It is early spring here in Queensland, Australia, and the world around me is, in more ways than one, buzzing with activity. Perched under the eaves of our front verandah is a pair of Flycatchers or Fantails (local name Willie Wagtail) that have made a tiny nest of very fine grasses, tightly bound by spider cobwebs and lined with very fine material. The nest is about half the size of the adult birds, and when they are sitting both there heads and tails hang over the edges. The nest is very obvious as it is just sitting on top of one of the beams, looking like a small handle-less tea cup.
The nest has been there for a couple few weeks now and the 3 chicks are now showing their heads above the nest’s rim every time one of their parents arrives with a feed. Most baby birds usually make all kinds of noise when food arrives, but these ones are as quite as a mouse. Maybe it is to minimize making their locations obvious to intruders, which, by the way, has not been working very well, as several aggressive birds have been trying to get to the nest recently. Every time this happens the parents return the aggression and the Crows or Currawongs have been driven off.
The fascinating part of this entire process has been the parents ability to take advantage of every opportunity to improve their insect-catching ability. Unlike most of their species, the Willie Wagtail only picks up its insect food from the ground, and therefore it is always taking off and landing very quickly. Each time it does that, it flashes its wings and its tail fans out, and when it sits still for a few seconds, the bird sways its body from side to side and it wags its tail, all at the same time. A fascinating exhibition of movement and flight.
The Willie Wagtail is known for its very friendly approach to us humans, as they very often jump all around you as you walk through the grass, obviously hoping you will disturb any insects. With this recent nest being so close, these two parenting birds have been very active around us and have really taken a fancy to our grass cutting machines. It does not matter whether it is the brush cutter, the push mower or the ride-on mower, they are all appreciated equally. Every time I start an engine the birds instantly come over in my direction and then they play chicken. The ride-on scares me the most, they disappear out of my sight in front of the cutting blades or the wheels, and, thank goodness, they rise up again unhurt. Several times I have thought I had cut one of the birds in two with the brush cutter, but obviously I missed them, as they are still thriving. Obviously, anything to catch another insect to feed their hungry children.
Another bird that has made themselves at home around our home, are two species of the Bowerbird, the Regents and the Satin, which are only found in our part of the world. They are related to the Bird of Paradise. The reason they are called a Bowerbird is because the males build, as part of their courting process, a bower, or display area, usually made up of small twigs or grasses. This fascinating avenue, at least in the Satin’s case, are often made only a few yards (meters) from out back verandah, and they have been active in two such locations over the last few years. The shape is rather interesting, in that it mimics, or vise versa, the shape of the arches that are often used when us humans take our wedding vows. I somehow think the Bowerbird came up with this idea long before we did.
This latest area has been exceptionally busy in recent weeks and many bowers have been built, and then subsequently torn down by a rival males. It is an ongoing operation and usually the north-south running bowers only last a few days. The fascinating noises emanating from that area of our garden goes on nearly all day, every day. Their various favorite color blue items come and go as they are swapped between our bowers and those further away. These birds are usually very timid and they are not usually seen close up or in detail by most people, but those that come regularly to our place have now got really used to us and we are completely ignored.
The colors of these two species of Bowerbirds, the Regent and the Satin, are something to behold. The male Satin bird takes 7 years to fully mature, then he can enjoy his beautiful blue/black shiny plumage, and then, at the same time, the eye of his potential mate. The younger male birds have similar markings to the female, a speckled greenish brown, until that 7th year. The male Satin Bowerbird’s plumage, on the other hand, is completely different, with rich golden-brown feathers on the head, back and flight feathers, with the remaining of the bird being black with a purple sheen. The male receives his bright feathers when he is 4 years old and looks similar to the female in his earlier years. These colors are extremely bright and have to be seen to be appreciated.
One could go on and on about the wonders of nature, but the above will give you an idea of what pleasures we enjoy in our back garden. As I have said on many time, Nature Rules, and I am glad it does.
If you wish to look into these fabulous Bowerbirds further, I suggest you go onto your favorite search engine and look at this site – https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/bowerbird