This Purple Swamphen belongs to the Gallinules, large crakes with short bills and coloured frontal shield on the forehead. They love aquatic weeds, pulling them up to feed on bases and roots. They are quite common in Australia and can be found in many wetlands. I spotted this one at Warriewood Wetlands in Sydney. They have very wide feet, I assume they keep them stable when the surface is moist and yielding.
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There are a few of these ducks at Warriewood Wetlands in Sydney‘s northern suburbs. In a bustling peninsula the area is 26 hectares of protected zone for native wildlife, the last remaining sand plain wetland in Sydney. Mostly it seems to be a habitat for birds though there are the usual small reptiles and frogs like the common Blue Tongue Lizard. This duck appears to be a cross between a duck and a mallard … I’m guessing a Pacific Black Duck and a Northern Mallard. It is not unusual for these types to interbreed. They both fall into the category of dabbling duck, or dipping ducks. They takes insects, seeds and floating vegetation from on or just below the surface. The orange legs denote her as female.
Acknowledgement: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, 2 ed.
Catch the story of this young Eastern Koel chick in my last post.
Hearing what I thought was a distressed chirping two days ago I was drawn outside to find this large juvenile Eastern Koel seeking shelter in the inner foliage of a Banksia tree. It looked like it was being dive-bombed by Honeyeaters and they appeared to be aiming at the chick’s face while it squawked back in terror. Apart from the chirping which is a universal young bird trait, its colour scheme of barred and spotted brown body and black line through the eye identified it as a juvenile Eastern Koel under 3 months (when it changes into adult plumage). While it was a good size its chest feathers still have the fluffy look of a young bird.
The Eastern Koel is a long-tailed cuckoo and the adult male is black and the female black/brown, fully grown they sit between 39cm-46cm. As adults they make a very loud ‘kook-kook-kook’ sound and I listened hopefully for the parents in the hope they were out searching for their chick. Eventually it flew off deeper into the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve, but when I awoke the next day it was back cheeping in the same tree.
I initially believed that the Honeyeaters were being aggressive because I had read that the Eastern Koel commandeers their nest and I assumed the Honeyeaters must have evicted it. However, like the Channel-billed Cuckoo, it seems Eastern Koel’s lay their egg/s in the nest of host families alongside the hosts eggs. When the cuckoo chick hatches it pushes the rightful eggs and chicks out, becoming the sole recipient of the food.
At some point the chick, now much larger then the adopted parents, sets off out into the world. But the foray is only a transition as it demands that the parents still feed it. Hence the incessant cheeping I can hear. The chick, who is now four times (at least) the size of its ‘parents’ has them foraging for food. My sympathy now lies with the over worked Honeyeaters who are feeding the bird that destroyed their own young. I wonder at what point they will say it is enough.
Acknowledgement: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, 2nd ed.
Does this require a cosmic shift in thinking? Yes. Does the human race need to redefine its relationship with other species? Absolutely. Might we have to accept a different lifestyle? Quite possibly … but different can be better. The idea that Earth is separate to Humans, and that humans have the right to rape, pillage and plunder for short term economic gain or pleasure (think Shark Cull in WA) is out-dated, short-sighted and incredibly selfish.
Our backyard includes every living thing on the planet: the droplet of water rushing down a mountain stream, a decomposing leaf on a forest floor, tiny fish darting through coral reefs.While ultimately we are affected by what happens globally, what happens in our own nations will be felt quicker, and it behoves us to watch over our immediate backyard with a keen and discerning eye. Forgetting our regional, national and global codependence has consequences for us all. Progress means evolving into a new form, but this can be achieved in a positive way, it does not have to mean the end of hundreds of species and our health.
This very cute pair of Rainbow Lorikeets decided it was fun to submerge themselves in the bird bath. While birds like to bathe it is usually a quick foray into shallow water before jumping out again and checking out the terrain for possible threats. This pair were quite at ease and rolled around keeping only their heads above water as if pretending to be submarines. Rainbow Lorikeets are prolific in certain parts of Australia and like to hang out in large groups. Their crowd can make an incredible amount of noise as they perch atop native trees stripping them of flowers and seeds, but the high pitch screeching is so full of goodwill and zest for life that you can’t help but enjoy it.
This majestic Pied Currawong is 50 cm with white in wing, rump, under-tail coverts, base and tip of tail. Often seen in flocks it breeds in isolation, nesting in a large flat cup of sticks lined with soft material and laying 3 blotched brown eggs. With that piercing yellow eye and large hooked beak he could be mistaken as the daytime incarnation of the wicked witch of the west.
Acknowledgement: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds
Australian Rock Doves, also known as Feral Pigeons, are descended from the Rock Pigeon, found in Europe and Asia. Many plumage variants have been developed by selective breeding over the years and the most common colours of feral birds are a mixture of grey, black, white and brown, with purple and green sheens (http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Columba-livia). I spotted this one in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens keeping an eye on the tourists admiring the lake.
Dragons are fascinating creatures, myths and legends abound in the ancient tales of disparate cultures and their presence remains well represented in modern fairytales and teen narratives such as the Harry Potter series. The first dragon that made an impact on me was Puff the Magic Dragon who was immortalised in Peter, Paul & Mary’s 1969 song. Puff’s origins can be traced to a poem by Leonard Lipton, who in turn found his inspiration in the Ogden Nash poem Custard the Dragon.
The story was one of several my older sister and I had on single LPs in the 70s, a collection that included Danny Kaye’s rendition of Tubby the Tuba complete with musical sound effects (Tubby was overlooked and disparaged until his contribution to the orchestra was seen to be just as important as that of the more vivacious and egotistical violins). Another favourite was The Chinese Children Next Door by Pearl Buck, a story about her Chinese neighbour who fathered an inordinate amount of girl babies (becoming increasingly disinterested and despondent each time) until he produced the greatly revered Son, thus setting him back on the path of happiness and social standing.
But I digress. Puff the friendly dragon always seemed like such a nice fellow to my sister and I who also, ‘lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mists’ so we had a lot to bond over. He was also the epitome of childhood imaginings, a skill I was exceedingly good at. Because of Puff the native dragons of Australia have always occupied a particularly fond place in my heart and this little Eastern Water-Dragon is no exception.
Eastern Water-Dragons are semi-aquatic lizards that are found along the east coast of Australia. They normally live around creeks, rivers or lakes. They can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes and rise to the surface where they are able to breathe to check the area for danger, before emerging back onto land.
This one was relaxing on a little tree stump when I joined him beside the Richmond River in the northern NSW township of Woodburn. We had a catch up on what Puff was up to these days and how much the revered Son had been eclipsed by the talents of his illustrious sisters.