Tag Archives: Eastern Spinebill

Crimson rosellas, peppermint sage, and a guilty magpie

In our Canberra garden this beautiful Crimson Rosella is feeding on the nectar of the pretty Salvia elegans, or Pineapple Sage….the flower and the parrot are almost matching in colour.

The sweet pineapple-smelling leaves and bright red tubular flowers of this plant can be used for cooking and medicinal purposes. However, for us, the joy of having this plant in our garden is to see the birds feeding on it in autumn.

A few years ago I planted a little stick of Peppermint sage near the kitchen window, to protect it from severe frosts. I was surprised to see it survive the winter, and then to see it flowering so beautifully in late summer and all through the autumn.

This dainty honey eater is called an Eastern Spinebill, and with its long curved beak it feeds on tubular flowers such as correas and grevilleas as well as the peppermint sage.I wish we could measure the energy this little bird uses as it eats and keeps its wings in motion at the same time…no wonder it is often mistaken for a hummingbird.

(If you look carefully at the new five dollar note, you can see the head and beak of the Eastern Spinebill featured)

I have read that Pineapple Sage is irresistible to nectar feeding birds and butterflies including hummingbirds in New Mexico where this plant naturally occurs.

Sometimes the Crimson Rosella shares feeding time with the Eastern Spinebill,  and they both tolerate this pesky photographer hanging around but,…. if looks could kill…….

This is the Red Wattle bird, has arrived to share in the Peppermint Sage bounty…

The Fuchsia is also flowering long after its usual time….and the Red Wattle is stocking up on nectar all round..

This shy looking young King Parrot is not a regular visitor to the garden, and probably hasn’t got the memo yet that this Almond tree is primarily a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo restaurant.

 

The colourful Eastern Rosellas are very cautious, the closest I have ever seen one in the garden is on our Japanese Maple, about half way down the garden path..

…the birdbath by the back fence is another safe spot.

and here is the Magpie who potters around in my neighbour’s garden most days……

Today he has ventured into our front garden and is about to start digging around in our small bit of lawn for grubs….

…. well may he hang down his head..

”Oh no! I’ve been sprung!….and she’s got that camera again!”

I love the way young Magpies put their wings out and run away from trouble, why not fly??

Quick!…. back home to my garden…

I just have a feeling there are things going on in this garden that I don’t know about,,,

On this glorious autumn day there are still some almonds to eat…so all is well in this garden….

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring flowers at the National Botanic Gardens

October is the perfect time to visit the Botanic gardens in Canberra…

 

Canberra has had very good winter rainfall, and now, at last, all the plants have sprung into life.

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Recently we took a guided tour of the Gardens, called ”Breakfast with the birds”.

It was absolute magic to be able to stroll around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in the warm early morning sunlight, before the gates were open to the public.

This was followed by a delicious breakfast in the café. A great way to start the day.

img_6337-956x1024Our guide said  Wattle Birds have to check each individual flower in the Grevilleas and usually only find some nectar in about one in ten flowers.

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No wonder they are such busy birds. In spring they whiz about our gardens like streaks of light…my neighbour says it is like being in a Star Wars movie sometimes.

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This Wattle Bird has a nest just above her head in the Banksia bush.

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The ever alert Currawong is in the same bush…waiting..

(I’m pleased to say two Wattle Birds chased it away a few seconds later)

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I love looking out for birds, but the colourful native plants were the scene stealers on this day..

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The Proteas (Waratahs) look wonderful alongside the ghostly white eucalyptus tree.

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And here are more Grevilleas and other spring flowers.

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Isopogon formosus

 

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Eastern Spinebill feeding on a Grevillea

 

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Grevillea Flexuosa Zig-Zag Grevillea

 

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I hope you are enjoying your plants, gardens and green spaces in whatever part of the world you call home…

I’d love to know if you have a favourite amongst your own plants.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All rights reserved

 

Birds in a winter Canberra garden…

 

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It is always a delight to see birds like the Eastern Spinebill in the garden. They are the smallest of the Honeyeaters in Australia and a treat to watch.

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We have planted more and more Pineapple Sage near the deck in our back garden, and this year the flowers lasted well into winter.

Now we can hear the strong call of the Eastern Spinebills on a winter morning…they are very welcome!

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The Canberra Ornithologists Group has a useful and easy to read book called ”Birds of Canberra Gardens”. It has beautiful photos of all the birds in this area.

IMG_4293 (1024x834)The bird on the front cover is a Gang Gang Cockatoo, and it is my dream to get a photo of one of these parrots one day!

Paul took this lovely photo of our resident male Superb Fairy Wren….. isn’t he a charmer?

The Superb Fairy Wren is a local species of Fairy Wren, and has adapted well to Canberra conditions.

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The Pied Currawong is also very common in the Canberra region. They are magnificent flyers, and can fly across the garden in a few graceful sweeps and land on a tiny branch or wire.

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

They are efficient and intelligent predators for the little birds gathering in our garden. Over time, Paul and the currawongs have reached a truce;  they have strictly flying rights only over the garden…no settling into bushes and on wires to watch and hunt little birds. We live near Mt Taylor where they can hunt in their natural environment.

Grey Currawong (C) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

However, while we were on holiday the Currawongs enjoyed the lack of supervision, and had a touch of Oppositional Defiance Disorder when we got home. This is a well used photo I know, but so expressive!

The Crested Pigeons are found in most gardens in Canberra….they seem to love sitting on the overhead wires of gardens, huddled together in winter

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Baby its cold outside..

….are they on the alert for predators? Not in Canberra I suspect..

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The description of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the Birds of Canberra book begins

..”they are very conspicuous, noisy and gregarious birds commonly seen in Canberra gardens…. ”

What a perfect description of these birds!

One of our resident Cockatoos was sitting on the carport roof waiting to greet us when we got back from Italy.

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”Oh Hi! You’re back…..just let me finish eating the almonds and I’ll show you what we’ve done in the front garden

”We’ve stripped the Iron Bark Eucalypt of almost all its flowers….the nectar was nice..”

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and the whole street is littered with small branches…it looks as if a shredding machine has been through the street….

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Canberra’s suburban streets are lined with corridors of natural bushland and so the Cockatoos and other wild birds have a choice of homes

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This hollow has been a nesting place for young cockatoos over the years…

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Australian Magpies are described as;

”boldly marked, confiding and abundant, one of Australia’s best known birds. They feed on  insects and other invertebrates on lawns and open ground, and may become tame if fed.

Here is one of our local Magpies….the water baby, regardless of the weather!

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Look at this industrious Magpie…is she collecting bits for a nest already? In mid-July?

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In spring I hope to bring you more photos of some of the many birds in Canberra gardens.

…… in the meanwhile, enjoy the birds in your neighbourhood where ever you live.

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Currawongs…..The boys are back in town….

The boys are back in town with smart black suits and beaks to match….

I love this first line of a poem called, Currawong, written by Bill Chestnut and displayed in his Tasmanian garden.

Canberra is full of birdlife, and as our garden is close to Mt Taylor, we have our share and more. Most of the birds are welcome, interesting to watch, and some, like the magpies, are part of our every day life in the garden.

However, the currawongs….. regular visitors from Mt Taylor, are the least likeable of all the birds. They fly into the gum trees in our street like jet pilots, aerodynamically perfect, and with a confidence to match.

This grey currawong, photographed and found in Western Australia, is not native to our area, However, I could not resist using this shot as the photographer has captured that menacing look …….

 

Grey Currawong (C) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

Grey Currawong (c) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

 

Here is the Pied Currawong, the type found in our region, more frequently than we would ever want..(despite their beautiful song)

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Pied-Currawong-C-Harry-Charalambous-2014-www.birdlife.org_.au_.jpg

When the Currawongs arrive ..all the other birds in the garden disappear; no more wattle birds, parrots and honey-eaters taking turns at the birdbaths, no more parrots softly chattering in the trees as they feed.

Needless to say, the Currawongs are not welcome in our garden, and when Mr Greenspaces (Gardener No 1) is around, they fly off pretty quickly. I am known by birdlife and animals in general to be a bit of a pushover.

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In the interests of this blog, I have tried, many times to get a photo of a currawong…with no luck.

I had given up on the currawong, but the lovely Eastern Spinebill spent most of the autumn feeding in our Peppermint Sage plant, right near the kitchen window. I had the camera ready for this beautiful little bird, and then I noticed the Currawong land on the railing of the deck, not very far from the Peppermint Sage. A very bold move on the part of the Currawong because the deck is definitely out of bounds for them, and they know it.

Eastern-Spinebill-C-Ian-Wilson-2015-www.birdlife.org_.au_.jpg

Eastern-Spinebill-C-Ian-Wilson-2015-www.birdlife.org_.au_.jpg

A photo of the elusive Currawong was tempting.  I fiddled with the camera, hardly noticing the Currawong  getting closer and closer to the Peppermint Sage. There was a flurry and the Currawong flew away…..the Peppermint Sage leaves waved and the Eastern Spinebill was nowhere to be seen.

I had a moment of paralysing Irish guilt…had the Currawong left with our Eastern Spinebill in its beak?

Fortunately for me, not long afterwards, I heard the reassuring shrill call of the Eastern-Spinebill..it had survived to continue feeding for another day.

Here are is my photo of the Currawong on the deck…certainly not good enough to risk an Eastern-Spinebill. Next time I’ll be paying attention…..when the boys are back in town……

 

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