Nursery days

Enjoying breakfast outside is one of the pleasures of the spring weather. Today I could hear the sounds of baby birds begging for food. Magpie chicks out the front and a Pied Currawong in the back garden.

The bird in the back garden is a special case. The little Pied Currawong was blown out of it’s nest during violent wind storms about 10 days ago. We consulted our local vet practice who advised that if the parents were still looking after the baby we should focus our involvement on keeping the chick safe from ground predators. We took their advice and have had some interesting times since.

The adult Pied Currawong feeding the chick

Our first decision was to try and keep the chick in one of the outside chicken runs. This way the parents could easily feed the baby but the fences would provide some safety from the local cats, dogs and foxes. The chick had other ideas. This little bird has hopped around and over the fences we hoped might keep it in the safer parts of the garden.

It was more difficult to decide how to handle overnight management of the chick. The first night we couldn’t find the chick and despaired to find it again. Yet the next morning there it was several metres up a tree! Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the little bird to be hopping down from it’s safe perch. Since that first night we have opted to put the chick in one of our pet carrying boxes each night. The box stays outside where the adults can see the chick and I get to get up at day break to let the chick out. It’s a good thing we did this, as a few days ago I walked down to let the chick out and found a cat’s collar and bell on the path only a few metres away from the cage.

A couple of times a day we pick the chick up off the ground because we are worried that it could also be attacked by our chickens (sometimes chickens act in unpleasant ways). I have learned the hard way to give the chick a sturdy stick to hang onto, so I avoid painful puncture wounds. I also want to avoid handling the chick as much as possible.

We don’t expect the chick will be around for much longer as every day it’s wings carry it a bit further into the trees. It still remains fully dependent on the parents for food and looks like that will be the situation for some time to come. In the interim we enjoy our small visitor while the parents remind us that we are tolerated as helpers, but that’s all.

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Strange behaviour in the garden

Even as I’m sitting to write this post there’s a bump on the front window – it’s that Red Wattlebird again! For the past few days I’ve seen them scouring our windows and those of my neighbours, not for insects as I first thought, but spider’s webs. It’s nest building time! Try as I might I’ve not caught their activities with the camera as yet, but the Peewees (or mudlarks for those from further south and west from where I grew up) are another matter.

Checking out some nest building material
Checking out some nest building material

It took me a while to realise that they weren’t digging around our water chestnuts for insects or the corms. They wanted that muddy spent foliage for their nests. Peewees build the most beautiful mud nests, somewhat smaller than the large mud bowls built by Choughs. The Peewee’s mud bowl is built on a branch high enough and far out along the limb enough to make it hard for predators to get them. In the past I’ve seen these nest built out over creeks, or in the absence of a watercourse built over a busy road.

About to fly to the construction site
About to fly to the construction site

These birds are nesting in our neighbours tree, one of the few large trees still around us. I fear that the number of really tall and old trees that have been cut down in our area will be having a negative impact on the number of birds nesting in our suburbs. I’m pleased that in our own small way we are providing ‘garden services’ for those who are trying to raise their young.

PS Pardalote Palisades seems to be keeping the Currawongs and neighbourhood cats at bay. Fingers crossed.