In mid November, some tourists on the Daintree River witnessed two Great-billed Herons fighting on the river bank. As the bird watchers keenly observed the fracas, the birds fell into the water and a nearby crocodile took the opportunity to grab one of them.
Subsequent to this event being reported on the local network we noticed that the Great-billed Heron we regularly see on our wetlands was limping and looking a bit sorry for himself. (There has been a presumption that it was two males fighting) During the last week he has improved considerably – we have seen him quite frequently and, perhaps due to his bruises, he hasn’t been in a hurry to fly off as soon as he catches sight of us.
November 21st feeling a bit sorry for itself – a few days after the reported fracas.
Today we were spending some time with a fellow birding friend who was visiting from Cairns and so, after a walk around some of the tracks, we sat in the bird hide chatting and exchanging stories. As we were watching a Little Egret land in a tree in the distance, the Great-billed Heron flew across in front of us and landed on the bund wall in full view. Although we kept chatting the bird was unperturbed by us. It was, however, disturbed by some Figbirds which caused it to ruffle up its plumes then give us a demonstration of its guttural call before eventually flying a little further on to hunt along the exposed muddy bank.
What a privilege to have the pleasure of seeing such a shy bird, not only finding our wetlands a reliable feeding ground but starting to feel less threatened by our presence nearby.
In recent months at least two pairs of Black Butcherbirds have produced 3 offspring in the vicinity of our house garden. Of course the adults have been very busy hunting – frogs, lizards, snakes and fledgling birds are all on the menu – which means that the diminutive Sunbirds, like many of our small birds, are faced with quite a challenge to find a sufficiently camouflaged nesting site.
In our early years here, prior to our revegetation efforts, the rather sparse garden supported very few birds so we delighted in the Sunbirds nesting close to the house, often on our verandah. Sunbirds build beautiful hanging nests with a side entrance and they will suspend them from anything that takes their fancy. The plastic coated clothes-line proved impossible (thank goodness as it would have been most inconvenient) but any rope left hanging was irresistible to them.
In recent years, as our general bird population has increased, it has become too risky for the Sunbirds to use such an exposed area as the verandah, which is regularly patrolled by Butcherbirds who have taken advantage of many unwary frogs and lizards. Although we don’t find sunbird nests near our house now, they are breeding successfully and this year we have been enjoying the sight of a young male who has been feeding on Heliconia ‘Sexy Pink’ which is adjacent to our outdoor shower – we have also observed him drinking from the shower rose when a few drips remain.
This is the only Heliconia allowed to grow in our garden, which is in the residential exclusion zone of the Wild Wings & Swampy Things Nature Refuge. It does take some maintenance to look its best but it is not as rampant as some varieties …. and the flowers’ popularity with the Sunbirds makes it worthwhile.
Hopefully the young fellow will manage to avoid predators and live long enough to gain the glorious colours of a mature male.