The spring is sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdie is?
Often at this time of year, the birdie is in some sort of conflict. In the past week I’ve seen two currawongs attacking a third one they had cornered in a neighbour’s garden, and a magpie angrily pursuing a raven. In neither case did I have a camera handy. However I was able to photograph a spat in the Noosa Spit Reserve, between a Little Wattlebird and a Blue-faced Honeyeater. It was a typical clash over feeding rights to a banksia tree between two members of the honeyeater family. This was an early moment:
Just behind the tiny Uniting Church at Glen Alice in the Capertee valley is a patch of trees, mostly eucalypts. Here, a Little Friarbird (Philomen citreogularis), with its distinctive blue patches below its eyes, flies in to check for insects. It quickly spots something and pounces.
One of the benefits of having a fountain in our front yard is that we sometimes see birds diving in beak-first, like this noisy miner:
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!)
Walking past HMAS Waterhen, the stone frigate on Berry’s Bay, I saw an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) fly down and perch on the fence. A young bird with pale blue eyes, it sat there peacefully with the wind ruffling its feathers until a pair of Noisy Miners zeroed in on it.
The Chiltern track at Ingleside runs from Chiltern Road down through Kuringai Chase to McCarr’s Creek Road. It’s not very long – about 1.7 kms – but is a “hot spot” for birds in the honeyeater family, which includes wattlebirds and spinebills.
I was there last weekend at the suggestion of Liz Powell, Habitat Restoration Officer at Willoughby Council, on a “Discovering Honeyeaters” walk led by Judy Christie. There were about 20 others in the group of assorted ages and experience. I’m not usually a fan of group birdwatching, but this one seemed to work well. In particular, some of the younger members had very sharp eyes, enabling them to point out birds the rest of us might have missed.
At the beginning of the track there were several Little Wattlebirds (Anthochaera chrysoptera) making their usual level of noise. At first I ignored them, as I already had good photos of this bird. However one in particular seemed to want to be photographed, and so I eventually obliged:
The previous post was about the bellbird, or more correctly, the bell miner. But, why “miner”? The story goes back to colonial days.
Early European settlers in Sydney often sailed via SE Asia, and so were familiar with the Indian Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis). The settlers sometimes brought these birds here as caged birds –- they can be taught to ‘talk’—and inevitably some escaped or were released. They then became yet another feral introduction to Australia.
Mynahs are one of the world’s most invasive species. They are related to starlings, and have distinctive bright yellow facial wattles, beaks and feet, and are quite combative, as you can see here:
One of nature’s most magical sounds is made by bellbirds. When walking in a eucalypt forest in SE Australia, you may hear a series of “plinks” all around you. Because each successive “plink” comes from a different direction, you’re never quite sure which way to look – and the birds responsible aren’t that easy to see either. You have to pick your “plink” and stay focused on the direction it comes from. Eventually you see the bird, just as it utters another “plink”.