Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Local insects and animals - the noisy miner

Three days ago my partner greeted me at the door with a grin and the words "I've got a present for you", I was immediately suspicious as 'present' has become a code word for 'lots of work' in our relationship. I came inside to find an ominous looking box on my desk with a tiny bit of fabric sticking out the bottom. When I opened the box I found the little fellow below nestled on a t-shirt (begging questions about Kev' driving around shirtless).



He (I'm assuming his gender) is a noisy miner; a bird native to this area, although not around the humpy. He coped with a close up inspection fairly well and I discovered a slightly damaged wing on the left side and a slightly more damaged hip on the left side. As he was picked up on the road (sitting like a stunned mullet, according to Kev') I assume he has been clipped by a car.
He can grip a perch with both feet, but sits with one leg off to the side. I am hoping he has no broken bones, and after three days he would be dead by now if he had any (gangrene sets in fast).

Noisy miners in the wild eat nectar, pollen, fruit, insects and occasionally a little lizard. I am feeding him a mix of fruit smoothie with added insectivore mix that we keep in the cupboard for emergencies, I also add one drop of pentavite (liquid vitamin). When I can, I will add some nectavore mix (lorrikeet food), but at present I have none in stock. He seems to love the mixture. I went out and collected some white ants for him too, which he had fun playing with, but didn't eat.

When he can put all his weight on his leg and fly around we will begin the long process of re-assimilating him into the wild; probably at my parent's house where there is a family in residence, although their complicated flocking behaviour means that he will not be accepted if he is a she; apparently the females maintain fairly rigid territories which do not overlap while the males wander about in gangs, joining new gangs on a random basis.

This little man needs a name for the (hopefully) short time he will be with me; any ideas?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Local insects and animals - Red browed finch



The red browed finch is a fairly common bird in our area. They live in large flocks and spend their time foraging for seed in my chook pens and on the ground around the humpy. Seeing these little flashes of red and olive green flit through the garden or chook pen really cheers up the day for me; they always look so happy. 
In spring, just before they breed, these little finches go through an insect craving stage and spend a lot of time searching out insects from my vegetable garden, which is very useful when insect populations are high. They are often found with the blue fairy wrens in the yard, which is apparently a common association. Although the two species don't seem to talk to each other and wrens are predominantly insect eaters while finches are predominantly seed eaters.
In the ecosystem of the humpy they provide insect control, eat and spread small seeds, provide food for corvids (butcher birds, currawongs, crows and ravens) and generally lift the life and joy about the place. They also provide a warning to everyone when a goanna or snake is about by flying around frantically and making high pitched squeaking sounds until someone comes to investigate.


These photos were taken out of my office window...while I was supposed to be studying.



What kinds of finches do you have at your place?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Local insects and animals - White-winged chough


We frequently have some noisy visitors to the animal pens; white-winged choughs. These funny little birds are often mistaken for crows by people who have never seen them before. They are mostly black with a white spot on their wings which is only visible when flying. They eat insects and seeds; which is why they love our place.
They forage for food on the ground, but always leave a lookout in a tree to watch for predators (which includes me in their eyes). The group we have here is relatively small; only eleven members this year, but they are often seen in flocks of 20 or more. They are social birds and spend long hours feeding and caring for the juveniles in the flock.
I often find a few choughs in a chook pen, eating happily with the chooks. They seem to help keep the fly population down too and watching them chase a stinging fly over the yard provides many laughs.

These two were eating grain this morning when I went to feed the chooks.
A blurry close up
I love having birds visit the humpy.
Have you seen choughs at your place?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Update on Teal'c the black faced cuckoo shrike; he's flying free


As is the way with such things, Teal'c is free. It is always a little sad to release my babies into the wild to fend for themselves, but they can't stay locked up (but safe) forever. We released Teal'c for  his first outside fly a few weeks ago (and I didn't get any footage), he came back that evening, and for the next four evenings, to sleep in his aviary. After that he stopped coming back.
I can only hope we have given him the skills to feed himself and that he has been adopted by a group of his own kind, as they tend to gather at this time of year. Alternatively, he may have been taken by a predator. This is the worry we face whenever we release an animal, but it's worth it to see them happy and healthy in their own environment, for as long as they can be.
Every time I take on a native animal to raise I face the same dilemma, if the animal becomes 'humanised' or friendly to us, once released they face the huge danger of assuming that all humans are friendly. I have seen people do some really cruel things to wild animals, and I don't want to have my babies in that kind of danger. On the other hand, it is hard not to interact with them and come to love them, they become part of our family for whatever time they are with us. We are very lucky to have good neighbors here, some who know a great deal about animals and are always available for advice, and others who appreciate the wildlife here as much as we do, so we usually allow the 'humanising' process to happen.
If you see any friendly wildlife in your travels, please treat them well, they may be one of my babies (or someone elses).



Teal'c in his aviary

Begging for food

Our friendly pied butcher bird; Roadie has also decided to leave home. One of our neighbors has reported seeing him at her house (begging for dog biscuits) but he hasn't come home for two weeks now. It is so quiet in the house without him singing to us at dawn and dusk. On the plus side though, all the little birds he has kept at bay are now flitting around in the yard again.


Roadie.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

local insects and animals- Teal'c, the Black-faced cuckoo shrike


This week a local family bought us a baby bird; he had fallen or flown from a high nest and was being menaced by their dog. If he had been fully feathered we would have advised them to leave him in a high tree to be reclaimed by his (no doubt worried) parents. However, he is not yet fully feathered and has made no attempt to fly in the three days he has been here.

Meet Teal'c; the Black-faced cuckoo shrike


Teal'c is a Black-face cuckoo shrike , who are not cuckoos or shrikes. They are omnivorous birds, although they mostly eat insects. They live in bush country, suburban garden and farm land.
This little boy (we think), is currently in a cage through the day and in a heated box at night. He is being fed on balls of insectivore mix and meal worms along with any stinging flies, beetles and worms we can find. He is fed 'on demand'; as his cage is in the house, we can hear him call us for food. He is a delightful little boy who will eventually grow up and join the local populations that frequent the bush around our house.


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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Using Guinea fowl for tick control.




We have been keeping guinea fowl for years. When we were managing (and working) a bio-dynamic avocado orchard we used them to keep down insect pests in the trees and paralysis ticks on our house cow. Now we keep them to reduce tick numbers for our sheep and dogs, and because it seems too quiet without them after all these years. They are exceptional insect hunters and will eat adult ticks by the thousand, they are also efficient watch dogs and escort snakes and goannas from the yard very swiftly (except that one time when they chased a black snake into the house instead). They do however have some unique characteristics................

The flock collectively have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); they tour the perimeter of the yard at a specific time each morning and afternoon and if anything is out of place they will stand and cackle at it for about fifteen minutes, examples of 'out of place' are leaving a pot upside down when it was previously the right way up, parking the car two meters closer to the house, leaving a shovel leaning against the fence or a visitor's car is parked in the driveway.

Individual guinea fowl will behave in a bossy way towards chooks, dogs, sheep, ducks and sometimes humans when food is at stake. You can see the warning in the body language of the guinea fowl in this clip, he is warning the rooster off 'his' grain.


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They don't like to sleep in a pen at night but will go as high up the tallest tree they can find. Ours come gliding down to the ground at dawn with much squawking and cackling.

 One of our dogs; Jess, has been obsessed with one particular guinea fowl for some time and she sometimes gets a bit overwhelming for the poor boy. He sometimes flies onto the top of the chook pen to get a break from her. This clip shows her patiently waiting for him to come down so she can protect him.



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In my experience, guinea fowl are terrible parents; they hatch too many babies then try to walk them too far and don't protect them from predators (kookaburras, goannas, foxes, currawongs, butcher birds, hawks and snakes here). We get around this by finding the eggs and giving them to a clucky chook to raise, this has the added advantage of making them less flighty in nature as some of their behaviors are learned from their parents.

The latest batch of guinea fowl keets with their (no doubt bemused) mum.

There is some debate about whether guinea fowl actually help control ticks; here are a few articles on the subject to help you make up your mind. For my part, I definitely think they make a difference.


a comparison study of biological and chemical tick control

a home-grown view

an effectiveness study

An 'against' article.

Another 'against' article

What do you think? Would you keep them?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Upgrading water storage capacity


It hasn't rained for a while here and the big (22000 litre) header tank is empty. We still have two 4000 litre tanks full, but things are getting desperate. A lot of our neighbors are already buying water, so I consider us lucky to still have as much as we do. The header tank being empty means we have had to go back to bringing all water into the humpy in a bucket; bath water (3 buckets a day), washing up water (1 bucket a day),clothes washing water (12 buckets a week) and then carry them out again to put onto the garden. I had forgotten how convenient it is to have a tap in the house. My partner has been avoiding putting the new header tank in for some time, but a week of carrying his own water in and out of the house convinced him to take action.

As the header tank is empty, we thought we would take advantage of the opportunity to replace it with the 27000 litre tank we bought (second hand) from a neighbor a few months ago. The old header tank (22000 litres) is destined to be moved down to the humpy to provide western shelter to the living area and to take full advantage of the harvesting capacity of the roof. The actual process of juggling tanks was long, drawn out and frustrating;



The green tank is the old header tank (22000 litres) and the black one is the new tank (27000 litres).

The first order of business was to move the old tank out of the way. We tied a strap around the top of it (after all the pipes were disconnected) and pulled it over with the car.



The figure of eight knot my partner used to be sure we could get the strapping untied again after the job.

Ready to be tipped over

The tank tipped over and ready to be rolled away to it's new home.

After much maneuvering we managed to get the new tank into position; now to tip it over onto it's base. 

The old tank rolling away towards the humpy (causing much ado with attendant swearing, running and flapping of hands). We stopped it with a conveniently placed tree.

The second attempt at flipping the tank over onto it's base. There were many more. Eventually I had to drive the car while my partner levered the thing upright with brute strength (which I greatly admired).



Upright at last, still with the rope attached'

The tank was then towed, via a rope around the base, back to the tank pad of sand the old one had been sitting on.

My handy partner then attached all the attendant pipes and we were ready to pump up the 4000 litres from the house tanks.


We have water in the header tank again. It should last us another month (at the rate of 1000 litres per week).
A storm is threatening as I type, but as yet there is no rain.

While we were fiddling around with the tank I had the opportunity to watch cicadas metamorphosis from an underground dwelling beetle-like being into a flying insect. I got photos in between exciting tank chases and tank tipping exercises.

At this point she was just emerging, wet and raw from the shell of her old body.

A side view
Another one, fully emerged and waiting to dry.



They will be noisy in the bush by December; thousands of cicadas calling for a mate, hundreds of birds feeding young off the bounty of a cicada hatching and one or two hawks, goannas and kookaburras feeding off the baby birds. What a rich ecosystem we live in, even when it's dry.


Is it dry in your area? How do you cope with the shortage of water?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Animals playing around


I recently managed to get a few short clips of Roadie the butcher bird playing with various things around the house. I thought I would share them with everyone as I find the antics of the animals of our family (all species) endlessly mesmerizing.
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Thursday, 11 July 2013

video
This is a short clip showing two of the birds who call our place home arguing about who owns 'my' wool basket. They are both from the Corvidia family; a currawong (big black one) and a butcher bird (grey scale one) and so are about as smart as the average 5 year old. We raised both of them and they have both spent considerable time in the wool basket as chicks.
All our animals (kids included) go through a 'we don't hit' learning phase where we show them it isn't acceptable to be violent in the house, that way there is a safe zone for everyone even natural enemies like these two.
You can see them both asserting their right to the basket but being too polite to fight because I am there. They sometimes roost together in the house so are not really enemies, although their species usually are. Things will probably change when they both have children (you know what that's like).

Pew (the currawong) has left home and joined a gang of juvenile currawongs although he still spends about one day a week at home. We expect that to change when he gets a steady girlfriend and hope he doesn't bring the grandkids home for baby sitting too often.
Roadie (the butcherbird) is hunting for himself and doesn't need help with anything. He still sleeps inside (its Winter and the stove is warm) on a high perch and relies on us for affection (play and cuddles) but that will change in the Summer when he starts to look for a mate. Being a member of a solitary species, he won't join a gang but will find a single girl and settle down for life.
With wild birds there is always a risk of over-humanizing (and who wants more of them) but the risk is fairly low with the corvid family, thanks to their intelligence.
The galahs on the other hand......well that's a story for tomorrow.