ODIMBAR (One Day I Might Be A Raptor) was not here on 5 April 2017, but had set up his court by 14 April. From behaviour we have considered that he is newly adult-fledged, but he could be an older bird who has shifted his court. It is autumn and the courting that dominates reporting on bowerbirds is not due till spring.

As we begin this blog on 16 April 2017, we already have our hearts in our mouths, concerned that this new family member outside our suburban bedroom window will survive the competition and that his court may thrive. His day is busy: hunting, building, learning, asserting, defending, charming, singing, raucous caucusing and dancing.

And the evidence before us, of daily life, is much more complex than what one usually reads or views on Youtube, of isolated males building bowers in spring to try to entice picky females with whom their relations are fleeting. It's not like that at all here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New bower nearby, film by Matt Kaarma, up close.

The action has shifted about 100 metres from the scenes previously recorded at http://odimbar.blogspot.com/  .... As is normal, blue materials and appropriate construction materials - 'spittle sticks' - have been hastened away. This collation of movie clips by my neighbour Matt Kaarma, professional photographer, with close-up scenes around the new bower. Spectacular impressions of the birds.

The crowd at the bower seems to include not only the mature blue-black male and green female, but also a darker green bird who is doing the bower-minding work too, until shoo-ed off by the black male. I think a male at point of changing plumage. And you will see this bird steal a blue object – we have no idea where that was taken.

Back at my place, of course we are not well organised, we have seen a darker green bird dancing for a lighter green bird at the site of the old bower, now without anything blue on the ground at all. But familiar geography and probably pheromones.

Another unrecorded thing, observed twice: we have a bird bath. Green bird arrives, has a drink, turns 180 degrees, there is movement of anal sphincter, the bird turns and drinks again. We saw no poo. We suspect a dose of pheromone to the water...

In this movie compilation, Matt has added a romantic soundtrack sung by Rebecca Pidgeon. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Contraception and narcissism?

Ahem. Now that I have your attention with that title....

We have mirrors in our garden for visual challenges and spreading winter light. They also entertain birds, especially wrens, but also blackbirds. Blackbirds are a troublesome introduced species in Australia. They have fine voices but are survivors which compete vigorously for habitat with less assertive native bird species.

Here is a movie of a female blackbird at a mirror. Raising the question of whether the infatuation with the bird in the mirror provide some contraceptive limitation to the spread of blackbirds, at least in our garden.... :-)

(We have at the moment only bowerbird visits, the dancing pavilion area is a bit bare and exposed in the end of winter and with essential pruning.)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

every blue item gone, but flowers that bloom in the spring tra la

I have a camera out there to record the vanity of the blackbirds that spend extraordinary amounts of time dancing and pecking at their own images in mirrors, clack-clack. But the blue items of the bower and stores of them under adjacent tree, are all taken away. Bowerbirds visit briefly, but winter (and some pruning) have reduced for now the privacy of the bower pavilion space.

Rattleberry has his eyes on the scene, this early morning.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

blue things, spittle sticks, learning and despair

And then something happened.

Of course, it happened when the movement sensing camera was inside, having come in, nothing recorded, nothing to say, card on the table but nothing on it,  empty-handed for dinner and refused to leave the couch. So in this Sunday morning, you have partly our eyes' reports, via brain and fingers, partly a handheld camera from inside and wobbling, but providing a movie with information.

It is deep winter, ha ha. 30 July, southern hemisphere It is deep drought and from inland, god knows how they are doing out there, big gusty wind again today. This morning, token of winter, temperature around 6c overnight. By 9am, 22c. Which definitely is harbinger of spring. Until maybe a winter next week.

Source: The Guardian
The scene in the bower space today a little like the Trump White House, with its shifting personae. We should note in relation to this vile creature on the right, Anthony Scaramucci, that his Italian name is that known generally in English as Scaramouche, who is thus described by Wikipedia:
"a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell'arte (comic theatrical arts). The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice."
Well, that's the other news today. They have a knave, three generals and a clown. "This is the way the world ends..." comes into my head. I don't know if it's bang or whimper yet, but there is a lofting spreading sea of sob and scream and hurt.

The Hollow Men of T.S Eliot, here read by Jeremy Irons, bringing us "this is the way the world ends." T.S. Eliot lived far before our madding crowded world. But this still fits.

The bowerbirds around us are not really fairly to be compared with such monsters, I apologise for bringing them into conversation but everybody does these days...

Our birds live in, are part of, and add to the ensemble of ecology.

Our bowerbirds are noble adventurers, not like that lot, they bring to mind Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act IV, Scene 3, here briefly with the incomparable Sir John Gielgud.
"There is a tide in the affairs of [bowerbirds] which taken at the flood leads on to fortune...."

 I draw your attention to the fact that bowerbirds had a hand in the coloration of that movie clip.

There is indeed a tide in the affairs of bowerbirds. 

So: what happened.

We learned stuff, a eureka plus shared experience.

Sunday morning, prime window watching time. Helen saw it first. There are few blue items left, but black bowerbird[s] are stealing spittle sticks!!

Spittlesticks? We know that bowerbirds spittle up the sticks with which they build their bowers. We also understand that this gives female birds a chance to savour spittle (a subject perhaps deserving study in Homo sapiens****) as a measure of male worthiness. But also, the spittle, in the eyes of bowerbirds, who see a very different wave length of light compared to our own, is luminous or irridescent. And here we dumb humans have been looking at the dance arena, with everything flattened, seeing that blue things have been stolen. And forgetting that to the bowerbirds this 'empty space' is illumined.
**** since writing this, in catching up with popular culture and discovering the most popular youtube song of all [albeit brief] time I discover that Despacito contains lines translated as: "Come test my mouth to see what it taste like to you/I want to see how much love do you have..."
But today, spittle sticks being taken away. Who takes them where, will they deceive some lass?

Also today present is a young, not-yet-black male who may be one we have seen practicing dance and song at the bower. But now there is no bower and in the movie we join him, watch him, trying to work out how you begin to build a bower... how can you begin to build a bower?? Also in the film you see he has arrived with the greatest blue treasure imaginable, none such ever before in this place. We have seen so often the dance with the blue bottle top accented by the white leaf. And here comes the young bird with the top from someone's drink bottle, deep blue with a white thing fixed to the top. What a prize. A prize for whom? Who reigns supreme, as they say in the Iron Chef Japanese. Which is really relevant in showing how the Whole World is Watching when you compete for top bowerbird.
 That's just to help bring you down to same level of bowerbird, in contest, admiration, decoration, excitement and winner takes all. Not the original Whole World's Watching, which has more to do with current politics among humans than bowerbirds, though that time now seems so ... decent.

Note from the film that the green bird seems attracted to the port wine magnolia, left of the stage. We find that there are a lot of blue things on the ground under that tree. We will place a camera inside and see what happens.

Note that the black thief leaves consistently stage left back, direction south, heading for the Grotto bushland 100 metres away.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

no visible action at home, went out to clear minds

Every day there are bowerbirds (and many other birds) around the house, but no one has walked in front of the camera.

We did something entirely different today. 45 minutes from home to this magical place, alone

We are two months into very severe drought, but here, from under the scarp, wonderful clear water flows. And from here in the Kangaroo River to where the Kangaroo from the north meets the Shoalhaven coming from the south behind Tallowa Dam. Downstream water drawn for Nowra, from behind the dam water taken up near Fitzroy Falls to go on to the Sydney water supply.

But listen to the sound of freshest fresh water.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


afternoon light, no bower, 16 July 2017
The sadness of today, the big sense of loss, is that there is no bower any more.

Our last film record is a week old, but in the last several days, rushing to other things, we could hear the bower crowd chortling behind the scrub.

Not now.

There remains a space, there remains a camera... but blue treasures have almost all been stolen away.

It's been three months Perhaps the birds, like some trees, got their season clocks disturbed by the gentle warm days, nights only just turned cold. But I think there's more to it than that. The weight of time allocated to human research and observation is in springtime. We have observed birds away from the hormonal demands of spring and having fun as well as learning their roles.

As a final (for now) movie I have selected a three minute clip which features a next-generation almost-mature bird (or two), shaping their grown up lives, with a cameo appearance by Odimbar at the end. Not good to read too much into it but, having watched Odimbar for a quarter of a year, Odimbar looks a bit down, as indeed his blue treasure collection looks diminished. Did he, like the ill-trained racehorse, make his run too soon, or has he gone to the paddock for a spell?

an interloper

After the 'morning patrol' reported in the previous movie, early morning saw a lot of activity. I was planning to present you another long and tedious movie of ho hum remarkable bowerbird behaviour around the bower...

... and then just before 8am something different happened... an interloper, a black beast of Australian forests.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Dawn Patrol

Bowerbirds are not unusual among birds in working long days. The night is especially hard for very small birds, whose surface to weight ratio is high and who need food quickly in the morning. Bowerbirds a bit more endurance.

This is just a 46 second movie, 6am infrared black and white by camera, to show the completion of a morning check of the bower, with sounds of other birds, especially currawongs... and then Mr O flies vertically up to his treetop lookout.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Green bird's learning curve

In our last movie, a male and a female bowerbird were frustrated in their desire to practice courtship by green male bowerbirds challenging the mature black male bowerbird. Clearly antagonistic, clearly challenging the dark male. Could a green male overwhelm the black male at this point in the year and re-fledge by spring as a bower-king?

This adds to the intriguing question of how green males grow up, how they transform around age 7 into black mature males. I don't know if they all do change. I don't know what comes first, the behaviour or the physiological changes to a new character and a new role and a new colour.

In this movie, on the afternoon of 17 June, a different situation. On 11 May in this blog, Green Bird Afternoon showed a green male spending more than 20 minutes concentrating on being a grown-up, tending the bower, trying out tunes and dance steps. Today a movie almost 47 minutes long, actually covering more than an hour in which a green male had uncontested command of the bower. Odimbar, the black male, comes back briefly early in the movie, but there is no serious squabble and he leaves the bower after a short time, to return near the end of the film. It's as if he's happy to have had someone mind the bower while he went for a long lunch.

So we bring you Green Bird's Learning Curve ...  if this is the bird of 11 May, it's further up the curve. Or it may be a different bird with a different style and voice. But unlike the 11 May bird, it's not claiming 'squatters' rights'.

One of the things the green bird has done today is leave saliva on the twigs of the bower. There are two notions here. The bowerbirds' eyes see different wave lengths compared to humans and for these birds the twigs saliva treated are luminous. Whether different birds offer different luminosity etc... you need to consult a bowerbird-naturopath perhaps. But the other notion is that female bowerbirds sample the saliva on twigs in bowers as part of their assessment. So what are we to make of multi-saliva-ised twigs?

Monday, June 26, 2017

no camera

The camera seems to have been stolen from my front yard.

This past weekend 
  • I found and ordered the camera below on Saturday,
  •  got confirmation that it was in the mail on Monday morning.... and on Monday afternoon, of course, I found the 'old' camera, which was where I apparently left it...
 An so this afternoon, Tuesday, I have been assembling a movie from the contents of the card in the camera found. Which movie posted shortly. And the camera is out ready for action in the morning. Here we are in mid-winter and there is still squawking activity at the bower every day. Nights close to zero celsius.
I have (I wrote Saturday) ordered as replacement this camera, which has the security virtue that it cannot be used without the remote control, which I will keep in the house. I may also cut a window in a cashbox and lock the camera in the cashbox, fixing the cashbox to the chair with a padlock. Not losing the portability of the chair.

There will be a gap in the story. This type of camera with a remote controller is not available in Australia so it will be several weeks coming from China.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Video below

It is now June, winter here in southeastern Australia, but the weather for the most part gentle, mild and sunny.

On 10 June the camera recorded some interesting behaviour worth posting here.

Odimbar the dark adult male sought to practise courtship with a green female bird. But through three of four three minute clips the two courtship desiring birds are subject to interference from green birds which I assume younger males. This is different from behaviour previously observed (in my limited bowerbird watching experience of less than three months) and I am led towards speculation that because we are heading for spring in less than three months when courtship will be serious there are younger birds challenging. I know of challenges among mature black bowerbirds. Does this movie reveal challenges from a bird or birds that would be pleased to take over and change plumage soon?

Well short of such speculation, you have to feel some sympathy for this couple trying to get time together.

There is mention in the literature from the Borgia group (see right column) of the way the aggressive sounds of the male satin bowerbird are very close to the courtship sounds, and that females can be unnerved by male performance. Well, here we see the multitasking male, holding a bottle top and a leaf in his mouth and trying to sing romance and 'buzz-off' at the same time, while dancing. Both male and female look at times frazzled by their situation... but wait for the fourth three minute clip.

I wrote in para three "practise courtship."  This does seem what is happening. It is not possible to know how many females may attend like this, but there seems to be 'practice' occurring, through this non-breeding season. Something collaborative, not just fly-by. The literature speaks of bowerbirds as practising polygyny, a precise term for that kind of polygamy in which the male has multiple partners, the female does not. Perhaps the one-partner conduct of females is clear with rings on legs of green birds; it's not otherwise easy to know. We have in earlier videos in these weeks seen a green bird in the bower practising being grown up for more than twenty minutes, we have also seen a female bird or birds in attendance off-season. We have also seen (but not filmed) green dance for green and black dance for black. There is nothing so simple as things less well studied.

I moved the camera again for better close-up view.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

dancing boys and girls plus destruction and rebuilding

OF COURSE, some of the most interesting things happen when the camera is not in place, as on a recent Saturday morning when we observed from our window a green bird dancing for a green bird five metres from the bower and then realised that at the bower a black mature bird was dancing for a black mature bird. Oh how modern is that!

I've not put anything here for several weeks, having been writing a journal article on Korean issues.

I've also been distracted by reading Peter Godfrey-Smith's Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life, (2016) where he notes that pigeons, if given a task with one eye masked, do not know how to perform it when the mask is swapped to the other eye [p1048 of 3690, electronic version]. In other words, their eyes have separate brain systems. Moreover [p1070 of 3690] there are red and yellow portions of each eye's vision (in pigeons) that look to the front and the side... and the two different parts of one eye don't talk to each other.

It is evident from political debate and non-debate here that we may be as evolved as pigeons, though pigeons may demur.

But to get back to the naturally bird-brained... I have to wonder about bowerbird vision and the pattern of the dance being for the bird in the bower to see primarily with left eye. The speculation of the Borgia group at U Maryland is that this is an evolved dance hall pattern that saves the female from rape. But perhaps it involves something in their vision instead or as well.

BUT MERCIFULLY, OR ANYWAY we did catch two interesting three minute clips on 14 May, in which firstly, a mature male is seen yanking the bower apart... and then 20 minutes later, Odimbar is back and swiftly rebuilding, venting a bit of irritation on a hapless Wonga Pigeon just trying to feel good in the rain.

There is of course another possible explanation – that the one bird took down his structure to improve it... But then the destroyer also stole a bottletop.

Then at the end a very short clip after Odimbar has done his rebuild, in which he lets out a great yell to tell the world that this is his domain!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Green bowerbird afternoon

The all-singing, all-dancing Odimbar is not there all day, not always at his bower. He has to eat, perhaps he has to snooze, or schmooz somewhere.

This film is about something that happened on 7 May, in the afternoon, when Odimbar was absent.

It features a green bird. I have from early in this blog puzzled over the role of green birds, some female, some immature males. Comforting to know that until the last several decades everyone in Australia was puzzled about this and I think probably not all the puzzles have gone away.

This green bird spends more than 20 minutes alone, endeavouring to understand 'bower life' and 'learning' some of the bower life routine. I have left the 20 minutes intact (but it's made of 3 minute clips with brief breaks). I marvel at the bird's ability to persist in the task that long. Some may see him doing multiple here-and-there tasks. A matter of definition. I call the whole period a task, a great learning task associated with growing up. The blue-black adults skip from one action to another in the whole task of being adult bowerbirds at the bower. So does this green bird.

I have offered some comment as the movie proceeds. I note that contrary to many humans this bowerbird is able to keep his mind on what he's doing for 20 minutes without getting a snack from the kitchen. He does get a drink of water. We should all turn to water more often to hydrate.

Please enjoy. AND PLEASE WATCH TO THE END, YOU WILL BE REWARDED. The birds are in charge of the script, every time. I'm just astonished that they have such a sense of the importance of a good ending. Even the ending after you think you've already seen the ending...

I should add a note about production of this movie. For some reason iMovie (versions 9 and 10) allowed me for several weeks to make movies from the field camera with its output of files called .AVI . But then iMovie seems to have snapped out of it and realised what it had been allowing and stopped publishing media of AVI origin: dirty rotten old-fashioned Windows-related muck. Legacy stuff, cut it off at the kneecaps! Suffice to say I spent too many hours trying to get iMovie to continue to work before hunting an alternative, testing it in demo, then buying it: a product called Wondershare Filmora. I suppose I should sit back and say that for this older brain it's been more interesting than Sudoku. The challenge at age 73 was the choice between one year for USD49 or a lifetime for USD59. I've paid the extra for lifetime and will have to persist to make it worthwhile... :-) And also will have to live longer to develop more than pedestrian capacity to use it.