Although it’s still officially winter here by the Anglo calendar, both daytime and nightime temperatures are rising, and the birds at least are already well into nesting and breeding. The indigenous people had their own way of marking the seasons, one much more attuned to what was actually happening in the weather and the landscape than our imported English system. I personally think winter for our part of the subtropics should be considered to end around the start of August.
We’ve never been swooped by our resident magpie pair – according to Gisela Kaplan’s detailed book, magpies (Cracticus tibicen) recognise their resident humans and tend to leave them alone. They are sure twitchy at the moment, though, and I feel sorry for any census collectors (we’ve just had our 5-yearly national census) visiting places where maggies will swoop on them.
There are a lot of brush turkeys about, too. I went up the back to take a photo of a nest, but it’s not in use this year and has pretty well disintegrated, so I’ll have to use a photo from Australia Zoo.
This is about the same size of the one on my property. The male scrapes up a big pile of leaves; several females lay eggs in it; the male tends the eggs, sticking his nose in to test the temperature and scraping away or adding leaves to adjust it; then the eggs hatch and the babies race off to fend for themselves immediately.
The noisy miners are also breeding, communally as is their wont, and were mobbing this snake, a carpet python (Morelia spilota) behind the house yesterday. It was about 2 metres long. The snake went very still, and the noisies lost interest after a while. They are nicking fragrant thyme from the bush on my back deck, presumably for their nests.
Here in the subtropics, winter and particularly spring are dry, with September the driest month (an average of 50 mL/2 inches; total rainfall for the year about 1.4 metres/55 inches – compared to less than half a metre/18 inches for the whole year where I grew up in South Australia, it’s luxury). It’s the month I keep an eye on the rainwater tank, as it’s our only source of water. We start washing clothes – and ourselves – less often, and most definitely watering the garden less (although I don’t do that much anyway – only the veggies). We’ve had to buy in water only once in the 10 years we’ve been here, and six months of chlorinated water reminded us how much we dislike its taste.
Birds desperate for water come to the birdbath on the back deck to drink and have a bath more often in the dry weather. We’ve had nervous leatherheads (noisy friarbirds, Philemon corniculatus) …
… a nervous pied currawong (Strepera-graculina, actually black with white feathers under the tail, but I had to take the shot from inside lest the bird fly off, so it looks grubby) …
… even male and female satin bowerbirds …
I couldn’t get a shot of a bowerbird actually at the bird bath, as they are incredibly twitchy.
The braver noisy miners, magpies and butcherbirds make an appearance as well. Everyone’s hanging out for water. Around October we might even get some spring storms to refill the tank and local streams.