Archive for October, 2010

Stray cat update III

October 12th, 2010

Thursday last week was a crap day. I received the phone call mid-afternoon that the little cat (white/tabby) had such extensive injuries to the inner left thigh that it would be one of two options.
1 – a very expensive, ongoing treatment, including caesarian section to cut the kittens out, stich the queen cat and then the recovery for the nasty abscess. The starting price was over AUD 2,000. That’s right, a heck of a lot of money in anybody’s books. We just cannot afford that at present.
2 – put her to sleep. I must say that this was the options presented to my dear wife at the time when she turned up at the surgery to do her vet practical work for university. What a way to kill any nice things that may have happened that day.

I said, no, I don’t want her to die and we talked over the phone for a long time, sorting out what to do. Sure if we were to save this cat, a stray, not ours, what would we do next time? It’s a tough decision when you have to make a call that may not be so pleasant. In any case, a little shaft of light must have shone upon us that day as one of the senior (not by age) nurses suggested amputation of the leg. Why did anyone else not think of that? There were, of course, dangers associated with that. Since the little girl was pregnant, she had every chance to lose the babies due to the anaesthetic and the pain killers. But to save her life was all that we could focus on. My dear wife and her uni colleague went in on Saturday afternoon to help Drs Lyn and Anita carry out the surgery, though in a nursing capacity.

Sharon, one of the wonderful vet nurses preparing Millie for surgery.

The operation was a success and Millie (now we have a name) woke up not long after. However, there was still the anxious wait for the kittens to be born and we had no idea what to expect, yet we were expecting the worst. On Sunday evening, the worst started to happen and Millie gave birth to two stillborn kittens. Monday, she was fine and I visited in the cat hospital and she was high on methadone for the pain, but as friendly and sweet as ever. She was so beautiful. That afternoon the Dr Christie told me that she still had a live and dead kitten inside and they had to try and induce her to pop them out. On Tuesday morning she gave birth to three more; but all stillborn. What a sad day in our lives. The only consolation was the she is still alive and doing well.

We pray every day for her safety and well being. Many lovely students from my wife’s uni helped out with donations and a few kind folks at work have also chipped in a little. And Millie has been viewed by a potential foster parent. 🙂

All photographs captured by my wonderful wife, Donata.

Nature Photography

I just got wedged.

October 9th, 2010

It’s not often I choose not to take the camera along when I walk the dogs. In fact, this is the first I remember for a long, long time. I should know better, as it’s Murphy’s Law that something will happen that will make me regret it. And it did.

I fed our horse and quickly checked the nests in the area, including neighbouring properties to make sure they are still active. White-throated Gerygone OK, Chough OK, Peaceful Dove OK, Spotted Pardalote fledged and Magpie-lark hatched eggs. Sacred Kingfisher nest active.

Then I wanted to visit a small pond alongside Castlereagh Rd which is not fenced off and I have seen some amazing stuff here. Well, not Birdline quality probably anyway, as these sightings I am sure are common as any Indian Myna in the city. LOL!!!

I released the three mutts and walked, watched and listened. The LIttle Falcon seems to have finished nesting, as did the Kookaburras. There was a lone Yellow-billed Spoonie perched on a tree that has at least two Galah nest hollows, and on another tree there was a Rainbow Lorikeet nest hollow. And the ones I have not even seen yet. On the pond, two Masked Lapwing nests and what I thought in the distance, an Australian Grebe’s floating marvel. Then the alarm calls came. And alarm calls they were and I turned in the direction of Castlereagh Rd, which is about 6 meters above this lake. Two adult Wedge-tailed Eagles were gliding low, and I mean less than 10 meters above the road, circling tight being mobbed by an Australia Raven, a pair of Magpies and Magpie-larks. The eagles haven’t noticed me yet and were less than 100 meters from me now. They came closer and closer until about 60 meters away they suddenly banked and headed for a large eucalypt about 200m away where they perched.

This is a different eagle to the ones today. Just had to put a picture in.

After my walk with doggies, I hopped in the batmobile and drove the 500 meters or so towards Castlereagh to see if I could find them. There they were, male and a visibly larger female. Both large birds and she had a gorgeous rufous nape that was almost glowing in the soft light. They sat, watched me and the never ending mobbing bushbirds then after about 15 minutes both moved on. He first followed by his lady.

This was one of the most exhilarating experiences so far in my birding outings. I am sure it will be topped someday and I will work at it very hard. I just wanted to share this with you all. And the best part is that all my Penrith Wedge-tailed Eagle sightings were in this very same spot!

Just in closing, please note that WIRES have now made available their 2011 calendar and the Christmas Card set for this festive season. Please consider purchasing these as gifts for friends or family as by doing so you would ultimately support a volunteer organization that is dedicated to helping our Australian native wildlife. And that includes Wedge-tailed Eagles as well. 🙂


Nature Photography

Stray cat update II

October 7th, 2010

We have been having lots of contact with the strays in Buddy’s paddock lately. Smokey, Blue (the new ginger male), Lucy’s mum and Jett have been regulars. It’s been nearly a month since poor little Jezz went to kittie heaven and the pain is still right in our hearts, but life is moving on ever so smoothly. Smokey and Blue have been waiting for me for the past few days in the mornings as I arrive to feed Buddy. Well, Blue has been around for a few weeks on a full-time basis and he greets me with his very demanding (though a bit wimpy) meows as I walk towards him. Lucy’s mum is ready to pop as she is at the end of her pregnancy. Then about two weeks ago another cat turned up, which we have never before seen. She is also almost ready to pop, has a sweet little voice and is a short-haired white with tabby patches. She’d almost pass for Jezz’s twin except for the short hair.

Little white/tabby girl....

Anyway, the first time I saw her, she rolled on her back merely a few meters from me and she showed me her belly, which in cat language is a sign of trust. Lucky for her, I was not about to abuse this apparent trust and petted her gently while talking so she got to recognize my voice. She stayed around for a while and ate. Then she walked south to the adjoining property. She has been around maybe one other time until Sunday morning that just passed, when she was there waiting meowing and coming right up to me to offer this innocent trust toward a strange human. I was stunned and gave her lots of affection back with gentle pets and soft talking to accompany my actions. She was so content, she even let me rub her very, very pregnant belly and feel the little lives developing inside. As I was looking after Buddy, she walked south again. I decided to follow her after a little while. She was two properties away. I was not too happy about that one at all. The old man who has a number of cows there always yells at them, whacks them with a stick to move them around and just seems like a typical, uneducated old man who thinks of nothing but himself and considers animals as commodities to him, and not living creatures that may feel fear and pain.

Smokey, looking cool, calm and collected.

I noticed the little white/tabby sitting about 50m away and I meowed to her. She looked at me and meowed back. She then started to slowly make her way to me across a small grass strip between two filthy, muddy paddocks. She eventually got to a gap connecting the two paddocks about three meters wide with a metal gate across it. She is a cat and she is clean, therefore, there was no way in hell she would put her precious little paws onto mud. As she looked at me confused, meowing a little here and there, she contemplated the next move. She decided to try and walk across the bottom bar of the gate, which was barely over an inch (25mm) in diameter; yes, it was round, not square. The cat now exhibited the perfect balancing technique enabling her to cross with little effort until she got to the middle of the gate where an upright bar was blocking her path. With remarkable agility she weaved around this bar and almost made it. I said almost. I think maybe that she had a fat belly full of kittens she was thrown off balance and dropped some 30cm to the mud. YUUUUUUUUUUCK she said and I never saw a fat, pregnant cat run so fast across mud. 🙂 It was rather cute. Then she walked right beside me all the way back to the shed and joined me in some more affectionate contact. Lots of pets and cuddles were exchanged here.

She is coming to me.

I did not see her since Sunday morning. Until today. I got there at 07:15 and noted Smokey, Blue, and unusually, Lucy’s mum. they were waiting for the free feed provided by yours truly and his wonderful, compassionate wife. 🙂

As I stood near the edge of the shed, I heard a little meow. It was my new little girl. I was so happy to see her as I had thought maybe she went off to give birth already. She moved and wanted to come towards me, but her left hind leg had trouble moving. I was getting all worked up now as I was not sure if it was broken or severely damaged some other way. I saw that Justin (who rents the horse property next door, and is a very fine horseman himself) was getting the feed ready for his clients’ horses. I asked if he could help me with the little cat so that we could put her in the tack shed while I drive home to get a carry cage and I can then take her to the vets. He was kind enough to help and I am grateful for his patience and time. The little cat came, ate a little food I offered to her and luckily I had no trouble picking her up to carry her to the tack shed about 100 meters from me. As soon as Justin popped his head out of the feed shed she was carrying on, nervous, trying to get away. I held her firm, as firm and gentle as possible, and carried her.


When I returned her heart was still racing yet she was calm. I spoke to her softly and she meowed; a good sign. She was easy to handle into the carrier that had a nice soft blanket on the bottom. I covered her with a large pink sheet – ideal for a little girl – and moved right along to the wonderful vets and nurses at Penrith’s Coreen Avenue Veterinary Clinic. These girls and guys are so wonderful and supportive with many things relating to animals that I knew they would help. Dennis, whose wife Dr. Lyn is co-owner of the practice with Dr. Nicole, had a look with me and we saw immediately the enormous abscess that was covering the entire inside of the left thigh. This abscess burst somehow (maybe as I carried her) and left the flesh exposed in an area about 20mm x 50mm. A very raw wound indeed. No wonder my arm carried a putrid smell after I handled her; it was the puss that was released due to the burst abscess.

Blue, the handsome ginger tom.

She is now awaiting surgery and would need to come home to us to have the kittens (hopefully my wonderful, beautiful wife will agree). Then when the kittens are old enough at around eight weeks, they will be adopted out at Coreen Avenue Veterinary Clinic and with a bit of hope, mummy cat too. Cross your fingers for her speedy recovery. 🙂

Nature Photography

Nests galore this spring.

October 1st, 2010

Not sure whether it’s just me or if this spring is better than ever for me, but I am finding more and more nests than ever before. I guess part of my answers may be that as my experience with birds and their behaviors builds I take less for granted and strive to catch every clue that may enable me to locate nesting birds. It’s far from easy, that’s for sure. I was only fooled the other day by a White-throated Gerygone that I thought was building its nest right at the back of Buddy’s paddock but I thought that the nest was about to be placed in a wide open, thus vulnerable, spot; being on a dead tree not much more than 2 meters high. Little did I think that the small bundle of white fluff that the two birds were working on was a possible decoy for rivals or even predators. I was a little baffled, because I could hear the pair advertising their territory with their “falling leaf” songs. Whoever thought of that as an expression to describe the song must have had a really strong imagination by the way. I kept looking into the foliage of the tree and finally noted the small, dome-shaped nest made of fibers, bark and other materials and most likely held together by all sorts of small fibrous plants and spider webs.

An adult White-throated Gerygone posing for me.

It looks so delicate that once I know the nesting is over I will try to remove it and analyze the make-up of it. But I will wait until late summer in case they want to reuse the structure. They were really finishing off the building project, bringing small fibers to tidy up a spot here and there and one (I suspect the female) sat in the nest perhaps to see how comfy it will be once eggs have been laid. I knew I needed to get higher off the ground somehow and even then I knew I would not get eye-level, but at least the angle will not be as steep, though still more than noticeable. I borrowed an eight-foot ladder from Malcolm’s shed (Malcolm owns the property and often listens to my raving about birds). I walked nearby the nest tree to find a suitable location to climb. I set-up and walked about five feet up, just enough to give me height and still feel safe, unassisted. They came and built then perched right before my eyes. I managed to get a few OK images, so I will post them here.

The adult White-throated Gerygone testing the nest's comfort.

Not far, a nest of a Red Wattlebird was well underway in a small eucalypt, about six meters up. Every time the adults came with food, the young ones took no time in advertising their hunger with sharp trilling sounds. Once the adults were gone, they kept screaming for more. Insatiable little fellows I say. I watched the adults land on a small branch just before they hopped into the nest but photographing them was impossible since they landed and immediately jumped up into the nest itself. As I contemplated how to photograph the adults, I noted that they flew to an adjacent tree and flew around erratically, perhaps to catch flying insects. All I had to do was set my camera to manual metering mode, establish a good exposure and follow a bird. You think it’s easy aye? Don’t think so. I tried and tried for about 100 images to follow and take images, but these birds duck and weave and turn so fast it is nigh impossible. Somehow I managed a reasonable image of an adult with a fully fanned out tail and wings, but the head still a little unsharp. Not sure if the depth of field being shallow, or if subject movement contributed to the softness.

Two fledged Red Wattlebird chicks.

I decided to walk further into the bush behind the paddock and as I walked past a tree, a small passerine flew past me. I instantly thought, nest….. Well, all I had to do was wait there and within five minutes a female Spotted Pardalote arrived and landed about four meters away on a branch, waiting, then dropping straight down into the nest burrow beside the base of the tree at the top of a slight embankment. This may be so flooding water does not fill the burrow. I know from experience that Spotted Pardalotes are quite accepting of a person standing still as well as they have their favorite landing perches once they come near the nest. This last look out is for their offsprings’ safety more so than their own as they don’t want any predators knowing where the chicks are. Over the past five mornings I was lucky to interact with both male and female as they came with food, so the nest is now alive with little lives.

A female Spotted Pardalote with lerps.

The male Spotted Pardalote with lerps.

The female again.

Yesterday morning, while I walked south towards the fence to see the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos that were feeding in the trees, I somehow spooked a pair of Peaceful Doves off a tree perch. No big deal as those are local here and I hear and see them most days. However, when I spooked them again this morning, that rang an alarm bell in my head as I anticipated that a pair, two days running means possible breeding. I looked and waited for about ten minutes before one, then the other dove came back and finally landed on the tree from where I spooked them into fleeing. I watched one hop to a branch under some dense cover and gently reverse then sit down. Therefore, that observation appears to conclude to me that she was about to continue incubation of the eggs. A good one to keep a watch out for as I have never found a Peaceful Dove nest yet. More or less thirty meters NW from here is a low Magpie-lark nest, which is still being incubated. I am happy about this as I will be able to use the ladder again with some camouflage netting to photograph the chicks being fed once they have hatched.

And the male, yet again.

Back at Nimmitta next door, the White-winged Chough have begun another session of incubation as a week ago they started to rebuild the nest from which they already raised two (out of three) chicks. Then there is the Weebill nest about seventy meters from there, closer to the riding arena. I am keeping a little timeline of all the nest that I will publish here sooner or later.

I wish you, my dear reader, a great spring of birding!

A Weebill, Australia's smallest bird, sitting on her nest.

Nature Photography