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.

Fledging forward

The Frogmouth babies are now sitting independently – and out from under the patient parent. I have since learnt that this is mainly the male, as he does the long nest/egg sitting and minds the babies, in daytimes at least.

A house husband, in fact, as Tawny Frogmouths mate for life.

I see little activity but they do stretch their wings a bit when they go through self-cleaning lessons.

I hear the adult hum-hum-hum at times but no learner efforts at this, or indeed any whinging for food as I hear with most baby birds.

At times I can only see one baby and worry one has been taken or fallen, but a different vantage point has always revealed the other close by.

I hope enough nocturnal insects fly into the family’s mouths or the parents catch enough moths on the wing at night.

I read that the chicks will be ready to leave in about 25 days after hatching.

I will be fascinated to watch their progress towards being fully fledged.

I guess the lack of activity is part of their training, to be still, as still as a stick or branch stump, perfectly camouflaged against the bark.

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!

Reclusive visitor

We’ve had rain, and the rocks in my back yard path are a bit slippery. But not slimy with weed, so this rock caught my eye.

And then I saw that it had back legs. A tortoise; but was it digging in or out? Right next to a cement slab didn’t seem a smart choice either way.

Of course I ran for the camera, hoping it would still be there. I tiptoed around the front of it and knelt down. The small head with that distinctive pointy nose turned slightly towards me and one bright beady eye summed me up.

‘Better retreat’ was the decision. Not wanting to disturb its plans, I left it alone, but it was nowhere to be seen later. From the weed on its shell I suspect it had walked up from the wetlands below the yard.

I hope it found a suitable spot in my yard… and felt safe. Maybe I need a sign ‘All wildlife welcome’?

Woman on the move

As you know, I love sunrises. This clearly not at my place. Actually, I don’t have a ‘place’ right now. For the next month I am homeless! The Woman is on the move, national park hopping to re-connect with nature, before I have to live in a house… in a town (!) … but with no neighbours except a wooded wetlands reserve, so my treetops will house lots of birds to share with you.

This sunrise is at Crowdy Bay National Park. Wild winds and whipped seas accompanied my first morning but it was worth braving the 6am weather for this golden welcome back to nature.

By contrast, the tea-brown creek outlet on the walk back to camp was calm.

And at my camp, the much-missed wildlife awaited me, with an Eastern Grey Kangaroo grazing close by.

To top it off, next an Eastern Red-necked Wallaby with pouched joey levered her way across the soft grass.

The water word is out

After the White-faced Heron staking a claim on my pond, the word seems to have got out to other water birds that the pond is here and the surrounding lawn is soggy enough to easily poke a long waterbird beak into.

A small troupe of iridescent Straw-necked Ibis were here the other day, strutting and poking happily, until the Magpies sent all but one packing.

Then it too took off, recognising, as do most birds, that maggies rule.

I am keen to see what other waterbirds visit, now the word is out.

 Pond tenant

I have never had a waterbird on my shed roof, yet a few days ago this solitary White-faced Heron was using it as a lookout post.

A common enough heron apparently, but not here, not yet, to me.

The only water nearby is my rather pathetic pond-cum-drainage attempt. Could that be what had attracted him?

Yes. He floated down with those effortless large wings and began the inspection of possible premises.

As he strutted along the perimeter of the ‘moat’, I had the chance to see what my bird book calls ‘the long grey nuptial plumes’ on the back.

Then he hopped in and I could just see the head bobbing along, disappearing now and then as he poked that long beak into the shallow water. Scoffing tadpoles?

I was so pleased that a waterbird had found my pond, but assumed it was a fleeting visit.

Not so. Each day since, he has appeared somewhere in the yard, then perched on my verandah roof and sailed above my head down to the pond and its surrounds.

Bird beaks

There are lots of kookaburras around here, and lots of good vantage points for them. This one chose a particularly photogenic spot, bedecked as it is with lichen.

Quite high off the ground, yet the bird can see the slightest movement down there, punk head cocked, poised ready to swoop and put that ferociously strong beak to work.

Much less common here — a visitor, not a resident — is another basically brown and white bird, but oh, so different.  I spotted this this Straw-necked Ibis all by itself in the paddock; it was so big that at a distance I first thought it might be a wallaby.

That long rapier beak is perfect for poking about in marshes or shallow waters, so I was surprised to see it, alone and on my hillside, not down by the creek.

It clearly has two legs but seems to prefer standing on one. I admire the balance required to do this total twist for a thorough clean-up.

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!

Grand bad design

A second Willy Wagtail decided to start a family on my other verandah. She made such a messy job of nest building, compared to the neat cylinder of my usual family, that I decided she must be a novice nester. Not only was it sloppy and sprawling untidily over the edge, but it seemed as if she’d made two attempts.

The eggs were laid in the first attempt, where the three babies barely fitted. The weather was heating up.

The mother had trouble fitting there herself, let alone reaching over to make deposits into the gaping orange beaks.

Their heads were indeed touching the eaves lining as the temperature rose. I was expecting tragedy.

But no, they just moved out to the lower annexe, the patio, where they were cool enough until they took off next day.

Mum was smarter than I’d given her credit for.

This is the climate chaos nest adaptation design.

Demolition Mumma

The unmistakable rusty and incessant whinging of a young Yellow-tailed Cockatoo came floating in my kitchen window.

I followed the sound to a twin stump, where the ‘baby’ was atop one and the mother was at work in the fork of the other, ripping away bark with her beak.

The young of these big Black Cockatoos resemble the females, and I could tell the demolisher was a female from its pale coloured beak.

The father was keeping watch from a high branch of a nearby casuarina; you can see his distinguishing dark bill and brighter eye ring. Both sexes have that broad pale yellow band across the tail. This tail is almost half their total body length, so very noticeable in flight.

The mum was clearly finding something tasty, likely grubs of some sort, amidst the wreckage of the bark, stopping now and then to eat them, but at no time did I see her feed the whining young. Serve him right!

He got bored and flew about a bit, but not too far away, which made Dad move closer to keep guard.

Then the kid got the idea and began ripping at bark himself; unfortunately not the right sort of old bark, but at least he had the idea. Maybe Mum rewarded him with a grub after that, but when I next looked they had all three taken off to the creek.

This is the very efficient stump demolition achieved by one very strong beak, in about 20 minutes!

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?