Spotted Pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) or Diamond Birds are about the size of the Eurasian Wren I described earlier, but whereas the wren is plain brown, pert-tailed and sharp beaked, the pardalote has showy patterning, an almost invisible tail and a rounded beak. The wren sings well too, while the pardalote gives a frequent monotonous 2 or 3 note call (they are also called Headache Birds!) The wren builds a neat little tree-nest whilst the pardalote digs a burrow.
Or maybe that last isn’t absolutely true. After seeing what looked like a mobile jewel case fly down to a hollowed and burnt tree, I went nearer to investigate:
Heron Number One was awake early, with neatly sleeked feathers. It seemed aware that it was nearing high tide, because it ignored a nearby gull and headed straight into the stormwater outlet in Ball’s Head Bay. It must have known that the tidal peak reaching the drain would allow fish inside to search for food.
In Weymouth, England, I saw this plump little wren performing to all who were prepared to listen.
“ ….. “
(“Ready when you are, maestro?”)
I hadn’t been for a walk westwards from our house for a while, so I set out on Wednesday not expecting much. Turns out I saw quite a lot. First, was this young Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) with a centipede in its beak. I sighted it near the bowling club, but it ignored me, being busy warbling at its parents and getting warbled back. Magpie warbling has a lovely liquid sound, so I listened until it was interrupted by other birds.
I was at Randwick Environmental Centre watching a male koel carrying on in a banksia tree (they get a bit excited when there’s a cool change), when I spotted a Spotted Pardalote. At first, he (it was a he) was partly obscured by branches, but as I focused the camera he hopped nearer and struck up an “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr de Mille” pose:
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to help with a weekend bird count at Boorowa, about 3.5 hours drive SW of Sydney. The count was to focus on the Superb Parrot (Polytelus swainsonii), something I had never photographed, so I readily accepted. As it turned out, we were indeed successful in seeing and photographing the parrots – this one below is a male.
But the back story is just as interesting. After all, why would such a distant bird count be organised by Willoughby Council’s Habitat Restoration Officer in Sydney?
Late one afternoon as I was walking down the lane behind our house there was a sudden commotion. A brush turkey (Alectura lathami) hurtled over two back fences, across the street, and into another garden with a second turkey in hot pursuit. By the time I reached the garden, the first turkey was huddled by the front gate with its head buried in a fig hedge, whilst its pursuer – a male in full breeding condition – raked its back with its powerful claws.
Tonga’s 3 main island groups - Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u – have mostly similar birds and other fauna. However I didn’t take many photographs on land as my camera was usually locked in an underwater housing. The wet weather and the camera-shy nature of many of the birds didn’t help either, but I did manage to get photos of a few creatures that were new to me.
The bird that woke me most mornings in Vava’u was this Polynesian Starling (Aplonis tabuensis). It regularly called outside my bedroom window and would then call on and off for the rest of the day. At least it didn’t start as early as the neighbourhood cockerels, or as early as our Kiwi fisherfolk neighbours who started their boat motor at 5 a.m. (and left it to warm up while they chatted!)
The Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami) seems a topical subject for a blog post in the light of the present Federal Liberal party shenanigans.
Although it’s only a few years since brush turkeys began to colonise, or rather recolonise, Sydney’s Lower North Shore, my experience with them goes back to the last century.
In the 1920s a thoroughbred racehorse was given the name of Drongo, after the Australian bird of that name. Sadly, in spite of his impeccable bloodlines, Drongo finished winless in all of his 37 races. The result was that in Australia a “drongo” became a standard term for a no-hoper or loser.
This is a little unfair on poor Drongo, who was a well-regarded stayer racing in top company. He was good enough to come 2nd in the 1923 Victoria Derby and 1924 VRC St Leger, and 3rd in the AJC St Leger, and took £2,200 in prize money. He also ran in two Melbourne Cups.
The bird he was named for, the Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus), isn’t such a drongo either—despite its flared and forked tail which makes it look like it’s wearing a Little Mermaid costume.