Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mandarin Tree

Every year we look forward to the beautiful sweet, seedless fruit borne on the Mandarin tree just outside our kitchen window. However this year the fruit on the tree has taken a back seat to the avian visitors who’ve frequented it. They’ve made interesting subject matter for my rekindled interest in photography.

The tree attracts several different kinds of birds who seek out the bright orange, sweet fruit that this tree produces this time of year. As mentioned in my previous post about a Tui that’s been visiting the tree, moments later a rosella joined in, so I got a shot of him too...

Actually, Rosella’s usually travel in pairs and if you look carefully you’ll see there’s more than one rosella in the shot. Can you see the second one? All you can see is a flash of red to the left of the frame.  Seeing how well hidden it is might help you appreciate how tricky it was getting a clear shot of one of these birds. They’re pretty shy and they take off the moment they even spot any human.

They make a ‘cackling’ noise as they communicate with each other through the tree. Although they’re an introduced bird from Australia and considered a pest and a threat to other native species, I actually quite like them – they’re so colourful. A friend of mine actually caught one and tamed it and had it flying around inside his house. Probably not such a good idea when you think about all the droppings it left everywhere.

Another frequent visitor to the mandarin tree has been the ‘silver eye’ or the ‘wax eye’ as some like to call them. When you see them it becomes pretty clear why they’re named that. They have a distinctive white ring around their eyes. These birds dart in and out, moving around so quickly making them a challenge to shoot. So I was quite pleased to get this shot...

Having said all of the above, you can imagine what a treat it was one morning for my wife and I to witness all 3 birds in the tree at the same time. It was interesting to witness them interacting with each other. I’ve often wondered what is meant when I hear it said that “the Rosella is a threat to our native species”. Are the native birds physically threatened? Or is it the food supply or something else in their environment that is threatened?

Anyway, this was the first time I’d ever observed these 2 birds up so close to each other and while they kept their distance from each other and appeared weary of each other while they followed each other around the tree, there was no real confrontation between them. Moments after these shots were taken a third bird entered the scene...

This rather inquisitive Silver Eye also seemed weary of the rosella and was keeping his distance but he wasn’t afraid to get close enough for a good look at what he was up to. If he had to get away I bet he could easily out manoeuvre the Rosella.

So although we missed out on quite a bit of fruit off the tree this year, this was more than made up for being able to witness, photograph and share all this bird activity.