Two days ago I wrote about the birds we saw at the hippo enclosure when we visited the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo recently. One species I didn’t mention was the Superb Fairy-wren because I wanted it to have its own post. Today’s photos feature a male bird in full breeding plumage plus one shot of a female (see below).
There were several birds, both male and female, hopping around the viewing platform at the hippo enclosure. I tried hard to get a few photos but they were constantly on the move. This is typical of this species; it makes effective photography a real challenge.
As we returned to our car – the open range zoo is a “drive yourself” experience – a male Superb Fairy-wren was fluttering around the car next to ours. The photo above shows him on the roo bar at the front of the vehicle. He was very agitated and ignored me only a metre or so away from him. He then flew many times at his reflection in the car’s window (see photo below).
A number of Australian bird species display this aggressive behaviour. Thinking that their reflection is an enemy attempting to take over its territory, the male bird will attack its own image many dozens of times. Not only do they attack the reflection in the windows of a car, they can also be attracted to the outside mirrors, shiny hub-caps, shiny bumper-bars and any reflective surface. A few years ago our resident Willie Wagtail was attracted to the mirrors on our car. Day after day for periods up to a half hour it would attack the mirror, leaving a very unpleasant residue on each mirror in the process.
Some of the species which display this behaviour include Australian Magpies, Willie Wagtails, Magpie Larks, finches, honeyeaters, and ravens and crows. A few years ago we had a Little Raven in our garden which was annoyed by its reflection in our bedroom window glass. Every morning around dawn it would come and peck loudly on the glass. Being suddenly woken in this fashion at such an early hour was not very pleasant, and we were pleased when it moved on and no longer came knocking well before our normal time of rising.
This post is #34 of a series called Great Birding Moments. I think the title is self explanatory. Sadly, it is over six years since the last in this series, so I think I will have to rectify that in the coming months. You can access a list of the articles by clicking here.
My wife and I are currently visiting family in Sydney. Yesterday we were free from helping out with the grandchildren for a few hours, so we packed a picnic lunch and headed out to a few potential birding spots.
One of the places I was keen to revisit after many years was Long Reef Point next to the Long Reef Golf Course, Dee Why north-east of Sydney CBD.
It was a cool, dull, overcast day and the birding was quite slow. Despite this I made quite a nice little list of local resident birds but few photos. While there I realised it was the wrong time of year. Most of the migrant wading birds had long flown north to Asia for our winter. Wise birds.
During our visit, my wife and I sat quietly on a rock at the top of the point reaching out to sea from the mainland. Watching the waves come in can be very good for the soul, and very relaxing. We were pleased that it was a calm day; on windy days one could easily get blown off the cliff onto the beach or rocks below.
As we sat quietly a family of Variegated fairy-wrens came to visit within a few metres of where we sat. Despite the fact that wrens move incredibly quickly, I was able to get several good shots, shown on today’s post. The one below of female is quite delightful. It looks for all the world like she is scolding us for intruding on their territory.
This morning my wife and I were in the sun room enjoying breakfast when a family of Superb Fairy-wrens came to the bird bath just outside the window. There was one male and two uncoloured birds, probably both females. This was delightful because we hadn’t seen or heard them in the garden for well over a week.
They stayed long enough to have a drink and a short splash in the water. It wasn’t long enough to get any photos, so I have used a photo taken some time ago. The photo above was also taken in our garden a few months ago, so it it almost certain it is the same bird as the one we saw this morning.
On our recent trip to visit family in Sydney we were determined to visit the Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan at Campbelltown in the south eastern part of greater Sydney. In recent visits to our son it has never worked out to take a day trip to these gardens. In fact, our last – and only visit – was in April 2000. Our memories of that visit were getting very hazy, though I do remember seeing Double-barred finches there – my one and only sighting of this species.
The Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan are part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and are run by the same Trust. The gardens are 416 hectares in size and include hills, fern gullies and creeks, and lakes. One section even boasts a decent mountain bike track. About 4000 Australian plants are on display in these gardens. Unfortunately, very few were flowering at the time of our visit. We could only imagine what it would look like in the spring. (Note to self: organise a visit in spring!)
Despite the lack of flowers I was still pleased to record about 40 bird species during our stay. One of them was a shy Superb Fairy-wren shown above. He was skulking around in the undergrowth in the fern gully, just where the light was too poor for photos. His brief appearance in a lighter spot was not quite long enough for a good photo.
Below I’ve shown one of the plants in flower on show during our visit.
I will write more about the birds I saw in coming days.
One of the more interesting birding spots near my home in Murray Bridge South Australia is Lowan Conservation Park near Bowhill, about a 40 minute drive to the north east. This park is mainly mallee eucalypt scrub with some native pine (Callitris) and smaller shrubby undergrowth, including acacias, eremophilas, spinifex and some annual flowering plants.
The birdlife in this park can vary from overwhelming in number to very few. It all depends upon what is flowering at the time. When many of the mallee trees are in flower the honeyeaters flock there in large numbers. When nothing is flowering I’ve struggled to list more than a dozen species – and sometimes no honeyeaters, with the possible exception of a solitary Red Wattlebird. It can be very rewarding – or downright frustrating.
On a visit early last year I was delighted to catch a glimpse of a Shy Heathwren, not a species which is common in this region. True to its name it proved to be elusive but very vocal. A birding friend had a bird field guide application on his phone, so he played the call of this species. Within seconds it was almost hopping around our feet. I was therefore able to get a few not-so-brilliant shots. Wish it had sat still for more than a half second!
As a result of this experience I just had to go and buy myself a smart phone – along with a bird guide app.
UPDATE: I have since bought a smart phone AND have a field guide app on it. I haven’t used it much for calls out bush, but my grandchildren think it is really cool. [sigh]
A more recent article about this park can be found here.
Updated July 2015.