Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 556 - Royal Spoonbill

The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) is one of the two species of Spoonbills found in Australia.  This species has a black beak (and what a beak it is!), whereas the other species has a Yellow (or pale) bill.  The second species is called the Yellow-billed Spoonbill, which is a very useful name!

This Royal Spoonbill was feeding at Werribee - and was moving very fast.  It was moving backwards and forwards in the shallow water of a pool, and also moving its head from side to side.  All in all there was a lot of motion!

In a couple of the shots you can see where the bird has left up its head, presumably after making contact with a food item.  One of the shots shows the bird with a small fish.

There were at least 20 of these birds scattered around the edge of the pool, but this one was the most tolerant of my presence.

What a great bird!

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Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 555 - Black Kite

I was lucky enough to spend some time with a family of Black Kites (Milvus migrans) this weekend.  I assume they were 'a family' as they often interacted with each other, and the birds perched in the tree got rather excited when one of the other birds flew past.  I assume that they were anticipating a feed!

Unfortunately for them - and possibly me - the feeding pass did not happen and the arrival of a couple of other cars and some passing vehicles towing boats moved the birds off.  (I don't want to be grumpy, but is it too much to ask people to stay in their cars when they can see other people taking pictures!)

Anyway, this was one of the best opportunities I have had to photograph this species - its common enough, in fact its one of the most common birds of prey in the world - but I just tend to see them on the wing!

Kites were essentially restricted to one small part of the UK when I was a kid - Red Kites in this case - and it's great to know they have become much more common back in the UK.  Both Black and Red Kites have a forked tail and you can see this in these pictures.

If you are a regular visitor to WBW, I dont need to tell you where I took the pictures!

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Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 554 - White-fronted Chat

The White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons) is a common bird across the southern edge of Australia - yet it has taken me a while to get pictures of this species I am happy with.

It will come as no surprise that I took these pictures at Werribee Sewage Works - and its a legitimate question to ask if I bird anywhere else these days!  (The response may actually be 'no')

Anyway, this bird can often be rather conspicuous as it perches on the tops of bushes.  But I have also found it rather timid, in that it flys off to another bush if you stop and look at it!  So, with a combination of a long lens and lots of megapixels, I managed to get these pictures.

This is the male of the species, the female was less cooperative.

I'm just back from six days of wilderness in Tasmania - so hope to catch up on comments soon.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 553 - Varied Sittella

The Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) was known in the past as the Australian Nuthatch - and it's not hard to see why.  For many years the Varied Sittella was classified in the same family as the nuthatches, but now it is considered different enough to have a family all of its own - the Neosittidae, and they are only found in Australasia.

Varied Sittellas come in a number of 'forms' (and there is still debate about classifying the forms as separate species) and this one is the Orange-Winged form.  Unlike Nuthatches, Sittellas can be seen in small flocks.

This bird - and there were a few others with it - was rather high in some trees when I took these pictures - and I have to say I am surprised at the results.

The similarity between the Sittellas and Nuthatches is an example of convergent evolution, where two species end up with a set of similar features because they face the same set of challenges.  In this case, running up and down tree branches and finding food hidden in the cracks and crevices of bark.  I think its remarkable that both of these species have slightly up-turned bills.

Anyway: here are the pictures.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 552 - White-faced Heron

The White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) is a common and widespread bird that occurs throughout the whole of Australia and also occurs in Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand.  In my part of the world it is the default heron that you can expect to see pretty much every time you are birding.  It can be seen on almost wetland, and also feeds on the coast.

This bird was really using the 'wait and see what comes along' approach to hunting - and in the end it was prepared to out-wait me!  More or less the only thing it did as I was watching, was glance up a passing flock of small waders and blink once or twice!

I think we can overlook common birds, especially in the quest for rarity - but think this is a good looking bird!  

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Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 551 - Wedge-tailed Eagle

Not has many pictures as normal for this week's WBW - in fact just three.

These are the first pictures I have managed to get of a Wedged-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) on the ground - or in this case a post.  All my other pictures have been of birds a very long way up in the sky.

The Wedged-tailed Eagle is Australia's largest bird of prey, and is more or less the third largest eagle in the world.  This bird landed briefly on a fence post in the open fields that surround Werribee Sewage Works.

I grabbed my camera and took a burst of about 10 images, and then the bird flew off - more or less at ground level - away from me and my camera.  I suspect that the eagle was looking for rabbits - but I may well be wrong.  This eagle can be found over much of Australia - and can even be seen about an hours drive from central Melbourne.

A large brown-to-black bird , it has a maximum reported wingspan of 2.84 m (9 ft 4 in) and a length of up to 1.06 m (3 ft 6 in).

I have included 'the bad hair day' picture because I like it! 

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Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 550 - Brolga

The Brolga (Grus rubicunda) is one of two species of true Cranes that occur in Australia. (The other species - The Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) - only occurs in parts of Northern Australia)

The Brolga is widespread in northern and eastern Australia - but like many birds that rely on wet and swampy habitats, its range and abundance has declined as development has eaten into our wetlands.  

A fully grown brolga can reach a height of 0.7 to 1.4 m and has a wingspan of 1.7 to 2.4 m Adult males have an average body mass of 6.8 kg with females averaging 5.66 kg . The weight can range from 3.6 to 8.7 kg.

In other words, they are an impressively large bird.

These birds were loafing about (rather predictably) at the Werribee Sewage Works - where they are established as a breeding species.  After spending some time with the most obvious bird, I noticed a second head popping up through the vegetation about 20 meters away from the first bird.

Apart from a bit of preening and general feather maintenance these birds were not very active - there were many frogs calling in the area and I suspect both birds were waiting for their next meal to hop past!

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PS: Just noticed that this is the 550th WBW in a row!

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Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 549 - Tested Terns

 At the end of last year I had the opportunity to help with the banding of Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii) chicks in a colony on Mud Islands in Pot Philip Bay. 

These are the 'default' tern in my part of the world - but it was still wonderfull to see them at their breeding site.  It was, to say the least, very noisy!

The aim of the day was to be there when large numbers of the chick were capable of running, but not flying.  At this age we were able to pursued the chicks to walk along the beach towards a set of net we had placed on the beach.  The nets had a wide entrance which we could close behind the chicks - and once they had been herded into the net we closed the 'gate' on them.  The parent birds did not approve of this action and were very vocal their protests!

The chicks were banded and released within a few minutes, and it was wonderful to see how quickly the adults found their chicks.  It was advisable to wear a hat during this process as the adult birds would often peck you on the head!

If you ever get a chance to be involved in an activity like this, grasp it with both hands!

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Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 548 - Eastern Yellow Robin

Back to the robins for this week's WBW.

The Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) is probably the most common robin in my part of the world.  Its range is from the extreme southeast corner of South Australia through most of Victoria and the western half of New South Wales and north as far as Cooktown.

It was also one of the robins that proved to be the most tricky to photograph during the 3 day tour!  Which is crazy really!

Anyway, as its name suggests this is not a red robin, but a yellow one.  The 'sticking out from a tree' position is a classic for this species.

This pictures look much better enlarged.  

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