Have the babies flown the nest?

Baby Willie Wagtails just out of their nest

We have a pair of Willie Wagtails who live in our garden. They often come very close to us as we work in the garden, especially when we are weeding or digging the garden beds. They are quite unafraid of us. Every year they build a nest somewhere near the house. Quite often they will even have a second brood of young ones.

This year I noticed them building a nest a few days before we went to Sydney for just over two weeks. I checked on our return and one of the adults was sitting on the nest; I didn’t know if there were eggs or chicks in the nest and didn’t want to disturb the parent bird. Now two weeks later and the nest is empty – in fact, it’s on the ground.

Enough time has elapsed for the eggs to have hatched and the young to have flown. Strange then that we haven’t seen the little ones begging to be fed. I suspect that the nest may have been raided by some form of predator: raven, magpie, currawong, falcon – even a stray cat that has been lurking in the vicinity.

All I can hope is that they decide to nest again – in a more secure location.

Portrait of a Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail, Pangarinda Arboretum, South Australia

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.

Wildflowers, Pangarinda Arboretum, South Australia

Wildflowers, Pangarinda Arboretum, South Australia

We have baby Grey Currawongs in the garden

Grey Currawong in our garden

Over recent days we’ve had at least two juvenile Grey Currawongs frequenting our garden. They seem to be independent of the parents and are quite happy to poke around trying to find food for themselves.

I find it a bit odd to call them “babies” as they are as big as the adults already, but are still covered in downy feathers and are not all that confident flying. One recently landed on the gutter of our veranda and I was able to approach to about 2 metres away before it flew off in a clumsy way to the nearest tree. They are still to develop the far reaching piping call of the adults, their call still being a guttural squawk.

A few days ago one ventured too close to some juvenile Willie Wagtails just out of the nest. The Willie Wagtail parents swooped the Currawong mercilessly, banging onto the back of the poor bird until it flew away to a safer spot.

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.

Willie Wagtail up close

Willie Wagtail

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.