The poet Mary Oliver liked to go out walking early in the morning. Although her landscape in the USA is undoubtedly different to mine, her poem has universal appeal to all who go out early in the morning.
”Softest of mornings hello. And what will you do today, I wonder with my heart…”
The National Arboretum of Canberra is a wonderful place to see the sun rise on a soft autumn morning.
Autumn is a very busy time for us, and we are trying get as much planting and tidying done in our garden, before we go and visit other gardens.
So here are just a few photos of our autumn garden…. and of course, the birds that come to visit…
The tiny Eastern Spinebill is a regular visitor, feeding on the Pineapple Sage, which has almost taken over this part of the garden.
It is a most elusive little bird, but Paul just managed to get a photo of him with his phone.
Thank you for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces today, and I hope your autumn or spring days are bright and sunny, where ever you are in the world.
Birdlife Australia has a wonderful program called Birds in the Backyard.
It is a research, education and conservation program that was developed through concern that we are gradually losing small native birds from parks and gardens, through rapid expansion of cities, suburbs and towns.
One week of the year is set aside for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. During this week, individuals can participate in collecting data by recording the birds we see, in twenty minute periods.
Birds can be recorded in our own backyard, a local park, a main street of a town, a beach, or a patch of forest….anywhere in Australia.
In 2018 Australians counted 2.7 million birds including 30 000 Rainbow Lorikeets.
The rise of Rainbow Lorikeets shows how the Aussie backyard has changed from the traditional European-style cottage gardens, to more native gardens.
Lorikeets are nectar-loving birds and like to forage on the flowers of Eucalypts, Bottle-brushes and Grevillias to harvest nectar and pollen.
My daughter and her family live in an inner city suburb in Melbourne. (Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia.) It is a rapidly changing suburb from the original workers cottages to townhouses for a younger generation.
One constant in the suburb is the street trees. The streets we walk down regularly are lined with Bottle brushes and Eucalypts. It is a pleasure to walk to the coffee shop, and look at the gardens and the bird-laden trees and shrubs along the way.
Melbourne is well known for warm and inviting coffee shops too.
At Christmas time we noticed some of the street trees were decorated by local residents and children, and the flowers could out do any Christmas decorations!
In the same suburb of Melbourne, the park and playing fields are lined with palm trees. I don’t know the history of these trees, but the Rainbow Lorikeets are feeding and nesting in them too, which show how adaptable they are. Lorikeets, are, unfortunately very bossy birds, and tend to dominate other species of birds.
The data collected from the Aussie Backyard Bird Count records the three top birds counted in every state in Australia that year.
The the top three birds counted in Canberra and surrounds (Australian Capital Territory) were……..The Australian Magpie
The second most recorded bird was the Crimson Rosella.
and the third was the Pied Currawong.
The currawong is a handsome looking bird, and flies into the garden with the precision of a jet pilot. Whip smart, he knows where to find water, and also little birds nesting in trees. Once the currawong arrives in the garden, the little birds disappear.
The bird count can make everyone feel a bit territorial and competitive about our favourite birds…
I’ve heard the New South Wales magpies have slightly different colour markings to our Magpies in Canberra, and are more striking….
and here is a New South Wales Magpie…and she is putting on the Ritz…
Whereas our Magpies, looking a bit scruffy, are pulling plants out of the garden,
However, the very young Canberra Magpie in the photo below began her early life in the courtyards of Parliament House, and is entertaining all the visitors with her beautiful birdsong. So she is a celebrity from day one!
At the end of the Backyard Bird Count week, we can vote for our favourite of the 50 most popular birds in Australia. (an impossible task of course)
This year I have voted for the Eastern Spinebill. This tiny little bird, with a mighty strong call, can be heard every autumn in our garden. He comes to the Peppermint Sage plant in our backyard regularly every year (in the uncertain natural world, this is a comfort). He competes with the bossy Wattlebird for food, and stands his ground. This is the Lion-heart of little birds.
In and around Canberra this spring there have been an abundance of smaller native birds which are unusual to Canberra (to me anyway). On my Canberra Wildlife Photography Facebook page, I have seen photos of Leaden Flycatchers, Rainbow Bee-Eaters, Sacred Kingfisher and a Rufus Songlark. Perhaps the drought is moving these birds closer to Canberra for the water and relatively easy food sources. They are very welcome.
I hope you have some sunshine, rain, plants and birds, where ever you are in the world. The joys of life!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
I love the way young Magpies put their wings out and run away from trouble, why not fly??
On this glorious autumn day there are still some almonds to eat…so all is well in this garden….
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
….are they on the alert for predators? Not in Canberra I suspect..
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.
”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..”
and the whole street is littered with small branches…it looks as if a shredding machine has been through the street….
Canberra’s suburban streets are lined with corridors of natural bushland and so the Cockatoos and other wild birds have a choice of homes
This hollow has been a nesting place for young cockatoos over the years…
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!
Look at this industrious Magpie…is she collecting bits for a nest already? In mid-July?
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.
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
Here is the Pied Currawong, the type found in our region, more frequently than we would ever want..(despite their beautiful song)
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.
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 verybold move on the part of the Currawong because the deck is definitely out of bounds for them, and they know it.
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……