Eastern Whipbird nesting, calling, and showing its colours

Eastern Whipbirds make the oddest noise. As their name implies, their call sounds a little like a whip cracking: p-p-peeeuuw pheuw-pheuw. Actually, to me, it sounds more like a laser gun in a child’s science fiction game.

I have two videos to show you. The first is cool because right at the beginning, the bird is in the sun, and you can see all the olive colour in its feathers. Usually, the birds are more like dark blobs because they stick to the shady parts of the bush. In the video you can also see the bird make its characteristic call.

At the beginning of the second video, the bird is tending a nest. I didn’t see that until I got the video home and looked on the wider screen. There’s more of the calling too, which takes a lot of energy. The little bird almost leaps off the branch with the effort.

Common name: Eastern Whipbird

Scientific name: Psophodes olivaceus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 13 August 2017 (Early spring)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’36.9″S 151°15’16.7″E

Grey Fantail fluttering and waving its tail

Every now and then, while walking in the bush near Sydney, I see a bird fluttering up and down a tree and waving its tail in a merry dance. These birds move fast and don’t stay in one place for long. It’s hard to take a photo, especially as they’re usually deep in the undergrowth.

Today I managed to video one of these showoffs. As you’ll see, I had to follow the bird in its random jaunts to various branches of the tree. Now that I had a video, I could identify the bird. It’s a Grey Fantail, according to my bird book. Specifically, I think it’s one the alisteri race, which is the most common in the Sydney region.

Common name: Grey Fantail

Scientific name: Rhipidura fuliginosa

Approximate length: 15 cm

Date spotted: 13 August 2017 (Early spring)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’16.1″S 151°14’47.5″E

King Parrots on the pavement

A pair of King Parrots surprised me today. They were quietly feeding on a grassy pavement as I walked by. At first they took a careful look at me, then they decided I was harmless and went back to their browsing. The photos aren’t great quality, because I had only the camera on my mobile phone with me.

The male of the pair has a red head and chest, and dark green on his back. The female bird has a green head and softer red colouring on her chest.  The video shows them feeding quietly then flying off with a characteristic chirp.

It wasn’t me that scared them away, but rather a big bird flying overhead. The big scary bird turned out to be just a currawong, so the parrots came back quite quickly. Here they are together:

Here’s the male, showing the pretty colouring and markings on his back:

Common name: Australian King Parrot

Scientific name: Alisterus scapularis

Approximate length: 44 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2017 (Winter)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’13.2″S 151°15’41.1″E

Rainbow Lorikeets and a flowering grass tree

A grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) perches precariously on the edge of a cliff in our garden. Every couple of years, the grass tree throws up a flower spike—much to the delight of the Rainbow Lorikeets in the area. Here’s a closeup of a couple of the birds on the flower spike:

Here’s the grass tree on the cliff, with the flower spike shooting up. The grass tree is the one with long, thin, spiky leaves at the base of the flowering spike, not the fleshy big-leafed succulents that surround it:

You can only fit so many lorikeets on a flower spike at once. So, the trick is to line up on the nearest power line and take turns. This video shows the interaction between the birds as they wait in line:

Evidently the nectar from the flowers on the spike is deliciously sweet. Australian Aboriginal people use it to make a sweet drink. Europeans used to burn it as incense in churches. The birds feel it’s worth waiting in line:

It turns out you can fit quite a few lorikeets on a flower spike:

Common name: Rainbow Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2017 (Winter)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Australian Wood Duck

Australian Wood Ducks are a fairly common sight. They stand out, with their neat round head and short beaks. Up close, I noticed the soft frilly feathers on the sides of this bird’s body under the wings. This one is a male, as its head is dark brown and lacks the females’ white markings around the eyes.

Common name: Australian Wood Duck

Scientific name: Chenonetta jubata

Approximate length: 60cm

Date spotted: 3 June 2017 (Winter)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.1″S 151°15’14.7″E

Eastern Spinebill preening

This 7-second video shows an Eastern Spinebill tidying its feathers. Eastern Spinebills are small, fast-moving birds that whiz through the midlevel vegetation. They’re part of the honeyeater family. It’s often hard to identify these spinebills, as they don’t stay in one spot for very long. This one gave me an excellent view of its long, curved beak.

Common name: Eastern Spinebill

Scientific name: Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

Approximate length: 16cm

Date spotted: 3 June 2017 (Winter)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’49.6″S 151°14’51.3″E

A coot and a metaphor

At first there’s nothing but the universe. The water and the sky. Then suddenly, there you are, in the middle of it all.

Common name: Eurasian Coot

Scientific name: Fulica atra

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 23 April 2017 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’27.7″S 151°15’05.9″E

White-bellied Sea-Eagle at Manly Dam near Sydney

Yesterday I spotted a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flying along the shore of Manly Dam. It flew up and down the shore a few times, and across the water, then landed at the edge of the water in a baylet, with its legs in the water.

I was on the opposite side of the dam, so I couldn’t get a close look at the bird. I did take some photos and videos, but they’re fuzzy and unsatisfactory, although they’re good enough to satisfy me about the identification of the bird. So I decided to record the sighting here, and hope I get to see this beautiful bird again soon.

Common name: White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucogaster

Approximate length: 85 cm. Wing span: 2.2 m

Date spotted: 22 April 2017 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’35.2″S 151°15’08.0″E

Square-tailed Kite at Manly Dam near Sydney

This magnificent bird was sitting quietly in a tree, occasionally squinting down at the path, when I passed by. It’s a Square-tailed Kite – a large bird, at approximately 55 centimetres from head to tail (half a metre) with a wing span of  1.4 metres.

Square-tailed Kites are classified as rare in my bird book. Also, they’re not often seen around Sydney. I identified this one by the white markings around the face, and the characteristically long wing tips. When folded, they’re significantly longer than the tail, as you can see in the photo below:

This video shows the bird having a good grooming session, feathers flying:

In the next video, the bird moves its head back and forward in a slightly eery way, perhaps scanning for prey:

Common name: Square-Tailed Kite

Scientific name: Lophoictinia isura

Approximate length: 55 cm. Wing span: 1.4 m

Date spotted: 15 April 2017 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’35.3″S 151°15’13.3″E

Musk Lorikeets feeding and chatting

A tree outside our house is in flower, and attracting many avian visitors. This is the first time I’ve seen a Musk Lorikeet. They’re pretty little birds, very fast moving and well camouflaged amongst the green leaves. They chatter to each other constantly, often making a pleasant trilling sound. For some reason, that sound makes me of a phone ringing in a sunlit roof-top apartment.

You can also hear water running down the hill, as it’s been raining a lot recently.

Common name: Musk Lorikeet

Scientific name: Glossopsitta concinna

Approximate length: 23 cm

Date spotted: 27-28 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

In this second video, an Australian Miner joins the lorikeet in the floral feast. The miners and lorikeets usually have a bit of a squawking match over feeding territory, but they managed to co-exist on the same branch for a short period.

The loud chirping you can hear is a Rainbow Lorikeet flying by. (There’s a picture of one further down in this post.)

Musk Lorikeets are mainly green, with a red mask around the eyes, a blue cap, and a yellow stripe along the wing:

Musk Lorikeet

They never seem to stop moving! This one stood still for a short time, but you can see it’s thinking of launching itself into the air any time:

Musk Lorikeet

Other visitors to the tree include Rainbow Lorikeets like this one:

rainbow lorikeet

They’re much more common around here than the Musk Lorikeets. Also Currawongs:

currawong