Driving south on the Princes Highway five kilometres past Mogo on the NSW south coast, I noticed a blue lay-by sign that said: Waldrons Swamp Rest Area - 5kms.
Waldron is a family name, so on a whim I pulled into the rest area to see what the swamp had to offer. At first I couldn’t see any wildlife activity, and then I spotted some Eastern Spinebills flitting around bottlebrush trees near the main road. This male was one of them:
He moved slightly, so that the sunshine caught his face, and the pollen dust on his bill became apparent.
The spinebills weren’t that easy to track, as they kept moving from flower to flower, and from sunlight to shade. Often they were hidden behind foliage. I managed to get a few more views however, including this one standing upright:
Soon the spinebill was back upside-down again as it worked the next bottle-brush:
And bent backwards to reach the next one:
It hovered briefly under another flower before suddenly darting off into another tree. A much larger Lewin’s Honeyeater had arrived, and was giving the spinebill “move-on” hints.
With the spinebill dislodged, the Lewin’s began its own nectar and pollen gathering.
The Lewin’s appeared much brighter in the strong sunlight than it does in most bird-book illustrations, and the drab olive colour on its back shone whenever it moved. The bird favoured me with a suspicious stare from its blue-grey eyes before flitting to another flower.
At the next flower, it angled its head differently, allowing a glimpse of the short hairs around the base of its bill.
Here’s a side view, showing the creamy-white gape merging into the line of pale yellow feathers beneath its eye.
Like the spinebills, it was hard to follow as it darted from flower to flower around the tree. Eventually it paused to review my threat status once more.
Another time, it stre-e-etched upwards to a flower above:
As I needed to get on, I left the bird to its brunch. I was pretty happy – this was the first time I’d been able to photograph a Lewin’s.
The Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorynchus tenuirostris) and the Lewin’s Honeyeater (Melophaga lewinii) are members of the honeyeater family, and have very similar ranges – essentially temperate south-eastern Australia. They are quite common within their range, though I have encountered the spinebills more often than the Lewin’s. Both are typically aggressive honeyeaters, but there is a big size difference– the Menkhorst guide gives the Spinebill 8-16g and the Lewin’s 27-49g – so the Spinebill was unlikely to challenge the Lewin’s. The Spinebill is a nectar and insect specialist, as is the Lewin’s, but the latter will also eat fruit.
And if you’re curious about the rest area, this was one of three signs giving some background information about it.