A family of new Holland honeyeaters splashed and played in a birdbath in a neighbour’s garden and as I watched them I realised that these ornamental splash pools represented more than a mere supply of water. Bird baths are sites were birds socialise and build family bonds. They are also places were intense inter-species rivalries play out. Bird baths might be a familiar site in gardens and parks but little is known about the precise role they play in birds’ lives. In a … [Read more...] about Honeyeaters add a splash of colour
On The Wing
A column for all seasons
Everyone has a story about birds. They are all about us and are our contact point with nature. The birds I see are usually in an urban environment and so I concentrate on these in my writing. I don’t pretend to be an expert but birds of the city and suburb are also the ones that most people identify with, the species you do not need a compass and binoculars to seek out. A scarlet robin singing in a garden is just as exciting as a swift parrot in an ancient forest and is worth just as many words in my On the Wing writings.
“Galleries of pink galahs” goes the song by country music star John Williamson and it was appropriate that as the call of these enigmatic birds rang out over Melbourne I was searching for galleries of my own in the arts district of the city. There was no time for birding on this trip to the mainland, however. It was spurred by the musical Chicago showing there, and a visit to see the latest offerings of the National Gallery of Victoria. All the same three galahs with their … [Read more...] about Galahs defy the bird-brain tag
In a sunburnt country, Australian birds have always known the menace of fire and over the eons have devised strategies to deal with conflagration. This fire season, however, they have been overwhelmed. More than a million birds are estimated to have died in the infernos spreading through Australia’s southern and south-eastern states since early spring. At least 60 species have been seriously affected by the fires, some of the rarer ones being pushed towards … [Read more...] about Menace in a sun-burnt country
The cormorant fixed me with a cold state, as icy as the ice-blue of its eyes. The bird had been drying its wings on a slab of rock, off the coast of Bruny Island, and seemed to resent the intrusion, shifting from webbed foot to webbed foot as the boat I was aboard approached. There was no fear in the cormorant’s eyes, however. More wariness, or curiosity, or even annoyance. Who was this strange creature invading its world, its space out there where Storm Bay merges with the … [Read more...] about Cormorant eyes frozen in time
Christmas Day at Cornelian Bay, and a Pacific gull is tucking into his lunch. Or at least trying to. Seafood is also on the menu for me as I tuck into festive fare at a restaurant on the bay. I have Tasmanian mussels on the plate, cooked with tomato, dill and vanilla salsa. The gull has still to prepare his meal, cracking open the mussel shell. The gull had been looking at the forest ravens along the inter-city bicycle track nearby. There the ravens pick up mussels, fly to … [Read more...] about Raven outsmarts the Pacific gull