The presence of this beautiful bird of the night in our front yard at Mt Helena today continues with the theme of our February wildlife bonanza. This month we’ve had company in the form of many different species, big and small, some common and some not so. It all goes to show if you keep your eyes peeled, you can see a whole variety of animals!
Two days ago we were lucky enough to meet ‘Winston’. This gorgeous juvenile Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) flew down in the early morning and began begging me for food. I made some honey-water and poured it into a small lid, and he instantly began lapping it up with his nectar-feeding brush-tipped tongue. Later that day he followed me into the shed and began eating spiders that I caught him from the ceiling. Soon he was catching his own!
|Winston was tame enough to perch on Gill’s foot :-)|
|Winston’s yellow mouthparts and shorter bill tell us he is a juvenile, only a few weeks out of the nest.|
While we’re on the topic of wattlebirds, we had another amazing observation a few days prior to Winston’s that had a slightly different tone. As we sat and had breakfast on the front verandah we heard a very unusual sounding wattlebird call - or more accurately, a choke. I walked down the back to have a closer look, and there, right up against the fence, was a female Collared Sparrowhawk killing an adult Red Wattlebird!! It had caught the wattlebird, pinned it to the floor and was squeezing it with its talons. I leapt into action and raced for my camera, but by the time I got back outside the raptor had flown up to a nearby bush and the wattlebird had escaped. Despite staying on its perch and surveying the area with it’s massive yellow eyes, the wattlebird remained hidden and the sparrowhawk left the area, no doubt disappointed at its failure. Here’s a very average photo that I managed to snap of the sparrowhawk waiting for her second swipe. You can tell it’s a female because of her size - the male is much smaller, weighing only about 120 grams.
This leads nicely into another bird of prey observation, but this time it was the sparrowhawk who felt threatened. At my parent’s home in Parkerville a few days ago, I rushed outside to the alarm calls of ravens and saw a Little Eagle (Hieraeetus morphnoides) fly overhead. As I grabbed my camera, I saw a tiny speck zoom in at the eagle and realised it was a Collared Sparrowhawk - this time attacking his large cousin. Smaller raptors are often threatened by their larger relatives and will dive-bomb them persistently in an attempt to get rid of the threat. These interactions make for some exciting photographic opportunities! In the below photographs, the sparrowhawk’s square-ended tail is a clear distinction of its species: the similar Brown Goshawk has a rounded tail and is much larger.
|The sparrowhawk flies at the eagle with great speed...|
|... then kindly ‘escorts’ its rival away from Parkerville.|
To continue with the eagle theme, I had my first sighting of Wailitj (the Wedge-tailed Eagle) above our home at Mt Helena on Monday. A large dark adult, probably one of the Parkerville or Chidlow breeding birds, soared high over the rooftops early in the morning. As usual, I was only alerted to this bird’s presence by a raven, who called loudly as he harassed the huge eagle. As you can see in the picture, the eagle is not really bothered by the pesky raven!
From massive birds to small reptiles that hide away in the shed... Gill and I uncovered this Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus) when we were moving some form ply around in the shed yesterday morning. This species of gecko is common in the Perth Hills, often being observed on sheds and walls at nighttime when it hunts insects. This female was carrying 2 tiny white eggs, visible inside her almost transparent stomach, which she will be laying under some bark or rocks, probably in the next few days. Hopefully we get to see the tiny babies very soon!
Mum and Dad gave us a bird bath for a house-warming present about 2 months ago. It took a while for the local birds to learn it was there, but now they have, it has been very well used! At this time of year, when most creeks are dry and the only water to be found is in dams and the occasional tree hollow, sometimes quite far away, bird-baths can be really important to help our feathered friends keep hydrated. Imagine if you had to sit outside during 40˚C with your mouth open and try to stay cool in the mottled shade during our summer days! Some afternoons we have several species come to drink, or in the case of the Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta) at the top right of the photos below, jump right in! If you don’t have a bird-bath or you do but never get birds using it, try moving it to a protected area near your house, and make sure you put it near some small trees or shrubs so the birds can perch nearby.