Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Rabbit Leg Anyone?

While observing satellite-tagged eagles from my hide today, I was very pleased when Gidjee, an adult female, flew in with part of a freshly killed rabbit and fed it to her chick. She only stayed for 17 minutes before taking off again - but not before finishing the last bit of rabbit herself. I watched in awe as she proceeded to swallow a hind limb - from the hip joint to the toes - WHOLE!! This whopping great mouthful would have measured about 25cm long, a truly incredible feat for a bird that normal swallows soft chunks of flesh.

The leg goes in, feet first...

Gidjee swallows the rest of the leg.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Fowl bit of Driving

It is always a great shame to see wildlife hit by cars, and a much greater one when the species killed is Endangered.

The Malleefowl, or 'Gnow' in the Noongar language, is a threatened species, owing to massive parts of its habitat being cleared and fragmented, and predation by foxes. The bird above was hit by a car on a stretch of Great Northern Highway, just north of the town of Wubin. It had only been killed a few hours before we arrived, so must have been hit in broad daylight. People often have the naive view that a bird will simply 'fly out of the way', but this is often not the case, and it may only take a slight easing off the accelerator to buy the animal extra time. Malleefowl are mostly ground dwelling, and although they can flap up into tall shrubs to roost for the night, they are not particularly agile.

Male Malleefowl are responsible for maintaining the temperature of their giant egg incubator: a construction of sand, soil and leaf litter raked into a mound. Females lay eggs inside the mound and males regulate its temperature by piling extra material on or off. This time of year is the nesting season, so it's likely that this bird had a mound somewhere. If it was a male, the eggs will probably cook and no chicks will survive.

A sad ending when it would have been very easy to just slow down a bit and let it get off the road.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Kite's are Back!

You might remember this post about an exciting good news story regarding the return of an orphaned Square-tailed Kite chick to its nest - thanks to some local bushwalkers and raptor rehabilitator Marra Apgar. It even featured on the Australian Geographic blog (and later in Issue 116 of the AG Journal). The kite pair had nested in a secluded gully in the Perth Hills, and considering the marvelous photography opportunity the 'friendly' female kite gave me, I was keen to return this year to see if they returned.

Today I visited last year's nest site and found it empty, with the nest showing no signs of visitation by the birds. However, it didn't take much searching to locate another nest nearby! Fresh scats (bird pooh) below and some kite tail-feathers poking out from the side of the nest told me it was active.

The female kite was sitting on a single egg and once again, was very receptive to me and my lens, allowing these shots of this beautiful, placid raptor incubating. I hope to return to the nest soon and keep track of the kites' progress.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

New Nest Boxes for Penrhos

Today I visited Penrhos College and installed 6 new nest boxes for the school grounds. The small 'bush garden' pictured above was the ideal spot for two of the boxes, and I climbed the tall Eucalypt centrepiece in which to hang them. Here's what the boxes look like from below (the higher box, designed for small parrots, is just visible near the top):

You can just make out that each nest box is numbered on the bottom side - this will help students write down their observations about any wildlife seen using them in a notebook that the school keeps in the admin. Such activities are an integral part of engaging the children with the environment of their school, and I find that 'everyone starts looking up' once you alert them to a nest box, and wants to keep looking up each day. Just what we are after!

When I had finished installing the boxes the lovely admin lady Michelle alerted me to a bird's nest in a tree in one of the school courtyards. It turned out to be a Grey Butcherbird, nesting right in the middle of the school! You might remember that I visited Penrhos last year to give some talks about local birds, and one of the highlights was finding a few birds nesting in the school grounds. These butcherbirds are almost certainly the same pair who made their nest in a Silver Birch tree at the school entrance last year. Below is a photo of this year's nest containing 3 eggs.

A big thanks to Polly and her son Austin for volunteering their time to help me install the nest boxes today, and to Michelle from Penrhos for her wonderful hospitality and giving us sandwiches and some lovely orange juice :)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bat Box Bugs

Today I installed some new bat boxes at Beringa Reserve in the City of Maylands. You can see one in the tree above, on a beautiful stretch of the Swan River, with a view to Perth city's buildings in the background. This is now the second batch of boxes being installed in an effort to encourage more microbats to enhance the area's biodiversity... and hopefully help control some mosquitoes. Here's what the bat boxes look like close up:

You can see the small entrance which is located at the bottom of the nest box, designed to replicate a crack in a tree trunk or crevice behind some peeling bark. This way bats are able to crawl upwards into the safety of the box chamber after landing on the 'landing pad' at the bottom. This section, just like each wall on the inside of the box, is covered with fine wire mesh to offer grip on an otherwise slippery surface of smooth plywood. The other noticeable feature is the way this box is attached to the tree. All my nest boxes are 'hung' using a length of wire which is threaded through some old garden hose. This prevents the wire from cutting into the tree, and the wire allows easy removal should the box need to be relocated, repaired or cleaned.

After installing all boxes at Beringa, I paid a visit to Clarkson Reserve where I hung 7 more earlier this year (you can read about that here). Seeing as they'd been up a few months I was excited to check them and see what creatures may have taken up residence.

Unfortunately none of the boxes had bats, but ALL had some kind of life in them, mostly in the form of insects, which was very pleasing! It might seem weird to be excited by a few bugs, but it was good to know that some local wildlife had found its way in, showing how the boxes soon become part of the trees they are in. The first box had a large Huntsman Spider sitting inside a neatly woven sphere of silk. This was a female nursing her egg sac, which should produce lots of babies soon. The second box had a few cockroaches of different varieties, and the third had another spider and a Marbled Geko which was very exciting! Here are a few snaps of the different creatures seen in today's bat boxes.

Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus)

Cockroaches - great Gecko food!

Female Huntsman Spider guarding her egg sac.