up everywhere, so I can see how it and others can be spread by the birds visiting gardens.

Cheers,
Gaye

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gaye
You can send me a photo via email.
Happy to help ID it.
Sounds like something int he Solanaceae if it has purple fls and yellow berries.
Maybe the "Tobacco Plant (False).
Photo of leaves will help.
Solanum Solanum mauritianum
Cheers
Denis