Archive for February, 2007

Restless Flycatcher

The Restless Flycatcher would have to be one of my favourite Australian birds. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the clean, beautiful lines of its plumage. Perhaps it’s the quite distinctive calls, the harsh “zeeep” contact call or the fascinating grinding, churring sounds it makes when hunting for a feed. Or perhaps it is the vernacular name of “scissors grinder” that really appeals to me. Whatever the reason, it is always a delight to see and hear.

Restless Flycatcher

Restless Flycatcher

The Restless Flycatcher can easily be mistaken for a Willie Wagtail. Unlike the Willie Wagtail this species has a white throat, not black. The call is quite unlike the Willie Wagtail but the habits are similar with both flitting about seeking a feed, tail wagging all the time.


The Willie Wagtail is found throughout most of Australia. The Restless Flycatcher on the other hand is widespread through northern, eastern and southern Australia and tends to avoid the hotter, drier inland regions. Where I live in the Murray Mallee districts of South Australia it is widespread but nowhere common.


The Restless Flycatcher is found in a variety of habitats, including parks and gardens, farmlands near vegetation, roadside verges, open woodlands and forests, mallee scrubs, golfcourses and orchards.

Our garden:

We have a resident pair of breeding Willie Wagtails in our garden. I have seen the Restless Flycatcher in a number of places around my home town but only once have we seen it in our garden until recently. The first time was about five years ago and a single bird passed through the garden one morning. It stayed less than two minutes. I happened to be having breakfast and heard its distinctive call and quickly raced out to see it fast disappearing down the road.

Until last week.

This time I was working at my computer in the office trying to concentrate on my writing. A sudden, harsh “zeeep” call and I was racing out with my camera in hand. (It was on the desk alongside of me after downloading some photos of Galahs.) Sure enough, a single Restless Flycatcher was at the birdbath and it posed for me for about ten seconds. (Pity about the twig of the branch in the way.) It was having a confrontation with the resident, bossy Willie Wagtail who didn’t want to share the water. After a few seconds it flew off into the nearby mallee scrub. I tried to track it down and found there were two of them. I gave up as they flew off over the neighbour’s house.

To read more about Flycatchers click here.

Restless Flycatcher

Restless Flycatcher

Birding Bloopers #8

Here is another birding blooper – a misidentification of an object thought to be a bird. This one comes from ‘Anonymous’, an Australian birder on a visit to South Africa.

My worst moment came whilst on a twitchathon in South Africa, I called a White Stork soaring in the thermals above the car……turned out to be a hang-glider!

I would have though that the size and shape would have given it away, but then I’ve been fooled by thinking a banana skin was a Golden Whistler dead on the road (click here).

Thanks to the birder from the Birding-Aus forum who gave permission to use this blooper.

For more in this series click here.

Question for readers:

When did you experience an embarrassing birding moment? Perhaps it was a mistaken identification. Perhaps you didn’t look carefully enough and were later proved wrong. Maybe the bird itself fooled you in some way.
I invite readers to submit their birding bloopers in the comments section below. If it’s good enough I might just feature it in a post of its own, with a link back to your blog (if you have one).

Singing Honeyeaters and native plants

The Singing Honeyeater is a common species in suitable habitat throughout much of Australia. It tends to be absent only from the eastern coastal areas, most of Victoria (except the south coast), and the far north of Queensland and the Northern Territory. It’s preferred habitats include mallee scrubs, mulga, roadside vegetation, orchards, vineyards and gardens. It tends to be rather solitary in habit. On occasions I have seen small loose flocks of up to four or five birds, usually where the vegetation is dense, for example, coastal dunes.

Resident Breeding species
The Singing Honeyeater is a resident breeding species in our garden. Their numbers never seem to go over about four or five on our 2 hectare (5 acre) block of land. The dominant plant species is mallee scrub (click here for a photo). They were perhaps more numerous more than ten years ago, but in recent times the New Holland Honeyeaters have become the dominant – and very bossy – species.

Updated November 2013

Singing Honeyeater

Singing Honeyeater

Eremophila glabra
The resident Singing Honeyeaters are regular visitors to our bird baths. I don’t think I’ve seen them actually bathing in the water; they just tend to come for a drink. Next to the bird bath is a sprawling bush called Eremophila glabra. In the photo this plant has the bright red tube-shaped flowers. (Click on the photo to enlarge). The honeyeaters frequently stay for five minutes or more feeding on these flowers. A quick return trip to the water for a drink and then they are off to feed elsewhere.

Dripper systems
In the photo you will observe a black hose in front of the bird. This is part of our watering system. We have installed many hundreds of metres of similar hoses throughout our garden and orchard. Wherever there is a plant we place a dripper. Each dripper then allows a steady stream of drips to the plant when the tap is turned on. We have timers on each tap which then turn off the water to the dripper hoses after a set time, usually one or two hours.

Severe drought
Many Australian gardeners have recently moved to this system because of the severe drought we are experiencing. Many areas are on severe water restrictions. In some places you cannot even use dripper systems like this one. We have certainly done our bit to conserve water because we’ve been using drippers for over 20 years. Most people are only installing them now.

Plants in our garden

For more photos and information about the plants in our garden and in our district go to Mallee Native Plants Nursery, my wife’s blog about our beautiful Australian plants.

Eremophila splendens

Eremophila splendens

Birding Bloopers #7

Over recent days I have been featuring birding bloopers on this blog. These bloopers have been reported on the Birding-Aus forum and are used with permission from the authors. They are often hilarious and downright embarrassing.

This one comes from Dave:

I was on a BOCA outing to Cape Schank and saw the final part of a scuba diver disappear beneath the waves – and yelled out “Musk Duck”.

A few explanations are in order:

  • BOCA – Bird Observers Club of Australia, one of our largest birding groups.
  • Cape Schank is south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula.
  • A musk duck has a large flipper-like tail that could appear to look like a scuba diver flipper as it dives under the water.

There you go Dave – fame at last!

Another unusual visitor to our bird bath

In recent times I have written about the behaviour of various species of birds at the bird baths we have in our garden. The birds give us many hours of entertainment as they come to drink and bathe. The very hot weather we have been having this summer helps to encourage their frequent visits.

I also wrote recently about some unusual visitors to the bird baths, a Stumpy Tail Lizard and a Red Fox.

A few days ago I was alerted to the alarm calls of a flock of New Holland Honeyeaters near the bird bath. I quietly went to have a look. The NHHEs were soon joined by several  Singing Honeyeaters and a family of White Browed Babblers. All were calling madly and looking at the ground near a bush.

I waited for a few moments, fully expecting a Brown Snake (highly venomous) to emerge from the undergrowth. I had my camera at the ready and my feet ready to take off if a hasty retreat was in order.

To my great relief it was only a Blue Tongue Lizard. With the stripes on the back and tail, and a thin, long snake-like tail we have often been fooled into thinking we have a Tiger Snake (also quite venomous) in the garden. (They actually look nothing like a Tiger Snake; it’s the stripes that catch you by surprise every time.)

The new visitor didn’t wait to have a drink. A slight movement from me sent it slithering – almost snake-like – into the undergrowth again.

Related articles:

Updated November 2103

Blue Tongue Lizard

Blue Tongue Lizard