These days passed in a bit of a blur. We did a bit of surfing and bowerbird exploring. The weather has been pretty dry these last two months and I have fears that the bowerbird breeding season is either delayed or subdued. I can only hope that we have not missed it all together! It’s just that it seems pretty quiet in the forest. The one morning we went in, after the only day of rain we have had, the forest seemed more alive with bird songs than before. That was a good sign. But that was about three weeks ago and there has not been a drop of rain.
Another bit of evidence that makes me concerned is that we are starting to see fledgling birds about. Not of bowerbirds, but species like magpies, wrens, noisy minors, the masked lapwing, and wood ducks, to name a few. Now Australia, having a history of erratic and harsh climate swings, is known for harboring many species of animal that evolved to begin breeding when the weather was right and not just based on a particular time of the year (like often is the case in the States). So it only makes sense that not all species would breed at the same time of year. Hopefully we won’t see any young bowerbirds about until after we have finished the bulk of our research.
The good news is that I located two new bowers and a couple of old ones, or possibly practice bowers, at a place called Diggers Beach. I had gone scouting there for several years ago we had located three bowers within a kilometer or two of one another. This time around, at these locations, there was nary a bower! So I was uplifted when at the end of my walk I found some new ones.
One of the new ones in particular probably holds the record for being the bower closest to the ocean of any bowerbird in Australia. It is just behind a line of dunes, in a narrow forest strip. If it were any closer he might have to learn how to surf on a high tide :-). We had a good time watching one of the immature male bowerbirds practicing bower construction at the practice site. He was greenish in coloration which signifies either a young male or a female. He also had a black beak; young males develop a yellowish beak in year 4 or 5, but before they obtain the glossy black plumage of an adult. The way he was trying to place the sticks in the bower showed a remarkable level of inexperience. He would take a stick and wiggle it into the mat sideways such that the stick was basically lying on the ground and not sticking up straight as it should.
At several points while we were watching, an adult male would swoop in, rip out some of the sticks that were upright, and fly off with some of the others to use in his own bower construction. Why you might ask would he do that? Well, apparently, a sure way to encourage female bowerbirds to come visit your bower is to destroy the bowers of any rival males in the area. With people, the teenage girls might be attracted to the boys with the best looking cars; so with bowerbirds something similar might be going on!