Like Simon I too dipped out on the Swift Parrots about two weeks ago, but
today was a rather different story - thanks very much Carol for the posting.
I spent from 11:15am to 4:20pm following the birds around the hospital
grounds (Nepean Hospital - Western Sydney) and getting brilliant views as
they often fed very low in the trees (and fingers crossed some good photos).
I counted 65 birds as they flew out of one tree in dribs and drabs, and I
missed at least a few when larger flocks flew out at once, so I confidently
put the number at 70 birds. This was in the morning, the flocks later became
separated and more dispersed and I never saw that many together again (20's,
30's and 40's). They also became much much more quiet in the afternoon, so
much so that when I thought there was one bird in the tree when the flock
flew out there were 10-15.
To account for the higher number (~70) it is possible more birds have moved
into the area (or flocks have coalesced at the hospital), but I think it is
perhaps more likely that the more time the birds are watched the more chance
there is of seeing more of the groups forming larger flocks (in 1998 the
number of Swift Parrots started at around 60 and eventually got to over 100
as more and more people observed them) - had I arrived at 11:30am I would
have only ended up with a max of 47 birds (as I kept counting during the day
trying to get a better figure of the number). Don't get me wrong, I don't
dismiss the possibility of more birds arriving.
The birds mainly fed in the numerous grey box trees but also fed in some of
the stringybark-type and smooth-bark eucalypts that are dotted about. All
feeding amongst the foliage presumably for lerps as suggested by the
behaviour (but I didn't see any lerps on the leaves, mind you I was watching
the birds not the leaves!). There were no freshly flowering eucalypts (one
tree had drying feathers).
There was a lot of variation in the degree of colouration amongst the birds
with some being much duller green over all and with faint or barely visible
colouration about the face and head - most of these birds also had darker
irides and I identified them as juveniles (but there were also birds with
bright irides and still very faint head pattern - fainter than what I would
have thought for the dullest of females, so perhaps these were older
immatures or perhaps immature males, or females can get very very dull).
There were some beautiful (presumed males) birds with brilliant green and
bright colours on the head (most with a squarish end to the red of the lower
throat but also some with a rounded 'bib'). And the bulk of birds were in
between - not spectacularly coloured but not overlay drab.
A few of the 'bright coloured' individuals had large red spots on the breast
(either the centre or toward the side, or right near the side where the
carpal lies against the body), a couple had many spots (actually they are
red feathers with green edges it appeared) on the sides of the breast and
anterior flanks as well as a few on the breast and the second bird also with
a few on the breast and some also on the belly and thighs - interesting. I
remember seeing a bird with red down the breast at Castlereagh in 1998.
There was also at least one bird which had a darker green breast but adult
head colouration, the breast seemed to be blotted with darker green (as if
some of the feathers were lighter green as normal) - it is hard to describe
but the bird looked clearly different and darker green but not uniformly
coloured on the underside (I guess you have to see it for yourself, or I
need to develop a clearer description).
The birds moved about the eastern 'half' of the hospital grounds, ranging
over the area Carol described but also spending time in the south-eastern
corner (staff car parks), at 4:20 a group of ~30 birds flew east out of the
hospital and kept going.
Nothing else of interest really - the miners chased, or attempted to, the
Swift Parrots on numerous occasions, but the parrots stood there ground many
times also. The miners did harass the pardalotes a lot though. The parrots
did not tolerate the currawongs and would burst out of the trees explosively
(quite an apt description) when a currawong would fly over the tree or into
it. The way these birds fly it is a wonder not more of them end up
There were also many Striated Pardalotes and the ones I got good enough
views of were tasmanian birds (nominate subspecies), at times there were in
excess of 10 birds in the one tree and very conservatively there were 25+
pardalotes (I did see a male Spotted, and there may have been local
Striateds as well) in the hospital grounds - I only heard Spotted a few
times, and the Striated calls I heard were the trilling call (I have been
told in the past that this is apparently specific to the nominate
subspecies, is it? or is it a call given in winter only?).
I usually avoid birdwatching in public places, but it didn't seem to bother
me this time, most of the time I had my head up in the trees with binoculars
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