Rosies can be green

One of the Crimson Rosellas brought her young one along to try the birdseed recently. It was the first time I’ve seen this happen.

Instead of the mature red, blue and black plumage, its blue was paler, its red more tomato than scarlet, and much of its body was dusted with light lettuce green. It looked like a different parrot altogether.

I assume the green is to camouflage the young from predators until they are old enough and smart enough to fend for themselves.

Mother and child weren’t there long, and the young one didn’t strike contemplative poses for me as the older ones do, so the photos are a little blurred.

Sad saga of the swallow babies

Just before I went away for a few days this week, I photographed the swallow babies again.

Three were clearly visible, two in the nest and one on the rafter. I suspect the latter was the the same baby who has been the boldest ever since birth. I looked from all angles but could not see the fourth.

And then I did, but not by looking up. Down on the verandah, amidst all the droppings, was a bedraggled smudge of feathers: the fourth nestling. It must have fallen.

I consoled myself – and the parents – with the thought that three out of four wasn’t bad, given all the problems of feeding and squeezing into the nest and avoiding predators.

But now I am back, only three days later, and in the nest I can see two babies, fluffed up against the breeze, looking very fat and healthy, much more developed and alert. I can only see one parent bird at a time, looking much thinner and stressed, as you’d expect, keeping up with such growth.

Yet I see no sign of the third baby — up or down. No little body on the verandah. Have they smothered it in the nest?

All the next day I have waited for a parent to return, to perch on the fairy lights as usual. Perhaps I missed a quick visit, but all has been quiet out there too — no twittering.

And then I can see only one bird up there, and I guess that the parents have been staying away to make them leave the nest.

This is not how I have seen them do it before, when they perched in view and called, encouraging their young to join them. I could then watch the learning-to-fly sessions.

This time it feels like abandonment; I can’t see a swallow, young or old, anywhere aerially about.

An hour later, and I have missed the moment when the last nestling set off on its own.

This is truly ’empty nest’ syndrome. But only until next year.

Stop press: they’re coming out of the nest!

A few days ago I noticed that the swallow babies had their eyes open, but as they were still mostly hunkering down inside the nest, I could see little of their bodies.

On the warm days, with my door wide open, the parents were coming inside more often, no doubt as the demand for food increased. There’d be flies and plenty of spiders, if they fancied them, amongst the cobwebs on my rafters.

Then just today, I spotted one baby outside the nest, sitting on the rafter. Understandably, as the nest is starting to look quite befouled, and given the size of this bold baby, must also be quite crowded.

As the others stretched and perched higher, I could see that the adult feathers were begining to show though the baby fluff, and the tip of the beak is now dark!

Swallow quads

Finally it was evident that there were four baby swallows after all.

Their fluffy heads were showing above the nest most of the time: eyes still closed, white-lipped beaks shut tight until a parent appeared.

They look quite comical; I suspect because they resemble the old blackface makeup of the Al Jolson era.

Then they snap their beaks open and show the yellow-orange interior for a long period, blindly hoping food will be placed in there.

The adult’s beak is black-rimmed, so it will be interesting to see just when the colour changes.

As the parent opened its own beak, I saw that the inside of its mouth is also orange, which I hadn’t realised.

Still no sound from the babies, but the parents chatter a lot, so I guess they’re silently learning, taking it in as babies do.

Bringing up babies

My Welcome Swallows seemed to have finished nest-building and were spending time sitting on what I assumed were their eggs.

Last week I found half of a tiny white eggshell on the verandah, and I feared a furred or feathered predator had robbed the nest and eaten the contents.

Then I noticed the mother was making poking actions when she returned to the nest. Since she was no longer nestbuilding, I guessed she was feeding babies, but could see nothing.

Five days later the first baby’s head appeared above the mud rim. Well, not much head was visible beyond the pointed white beak edging a very large and constantly agape mouth, bright orange-yellow inside. I thought I could see a faint halo of grey fluff on top of the head.

An odd large feather, perhaps part of the nest lining, was sticking up confusingly, but I doubt it is attached to a baby.

Then I spotted two or perhaps three more little heads, crammed in on the far side of the nest, their pink naked throats upthrust, beaks closed. They didn’t appear to open their beaks as much as brother greedy on the right; perhaps he was first to hatch and therefore boss.

No sounds yet; no squeaking or squawking, just a silent perpetual demand.

Welcome Swallows

A pair of Welcome Swallows has turned up for the annual nesting adventure.  They took a few weeks to decide just where, but as usual, they have chosen poorly.

They’ve begun their mud dab nest on a rafter of my unlined verandah roof, up against the mud wall. It’s good adhesion, but bad positioning.

Far too close to the tin so it will be far too hot for the baby birds as the weather heats up. I’ll have to get up on the roof and weigh down a piece of plywood or something to give them some extra insulation.

The extensive verandah strings of fairy lights are providing them with circus type swings, from which they can more widely spatter their white and black droppings.

Sandals especially must now be checked first before allowing bare feet to make contact.

I do like these handsome little swallows and I look forward to the nestling stage, now that they didn’t choose to nest outside my bedroom window!

Rosemary rosellas

Woody narrow-leaved Mediterranean shrubs like rosemary are happy in drier and poorer soils, and grow well from cuttings.

Hence I have poked rosemary bushes into the least fertile places in my yard, such as the clay patches by the track.

And just look how they repay me! Pale blue blossoms absolutely festoon the branches in winter.

Bees love them. So, it seems, do the crimson rosellas, at least on this occasion.

I’m not sure what they would have been eating on the rosemary, but their richly-coloured plumage was such a contrast that they made the bushes appear snowy.

They have’t been back since, but then so many of the special sights here are only fleetingly fabulous.


These two Laughing Kookaburras decided to share my occasional bird feeder.

Not that they were interested in birdseed, but it made a good vantage point for wormwatching.

They weren’t into team diving, however, and they wouldn’t have shared the worm.

Probably siblings from one of the large kookaburra family tribes on my place, they’d be used to helping feed younger brothers or sisters, so maybe they were hunting to take back to the nest.

Sky lords

No, that’s not fly dirt on the picture — it’s the pair of wedge-tailed eagles who lord it over the upper skies here, and have done for the 30 years I’ve been here. They usually have a third in tow, their young one.

They cruise so high up it’s amazing they can spot anything down here on the ground. Their eyesight is equal to ours when using binoculars with 20 times magnification powers.

No other bird can make it up there, although the magpies will chase eagles a long way above the treeline.

I zoom in to check, but oh yes, it’s the wedgies.

Wary wood ducks

Walking inside a cloud makes for mystery, not clarity. At 3000 feet up, I get a lot of cloud visits.

My large double dam, slowly being throttled by reeds, was floating in the filtered light of thin cloud as I walked around it.

Through the reeds I spotted a pair of wood ducks. I crept towards them, but as usual they sensed me coming, and headed off into the mist.

This shy and very elegant native duck is my most common water visitor.

The male has less patterning on his body and a chestnut brown head, and if you look carefully at the peek shot of them amongst the reeds, you can see the black strip of mane at the back of his head – he is sometimes called a Maned Wood Duck.

The female is a softly spotted grey, with white stripes across her brown head, although you can’t see that in these misty pics.

Until they are grown up, the young ones of both sexes look like their mum.

Autumn again

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I began this blog, but the leaves were definitely turning and falling in those first photos.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a crimson rosella clearly visible amongst the thinning vine cover on the verandah in front of me, where before they’d been peeping out from a densely green and then red leafy curtain.

The querulous poses it was adopting were as clear as its presence: ‘So where’s the tucker??’

Rosey harvest

rosellas on lawn
It’s easy to see when the predominant native grass in my `lawn’ is seeding, because the yard is taken over by a purposeful band of crimson rosellas.

They proceed en masse up the slope, through thin grass as tall as themselves.

Standing on one leg, each daintily grasps a seedhead stem with the claw of the other, bends it towards their beak and neatly strips it, rather as we’d munch sideways along a cob of corn.

The harvest appears organised and amicable: no crossing of territory, no debate about personal patches, not one squawk of protest.

It is a silent harvest, though highly visible, as the richness of their red and blue plumage turns my plain yard into a moving tapestry.
rosellas closeup