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!

 

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A welcome stranger

I got  quite a surprise when I opened the door the other day. Sitting under the door frame was a small lizard – a Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus).

We have seen these attractive small animals once or twice around the garden but never so up close and personal. Even better it was back again today. Now we are keeping an eye out to ensure it comes to no harm.

Our friendly local Marbled Gecko
Our friendly local Marbled Gecko

Not quite so welcome, but something we will just have to put up with are our local Peewees (Magpie Larks). They have finally worked out that they can get a share of the seeds in the chicken pen as long as they are prepared to pop in while the chickens are foraging in the garden.

A quick dive into the chicken pen while the girls are out and about!
A quick dive into the chicken pen while the girls are out and about!

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.