The Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher (Melaenornis chocolatinus) has caused me some frustrating research time. The illustration in my field guide is small and not easy to tell if I’ve got this nailed down right. I’m going to assume I’ve got the right ID until a more experienced and knowledgeable reader tells me otherwise. Oh, the joys of birding in an unfamiliar country with no human guides to point out the error of one’s ways.
These photos were taken in the grounds of the school where my daughter was teaching last year in the heart of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was quiet and sat still for a minute or two before swooping down to catch an insect. It then returned to the perch shown in the photo. Abyssinian Slaty-flycatchers are found on the edges of forests at an altitude between 1000 and 3250m. While this was taken in suburban Addis Ababa, there were small forest patches nearby, including several acres of eucalyptus in the school campus.
Earlier this year we visited the Pangarinda Arboretum at Wellington here in South Australia. While photographing the many wildflowers on show I took this portrait of a Willie Wagtail.
The arboretum is about a half hour drive from home and just over a hour’s drive from Adelaide. From a small hill in the reserve one can get a good view of the River Murray a few hundred metres to the west. The arboretum is a collection of hundreds of Australian native plants. I really enjoy visiting this reserve as there is always a good range of wildflowers to photograph. I’ve included several below. This arboretum has been established and is maintained by an enthusiastic group of local plant lovers. It is always open to the public and entry is free.
The birding in this native plant garden can be variable. Sometimes the place is full of a wide variety of birds; at other times I struggle to get more than 20 species on my list. It depends very largely on what is flowering although some species are resident breeding birds, like some of the honeyeaters.
I had suspected that our resident pair of Willie Wagtails have been nesting somewhere in our mallee scrub but hadn’t been able to locate the nest. They can be very sneaky and secretive about the whole affair.
Then a few days ago I was cleaning up in an area of the scrub not frequented all that often and I was attacked by the adults. Not that they actually hit or bit me; they just made it quite obvious by their scotching calls and close swooping over my head that I was not welcome.
Sure enough – three fluffy chicks were over filling a totally inadequate nest. The photo above shows their home almost bursting at the seams.
I took the photo a few weeks ago and the chicks have now fledged and are making their presence known around the garden, demanding food from a harried set of parents struggling to keep up with their insistent calling for food.
The next question is: will the parents nest again once this brood is off their hands… er… beaks and feeding themselves independently?
The photo of some fledged Willie Wagtails was taken a few years ago at the same location.
We have a resident breeding pair of Willie Wagtails in our garden. They are a constant delight as they flit around looking for insects to snap up for a tasty snack. They will often come quite close to us when we are working in the garden or sitting relaxing on the back veranda.
Due to higher than normal rainfall over the last nine months I’ve had to mow our grass quite a few times with our ride-on mower. As I move around mowing the Willie Wagtails follow the mower, snapping up insects disturbed by the machine. Sometimes I feared I’d actually drive over one of them because they were getting quite close.
The Willie Wagtails frequently come to our various bird baths for either a drink or to bathe. This always gives more opportunities to experience close encounters with this species. It also affords excellent opportunities for close up photography, such as the shot shown above.
I was recently sorting through a few of my bird photos and came across this shot of a Willie Wagtail at one of the bird baths in our garden. Nothing unusual about that; they come most days for a drink or a bath.
What struck me about the photo was how evil the eyes of the harmless little Willie Wagtail can sometimes look, especially when enlarged like the shot above. It seems to be saying: ‘Don’t mess with me, buster.’
In reality, this species is known for its feisty attitude towards other bird species, especially any who dare come near to their nest or young. I have even seen one attacking our largest raptor, the Wedge-tailed Eagle. This eagle has a wingspan of about 280cm, whereas the little Willie Wagtail would be stretching to span 20cm. In fact, the Willie Wagtail is not slow at attacking a human, often swooping and even giving one a peck on the head for getting too close to the babies.
For comparison, I’ve included below the original photo before I enlarged it.