The seasons come and go, as do plumbers, decorators and gardeners but a pair of tawny frogmouths which have made a suburban patio their home take everything in their stride, or should I say their wingbeats.
I’m constantly on the look-out for frogmouths in the dry woodlands surrounding Hobart but increasingly in recent years I have found these remarkable birds in the most remarkable of “habitat” away from their natural homes. In fact, the frogmouths of the wider Hobart area have discovered suburban bliss.
Although they are one of the greatest examples of the use of camouflage in the bird world – seemingly able to blend with branch and tree so they cannot be spotted even at close range – many frogmouths have found in suburbia they do not need these skills.
As the pair of frogmouths who have made a home in Lindisfarne have demonstrated over the years, all that is needed in a spot at the side of a human residence, sheltered from both hot sun and wind and rain for a happy and contented existence.
It also helps, of course, if the residents of the house in question put out the welcome mat and make the frogmouths’ stay as tranquil and secure as possible.
I was invited to visit the home recently to view the frogmouths for myself and to talk to the residents about “their” birds, which have been in winter residence on the patio for the last seven years.
After peering out of the lounge window, I soon saw the birds snuggled together on a wrought-iron bracket designed to hold a flower pot. I also noticed that on top of the bracket’s hard steel, the owner of the house had laid a rod of wood.
“It makes it a little more comfortable for them when perching”, he said with a smile.
The frogmouths have become quite a subject of conversation within the Lindisfarne couple’s wider family and circle of friends.
“People phone and say, ‘How are the birds’,” the owner said.
The frogmouths turn up in autumn and vanish in the early spring. It’s believed they nest in a span of eucalypts below the house, but only once have they brought a youngster with them, during a visit on a summer’s day.
What is remarkable about the birds is there passion for this one spot.
Once a roller blind was installed on the wall holding the bracket and, with all the commotion, the frogmouths moved out. The owners thought that was the end of their frogmouth experience, but two days later they were amazed to see them return.
The nocturnal birds leave just as it is getting dark in the evening, and arrive as the sun sets. Sometimes they can be seen perching on a fence surrounding the patio before taking off into the night. They can also be heard calling, making a soft “booming” sound that carries into the night.
This column is largely about where man world’s collides with nature, notably the suburbs. There can be no greater symbol of urban wildlife than the frogmouths, and it is always a thrill to find them.
Although many people think frogmouths are related to owls, they are in fact the biggest member of the nightjar family. They generally feed on moths and are often attracted to suburban areas because street lighting attracts flying insects.
This holds its danger, however, because they are frequently killed by cars.
The Lindisfarne frogmouths have managed to steer a safe course in suburbia and the couple who are their hosts hope they will continue to return for many more years.