This is not a Grey Falcon

This is not a Grey Falcon but it could fool many!

About a year ago I started bird watching and took my Camera along to some bushland near my home. I didn’t know very much about birds. I just looked, listened and tried to get a few photos. The second day I became very excited over a grey bird that dived quickly from a very high perch in a tree.

This photo is the best I could get:

IMG_5902 (3)

When I got home I put all the photos I had taken onto my computer. I then proceeded to identify each bird using the Simpson and Day Field Guide. The last bird was this grey one.
The best match I could find was the “Grey Falcon” – a rare bird.

Identification process for the Grey Falcon:

The Grey Falcon is grey with black streak under eye, black wing tips, white under belly with fine dark streaks, grey tail, and tail and wings faintly barred .
The habitat of Grey Falcons is woodland, plains and scrub in the arid interior often near waterholes.

The birds features include; eye brown, bill grey; eye ring, and cere and legs yellow.

Grey Falcons may be seen singly or in pairs. When hunting they fly very fast, close to the ground and pounce on prey. Normal flight is rather slow alternating wing beats and gliding. Grey Falcon can soar to great heights and spread their tails as they rise.

What to do with a rare find?

A fundamental principle for beginner bird watchers where there are two species your specimen could be:

If one is commonly found in the area you are in and the other is not known to be found in the area you are in … then your bird is probably the one commonly found there!

When it comes to grey birds of prey there was only one option at this location a Grey Falcon. But what would be the chance someone on their second day bird watching would find a rare bird.

So I surfed the net until I found a professional ornithologist searching for Grey Falcons. I sent him an email with my images and asked him to please identify my bird.

Clue: Look closely at the image and you will see a dark band about two thirds of the way down the tail.

pay attention
Look closely

This actual marking confirms the bird is a Nankeen Kestrel. The Nankeen Kestrel is a common species ( meaning it has a strong population)

However Nankeen Kestrels are not grey on their back and wings. The standard colouring of a Nankeen Kestrel is rufous (red-brown).

This means my specimen is not a rare Grey Falcon but it is unusual in that it is a grey Nankeen Kestrel.

From this point on I have been hooked and I do hope to find a Grey Falcon one day.

How to help researchers and our declining and/or endangered species:

This experience with identifying unusual grey coloured Nankeen Kestrel is an example of how you can help researchers and maybe help save declining species.

I have set out these steps in a previous post, and will repeat them here for our readers:
1 familiarize yourself with the species and its habit
2 observe carefully every chance you get
3 take a note of exactly where you are and what you see and find
4 report anything you might see to this website and to the National Parks and Wildlife authority for the State you are in.

Have fun wildlife watching

By Amanda Jackson

Goo-goor-gaga: The Laughing Kookaburra

Kookaburra call the sky people to light the great fire that illuminates and warms the earth by day….

As the morning star fades Kookaburra laughs his loudest to wake the sleeping for sunrise…..

The Kookaburras call sounds like a laugh – like their native name “Goo Goor Gaga”. For many aboriginal people it is taboo, given the function to start the day, to mimic the Kookaburras call.

The Laughing Kookaburra is found throughout the eastern states and southern Western Australia. There is a similar species called a Blue Winged Kookaburra which as the name suggests has more blue in its plumage.

The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest of the Kingfishers. They are territorial and nest in tree hollow in open woodlands and forest.

Female Laughing Kookabura
Female Laughing Kookabura

You will notice in my photos, that the Kookaburras beak is large the top bill is black and the lower bill is bone coloured.

The head is light coloured with brown marks and a brown stripe from the eye. The wings are brown with a blue mottle. In this image you can see the rufus barring of the tail.

Males often have blue on the rump. So this bird is probably female. Female’s heads are more buff and their rump is brown.

Kookaburras live in family groups. Kookaburra young are not forced to leave their parents territory on maturity. The territorial space is used to meet the needs of young adults (called auxiliaries) and breeding pairs before breeding season. The family group works together to protect offspring, raise offspring and defend territorial boundaries. The auxiliaries do not have a breeding territory or breed while they are in the auxiliary role (usually 4 years). These living circumstances help keep reproduction rates low. Research has shown the auxiliaries provide about 30% of incubation and brooding time, and 60 percent of the food for the hatchlings.

Kookaburras favour a diet of insects and invertibrates. They also eat snakes, lizards, rodents, and occasionally small birds. When a small a snake or lizard is caught the Kookaburra holds its catch in its beak to shake and beat the catch against a tree branch until it is dead.

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This female Kookaburra above was observed catching a 15 cm snake and flying to this branch where she killed and ate the snake. She noticed me observing at a distance but allowed me to advance slowly until I was about 10 meters away. She then flew to another perch at a more comfortable distance. She again allowed me to advance slowly to 10 meters. She surveyed the area regularly and eventually flew to a high perch.

I was amazed to discover Kookaburra may live for 20 years. Because the population turnover is slow the birth rate is very low. Kookaburras form permanent pairs. This pair of Kookaburra were perched very high with quite a few people, bicycles and dogs passing by underneath without disturbing them.

A Breeding Pair
A Breeding Pair

Notice the blue rump on the male in this photo below.

The male has a blue rump
The male has a blue rump

Kookaburras are one of my favorite birds. I hope you enjoy them to.

By Amanda Jackson

The Storm Boy Story Line

The Storm Boy Story Line

Storm Boy is a 1976 classic Australian film. It is a story of communion between a boy and a pelican. The movie was promoted in 2001 DVDs as “His free spirit roams with his pet Pelican, Mr Percival, and his secret Aboriginal friend Fingerbone Bill.”

Fingerbone Bill gives the boy the name Storm Boy. The way of life for Storm Boy and his father is hard and remote. Their survival, like Fingerbone’s survival, is connected to and reliant upon the land. They are living in Coorong a coastal area of South Australia. While his father is fishing for their livlihood Storm Boy has solitary time to paddle his raft and explore the wetlands.

The central characters are storm boy (played by Greg Lowe), his father (Peter Cummings) and Fingerbone. These characters demonstrate living with the land. By this I mean living from what nature offers as opposed to altering nature and trying to force the land to produce. Fingerbone is played by David Gulpilil with his trademark brilliance. David’s work is a credit to the Aborinial people of Australia.

The movie is visually spectacular with lovely water, sky and birdlife images.

The movie has a strong conservation message. At the time hunting and dune buggies was permitted in the Coorong. Shamefully the shooting was indiscriminate. Dune buggies damaged fragile dune ecosystems.

The sound track is beautiful. It is clear and haunting. It accompanies the imagery and use of silence very effectively. Silence is very effectively used in this movie. In Aboriginal communication, and in spiritualism, silence is very important.

Communion

Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. The relationship between Storm Boy and Mr Percival is clearly an extraordinary communion. Fingerbone brings the focus to spiritual matters by sharing the traditional story of Pelican and foretelling a storm will follow the killing of a pelican. After this death Storm boy becomes foster parent for the orphan pelican hatchlings.

The Pelican chicks are raised. Storm Boys relationship with Mr Percival is special. When set free Mr Percival returns. There are beautiful images of them playing and finding comfort with Mr Percival sitting on Storm Boys lap.

With shooters again in the Coorong it seems Mr Percival may have been killed. Storm boy searches everywhere and he cannot find Mr Percival. The scene is sad and lonesome as Storm Boy walks along the beach in the bleak last light of day. His father offers him words of comfort and the hope “if he’d been killed you would have found him”. But the heavy rain, wind and thunder can be heard. Storm Boy is silent. He knows a pelican has been killed.

With the new day Fingerbone comes for Storm Boy. Fingerbone found Mr Percival and he was dead. He has buried him. Fingerbone shows storm boy the grave … and a clutch of new pelican chicks.

This movie in the context of communicating aboriginal spiritualism and in the concept of communion between people and animals contains a glaring inconsistency. Aboriginal spiritualism and communion with regard to Pelican is beautifully done. However the scene with the Red Belly Black Snake is unnecessary, inconsistent with the treatment of Pelican, and an incorrect portrayal of aboriginal spiritualism.

In this scene the snake comes towards Fingerbone Bill and Storm Boy while they sit on a log reading. Storm Boy is frightened and Fingerbone shoots and kills the snake.

Killing the snake was unnecessary as it posed no risk and safe conduct around snakes has been known by Aborigines for many thousand years. Killing the snake is the same as killing pelican in the spiritual context. Aboriginal people respect the snake as much as the bird and a much as the person. Aboriginal spiritualism does not allow them to kill any animal unnecessarily. There is no concept of snakes being bad. Snakes have their essential role in nature.

Communion is subtle and real. Sometimes dramatisation take communion so far the plot requires an animal to comprehend a range of steps and perform a rescue. In Australia there was a long running television series “Skippy” where a kangaroo assists the park rangers to perform rescue and capture crooks. Similar concepts in the televisions shows “Lassie” and “Flipper.” In my view it is unnecessary and inconsistent for the pelican Mr Percival to be essential to a rescue of men stranded at sea during a storm. Storm Boy is the movie adaption of the 1964 novel of Colin Thiele. I have not read the book but am curious to see if this aspect of the plot was included in the book.

Coorong National Park

The novel was published in 1964. In 1966 Coorong Nationa Park was established. The National Park is a 447 square kilometer park south east of Adelaide, South Australia. The wetlands of this area are internationally significant and provide a breeding ground for many water bird species. The species include pelican, ducks terns, swans, grebes, cormorants. Many migratory species visit these wetlands. The geography consists of sweeping sand dunes on the Younghusband Peninsular which shelters a series of saltwater lagoons and wetlands.

The Coorong is the tradition land of the Ngarrindjeri people. The land is the center of every aspect of aboriginal life. Saying that land is culturally significant to aboriginal people does not express the full meaning of the land to aboriginal people.

I look forward to visiting Coorong National Park one day it will be a fantastic place for photography, bush walking and canoeing.

If you have been to the Coorong, or seen Storm Boy, I would love to hear from you.

Amanda Jackson

Red Kangaroo – Boomers and Flyers

The Red Kangaroo – Boomers and Flyers

The scientific name for Red Kangaroo is Macropus Rufus which means red great-foot.

Aussies just call them ROOS.

Males are called BOOMERS, females are called FLYERS and babies are called JOEYS.

Hey good looking!

The photos with this post were taken near St George Queensland this spring.

Red Kangaroo
Red Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo males are red and much bigger than the females. Females can be blue-grey or reddish with lighter colored chest and abdomen. The more arid the region the more likely females will have red coloring. You can see the males have a red chest and abdomen.

On average a male stands 1.5m tall and weighs 66 kg. A mature male can stand 1.8m and weigh as much as 85kg. The largest specimen recorded was a huge 2.1 meters tall and 91 kilograms. The red kangaroo is significantly larger than the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo.

Female and Male Red Kangaroo
Female and Male Red Kangaroo

I find the muscular chests and arms of the Red Kangaroo striking. The black and white markings at the side of the mussel and the absence of hair between nostril and lip are the easiest way to be sure the Roo’s you are looking at are Red Kangaroos.

Habitat and diet

Red Roos live on inland plains and grasslands and need access to shade cover. I am so lucky to live where the habitats of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Red Kangaroo meet and frequently see each species.

Kangaroos eat grass. While they have preferred grass they will browse on a range of grass and shrub species if their preferred food sources are not available.

Family Groups

Each family group is led by a dominant male. Groups range in size from two kangaroos to hundreds of members. Group membership is flexible. There may be several males in a group as they are not territorial. They do compete for females who are ready to mate. When there is a contest between males “boxing” may be seen.

When I came upon the group in this picture the males were boxing. As it is early spring one would be challenging for females. However as soon as they became aware of me the stopped and watched my approach until I was abaout 120 meters away before fleeing.

To box they stand on their hind legs and hit out with their forelimbs. Rocking back on their tail they kick out at their opponent. Red Kangaroos also engage in a wrestling behavior not seen in the other species of Kangaroo. Fights establish the hierarchy between the males in the group. When a dominant male loses he leaves the group.

Recently I was told of an encounter with a group of 200-300 Red Kangaroos about 8 hours west of Brisbane Queensland. My colleague stopped his car on a dirt road for a group “flying” across the road. I am told it was an inspiring sight. Just as the last of the flyers bounded past he noticed the boomer standing having overseen the whole procession and looking directly at him. The boomer, supremely confident in his power, hopped slowed past the stationary vehicle. I hope one day to see a large group on the fly.

Coping with the heat and dry

Red Kangaroo have developed a variety of physical, physiological and behavioral adaptions to keep their body temperature at 36% when the temperature soars to 45 degrees celsius and higher. These adaptions include:

• Red Kangaroos are not usually active in the warmer hours of the day and eek shade/cover in high temperatures.
• Kangaroos pant, sweat and lick their fore limbs to cool themselves.
• The fur of Red Kangaroos has an insulating layer.
• Roos will consume drought tolerant food sources as necessary
• The Kangaroos kidneys concentrate urine preserving the water in its body.
• Kangaroos eat the freshest shoots available as they have the highest water content

Other interesting adaptions

Eyes: The position of the Roo’s eyes allows for a 300 degree field of vision.
Swimming: These kangaroos are great swimmers

It was great researching this article. If you know other interesting facts about the Red Kangaroo let me know!

Amanda Jackson

The Night Parrot Lives

The Night Parrot Lives!

The Night Parrot has been found after 100 years!

Until 1979 “No living ornithologist has reported seeing the night parrot in the wild” accordingly there was virtually no hope that a Night Parrot would ever be seen again. There were no sightings from 1912 to 1979. From 1979 there were a few sightings including the discovery of a dead bird in 1990.

Then in 2013, John Young discovered birds likely to be Night Parrots. He used sound recording taken at night to assist him to find sites to investigate.

Finally, now in 2015 it has been publicly confirmed the night parrot lives.

Queensland and the world celebrated a small colony having been found living in grassland in remote western Queensland. The land has been secured to protect the birds from feral dogs and cats. Scientists are at work to learn and do everything they can to protect and increase the population of this species.

night parrot

You can get more information on the net

Extinct Night Parrot?

This is a tribute to the resilience of life.

The story of the Night Parrot is amazing and thrilling. This tough little parrot has survived for so long despite the threats to its survival. The Night Parrot has remained undiscovered despite all the professionals and bird watchers searching for them.

Perhaps another species presumed extinct will be found.

EXTINCT is such a terrible and final outcome. In my life time 4 amphibians, 1 reptile and 2 invertebrates have become extinct in Australia and 1 presumed extinct bird has been found to survive.

This story gives me such hope that the Paradise Parrot and the Tasmania Tiger survival instincts have them hunkered down in a small survival number as remote as they can take themselves.

Tell me more about the NIGHT PARROT:

The Aboriginal name is Myrrlumbing after one of its calls. The Night Parrot is also called the Spinifex Parrot because of where it lives and the Night Parakeet because it is nocturnal.

The Night Parrot is most similar to the Swamp Parrot/Ground Parrot but they live in different habitats. The Night Parrot lives in the arid and semi-arid zones preferring saltbush and spinifex cover. These birds are Ground Dwellers which makes them highly vulnerable to threat from feral cats, foxes and dogs. Flight is low for short distance. The bird prefers to run for cover. This parrot prefers green food and has a harsh voice. It builds a crude nest under spinifex.

These birds are thick-set with short tails. They have green-yellow streaked plumage and yellow underbellies.

Until 2013-2015 only two first hand accounts of this bird was published. Some information has been reported in 1868, 1870 and 1883. That is all we had until now!

research-nightparrot

Tips on How to help declining and endangered species?

1 familiarize yourself with the species and its habit
2 observe carefully every chance you get
3 take a note of exactly where you are and what you see and find
4 report anything you might see to this website and to the National Parks and Wildlife authority for the State you are in.

If you have any wildlife conservation issues that concern you please let us know.

Amanda Jackson

Reflection of The Persecuted King

Reflection of “The Persecuted King”

 

This painting by Kerrie Thomsen speaks to the majesty of the Wedge Tail Eagle.

Wedgie
Painting – The Persecuted King by Kerrie Thomsen

The eagle is an apex predator. This bird appears aloof and stern. These birds have knowledge, they seem to know all – they have strong eyesight and spend a long time riding thermals watching what is going on below. They spend up to 90 minutes in the air at a time and rise as high as 2000 meters.

Then, when it is time to eat the Wedge Tail Eagle is a killing machine, fast and effective.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle is truly an animal of Australia being found throughout the country. This is Australia’s largest bird of prey with a wingspan of approximately 2.4 meters.

Australian Eagles have found lambs a preferable food source and as a result are not favorites with farmers, perhaps this is why the artist titles this painting “The Persecuted King”

I am aware an injured eagle stayed in the back yard for 2 weeks as well as tree cover very near Kerrie’s home in rural Victoria while it recovered from injuries. The hand feeding that her husband did restored the young birds strength. I believe observation of this eagle during his recovery inspired her works.

The supremacy of the eagle is conveyed by its size and position within the work. I really enjoy the treatment of the landscape. This is a style featured regularly in Kerrie’s works. The colour schemes used are unique. I describe Kerrie’s style as modern aboriginal painting or art. Traditional elements are present in subject matter and technique, for example dot painting techniques are present. However modern elements are also present in style, composition and colour.

If you wish to see more paintings by Kerrie Thomsen go to Indigenous Artist

Please comment and tell me what you think

Amanda

Kangaroo Medicine

Kangaroo Medicine

I painted this Kangaroo Mandala for my husband.

My Mandala painting

Kangaroo Circle

Kangaroo Mandala

Kangaroo to me is an important message about Family and turning to family for help and safety.

Our family can be kin or by connection and be of our own definition. No pre-judged idea of family here.

We call a group of kangaroos a mob and mob is a lovely everyday word used to describe being part of a community or family.

Kangaroo reminds us that when times are hard or difficult then we can draw strength and get protection by sticking together. Real help can be found from our mob.

Let me know your thoughts on this or my painting.

I would love that

Kerrie

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Checking for danger

 

 

Echidna – a one of a kind animal of Australia

Echidna – a one of a kind animal of Australia

Australia has two species of monotremes (egg laying mammals) the platypus and echidna. There are no other species like them.

It is unusual to see an echidna in the daytime because by habit they are active at night.

On the move
On the move
Echidna active at night
Echidna active at night

Echidnas are 30 -45 cm in size and weigh 2 to 7 kilograms.

The spines are coarse and used to protect the echidna. The male has a spurs but no venom. Echidna are very powerful diggers and will dig into the ground or wedge into a hollow when threatened. So I think you can see now why I call the Echidna a one of a kind of animal.

Several males will follow one female this is called a ‘train’. The female echidna lays one egg which she then incubates in her pouch for 10 days. The young suckle from a teat in her pouch. The echidna has a burrow and when the young are too big for the pouch they will live in the burrow and continue to suckle until they reach 12 weeks of age. Echidna are one the most unusual and wonderful animals of Australia.

Post and Photos by Amanda Jackson

Tachyglossus aculeatus
Tachyglossus aculeatus