My sojourn at the seaside basking in the cool weather was over. Back at the farm it had continued hot. The list of visitors to the water point continued to grow in my absence.
We once had a Brushtail Possum come down the chimney. We could hear it stuck in the flue and summoned the chimney sweep to push it down into the wood stove which I hasten to add was not alight. My reward for rescuing it was a bite on the finger.
They’re not all bad news though. At least they save me from eating any of the fruit we grow. And fortunately they don’t eat the grapes. It’s the birds do that.
The water trough, originally for a pony that I inherited, has been quite busy. Not surprising since day time temperatures have been in the mid 30’s.
The camera trap was out three days and nights. Apart from more than 2000 images devoid of an animal it took photographs of nine species of bird and three species of mammal.
The birds have all been daytime visitors. The cast in order of appearance …
Raven sp (probably Little)
So nothing out of the ordinary and a subset of the many species that I’ve seen having a drink there over the years.
Mammals have mostly been Eastern Grey Kangaroos, several every night. A Hare made a couple of day time visits. And there has been one visitor I would rather not have seen …
Feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native species in Australia. They have caused the extinction of some ground-dwelling birds and small to medium-sized mammals. They are a major cause of decline for many land-based endangered animals such as the bilby, bandicoot, bettong and numbat.
Birds of prey make their living in different ways; Kestrels are fond of mice, Peregrines are fond of pigeons, Brown Falcons are fond of snakes. Hunting technique are appropriate to the creatures hunted.
Harriers go about their business fairly low over open country with wings upswept. In Australia we have a couple of members of the guild, Swamp Harrier and Spotted Harrier. One prefers wetter habitats the other drier habitats.
The dry plains around my home seem ideal for Spotted Harrier but for all that they are only occasional visitors. I was looking for quail when I encountered this one, so was he probably.
When looking for mice in the grass slow flight is an advantage. Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites can hover. They are both smaller birds, there is only so much energy in a mouse and hovering is expensive. The equation works for the small birds but hovering is too expensive for harriers to undertake except very briefly.
So slow flight it is. The upswept wings contribute to lateral stability, very helpful when flying close to stall speeds. If a wing stalls it drops relative to the other wing and the bird as a whole side slips to the affected side. Under these circumstances the lower wing develops more lift than the upper wing and tends to restore the bird to level flight (at a slightly lower altitude).
The upward angulation of the wings is called dihedral and it can be seen in this photo of our gliding harrier …
The last couple of days have been days of laziness and overindulgence. Christmas is like that. They have also been hot … high 30’s. At five thirty last evening it was 38°C (100.4°F). Today we are expecting it to top 40° for the first time this summer.
With that in mind an early walk seemed like a much better idea than a later walk and for my enterprise I was rewarded …
Tawny Frogmouths are nocturnal. I quite often see them after dark hunting insects along my driveway.
During the day they roost in a tree and their plumage is so treelike that you can walk past them without a clue that they’re there. They tend to use the same place regularly so once you have a roost you can expect to see them whenever you wish. The only local roost I’ve been aware of is on someone else’s property and although the invitation has been extended I don’t like to visit with a camera in hand so I’ve reserved that for visitors who share my interest.
There is a small bushland reserve close to home. I walk through it several times a week. It’s anyone’s guess how many times I haven’t seen these guys but this morning I found them. I’d already thoroughly depixellated the first one before I saw the second one just a few metres away …
When they’re relaxed they are rounder and dumpier. When they feel in danger of being discovered they stretch out like these and do their stick imitation.
It will be interesting to see if this is their regular roost.
So this African sojourn comes to an end. As always when I’m writing about travel I have picked up new subscribers. Welcome to you, it’s nice to know that there are people out there, but what have you got in store now?
My neck of the woods is the Goldfields region of Victoria, Australia. It has a rich history and is rich in wildlife. People travel long distances to see Australia so stick around and I’ll show you what I can of it.
This may not be as exciting as an elephant about to charge the side of the vehicle but I took it this morning about 200 metres from my house.
I was just heading off to one of my favourite birding spots, Maryborough sewage treatment plant when I noticed that my driveway was busy with woodswallows. So I changed my plan and grabbed the camera.
These birds are summer visitors and seem to always be on the move. There are plenty about this year probably because of the dry conditions further north. Flocks can be huge, White-browed Woodswallows tend to be the most numerous often accompanied by their masked cousins. They breed in mixed colonies.
The adult males of both species are beautifully marked. The youngsters and females are also attractive but in more muted tones – designer pastels.