I have a large Illawarra Flame tree in bloom at the moment. On average it blooms only every second or third year. It is a tropical/sub tropical tree and not really meant for these southern climates. It seems to get confused when to drop leaves and flower. It is mostly out of cycle with the southern seasons. Around Christmas for 6 weeks or so, it breaks out in a mass of small nectar filled red flower cups that the local birds absolutely love – especially the Rainbow Lorikeets. It is also used as one of the roosting spots for the local family of Magpies. A pair of magpies can claim a territory for 20 years plus and use a few trees in the territory to make their calls. The tree is currently being used as a nursery for two magpie fledglings, juvenile rainbow lorikeets and two juvenile Red Wattlebirds.
The Magpies stay put until a parent either comes to feed them or take them down onto the creek side grass. I can tell when the parent has arrived as the young Magpie starts making a begging call. While I watched the fledgeling it moved around the tree biting the leaves, bark, branches, flowers and any other bird in reach. Magpies don’t eat in trees other than to feed nestlings or fledgelings so it seemed to be killing time by exploring the branches and watching out for the parents (and occasionally watching me work in the back courtyard)
Two young Red Wattlebirds stayed in the tree sampling the various flowers keeping well away from the juv Magpie who was starting to build up to a tantrum – tearing leaves and flinging them about.
The young Rainbow Lorikeets were perched on the same branch for a few hours and kept themselves occupied by grooming each other, bickering and chewing on the seed pod. They are well named with a multi-coloured chest and head – the juveniles are more mottled with the colours which settle into solid forms as an adult.
Later as I walked along the creek, I found a few more juveniles and families.
At Elsternwick Lake, next to the creek, I watched a family of Red Wattlebirds taking a mid afternoon plunge. I have only seen these birds bathing at my bird bath and assumed a more standard gentle form of bathing. At the lake I watched them plunge into the water and fly up to a roost to groom and clean and then plunge in again…they became very wet and spent some time cleaning.