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?
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!)
I’ve always thought of Welcome Swallows (Hirudo neaoxena) and their close relatives, the Barn swallows (Hirudo rustica), as peaceful little birds. Usually you hear them twittering gently as they glide overhead or swoop over a pond or mown grass. Sometimes you see them surveying the world from a neat mud nest under household eaves.
So when I went for a walk this morning, I was pleased to see a flock of these beautiful little birds. They were relaxing in the early sunshine while perched on several vantage points at the Wondakiah wharf on Ball’s Head Bay. This was one of them:
But the swallow's relaxation didn’t last long. The pictures tell the tale: