Grey Fantail at last

Grey Fantail at our bird bath

Sometimes it is the common species that give birders the most problems. With me it is getting good photos of the common garden bird, the Grey Fantail.

This bird has been visiting our garden in recent weeks. It is a regular visitor during the cooler months. I haven’t been able to get a good close up photo until earlier this week. I chased it around the garden on several occasions over the previous week, only to have it elude me and my camera every time. They are not known to sit still for very long.

Eventually, it settled on the bird bath for long enough for a photo. It then returned several times over the next few minutes; I was waiting with my camera ready focussed.

Grey Fantail at our bird bath

Grey Fantail at our bird bath

Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher, Ethiopia

Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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.

Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

We have baby Willie Wagtails in a nest

Willie Wagtails in the nest

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.

Further reading:

Baby Willie Wagtails just out of their nest and being fed.

Strange Willie Wagtail

On our walk this morning we saw a very active Willie Wagtail, flitting around in the early morning sun gathering his breakfast.

As we approached I noticed something different. It didn’t look normal. As it flew past quite close to us I realised that it had no tail. In fact, it looked quite dumpy, not at all like a Willie Wagtail. It still managed some nifty aerobatics as it gathered its morning food.

Needless to say I didn’t have a camera with me, so below is a photo of a normal looking Willie Wagtail.

PS: Should I have called it a Willie Wag???

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Great Birding Moments #4 Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

The Willie Wagtail is a resident of our garden here in Murray Bridge. Our house is situated amongst 5 acres (2 hectares) of a mixture of garden plants, orchard, mallee scrub (mallee is a species of eucalypt) and open paddock.

Camera shy

Our resident Willie Wagtails seem to be rather camera shy. I’ve been trying for many months to get a good photo of this species here at home. Whenever I’d try to get close enough they’d be high in the foliage of the tree – or behind a bush – or they’d flit away before I could focus. Eventually I did manage to get a nice shot; the bird is good but the setting is horrible. I wish there was some way of masking out the rubbishy looking drum it has perched on. And look at all those weeds in the background!


The Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys, a member of the flycatcher family of birds, is one of Australia’s best known and well-loved birds. They are common throughout Australia and northern Tasmania. They are easily recognised as they flit around looking for a feed, tail wagging and fanning out disturbing insects. “Our” Willie Wagtails are a resident breeding pair. They usually have at least one and sometimes two broods each year, usually in spring and summer.

The Nest

The nest is a cup-shaped bowl about 5-6cm wide and deep. It is usually made from cobwebs, fine grass, feathers, wool, bark and other soft materials. It can be situated as low as a metre from the ground to 10 or even 15 metres high up in a tree. It is often located on horizontal branch but I have seen nests made on a metal strut inside a farm shed. They most often lay 2 or 3 eggs, but occasionally lay 4. To see four almost fledged baby Willie Wagtails in a small nest all reaching out to mum or dad begging for food, one wonders how the nest survives – and how they don’t topple out! The nest seems just right for one baby – three or four is definitely overcrowded. The interesting thing about “our” WWs is that they always nest very close to the house, usually within 15 metres.

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