The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is classified as critically endangered federally, and endangered in Victoria with estimates at the remaining population only being approximately 1000 breeding pairs. As one of only two migratory parrots in the world (the other of course being the Orange-bellied Parrot who also migrates seasonally from Tasmania) it is an extremely special bird, as well as being a very beautiful one!
Ordinarily these magnificent parrots would undertake the treacherous crossing after breeding in Tasmania, arriving on the mainland for autumn and winter. I'm sure you can understand our amazement to be looking at several birds on our bush block in the middle of January! It is presumed they simply chose to stay last year and avoid the round-trip across the Bass Strait which is understandable - it's hardly a walk in the park.
A friend of ours, Warren, had visited our block and photographed a lone Swifty on the Wednesday evening and taking bragging rights for probably the first Victorian (or mainland?) sighting of 2017. Jealous? Ha ha, yes but also ecstatic at the same time - the excitement levels were through the roof and we were itching to get up to the block at the weekend... the next couple of days felt like months! On Saturday evening, with three sets of eyes and ears and after no sightings during the day I was mostly resigned to the fact that it had probably just passed through. At around 7.30pm however the clear call of a Swifty rang out and was picked up on by our mate, Wilson. Shortly afterwards we caught sight of one dashing across the sky - woooohoooo!! To then realise it was being closely followed by a second bird just increased the adrenaline immensely. We watched the pair sitting in the very top of a large Yellow Gum preening for some time before they flew off and circled back to a lower tree nearby. It was then we realised there was a third bird with a fourth calling... a proper Swift Parrot jackpot! In the end we saw and photographed three birds over the course of about an hour as they tentatively moved closer from inspecting the water, to drinking.
We have previously recorded 9 birds on the road leading to our block in August 2013 but to have them at this time of year when there is a complete lack of flowering gums is truly remarkable. When we first placed a covenant on the block, our fantastic Trust for Nature Stewardship Officer, Kirsten, mentioned that if we were extremely lucky the habitat could attract three very important birds: Diamond Firetails, Swifties and the Square-tailed Kite... we have now had all of them grace us with their presence! (Note: you can read about the Square-tailed Kites visit here)
The utterly bloody awesome guys at Team Swift Parrot have been running some crowd-funding projects to support the preservation of the Swift Parrot and also the Orange-bellied Parrots... I cannot urge you enough to please assist with their work in any way you can. https://www.facebook.com/teamswiftparrot/
We also want to acknowledge and thank the experts in the Swift Parrot Recovery Group who work so tirelessly so that random birders such as ourselves can get to enjoy these stunning parrots, and hopefully for many more years and generations to come.
If you would like to read more about the Swifties, or join Birdlife Australia to also help with their fantastic work in protecting and advocating for our feathered friends... http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/swift-parrot
We decided to spend Australia Day eve up at the block as we had a couple of tasks to do and as I had been keen to try out the WiFi capabilities of my new camera, I thought I'd fill a storage tub with some water as I could hear lots of honeyeaters flying around. I chucked the camera on a low tripod and an old green t-shirt over the camera expecting the birds to be extremely trepidatious of this new water source and the odd thing with the big glass eye next to the tub. How wrong I was! What I did not expect was that within twenty minutes of moving away from the camera (and setting up my iPhone as the remote preview screen and shutter trigger) we would have the beautiful Swift Parrots arrive for a visit! As it happened so quickly and I hadn't had a chance to review this trial set up, there are a few focus shifts which I will be sorting out on future filming efforts. I was sure they would have most likely moved on in the fortnight since we saw them, so to be able to watch them again from so close and capture a brief bit of footage made our weekend :)