Mystery bird at Manly Dam

This bird puzzles me. It’s about the size of a Red Wattlebird, and I’m thinking it’s some sort of Honeyeater, but I can’t find a match in my bird book. Perhaps it’s a juvenile.

Does anyone have any ideas what it is? I saw it today at Manly Dam Reserve near Sydney (on the map: 33°46’37.5″S 151°14’49.5″E).

Mystery bird at Manly Dam

Here’s the uncropped version of the same picture:

Unidentified bird at Manly Dam

Update on 24 April 2017: Carol Probets identified the bird as a young Olive-backed Oriole, in a comment on this post.

Common name: Olive-backed Oriole

Scientific name: Oriolus sagittatus

Approximate length: 25-28 cm

Date spotted: 29 January 2017 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’37.5″S 151°14’49.5″E

Magpie serenade

Two magpies hopped onto a branch and serenaded each other as I walked past.  They had to battle a fairly fierce wind, as you can see from the ruffled state of their feathers.

Common name: Australian Magpie

Scientific name: Gymnorhina tibicen

Approximate length: 40 cm

Date spotted: 26 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Long Reef near Dee Why, New South Wales, Australia: 33°44’21.1″S 151°18’30.8″E

Reflection symmetry and a coot

Manly Dam was quiet and calm when I strolled along its shores early this morning. I was struck by the patterns made by these reeds and their reflections in the water.

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

It’s a little mind boggling, isn’t it? Where does the real reed start and end? The finest of abstract art. Here’s the same set of reeds but with more around them:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

A different configuration:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

Another shape to bend your mind:

Reflection symmetry - reeds in the water

Bubbles had reflections too:

Bubbles on the water

Since this is a blog about birds, I should probably include one. 😉 This Eurasian Coot was enjoying the morning quiet:

Euarasian Coot

Here’s the bird again, tucked away in the centre left of this mass of reflections:

Reflections

Common name: Eurasian Coot

Scientific name: Fulica atra

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 22 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’27.9″S 151°15’05.5″E

Masked Lapwing’s face looks like a Lego model

I spotted two Masked Lapwings at Manly Dam, near Sydney, Australia, this morning. They’re also known as Spur-winged Plovers. They can be quite aggressive, especially in nesting season. The name “spur-winged” is apt, because they have hooks on their wings, one on each, which they use as weapons, stretching the wings then dragging back to wound their enemy. But these two were quietly going about their business, pottering around the edges of Manly Dam.

Their faces make me think of a model put together with Lego. They’re so perfect, and yet they seem not quite real.

Masked Lapwing

They have lovely knobbly knees and big pink feet:

Masked Lapwing

In this video, one of the birds advances tentatively, testing each step:

Here’s a zoomed out shot showing the two birds in their environment:

Masked Lapwing

Common name: Masked Lapwing, or Spur-winged Plover

Scientific name: Vanellus miles

Approximate length: 37 cm

Date spotted: 15 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.8″S 151°15’18.4″E

Cicadas singing

Not a bird this time, but a beetle that makes bush walking painful to the ears in the summer months around Sydney. The piercing noise of cicadas is familiar to most Sydney-siders. In this video, you can hear them all round you, and see one close-up pulsating its abdomen to make the noise.

The insect is quite large – about the length of your thumb – and has transparent, lacy wings:

Cicada

Their huge eyes make them look super cool, as if they’re wearing sun glasses:

Cicada

An interesting fact: The adult cicada is the winged insect we see, and it lives for only a few weeks. But the nymphs, which are the form of the creature that hatch from the eggs, live for around seven years, underground.

A while back, I came across these cicada husks. When the nymph is ready to transform into the winged insect, it climbs up from the underground onto a bush or tree trunk and sheds its skin. These are the resulting empty husks:

Cicada husks

Kookaburra baby cackling and feeding

The kookaburras around our neighbourhood are very noisy at the moment. A couple of juveniles drop by regularly to practise their cackling skills. They’re cute and funny.

In this video, you can see one youngster crooning to himself, and another behind the branches. In the background, other birds chime in to show him how it’s done. A parent comes by a couple of times too, to feed the ever-demanding little one.

Common name: Laughing Kookaburra

Scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae

Approximate length: 47 cm

Date spotted: 31 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Kookaburras cranking up for a cackle

You’ve probably heard kookaburras in full voice, cackling and hooting raucously. I think the sound they make when they’re preparing for a full-voice yodel is funny and cute. It happens in particular when there’s a group of birds. They chunter at each other, perhaps in warning or perhaps companionably. They sound a bit like rusty saws in a dusty attic.

These two were in a tree high above my lounge window:

I encountered this disreputable, slightly dangerous looking character deep in the bush:

Common name: Laughing Kookaburra

Scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae

Approximate length: 47 cm

Date spotted (second video): 26 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location (second video): Manly Dam Nature Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’50.4″S 151°14’59.6″E

New Zealand Dotterel

I’m travelling in New Zealand, so this post is a departure from my usual subject of birds in Sydney. While walking on Hahei Beach on the North Island, I came across a roped off area protecting a brood of New Zealand Dotterels.

Dotterels are native New Zealand birds, with a conservation status of nationally vulnerable. They’re also called New Zealand plovers, or tuturiwhatu.

This video shows one of the chicks exploring its environs. The shot then zooms out to show the gorgeous surrounds, and zooms back in to the mother or father bird and another little chick.

Here’s a still shot of the chick exploring:

New Zealand Dotterel

The adult bird perches watchfully on a log:

New Zealand Dotterel

Common name: Northern New Zealand dotterel

Scientific name: Charadriiformes charadriidae

Approximate length: 25 cm

Date spotted: 7 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Hahei Beach, North Island, New Zealand

Latitude/longitude: 36°50’10.2″S 175°48’10.3″E

Yellowhammer near Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m not in Sydney today. I’m travelling in New Zealand, and spotted a couple of pretty little Yellowhammers at the Cathedral Cove carpark. The Yellowhammer is not a native New Zealand bird. It was introduced into New Zealand from Britain in the late 1800s.

Yellowhammer

Common name: Yellowhammer

Scientific name: Emberiza citrinella

Approximate length: 16 cm

Date spotted: 7 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Cathedral Cove car park, Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, North Island, New Zealand

Latitude/longitude: 36°49’59.0″S 175°48’00.7″E

Goldfinch near Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Departing from the usual locations described in this blog, I’m not in Sydney today. I’m travelling in New Zealand, and saw a beautiful little Goldfinch on a thistle bush. Neither the finch nor the thistle is native to New Zealand, but they make a very pretty picture. The bird plucks the seeds from the flowerhead, and a shimmering cloud of silver threads drifts around its beak.

A still image of the same bird – click the image to expand it in your browser:

Goldfinch

Common name: European Goldfinch

Scientific name: Passeriformes fringillidae

Approximate length: 12 cm

Date spotted: 7 December 2016

Season: Summer

Location: Cathedral Cove car park, Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, North Island, New Zealand

Latitude/longitude: 36°49’59.0″S 175°48’00.7″E