My Lake Dulverton Walk

I often go for walks around Lake Dulverton near my home in Oatlands. There is a nice long walking trail and plenty to see as you stroll along. I always take my two dogs Toby and Teddy who are of course kept on their leads unless we are in the doggy off the lead zone. The walking trail starts at Oatlands and ends in Parrattah. It’s about an eight kilometre track used by walkers, cyclists and horseback riders. At one end of the lake there is a camping ground and another park called Callington Park. Part of the lake is a consevation area for the birds. There are many to be seen and I have often seen bird watchers by the lake. Years ago before there was a problem with the lake drying up they used to have speed boat racing on the lake. The old boat shed is still there and you can see the old ramps. People still fish at the lake and sometimes they take out row boats. If you wander along the path far enough you can see the ruins of the old mill. (Not the mill in the photo). The track itself was once the railway line from Parrattah to Oatlands. Both railway stations still stand. The Oatlands station is now part of the school. I took a few photos last time I walked around the lake and here they are.

Snapshot Sunday – Garden Visitors

I was very surprised this morning to look out the kitchen window and see four ducks wandering around in the back garden. I was even more surprised when I came home from the Op Shop at 3:30 pm and they were still there. I think they may belong to a neighbour as I have never had wild ducks in my garden in fifteen years of living here.
I had no objection to them hanging out for a while but I needed to let Cindy outside so the duckies had to go. I opened the back gate and shooed them out. The last I saw they were marching up the driveway, making no attempt to fly away.

Those Noisy Neighbours – A Plover Family Update

Out for a stroll with mum or dad.

Out for a stroll with mum or dad.

Have you been wondering what happened to the Plover family I wrote about some time ago? I had been too, after that very wet day I only saw the family one more time. A friend had told me that they had no road sense and that the attrition rate for the young chicks was very high. The last time I saw Mr & Mrs Plover they had the chicks down by the side of the road so I had grave fears for their survival. My friend also told me that plovers grieve if they lose their mates. For the next few weeks I only occasionally spotted a single plover on the grass or flying overhead so you can see why I was worried.

Plover (Masked Lapwing). They have no road sense.

Plover (Masked Lapwing). They have no road sense.

Well on Thursday afternoon I came home from the Op Shop to find six adult-sized plovers wandering around on the grass. Are they the same ones? I have no idea. I can’t tell one bird from another but I like to think that it is the same family with the chicks now grown. I wasn’t able to photograph them yesterday because they were startled by some cars that parked outside the power sub station and left until after dark but this morning their unpleasant sounding screeches informed me that they were back. I spotted five of them on the grass. It was raining and I was in my pajamas so I photographed them through the window again.

Plover (Masked Lapwing)

Plover (Masked Lapwing)

Plover (Masked Lapwing)

Plover (Masked Lapwing)

It could be my imagination but I think these two birds look young. Plover chicks fly at seven weeks or so and my original photos were taken early in October, two months ago so it is not impossible that they could be the same birds. When they arrived yesterday most of them were at the top of the slope looking down on the couple that were on the grass but this morning only one was up top keeping an eye on the rest.

Plover (Masked Lapwing) watching over the others.

Plover (Masked Lapwing) watching over the others.

Someone to watch over me.

Someone to watch over me.

I have cropped these photos quite a lot and again they were taken through glass so not the best quality. I used my 300mm lens on the automatic setting. If the weather allows and I can get near them, which should be easier now the chicks are grown, I will try to take some more.

Meet the Neighbours

Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing, commonly knows as a plover. These are common in my area.

Not long ago I photographed a Masked Lapwing, commonly known as a plover on the piece of land adjacent to my house. I commented at the time that these birds visit that area quite often. They never come into the back garden but they do like the lawn beside the driveway where they grub for worms and other insects.

Last Sunday I noticed a pair of them in the driveway acting in a very territorial way walking about and screeching. I hadn’t seen them act that way before.  As it is spring I wondered if it had something to do with the mating season although one of the birds seemed to be standing rather oddly and I did wonder if there was something the matter with it.

The following day I found out what it was. Chicks. The adult birds were walking about screeching but on the lawn were four chicks. I’d never seen plover chicks before so I was very interested. I would love to have photographed them but it was raining heavily and very windy as well. I contented myself with watching them out of the kitchen window. Soon the chicks ran to their mother and snuggled in under her wings. She stood there in the pouring rain and wind protecting them from the elements and predators. She had no shelter at all and I felt sorry for them. I wished they were in a safer, drier place. I found a picture on the internet showing what the chicks look like.

 

Young Masked Lapwing.jpg
By Amos T Fairchild – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Later I spent some time reading  about plovers because I wondered where they had been nesting and how long it would be before the babies could fly. They build their nests on the ground, it is described as a single scrape usually away from ground cover. They often choose to nest in places like road verges, playing fields and other places you would not think were great nesting sites. The birds mate for life and they choose a territory during the winter; the female will lay up to four eggs which both parents take care of. Once the chicks are hatched they leave the nest within hours and the parents guard them while they wander about feeding themselves. That is the reason for all the screeching as the parents protect them from harm, even swooping on any creature they consider a threat including humans. According to what I have read the chicks will not fly until they are six or seven weeks old. I have no idea how old the ones I’ve seen are but I suspect not very old.

The next day I looked for the plover family again but contractors came to cut the grass on the part of the land that belongs to the power substation next to me. I was worried about the chicks and didn’t see the family until late in the day. They were up the top of a slope and I could not see how many of them there were. It was only late the  next afternoon when they were down on the lawn again that I was able to count them properly and I was very relieved to see there were still four of them.

The weather was bad again but I decided to try to take some pictures with my 300mm zoom lens through the window. Naturally they did not come out well and I had to crop them a lot. I will keep trying though. I might risk going outside to take some when the weather improves but I ‘ll have to be careful or I’ll upset the parents.  When I think of all the things that could happen to these little birds I feel quite anxious about them but I know there is nothing I can do about it.

Out for a stroll with mum or dad.

Out for a stroll with mum.

 

I hope I’ll see the chicks grow up over the next few months and be able to continue to take photographs of them.

Further Reading:

http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=16106

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Vanellus-miles

Spring in the Garden

It is finally starting to feel like spring around here. The daffodils have been and gone but they are optimists and usually start showing up while there are still frosty mornings and sensible people are still wearing their winter underwear. The rest of the bulbs apart from the grape hyacinths were content to wait till we had a few sunny days before making an appearance.

Most of my spring bulbs are in containers this year. I’ve had grape hyacinths, star flowers which are still going, the tulips have just started to flower and a couple of hyacinths are teasing me with lots of leaves but no flowers as are a couple of other pots of assorted bulbs such as the Sparaxis which has started to flower this week. The English lavender and Federation daisies I potted in the autumn have made a good come back as have two bargain box rose bushes that I bought around the same time. The pelargonium sadly didn’t make it. I’m not sure why. The polyanthuses and pansy seedlings I planted have come up a treat too except for the ones in the bottom of the bird bath/ planter. I had my doubts about those though, it seemed rather a  shallow planter to support anything much.

My lovely apple tree has  started to show some green leaves and the Japanese Maple some red ones. I had been watching the  new deciduous trees closely for weeks. This was their first winter and although I know they are meant to be dormant they just looked like dead sticks in the ground. The Gleditsia did not even have any branches to speak of but over the past week little shoots have burst out all over it so although it’s still rather stick like at least I know it’s alive. Around the side of the house the Weeping Japanese Maple has also started to show some foliage.  I bought it on the recommendation of Jason, one of my “garden guys” who has one in his garden. It was bare when I got it and by far the most expensive tree I’ve bought so far. David would have had a fit I’m sure, he’d have seen more sense in ten fifteen dollar trees than one that cost a hundred and fifty but it’s supposed to be a very spectacular tree.  I liked the weeping habit, that’s what I really bought it for but the foliage is a very unusual colour as well.

I have been out taking my annual picture of the Photinia hedge too. Despite the fact that I lost one tree over the summer it’s really starting to look like a hedge now and I do love the colour of the new growth. Pretty soon I will be getting the outside of the house painted and I’m thinking about doing the balustrades and front door in a red to match the hedge.  There are a lot of red plants in both the front and back gardens, it is my favourite colour after all. There are red roses, down one side between me and the neighbours and the plants in the border at the back have red flowers, the Australian native Callistemon and the South African Leucadendron. Neither of those two are showing a spring growth spurt yet but I’m hoping they will shoot up a bit over the next few months.

Here is the hedge now, this time last year and when it was first planted.

The birds are back too. I’ve started to notice more varieties visiting the garden as well as the sparrows and blackbirds I get throughout the year. I haven’t managed to capture any pictures yet because at the moment they seem most active first thing in the morning. I’ve been getting a visits from swallow like birds with black backs. I think they are “Welcome Swallows”; they fly in and perch on the wire that carries a power line from the house to the shed. I’ve seen a few finches, the Green Rosellas that visited a few weeks ago and this morning a pair of Superb Fairy Wrens. I often see the males who are bright blue and black and easy to spot, the females are a more modest brown. I read that juvenile males can also be brown but as it is the start of the breeding season I think this mornings pair were honeymooners checking out the real estate. The apple tree was very popular as a bird apartment block last summer and remained so until it was practically bare.

 

I started writing this post a week or so ago before we had another round of extremely wet weather. I had to wait for a dry day to take the last couple of photos and it is amazing how much things have grown in just a week. The maples and the apple tree have a lot more leaves on them now and the apple tree even has a few flower buds. The Sparaxis started to flower, I had just about given up on it.  I also have some gladioli bulbs coming up ready for summer. I’m quite excited to have so many flowers this year as I haven’t really had much success growing flowers in the past. That’s why I usually stick to daffodils and other flowers that don’t require a lot of skill to grow. When we lived in South Australia the climate was much too hot and dry in summer to grow much and our garden was primarily limestone and required a lot of effort to dig. We had things like Oleander and Gazanias although I did manage to grow some bearded Iris’s which were very pretty. I like the Tasmanian climate much better though because I can have the English flowers I love as well as Australian and South African native plants in the drier parts of the garden.