Life with a sprinkle of Choughness

Long term readers will know of my fascination with all things Choughness.

White-winged Choughs can be both frustrating and rewarding to follow.  Some families seem to have a high human tolerance and I’ve had them hunt around my feet and sit on the same log with me.  Others. No matter how much time I spend, they just keep moving on.
They are not the world’s greatest aeronauts and I often think that if they can run to the next location that is their preferred method of locomotion.

They also have quite well established family rules. Which they understand, while I must guess what is going on.  And at just about every encounter, I come away impressed by some new view of choughness.

One family we see regularly in the You Yangs have just managed to get a couple of young ones off the nest.   Now comes the job of teaching these little ones all the rules of choughness.   And its a big task.  The young birds are quite clueless. And they have an average attention span of about 1 millisecond.   “Is it food”, seems to be the total of their ability to reason.   So the adults have to spend quite a bit of time working with young. And because of their lack of reason, they are easily enticed away by other families offering “bigger grubs”.  Oh boy, I gotta go

Choughs need quite a large family size, at least six or seven adults to raise a young.  Larger groups have more flexibility and its reported, more success.

Found the family at work around some rocks, and settled down for a sprinkle of choughness to add to my day.

Continue reading “Life with a sprinkle of Choughness”

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Blogging 101 the Third Week in Review; “Family Matters”

Family Matters

Been away for the bulk of this past week. Up at the Family Acres.  We stayed at the Murray Downs Resort in Swan Hill.  Really nice and quiet, and just a few km out of town.
Like all good resorts, probably enough to do without having to make the tourist mecca trip. And a lovely golfcourse built in.
But, of course not being the sporty type, golf doesn’t mean, clubs, balls and keeping score.  It means wide open green areas, water, trees, bushes and … birds.

So each morning we managed to be up at Sparrows call, and walk around the course, before the golfers began their pilgrimages.
In return we got to see among other things, White-winged Choughs, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Pied Butcherbirds and a host of the usual suspects.
With the Goschen Roadside Reserve about 20 minutes away, it should have been a great birding week.

But.

Family Matters.

So photography was banned.  Well at least frowned on. So I snuck into the deep pockets of my Breakaway jacket, a D810, sans its L Bracket, and in the other pocket, the 300mm f/4 PF with a 1.4 TC attached.    Not much help for general photography but at least it covered some of the birds at the golf course.

The White-winged Choughs have adapted quite well, thank you, to the rolling sand hills, saltbush and thin mallee scrub, nestled between the sweeping grassy greens of the golf course.   Able to enjoy both the richness of their old habitat and the pleasures of the new.

I managed to spend two sessions, a mid morning, and a late evening with a couple of the families.  They are so used to people zooming past in carts, or walking by with bags and clubs that a dude walking quietly with a camera seemed quite  harmless. So within a few minutes I was accepted into the family, and they worked around me nonchalantly. Even the ever present “Lookout” bird relaxed enough for closeups.

Blogging 101 was also concentrating on the family of bloggers.

But a lot of it was about branding, id, making themes that people will follow, or seek out and developing a feature to enrich readership, as my eyes glaze over….

So I came to the conclusion “Family Matters”. Those who graciously have clicked the Follow button or come over from another link are welcome here as family, and the time shared is as much important to me as the enjoyment of the birds.

So there is not going to be a ‘sustainable purely personal blog of random musings benefitting from a hint of structure.. ” here anytime in the foreseeable future.

Just me sharing our best time with the birds and hoping you enjoy it as much.

Here is how the Chough Family took their day.

Enjoy.

Sentry on Guard. If it can get the sentry to accept my presence then the family will settle down.
Sentry on Guard. If I can get the sentry to accept my presence then the family will settle down.
Always a delight to see the wing spread. They are not the world's most agile flyers
Always a delight to see the wing spread. They are not the world’s most agile flyers
The benefits of settling in a golf course. Plenty of water in pools on the road
The benefits of settling in a golf course. Plenty of water in pools on the road
A somewhat deformed beak.
A somewhat deformed beak.
Taking a stroll under the cooling shower of a lawn sprinkler.
Taking a stroll under the cooling shower of a lawn sprinkler.
The family that preens together.
The family that preens together.
Plenty of food among the damp understory litter.
Plenty of food among the damp understory litter.

Writing on Choughedness

Warning, this post is full of anthropomorphic observations, if the thought of creatures having feelings and thought processes like humans is not your scene, click away now.

I make no effort to hide the fact, that “I like Choughs”.  Their communal actions and activities are a constant source of inspiration and amusement to me.

Mr An Onymous and I had a bit of time after dinner while everyone was taking their evening dip in the Resort Pool, or sipping on those drinks with the cute little umbrellas attached. We thought a walk across the golf course open forest area would be a good way watch the sun go down.  And we’d seen some White-winged Choughs there the night before, so armed with the photography hardware we sallied forth. Bumped into one of the Resort staff who pointed out where the 4 or 5 Eastern Grey Kangaroos come down to feed on the grasses, and I didn’t have the heart to explain that back home they are in plague proportion and considered a nuisance.  Still, the right words. “Oh, Kangaroos, wow, that is amazing, fancy seeing them in the bush”, seemed to work.

We very soon found a family group feeding across an open paddock, and they were engrossed in digging down into the sandy soil to extract a white prize. (no not a golf ball).  It might have been a grub, or a shell, or a seed. Just hard to tell.  But it seemed to me they were able to pinpoint where to dig. It wasn’t random.

One found a top from a take-away coffee, and seemed to be amused by it, and went to no length of trouble to make sure no one took it away from it.  In the end, no coffee, no food, and just left it standing.  Those engaged in the digging would find a ‘white thing’ and then run across the paddock to be the first to pop it into the ever waiting beaks of the 3 or 4 young they were looking after.  Much wing folding, spreading and Chough babbling accompanied the activity.   By now they treated us with disdain, and just carried on feeding.
Then with a clatter, they all headed for the forest.  Mr An and I looked at each other, but couldn’t conclude why they left, so, we followed.

Light was now really fading, we found them inside the forest having met up with first one other company, and then another, up to 40 birds in total I guesstimated.

They took to the trees for a quick preening session, and then reassembled on the ground.  What happened next is best seen from the photos.

3 birds seemed to take centre stage and call the meeting to order. Then one of the others “St Paul”,  delivered the “Vespers” message. To our amazement, the 40 or so birds all stood round in a rough half circle and seemed to listen intently to what was being said.  Meeting over the three families began to prepare to roost for the night.
This involved much wing hugging, chatting and preening.  It also resulted in the very first Chough Scuffle I’ve seen.   One bird was trying  to go with a particular group, and it became obvious that its perfume, politeness, dress sense or general demeanour were unacceptable by the group.  A real scuffle followed and one emerged with a beakful of feathers! Disgruntled the looser skulked away to find some where else to roost for the night.
All the others in the group wigwagged appreciation and then flew off to find a spot.

Now finding a spot to roost sounds easy, but not for Choughs.  Its all in the order of who sits next to who on the branch. Much calling, wing waving and downright pushing and shoving ensued.  It was obvious that ‘she’ didn’t want to be next to ‘him’ and this one only wanted to roost next to that one.  And so it went.

In the end Five Choughs on a branch is the limit, and the next one to land bent the branch so much that all were put to flight.

By now the light had gone, and they did a final sweep over a Pied Butcher Bird and her two offspring. Moving them along out of the area.

Last seen and heard setting into the tops of some gum trees.

Choughedness, something I’ll never understand, but will be pleased to learn more.

I thought I ordered a Skinny Soy Latte.
I thought I ordered a Skinny Soy Latte.
Working at small time tunnelling.
Working at small time tunnelling.
What ever was down there required a bit of effort.
What ever was down there required a bit of effort.
"I got one, I got one", heading to feed one of the young.
“I got one, I got one”, heading to feed one of the young.
With a flash of white wings and they were gone
With a flash of white wings and they were gone
Preening for the big meeting. Got to look the best among family.
Preening for the big meeting. Got to look the best among family.
The social committee. "I hear by call this meeting of Choughedness to order."
The social committee.
“I hear by call this meeting of Choughedness to order.”
"St Paul", the message must have been a good strong one ,to get everyone's attention. No one back chatted.
“St Paul”, the message must have been a good strong one, to get everyone’s attention. No one back chatted.
Listening intently, no preen gin, taking, or feeding.
Listening intently, no preening, talking, or feeding.
Lecture over, time to get ready to roost
Lecture over, time to get ready to roost
A sentry stands guard while everyone else has a dust bath and hug.
A sentry stands guard while everyone else has a dust bath and hug.
Working out the sleeping arrangements for the night.
Working out the sleeping arrangements for the night.
And let that be a lesson to you.  A beak full of feathers, finished any further discussion.
And let that be a lesson to you. A beak full of feathers, finished any further discussion.
Downcast, the outcast wandered off forlornly.
Downcast, the outcast wandered off forlornly.
Five Choughs in the bed and they all rolled over and all fell out.
Five Choughs in the bed and they all rolled over and all fell out.

The mystery becomes a little clearer or more complicated

Because of a family event, we were on the road early to Ballarat.  On the way back, on my own, I dropped by the park. The weather was sunny and the wind had dropped off.  Nice.

After about 15 minutes, Primrose came by and was quite happy to pose in the sunshine. No sight of Lochie, and I don’t know where he is, and she wasn’t telling.

Also the male Scarlet,  I’ve decided he should be Will of Scarlet,  sort of Robin Hood style. Will of Scarlet came by and was quite vocal.  After about an hour, I saw him fly rapidly into a nearby bush, and another bird emerged out the back a couple of seconds later. At first it was hard to make out, and the light was never going to be great for a photo, but…. Lo and behold..  Its a female Scarlet Robin.  She was in a hurry to feed, and to wing stretch, so I think we might have a nesting function going on.  I hope so.  Anyway that explains the male and his hunt and carry activities. What it doesn’t explain is his attention to the female red-cap.   Or it might just be the birdy neighbourly thing.  More watching me thinks.

On the way back to the car, a small feeding party of White-winged Choughs came by, the light was falling, but they got into a ruckus over a small area on the side of the road. Much calling, squawking, alarm calling and jumping in the air. They also seemed to be intent to keep one another away from what ever it was. When they moved on I had a look and a large ‘shingleback’ lizard has a hole there and he was quite put out that his afternoon in the sun had been disturbed.  Several of the Choughs had white stuff on their wings which is pretty typical of birds that are sitting nest, with young who can now excrete, so there’s another generation of White-winged Choughs in there somewhere. How cool.

Enjoy the moments, we do.

Primrose at close quarters. She was happy to hunt around me, and come back quite close to check it all out. No nesting bump, so I don’t think she has started for real yet.

 

Scarlet Male in the very late afternoon light. Pity about the small branch across his wing and neck.

 

Female Scarlet Robin. As good as I got in the failing light. First time We’ve seen her in about three weeks.

 

White-winged Choughs giving a shinglebacked lizard a piece of their minds.