Tag Archives: Peppermint Sage

Canberra’s summer ends, farewell to the Eastern Koel…

The shadows of the trees are longer in the evening light, the air is cooler, and sweeter..

…autumn is on its way.

The lovely green (watered) lawns of Lennox Gardens are deceiving, after this long hot summer, the landscape  of Canberra is looking very dry.

At the end of summer there is a changing of the guard with our local birds.

In autumn the tiny Silver-Eyes venture out to feed from our neighbour’s blackberry bushes. They are a welcome sight.

 

 

 

Perhaps as a result of so little rain this last month, more birds are flying into the garden to use our birdbaths.

This morning while we were having breakfast on the deck, it was fun to see two young Crimson Rosellas, always shy birds, having the big birdbath to themselves.

What a thrill, bathing in the water, and having  a shower from the sprinkler.

As these two finished their bath, they flew up to the archway in the garden, their long tails spraying water as they flew…a lovely sight. Unfortunately I was unable to catch it with my camera, but here is a similar one, taken almost exactly a year ago!

Young Crimson Rosellas begin life with green feathers mixed in with red and blue, last year’s Rosella is still very green in colour.

Here is a mature Crimson Rosella in the Australian Botanic Gardens… just look how vivid his colours are, and how long his tail is. What a handsome bird!

Fully grown Crimson Rosella at the Australian Botanic Gardens.

In summer we have three Magpies visiting every morning.  Every year there is at least one Magpie who loves water just a little bit more than the others. Often the youngest one potters around the garden by himself in autumn, a little bit like the youngest member of the family, we enjoy his company….before he too, leaves to join a new group of Magpies.

The youngest Magpie, lingering in the water..

Here is a young Magpie watching her mother, who has her head tilted listening for insects and grubs in the grass and in the ground. Another youngster, learning her survival skills.

An unwelcome guest in our neighbourhood in summer is the Eastern Koel. This bird migrates all the way from tropical New Guinea to Australia for the breeding season. In recent years the Koel has progressed further south each year.

The male Eastern Koel

The juvenile Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a member of the  cuckoo family. The female lays an egg in the nest of another bird, (usually a Red Wattlebird) and when the baby Koel hatches it pushes the other eggs out of the nest.

For the past three years a Koel pair have visited a neighbourhood garden, left an egg in the Red Wattle bird’s nest, and moved away.

All through the summer, a pair of Red Wattlebirds  are the hosts, and the young Koel cheeps incessantly while the significantly  smaller parents desperately  search for food for the nagging youngster. During the summer the young Koel grows to twice their size.

The Red Wattle Bird feeding from a Bottlebrush bush.

According to Birdlife Australia, it is still uncertain as to why the Koel comes so far south to breed, perhaps because the weather is warmer, the berries and fruits are in abundance in Canberra, and also the poor unsuspecting Red Wattle birds have lived in this region for a long time, and have proved to be excellent parents.

The Red Wattle bird looking slightly annoyed, and with good reason!

Unfortunately the cheeping, beeping young Koel seems to nest near our garden every year, but finally in autumn it disappears, fully grown. (Phew!)

However, one of the most welcome bird calls in autumn is the Eastern Spinebill.

Yesterday this tiny delicate bird arrived on the deck, and with a powerful call, it settled into feeding from the fuchsia. Autumn has truly arrived!

The Eastern Spinebill favours the flowers from the Peppermint Sage, but, this year, either he is early or the flowers are late, so I have used a photo from last year.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the flowers of the Peppermint Sage.

Canberra also has its birthday in March, so there are lots of concerts, picnics, hot air balloons,  and general outdoor gatherings. It is a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends.

I hope you are enjoying your changing seasons, where ever you are in the world.

The best birthday present for Canberra’s autumn would be good soaking rain for a sustained period of time. Crossing fingers for that.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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