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.

 

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Signs of Life

Even at the start of winter there are signs that spring will be along sometime, sooner or later. TB took this photo of swans and cygnets two weeks ago. Given their size it seems that the cygnets are already several weeks old.

Aww, how cute is that! Swans and cygnets on Lake Tuggeranong, June 2015
Aww, how cute is that! Swans and cygnets on Lake Tuggeranong, June 2015

 For the second time in as many months we have had Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) in our garden. This time it wasn’t just one bird, but three!

A Satin Bowerbird in our Snowgum
A Satin Bowerbird in our Snowgum

According to the Canberra Ornithologist’s website, Satin Bowerbirds are increasingly visiting Canberra’s southern and western suburbs. This occurs most frequently in the winter months.

Note the violet coloured eye which is a feature of this species
Note the violet coloured eye which is a feature of this species

It’s hard to tell whether these are females or juvenile male birds. The latter only develop their shiny ‘satin’ feathers as they mature. According to Birds in Backyards the adult male plumage doesn’t develop until the birds are 5 years old and they don’t come into their full plumage until they are 7 years old. Which begs the question just how long do these birds live?

Here’s one last shot, not a perfect photo, but I thought the pose was pretty interesting.

Don't try this at home!
Don’t try this at home!

 

The Pardalote and the lawnmower

How cute is this little guy. He’s a Spotted Pardalote, one of our favourite visitors to the garden.

A male Spotted Pardalote in our garden
A male Spotted Pardalote in our garden

The reason he’s visiting is so he can set up his nest in our compost heap, something that has happened for the past few years. Unfortunately when we first spotted him several weeks ago he was attempting to dig his nest into the pile of rubbish that was sitting next to where the compost heap should have been. We were rather embarrassed that we hadn’t got his heap ready so we set to, to rectify the matter.

Deconstructed compost heap.
Deconstructed compost heap.

When I was a newly recruited veggie gardener I was told that the best tool you could have for composting was a lawnmower. Strange but true. However it was good advice. If you want to build a good compost heap quickly a mower will help you shred all sots of dead grass runners (we are currently over-run with couch grass in the garden beds) and leaves into useful sized pieces.

Part way through the proceedings with a good bit of work ahead.
Part way through the proceedings with a good bit of work ahead.

TB raked the pile over the ground while I attacked it with the mower. It took just over an hour to shred all the heap and build up the pile, along with leaves and some compost we had pulled out from one of our other compost bins (you can see them at the back of the photo above). In the end we had a much tidier garden and a decent potential nesting site for our paradolte friend.

Compost heap composed!
Compost heap composed!

It must have turned out to meet the specifications as today we saw several pardalotes flying in and out of the heap and a tell-tale pile of dirt has appeared outside the heap, indicating that they are excavating their nesting chamber.

Another view of our Spotted Pardalote (thanks to my new camera).
Another view of our Spotted Pardalote (thanks to my new camera).

If you want to see what a Spotted Pardalote’s nest looks like you can see it here.