Sunday, 7 May 2017

Down amongst the mangroves.

 Everywhere  you walk along the edge of the mangroves at a certain time of the year you will find the taffeta flowers of the wild hibiscus. The tallish, rather scraggly trees grow right on the landward edge of the mangroves, their branches hooping as they bow towards the water.
 The flowers are pretty enough if rather insipid & the trees themselves often a mess. For a while there was a rather splendid specimen on the next block but a gum has since crashed through the centre of it squashing it rather & spoiling its splendour.
 They really aren't much to look at but they have one undeniable attraction: for some reason mangrove honeyeaters like to nest in them.  I discovered this by chance one year because honeyeaters are fairly aggressive birds, even the tiny ones & they are hugely territorial.  Round here the males stake their territory by perching at the top of a Red Mangrove [one of our tall mangroves] & announcing himself with a series of bravo calls. These perches also make good watch perches & you will hear alarm calls if a predator is spotted.

In mating season you will hear mated pairs calling to each other & of course I always look around me to see if I can spot a nest.  Personally I think they are quite mad because what I found was particularly insane for a species not renowned for its smarts.

A foot or so above what would be high water the female had pulled together a bunch of hibiscus leaves live & still attached to the tree, all gummied together with spiderweb & a little cup nest of pine needles & twigs nestled in the middle with 2 of the tiniest eggs ever!

Apparently this is something they do & no~one seems to have any idea why.  However I thought it was fantastic & rounded up the kids with clear instructions as to being quiet, not disturbing the mother & only looking at the eggs if she left the nest & never, ever touch!  Nor do we ever share our finds.  Not everyone is as fascinated & careful.

We were able to monitor the eggs & saw the newly hatched chicks, & later just before they flew.  One day they just weren't there & the next season we had huge king tides so there has never been another nest in that particular spot.

However it is not breeding season at the moment so all I saw was the pale crepey flowers of the Wild Hibiscus.
Just above the tide mark I found several tiny downey feathers just touched with blue at the tips ~ breast feathers perhaps & the sort of blue that belongs to a rosella. It was odd.  Rosellas are flock birds & feathers like that aren't usually dropped casually about.  We've occasionally found corpses of sea birds that a large fish or turtle has had a chop on but even those are rare.  Bird bones dissolve fast.

Due to storm damage & someone's bright idea to build an eco~resort that never materialized there is now a huge amount of fallen timber all along the foreshore & places where you have to choose between scrambling up the bank or heading for the mud. Today I chose to go up the bank ~ & found a bird skeleton.  Nothing left to say what it had once been but we have plenty of raptors about like the Brahminy Kite I saw today.

Osprey, like the kites & sea eagles are mostly scavengers & prefer the easy pickings they can scrounge along the mud rather than actually hunting for a meal. Falcons are different.  They are fast & they are killers. One of the lads once got showered in blood & feathers while coming through the door as a raptor snavelled a pigeon right above his head! And when we first moved here a hawk shot under my moving car to snatch a kill on the other side.

Just the same I love having so many raptors about.  Like so many other animals they sometimes do things just for the sheer pleasure of it ~ because they can. The mangroves are almost always still.  The wind doesn't penetrate into their depths but you will hear the raptors scream & when you look up through a break in the mangroves they are riding the thermals for the sheer joy of flight. It gives me such pleasure.


  1. I love the predator birds and I love sweet songs, particularly the mocking bird, who provides a variety of tunes, and I will even admit to liking the colors of some birds, but for the most part birds are not my thing. Perhaps because I lived near water most of my younger life and found them to be mostly scavenging nuisances, especially when fishing, and there were a few who thought a strand of my hair would be a nice addition to their nest without giving any consideration that I was quite attached to it...literally.

  2. I don't know about American birds. I know where we live gives us a huge variety of both sea & land birds. I like both ~ but we have few true scavengers & a number that are amazing aviators. Shearwaters can do acrobatics inches from the water & their wing tips cut through the crest of the waves as they fly! Oystercatchers use their beaks as a tool. Snake birds & cormorants are divers. However you have to be out & about to see them.