Olive-backed Oriole chirruping and looking for bugs

It was the unusual chirruping that made me look up into the trees and see this Olive-backed Oriole. At first I thought it was a Wattle Bird, but the sound it made was unusual. So I snapped a few shots and took them home to examine them on the big screen.

In the video, you can hear the sound the bird makes:

This is the first view I had of the bird. Very well camouflaged!

Here the bird looks with gimlet eye at a termite nest (out of shot above its head) no doubt hoping for some food to wander by.

This is a general picture of the trees in the area – the bird’s habitat:

Common name: Olive-backed Oriole

Scientific name: Oriolus sagittatus

Approximate length: 25-28 cm

Date spotted: 8 April 2018 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’25.6″S 151°14’56.8″E


Silver chrysalis on Oleander bush – Common Crow Butterfly

Strolling along, head in the trees as is my wont, I saw something that fair knocked the socks off me. Today’s post is not about a bird, but it is about something that birds encounter.

It’s the chrysalis of the Common Crow Butterfly, hanging from an Oleander leaf. Here it is from a different angle:

At first I thought someone was playing a trick, and had stuck a Christmas bauble on the bush. Then I did some research, and found the Australian Museum’s page about the Common Crow Butterfly. Evidently the pupal stage (chrysalis) lasts about two weeks. I must have discovered this one towards the end of its transformation. I first saw the chrysalis on Thursday. Less than a week later, on Tuesday, the chrysalis had turned black, and I could see the yellow and white markings on the butterfly’s wing. This photo is blurry, because it was early morning twilight, and I had only my phone camera.

Later the same day, the chrysalis was empty:

Oleander bushes are poisonous. Extremely so, to humans. So I wondered, are they poisonous to birds? If so, is the pupa poisonous too, given that the caterpillar had no doubt been feeding on Oleander leaves? It seems the answer to both questions is yes. Oleanders and the pupae of the Common Crow Butterfly are poisonous to most birds.

Sharing a treetop shower with King Parrots

This was one of those magical moments that happen when you walk in the Aussie bush. I was strolling along under the canopy of tall gum trees…

… when I heard a swooshing and clattering of wings. I looked up, just in time to receive a spattering of large droplets on my face.

Oops, I thought, some bird had a little accident.

But then it happened again. And I saw this face looking down from high in a leafy cluster:

Looking around, I saw four or five other birds – all Australian King Parrots.

(The birds were very high up indeed. My camera’s zoom has done a good job, though some of the images are a little fuzzy.)

They were swooping through the wet clusters of leaves at the top of the trees, then coming to rest for a good grooming session.

And I was lucky enough to share the resulting shower of droplets!

Here’s a female King Parrot. It’s interesting how short her tail is in comparison with the male birds. It’s perhaps a trick of perspective:

Common name: Australian King Parrot

Scientific name: Alisterus scapularis

Approximate length: 44 cm

Date spotted: 1 April 2018 (Autumn)

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’51.3″S 151°14’52.3″E

Call of the whipbird

The birds in Australia make strange noises, and the call of the Eastern Whipbird is one of the strangest.

A sound bite:

Common name: Eastern Whipbird

Scientific name: Psophodes olivaceus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 10 March 2018 (Early autumn)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’36.5″S 151°15’16.0″E

Ringtail possum in nest

When walking through the Australian bush near Sydney, you see many nests in the trees overhead. They’re not all made by birds. Ringtail possums build and live in nests too. A possum nest is called a drey.

Today I spotted this rather untidy-looking nest in a tree above a path:

When I got closer and zoomed in with my camera, I saw this cute character peering out of the nest:

I continued on my walk. About half an hour later, on my way back, I noticed that the possum was still peering out of the nest but had changed to a more comfortable position:

Possums are sociable creatures, often sharing their nests with other members of the family. If you zoom in on the above picture (open it in a different tab of your browser then zoom in) I think you can see the curled up back of another possum inside the nest.

Here’s another view of the nest, with the possum sticking out of the top left of the nest:

What a cute face!

Australian Miner auditions for The Birds and Psycho

This little Australian Miner landed on a branch near me and started that incessant eep-eep noise that they’re renowned for. It’s as if the bird is auditioning to do the soundtracks for two Hitchcock movies at once: The Birds and Psycho.

Well? Do I get the job?

How about if I spin my head around. You know, like in The Exorcist?

No? OK then, on to the next audition…

Common name: Noisy Miner, also called Australian Miner

Scientific name: Manorina melanocephala

Approximate length: 26 cm

Date spotted: 3 March 2018 (Summer)

Approximate location: Allambie Heights, NSW, Australia: 33°46’23.3″S 151°15’43.1″E

Call of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Today I spotted a group of Glossy Black-Cockatoos, and I recorded a video so you can hear them chatting to each other. For two consecutive weeks I’ve seen a group of these birds at Manly Dam Reserve. I guess they’re the same birds each time, though on opposite sides of the dam. According to my bird book, this bird is reasonably uncommon, perhaps declining in number.

It’s a short video. As I was recording it, a bush ranger drove up and startled the birds. They flew off and came towards me, which gives you a good view of the orange-red flashes in their tails.

Last week’s post has still pictures of  a Glossy Black-Cockatoo, probably from the same group.

Common name: Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Scientific name: Calyptorhynchus lathami

Approximate length: 50cm

Date spotted: 3 March 2018 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, near Sydney: 33°46’49.2″S 151°15’04.1″E

Glossy Black-Cockatoo spotted near Sydney

Quite exciting! According to my bird book, this bird is reasonably uncommon, perhaps declining. It’s a Glossy Black-Cockatoo, and I saw three of them for the first time ever this morning.

The raised crest gives the bird a typical look of parrot curiosity:

In this photo, the bird did a bit of grooming and showed the orange-red flares in its tail feathers:

In our area we see a lot of the white sulphur-crested cockatoos. Occasionally the yellow-tailed black cockatoos pay us a visit, when their favourite trees are in flower. I’ve never before seen any of these glossy black cockatoos.

From underneath, the tail feathers look entirely yellow, white, and black:

In the photo below, you can see more of the orange in the tail, and the small crest on the bird’s head:

From the rear, the orange is more visible:

Another frontal view:

Common name: Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Scientific name: Calyptorhynchus lathami

Approximate length: 50cm

Date spotted: 25 February 2018 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, near Sydney: 33°46’36.5″S 151°15’18.2″E

Tree, moon, wind, and a serendipitous fruit bat

There’s no bird in this post. Just a restful scene of tree branches, a moon, a freshening wind, and a surprise appearance by a fruit bat in the gloom. I think the wind dislodged the bat from its perch in the tree.

Red-browed finch on Casuarina tree

A few of these pretty little red-browed finches were feeding on a tree as I passed this morning. This one sat still long enough for me to snap a picture. I think the tree is a Casuarina, also known as a swamp she-oak.

Common name: Red-browed Finch

Scientific name: Neochmia temporalis

Approximate length: 12 cm

Date spotted: 4 February 2018 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, near Sydney: 33°46’36.6″S 151°15’16.4″E