“You don’t know what thirst is until you drink for the first time.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I caught this little House Sparrow looking longingly at the bottom of the Bird Bath and realised I had forgotten to fill the small ceramic dish on Wednesday morning.
I was wishing I had my long 150-500mm lens back from the repairers, as a close-up would have been interesting to view the bird’s expression.
The Camera repair department rang that afternoon to say my lens had returned to their shelf and was ready to pick up. I nearly fell off my desk chair in surprise. It was only last Friday that I had signed off for Sigma to go ahead and repair it!
Anyway, today is lovely and cool and wouldn’t you know it – a bad night in pain and no amount of prescription analgesics has helped, so I have to stay home today.
I think I’ve already mentioned Melbourne has had a heat wave recently.
Last Thursday it was forecast to be 38C, but ended up being 42.3C (about 108F) and Friday’s forecast of 44C ended up as 45.2 (about 115F).
Yesterday it was 33C, today 37C, and then we’ve got a cool change this afternoon, cool for a couple of days, then back to heat wave conditions for the coming weekend…..back up to 37C.
I keep refilling the bird bath (constantly) as it evaporates during the hottest part of the day on my apartment balcony. Even with ice blocks dropped in to cool the water temperature down, I saw few House Sparrows last Friday. One I did notice, eventually sought shade under my ‘potting table ‘, but as that old wheeled tv trolley is metal, eventually it gave up and flew away.
I don’t know where the Superb Fairy-Wrens have been. Probably somewhere in deep shade in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building. I think I’ve seen only one blue-headed male in the last 7-10 days.
My balcony is in shade all morning up until about 2.30pm and surprisingly cool, so this is when I do any gardening tasks, or even, indoor chores. But once the sun moves over my 6 storey building and hits the balcony floor tiles, it gets stinking hot and like a sauna indoors (where I usually sit at my desk in front of the lounge window). I think the floor-to-ceiling windows attract and absorb the heat. While I have air-conditioning, I still feel the heat dreadfully.
I envy those people who love the heat and can go outdoors whatever the weather.
Usually its February that is the hottest month in Melbourne, but with Global Warming, Melbourne’s weather is now predictably UN-PREDICTABLE at any time of the year. I hope this February, 2019 is not going to be hotter than January.
Yesterday, the House Sparrows constantly visited the bird bath all morning. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say 30 or 40 birds dropped by for a drink. Yesterday was one of the few times, I have seen pairs of sparrows visit the bird bath. At one stage there were 2 young females that looked like twins 😀
In the afternoon, the bird bath’s painted ceramic edge, that lies in the sun, seems to get very hot. I observed one Sparrow land on the sunny side and immediately jump over to the small section of ceramic that lay in the shade.
I could almost hear the bird call out ‘too hot, too hot’. The Sparrow featured in this post jumped down to the sunny tiled area and promptly moved over to the shade (which I’ve lightened in post processing so you can see the bird more clearly).
Most of these birds are juveniles with their slim bodies and ‘young’ faces. I assume they’re this years crop of hatchlings.
I’ve observed that many of them had their mouths wide open and I began to get more concerned, so this morning I did a little reading up on their ‘hot day habits‘.
Apparently, a bird’s body temperature is higher than humans, so it’s doubly important for them to cool off in a hurry. Some bird species resort to ‘gular fluttering’. The bird will open its mouth and ‘flutter’ its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).
Some birds also open up their wings on a hot day, allowing air to circulate across their bodies and sweep away excess heat and if you look carefully at the images in this post, you can see them lift their wings away from their bodies.
Birds are efficient about water and water loss, but even so, they need to replenish their fluids regularly on a hot day.
Whether you live in the country, mountains, town or city, consider setting up one or more bird baths, preferably well above ground level to avoid attacks by feral animals. Of course you can’t do much about larger birds of prey attacking smaller birds.
The water level shouldn’t be too high – only about an inch deep – and replenish or change the water regularly every couple of days, as stagnant water can play host to algae and mosquito larvae.
Mosquitos are present in very high numbers this summer in Melbourne according to the TV news. After last summer’s spider and mosquito plague around my area and numerous bites, I now have to close all windows tightly at night in summer. I don’t know whether this is made worse by the fact I live next to a nature reserve and several parks with water canal and many large ponds in the area. I suppose the large expanse of water in the river and wetlands only add to the mosquito breeding grounds.
I live slightly to the left of the centre of this map – right next to the green-shaded area.
Or more accurately seen in the following map of my regular walking route I used to follow when I wanted a ‘short’ walk. Of course a ‘short walk’ for me takes hours as I keep stopping to look up, down and all around for bird and other photo subjects.
Apparently, Gobal Warming is already affecting bird populations with some birds laying their eggs 10+ days earlier and other have shifted their home ranges further north with migration patterns, in general, altering to accommodate the changes in climate.
Birds may be adapting, but me, well I feel as though Melbourne’s Spring is more like Summer and Summer is more like an ‘OVEN’!
September, 2018, Melbourne had the driest September on record (since Temperature records began in the 1800s), so I think we have to accept that the temperatures, in general, are higher than a hundred years ago (and increasing every year now).
A couple of weeks ago, I pulled all my balcony potted plants away from the waist-high security fence and washed the glass inside (and out). I’d never washed those spots before.
I was amazed at how clearly I could see the Japanese Maple branches from my desk chair in the lounge. Despite the 2 layers of glass, if it’s clean and you are a good photographer (or can tweak your image a wee bit like I do), there’s still a chance of obtaining a good image through glass.
I re-edited the contrast in this 1st January 2018 image (below), shot between 2 dirty layers of dusty glass, to remind followers of the amazing sight of a (Mother?) House Sparrow feeding her very large offspring. It was in very deep shade, with a few over-exposed bits.
Here’s hoping I get another opportunity this coming Spring/Summer.
I intend having a CLEAR shot (if the opportunity arises again).
One of the advantages of taking photos of the local bird-life from my apartment lounge, is the ability to rest my elbows on my desk to make hand-held shots. If I’ve got fair light and a fast enough shutter speed, (or the continuous shooting setting), its possible to also capture birds on the move.
Sometimes I can capture those quick little seed peckers – other times not.
Today’s post is about the female House Sparrow from a week ago. I had already broken the bright blue ceramic bird bath in my over-zealous balcony cleaning and the House Sparrows had seemed bewildered at the lack of a reliable water source in my lovely balcony Herb, Flower and Vegetable garden.
Australia actually has 2 Sparrows – the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). Very similar, except the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is only found in a small area and has distinctive white cheek patches with a black central spot (among other differing feather colours and markings). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Eurasian one to be honest.
The House Sparrow is quite small; male with a distinctive grey crown, black face and bib. The Chestnut-brown stripe over the eye links to a brown nape. The back and wings are richly mottled chestnut, black and white and rump grey-buff. Underparts greyish white.
The female and immature have a buff stripe over the eye as shown in this post and are much paler. They’re easy to identify.
Unlike the Spotted Turtle-doves on my previous apartment balcony to the north-east of inner Melbourne, I have yet to really see any distinguishing marks or tell Sparrows apart.
Some of the ‘boys’ are a little aggressive and territorial, but I guess the females might be also if they had a nest nearby.