Jack’s back

My favourite lizard at the Mountain was the cheeky Jacky (Amphibolurus muricatus). I missed him.

But after six months in my new home, I think one of his cousins has come to live here.

He was stretched out across my makeshift plastic-covered hothouse for carrots, catching the last of the afternoon sun.

I ran for the camera but he was quick to dash away. I laughed aloud with delight to see that familiar high-legged splayed gait, long needle tail held out stiff and straight behind — just like a mini-dinosaur.

It looked like a Jack was back in my life.

This one bore different colours from my Mountain mate, but they do vary a lot with gender and temperature. He ran under the house on to a pile of timber, where I couldn’t get a good photo. But enough to marvel anew at those delicate toes and the intricate studded patterns of his stripes. If he’s not a Jacky lizard, he’ll still be Jack to me… and very welcome too!

Old friend

I have always needed a writing work space with connection to the outdoors, and I have had that at my Mountain and my last place. Here I have had to create it by inserting two windows to give me the natural views I crave.

This means I can see a fair bit of the birdlife activity, even from my desk.

Which is how I spotted this White-headed Pigeon on my deck railing.

I vividly recall the gradual growth of visits – and visitors – from these handsome pigeons before; first one, then a few, then a flock would start to come around.

I welcome this reconnoitring advance male, and hope for him to return with friends.

As I have observed before, they have adapted to like feeding on the introduced camphor laurels, which no doubt helped save their declining numbers, but does spread the trees.

Unfortunately — apart from attracting the pigeons — I have some here.

Their call is somewhat mournful and not especially musical, with its repetitive ‘oom’.

Their dapper plumage is actually more colourful than at first glance, as there is a purplish-green sheen on the back and rump. The red details on beak, eye ring and legs and feet serve to complement the outfit nicely!

I’ve posted often about these pigeons — try here, here, here and here.

Christmas birds

No partridges or pear trees for me this Christmas, but Rainbow Lorikeets in a Jacaranda.

Gorgeously coloured, brighter than Christmas decorations, yet unseen by me until I heard the unmistakable, unstopping whinging of baby birds…

Far up in the Jacaranda where I’d not have been looking, they were just a darker blob from the ground.

But the constant carry-on gave them away. I assume parents and two young, but they all looked the same from way down here.

Not nesting, just resting … and gone next day.

I had one more Christmas visit: an afternoon sojourn in a shady tree by my Tawny Frogmouth Dad and one young, surely a teenager by now. The latter appeared asleep, nestled up against Dad on a very hot Christmas Eve.

So good to see at least half the family and know all was still well.

Home is where…

The day after my solar panels went on, I checked the Frogmouth tree first thing in the morning as usual and was shocked to find it empty, on nest and branches.

It was too early, the babies were too young, the book said 25 days… yet flown they were.

I was sad, bereft, felt unfairly abandoned. Hadn’t I been a good host?

I did look in the nearby trees but saw no sign of them.

Then the next day, I heard the hum and followed it to the camphor laurel just beyond my side fence, closer to my verandah than the nest had been.

Yep, there they were!

The father and the two babies, one of which was already practising the broken-off dead branch pose. The other was waddling along a nearby lower branch a little, to and fro, rather like a parrot.

And then the waddling one actually flew, not far, just to the branch where its father sat. I had realised they must have flown from the nest tree, but somehow didn’t believe it until I saw it.

It did look rather smug after the feat.

The baby waddled along the branch until it was next to Dad. It looked me in the eye as I zoomed in for a better photo.

And then it leant in and nestled up to Dad, like any baby does, for comfort.

I couldn’t help uttering a soppy ‘Ah-h-h’.

How cute was that?

I had hoped they’d use that tree as they grew, but they were only there for one day. A week has passed without a sighting.

I have spotted two in a tree once, but the young are so big now that it’s getting hard to tell young from old. I worry, why only two?

I am grateful for this reserve where there are enough safe trees en masse for them to choose from and fly between.

I am grateful I was privileged to see as much as I did of their youth.

Frogmouth family

From my deck the familiar Frogmouth lump in the tree seemed to have doubled. She-oak bark camouflaged as this bird is, my eyes always need to peer hard to work out this lump’s doings.

But there were two of them, one on the nest and one on an adjacent branch. Great; a pair!

And then I realised that the nest sitter was now sitting on more than sticks.

Two fluffy heads were somehow fitting beneath that mother, squashed into that always too-small nest in the crook of the She-Oak.

‘Welcome!!’ I called, delighted beyond measure that in my new home this gift had been delivered while I was at the Pilliga, trying to protect such natural wonders.

The Frogmouth chicks seemed to swell as I watched. I was full of questions.

However will they and the mother fit on that little nest for very long?

How long will the male stay around?

Had he only arrived for the hatching or had I just not seen him before?

Had they taken shifts to sit on the eggs?

Neither adult replied, but one chick opened a golden eye wider and gave me a most adult ‘look’. Yes, I know; I am ignorant.

But oh, so grateful!

Familiar faces

As at my last two homes, I see a lot of wildlife just from my decks and verandahs, perhaps because I choose homes that are part eyrie.

Not having heard kookaburras here yet, I was delighted to see this one last evening, just metres away from my side verandah. Such a handsome fellow!

Next day, I heard the unmistakable continual rusty sawing of a young Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo. Rushing out to that same verandah, I spotted him, large and loud, carrying on as only a baby magpie can beat.

This equally handsome fellow was in a Silky Oak, but where was the parent? Not in the same tree…

No, but near enough, busy in a Casuarina, ignoring the whining young. I am so happy that these familiar avian faces are appearing in my new place, making me feel more at home with each visit.

But this place is all about trees; even the clothesline is a pulley system off the high back deck, where I send my washing out into the air space between trees… past the reach of the yellow droppings of birds in the Silky Oak.

Vine Snake

My verandah is fringed with an ornamental grape vine, in full summer bright green leaf at present, its stems twining and curving and constantly reaching out to new holds.

Last week a familiar and faster twiner and curver was using it as camouflage.

I have seen this Green Tree Snake each summer here, but on those two past occasions it was extremely UNcamouflaged, on my tank and my ladder (see here and here). I could see the full length then of this slender snake, when it appeared about two metres long.

During this visit, it wound in and out of railings and vine stems so intricately that I could never see its whole body.

‘Green’ is a generalisation in its name as it has a range of colours, but I’d know that pretty head anywhere. Whether as Tank Snake or Ladder Snake or Vine Snake, I loved that it had returned.
 
And is it smiling ’hello’ back?

Welcome Greenie

This gorgeous Green Tree Frog is probably the best known frog in Australia, but no less special for that. He’s the source of the very deep and monotonous ‘wark-wark-wark’  that I hear at the bottom of a nearby downpipe, presumably when he reckons rain is coming.

This one was quiet, post-rain and dozing on a rhubarb leaf, for which he was really too heavy as he’d bent it almost to the ground. They can grow up to 15 cm long, so this one is a relative lightweight.

Such a baleful look he gave me as I went closer to take his photo. These plump green beauties are also known as White’s Tree Frogs. I was more familiar with the much smaller Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog, also a green gem of a creature. I welcome all frogs!

Welcome wallies

I get so few visits from more than one wandering wallaby that I was delighted to see this little trio of game boys venture in right near the house one early evening after rain.

They are the same Eastern Red-necked Wallabies that I lived with — in such great numbers — at my old Mountain home. As I have now been here two years, I had hoped that the word would have got around that no dogs lived here any more.

This gang of young males were not afraid, didn’t mind me opening the verandah door to take these shots, but were wary, as is only right.

But I miss my old familiars, the mothers and joeys always hanging about the yard. Patiently, hopefully, I await their discovery of my sanctuary. There is a sign on the gate; maybe they are less educated over here?

Wagtail babies

As expected, when I returned from a few days away, the Willy Wagtails’ chicks were hatched and hungry. Silent though, unlike the demanding magpie baby in the tree near my bedroom.

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It was soon clear there were three little mouths to be stuffed, and given that they were constantly opening and shutting, I was amazed that the parents managed to get any food down those throats.

Both mother and father were finding food at frantic pace; sometimes the offerings seemed inappropriate, like a whole moth that the parent kept trying to fit in one after another of the tiny beaks. It failed, and flew off, I assume to eat the moth itself.

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The feeding worked rapidly, the babies fattened and fluffed and soon were jampacked in that tiny nest.

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A few days later, it was clear that one baby was top bird; there is always one. This one began stretching wings, standing on top of the others, almost falling out.

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Then came the morning when he stretched them so far that he did, landing on the timber and wondering where he was — and how far down he might fall.
At some stage he discovered he needn’t fall, as he could fly — and did.

It was a worrying time for the parents, trying to protect both the nest babies and the newly departed one. They were chattering warnings at me incessantly. And they were still feeding the whole three.

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Next morning I spotted him in a ti-tree at the other side of the house, looking cold — and probably wondering why he’d left that warm nest. He went back to visit the neighbourhood but didn’t fly up to the nest. I was impressed that he’d found his way.

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Then one more of his siblings made the break.

Mother tried to encourage the last one out of the nest, but no. So now the parents had three separate nursery sites.

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So at last the littlest of the litter had the nest to itself.

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As night fell, I saw that the two braver ones had returned briefly to be near their sibling, to encourage, embolden? 

‘Come on, you can do it; you just flap your wings and it works; you can’t stay there by yourself forever…’

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They were discovered next morning huddled together back on the same ti-tree branch. The night had been cool.

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As the day warmed them all up, the last baby decided to join them. Given they were not vocalising much I am surprised that it found them. The parents were still keeping watch, and still feeding.

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By mid-day the two bolder babies were flying and moving between ti-trees, especially as two honeyeaters were giving strong messages that this was their tree, causing much panicked chattering and swooping from the parents. 

But the last baby clung to that branch despite all, looking frail and frightened.

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Incoming birds

It being Spring, the Willy Wagtail mum has been busily readying last year’s nest for the 2016 brood.
The nest had looked perfectly serviceable, as it was as neat and symmetrical as she had originally made it.

However she seemed driven to add another layer, which brings it alarmingly close to the verandah roof.
While this is insulated, I fear for the babies if we get more summer-like early heat. 

Mum is now on the nest more than off, so I assume she has laid eggs. Dad spends his time dive-bombing magpies to keep them away.

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The other new regular visitor is a King Parrot, solo and talkative.

He has been sitting on my vegie garden’s bamboo posts and — I swear — chattering to me.

I have taken to standing at my back door and chattering back.

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He does not fly off when I go to fetch the camera.

Next time I will dare to step closer than the verandah and get a sharper shot.

Kookaburra pair

I have a lot of Kookaburras here — often called more fully Laughing Kookaburras, rarely called by their scientific name, Dacelo gigas.

As they do live in family groups, comprising several generations, that’s not surprising.

There are enough big trees left along the creek sides that they must have found enough nesting hollows to keep the family safe.

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My bird book notes that they ‘spend much time on conspicuous perches scanning ground for prey’. 

They are part of the Kingfisher family, but my sort ‘fish’ mainly for worms or whatever else meaty that dares to pop its head up in the short grass. Snakes, lizards, rodents insects — even small birds; that massive beak is very effective.

Here they have favourite perches — the shed roof, star posts, corner posts, several useful horizontal tree branches, but they are usually solo on these perches.

However, lately I’ve been seeing a pair, sitting as close as they can, swapping views from front to back, sharing the scanning?

Are they brothers, sisters, parent and grown child? The latter do stay around to help defend territory, feed new broods and care for fledglings. 

Kookaburras live for about 20 years and hang about in the same area; they also mate for life.

I can’t tell male from female but my book says the males often have a blue patch on the rump. As if I’m likely to get a glimpse of that…

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