Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Frogmouths in Bowral Pine Tree

My friends Bernie and Dorothy have previously sent me a photo of two Frogmouths roosting in a small pine tree in their backyard, in Bowral.

Several days ago, the birds were back, and Bernie rang me to let me know. As they are nocturnal birds, I knew they would stay put until I drove there, and got a photo.

When I arrived, one bird was clearly visible, and it was looking straight at me. You can clearly see how wide the mouth (beak) is.
Seconds later, it "assumed the position" which they use to pretend to be a stump or broken branch in a tree.
You can see the little tuft of feathers in front of the beak. which forms an integral part of their camouflage. as the "freeze" into the "dead stick" pose, those few feathers help break down the solid outline, and blur the appearance of the bird.

In a close-up of a freshly dead "road kill", you can see how these feathers are in fact a very specialised group of feathers - simple tufty feathers, not at all the normal "barbed" body feathers. There is nothing accidental about this little tuft of feathers. Looking back at the photo above, note how prominent these few small feathers are.
This is generally what one sees of Frogmouths in a tree - two lumps.
Thanks to Bernie for ringing me to let me know about these fascinating birds.


mick said...

They are such beautiful birds. I especially like the way they sit up there and calmly watch you - as in your first photo. It's interesting that you saw them in a pine tree as I have only seen them in banksias and paperbarks.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Yes, I agree that a Pine is a bit unusal for them. But they do prefer rough-barked trees generally, as it suits their camouflage.
Smooth barked Angophoras or Scribbly Gums are not so suitable for them.
I never tire of photographing them and they are not common here. Or should I say they are "seldom seen" but probably reasonably common.

Mosura said...

Seldom seen! For me it's been 34 years. They are recorded in the bushland of which my block is part of so maybe one day I'll see another one.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
34 years is a long time between Frogmouths.
For me, they are usually chance encounters, one might see one on a roadside post, coming up Macquarie Pass, or even in the back yard - just for a moment.
SO you can see why I was happy to drive 35 minutes to get to see them.
Photos not great, either. But that's what happens. You take your chances.

Flabmeister said...

The matter of where Frogmouths roost is very interesting. It was suggested in a talk to COG that they always roost on eucalypts, which produced photographs of them roosts on things like Hills Hoists. Otheer suggestions have included: always dead branches; and prefer dark coloured branches.

"My" family use a live branch in an Acacia dealbata from time to time and the bare light coloured branches of a Euc. meliodora.

The issue of how common they are was well addressed by Stuart Rae from ANU who said in a talk to COG that he looked at every tree in Black Mountain and a couple of other 'reserves' near canberra. I think he found 12 active nest sites in Black Mountain!! The trick (once in 'normal habitat') is apparently not to look too hard but be aware of peripheral vision. I don't know why this is so, but it has certainly helped me find our lot a couple of times.


Tyto Tony said...

Almost looks as if they wanted to be seen!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Tony.
I doubt Frogmouths ever "want to be seen". But they often do not do much to avoid it, once they have been spotted. they can keep a keen eye on you from the merest slit in their eyes.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
Indeed their choice of roosting trees is interesting.
I have not read the paper to which you refer (or talk).
It sounds interesting.
I know when looking for Orchids, there is such a thing as "Getting your eye "in"" Quite what the process is, I do not understand, but i know it involves training your eye (or mind) to recognise certain shapes as worthy of further examination. Maybe that's where the peripheral vision thing comes in.

tilcheff said...

Always great to see Tawnies being spotted and photographed, Denis!

I must be a few hundred times luckier than our friend Mosura, 'cause in only seven years since I moved to Australia I have seen the guys many times - during the day and night, high and low in the trees, in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart - never in a pine tree though. This fact is very interesting indeed.

Best regards, Denis!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Nickolay
Well as you are a former Tasmanian, I know you are not being rude towards Mosura. Maybe you have the knack, or the peripheral vision technique which Martin referred to.
Certainly I was surprised to hear of them in a Pine Tree. That's why I was keen to record the event.
The credit for seeing them goes to Dorothy and Bernie. I just pointed the camera at them once I got there.
I would say I get more comments re Frogmouth postings than just about everything else.
They are a popular topic.
I know I like them.
Thanks to everyone for their interest.

watereddy said...

Hi Denis,

One of the pair flew very low across Price Street Bowral last night as I brought the bins in.

He perched only about a metre off the ground and let me walk up quite close to him - I stopped reverently some twelve metres away.

I'm thrilled they are going on nightly hunts quite close to where you took both lots of photos.

I'm certain they are the spirits of very contented past citizens.

The Blog is a great credit to you dear friend.

Best regards,

Bernard and Dorothy

catmint said...

in the photo the feathers look like bark, great camouflage.
I agree with your friends Bernard and Dorothy Denis - your blog is great credit to you. cheers, catmint

Denis Wilson said...

Many thanks, Catmint.
I enjoy Blogging, but I am so busy at present trying to restore my little house that I have been very remiss in publishing recently.
The fact that people like yourself bother to comment helps keeping me going.
Keep up your own good work.
Your backyard bird list blog has been very successful.