Monday, November 5, 2012

Backyard Detectives!!!

Oooh, I love a bit of detective work, don't you?  Put that together with the fact that my other passion besides knitting is ecology and it doesn't take much to excite me! lol We don't have as wide a variety of wildlife around our property as I'd love (and hope to have as our gardens increase) - mainly due to the cleared nature of the land. It's been used for grazing for so long that the open woodland that was once here is far from the present landscape.  So when a new bird (or any animal, really... plants too...) makes an appearance at our place I tend to get a little excited and determined to find out just which species it is!

We always have Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen), Little Ravens (Corvus mellori), Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) & Common Blackbirds (Turdus merula) flitting about.  In Autumn & Spring we see Galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla), and Spring always brings a cranky breeding pair of Masked Lapwings (Vanellus miles).  In summer for short periods of time we get Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) laughing from the power lines & majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) soaring the skies searching for rabbits and other little beasties to eat down below.  On rare occasions (every couple of years) we might see some Red-tail Black Cockatoos over our way in the warmer weather, and the odd European Godlfinch (Carduelis carduelis) used to be seen, but not so much anymore.  When there is rain coming, we can hear the echoing of the Eastern Banjo-frogs (Lymnodynastes dumerilii, see below) looking for mates down in the nearby creek and just last night the first bats of Summer - tiny microbats called Lesser Long-eared Bats (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) could be heard flitting about the house after dark having their dinner (I love the photo of this bat - it looks like it's laughing, but I won't add it here in case some of you don't like bats! hehe)

Eastern Banjo-frog (Lymnodynastes dumerilii). Photo credit: Peter Robertson.

So the last few days we've been taunted by the sounds of a very loud bird in our yard that we've never heard before!  He's been too-too-tooing here, there and everywhere, but he's also been extremely elusive - perfectly camouflaged, invisible to our ever-searching eyes... until today!!  This morning I followed the sound until I saw it - there in the lower branch of a small Eucalypt tree!!  Quickly I grabbed the binoculars, quietly I crept toward the open window, shushing the children, and simultaneously telling them to get dressed while also getting them excited about our new visitor!
Pallid Cuckoo (Cuculus pallidus). Photo Credit: Pete Morris, Birdquest
A light grey-chested, dark winged, stripey-tailed bird sat calling out - smaller than a Magpie, bigger than a Blackbird... what could it be?? My first thought was to check this awesome little booklet called "Indigenous Wildlife of Southern Ballarat" published by the Leigh Catchment Group - and there it was!  Then onto the internet to confirm the call... yes!  A Pallid Cuckoo (Cuculus pallidus)!   

We've been here for almost 5 years and it's the first time we've had them visit us. I'm not sure whose nest they've decided to lay their egg(s) in - the magpies do nest up in the lone pine tree we have on our property (the only tree we have large enough at this stage for any bird to nest in), so perhaps they'll be the lucky new parents... or perhaps the Cuckoo couple will decide to stay around and raise their youngster themselves... 

So tell me - what animals are lurking and flitting around in your backyard? :D

Lori xo

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