With a little held from my friends. The lyric of the Beatles song rang out across the garden from an open window in my lounge, at the very moment a striated pardalote struck up in song.
It was an appropriate duet, a song of the suburbs, because earlier I had been reading an email from Bruce Longmore and Sue Drake about their efforts to provide a home for pardalotes in their Ridgeway garden, to help out the tiny birds in the ever-increasing hunt for nesting cavities each spring.
Bruce had constructed a nest site from bits of plumbing pipe and suspended it from the eves above a window, making it an ideal “hide” in which to view the birds as they went about the breeding business.
It didn’t take long for a pair of pardalotes arriving in spring to first scout out the new residence, and set up home.
The striated pardalote is the only one of Tasmania’s three pardalote species to make the journey across Bass Strait each year and when they return to breed they are always in competition with other tree-hole nesting species for breeding sites.
In the Waterworks Reserve near my home the pardalotes solve the problem by nesting in the cracks between the sandstone walls that guide the Sandy Bay Rivulet around the reserve’s twin reservoirs. On BrunyIsland, though, they come into conflict with the resident forty-spotted pardalotes although the other species, the spotted pardalote, is more likely to nest in holes in the ground.
Bruce and Sue’s account of the pardalote breeding antics came shortly after another reader told me of pardalotes at her home at Sandford using a ventilation vent from a bathroom in which to breed. The pardalote parents had to negotiate a flapping cover to the vent to reach the nest, performing an acrobatic flying motion to dive through the flap.
I’m informed that the fledged young managed to exit the flap and be on their way without having to return to the nest, which would have been difficult for young birds with limited experience of flight.
The Sandford reader asked me of examples of unusual breeding places but she had one of her own that didn’t involve pardalotes.
A horsewoman, she recalled swallows once nesting in a horse float she owned which she unwittingly drove to a horse-riding event. The nest in the horse float contained young birds and the swallow parents had an anxious wait until the float re-appeared with some very hungry young. The swallows immediately began feeding their offspring and the drama had a happy ending.
The same reader informed me of a friend’s experience with a pair of nesting grey shrike-thrushes. The birds nested in a cray pot hanging up on the inside wall of their tractor shed. But the parents, and nestlings, were not at all bothered by the comings and goings in the shed.
Last year I was shown a grey shrike-thrush nest atop a coiled garden house in an outbuilding at the Raptor and Wildlife Refuge of Tasmania at Kettering. The centre’s owner, Craig Webb, frequently went into the shed and the shrike-thrushes got used to his comings and goings, finally introducing their young to him when they were firmly on the wing.
These nesting stories remind me of one from my youth in Britain when, like many schoolboys of my age, I delighted in the hobby of trainspotting.
This was the glorious age of the steam locomotive and many a happy summer evening was spent on an embankment overlooking the local train yards where steam engines shunted wagons. But one day shunters noticed a song thrush had built a nest in the chassis of a wagon that had been sitting unused for about a month, and had four young.
The wagon was immediately taken out of service, and it was not used again until the young birds had left the nest.