To: Messages Birding-aus <>
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 00:54:35 +1100
The following personal bird tales are recounted for readers' interest (I found them both unusual and interesting).

1.      On Sunday 26 October (the weekend of the Twitchathon) Diana and I were showing a visiting American birding couple (Jim Flynn and Marissa Benavente from Seattle) around (You Yangs, Werribee, etc).  On the way home we decided to try for the Williamstown Powerful Owl, which had been happily (and very visibly) in situ in its tree on the corner outside the Tenix building in Nelson Place the preceding Sunday.  We parked, peered up, and there it was - just as expected.  But wait a minute - something was not quite right.  This was an owl alright, but NOT a (very large) Powerful Owl.  In its place was a (very much smaller) Boobook Owl!  (Still a life-bird for our visitors, but perhaps not quite the rather dramatic sight they had been led to expect.)
Extreme coincidence??  Or some other more plausible explanation for two totally different owls sitting on more or less the same branch in the same tree in inner metropolitan Melbourne (albeit a week apart)? And why was a Boobook sitting out in the open during the day anyway - rather than in a dark hollow somewhere?  Does anyone have any thoughts or comments?

2.      Today (5 Nov) I was showing another visitor (Lois Bingley, a native Canadian, now from upstate New York) her first Australian birds (Westgate Park, Point Cook, etc) when our attention was drawn to a smallish eucalypt at Spectacle Lake (near Point Cook Coastal Park) by frantic activity and alarm calls from a Willy Wagtail pair and several White-plumed Honeyeaters.  When we raised our binoculars to look for the possible raptor (or owl) we were just in time to see a 1.5 metre Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) engulf the first of two large, feathered Wagtail chicks which occupied the nest over which the snake hovered (taking the chick head first, feet last - quite a sight), soon to be followed by the second.  This was dramatic enough, but the even more remarkable thing was that the now bulging (X2) snake then proceeded to grasp the edge of the nest firmly in its jaws and exerting considerable force pulled the nest apart (all the while being very actively harrassed by the highly agitated parent birds).  Having demolished the nest the snake then left the scene (of the crime?) - presumably to digest its meal.
Questions:      1. Do Tiger Snakes normally eat birds?  Answer:  YES (see excerpt below*).
                2. What was the snake doing when it destroyed the nest??  Why??  Is this usual??

*       "Tiger snakes feed mainly on mammals and birds under 300 g in weight. Tiger snakes habitually raid birds nests and have been found climbing trees to a height of 8 m. A good indicator of the presence of a Tiger snake is the alarm calls of small birds such as honeyeaters and thornbills. They also eat other vertebrates including lizards, smaller snakes, frogs and occasionally fish."

8 Pier St   Port Melbourne
(H)  61-3-9645.6870
(M)  0438 224456

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