Blog Archives

Black cockatoos in love

These two Black Cockatoos seem very much in love. They’re carefully grooming each other’s heads. Other birds in the tree are making the crooning noise that I’ve heard before around this time of year. I suspect it has a lot to do with spring and the mating season.

You’d need to trust someone, to let them near your head with a beak this size!

Common name: Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Scientific name: Calyptorhynchus funereus

Approximate length: 65 cm

Date spotted: 3 September 2017 (Spring)

Location: Manly Dam National Park, NSW, Australia: 33°46’46.5″S 151°15’00.4″E

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Peek at a male Fairy-wren

I’ve had a bit of luck recently spotting Fairy-wrens darting through the undergrowth. You can usually hear them chirping, rustling, and trilling, but it’s rare to see one stay in one spot long enough to film them. Here’s a male Variegated Fairy-wren showing off his spring plumage:

Common name: Variegated Fairy-wren

Scientific name: Malurus lamberti

Approximate length: 13 cm

Date spotted: 3 September 2017 (Spring)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’52.6″S 151°15’08.2″E

Australian Miner in dawn chorus

I’ve often wondered which bird makes that series of piercing calls that are so characteristic of the Sydney dawn. Now I know. It’s the common Australian Miner. This bird makes a lot of noise during the day too, though the daytime calls are different to this dawn song.

Common name: Noisy Miner, also called Australian Miner

Scientific name: Manorina melanocephala

Approximate length: 26 cm

Date spotted: 31 August 2017 (Early spring)

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

Song of Figbirds and a scary story

In a previous post I showed pictures of some Figbirds that have recently taken up residence in a patch of trees on my route to work. The birds make a lovely variety of noises, so I took my camera in again to make some videos with sound.

Here’s the scary bit of the tale. There I was, head in the clouds, filming the birds, when a man suddenly started shouting and swearing at me. He ran across the park towards me and stopped right in my face, uttering all sorts of expletives. “What the f*** are you doing? Get the f*** out of here!” and so on.

I was totally amazed and rather scared. He started making chopping motions with his hand, saying repeatedly that he was going to smack me, and then that he’d smack the camera out of my hand. At first I thought he might be concerned I’d been photographing him, though that’d be odd since I was quite clearly aiming very high in the trees.

Next he started pointing wildly at the camera. “What’s that? That’s not a camera. That’s a zapper. You’re harming the birds. I see you. You’re hurting the birds.” And so on. So, some sort of mental illness, I guessed.

I was scared that if I turned around, he’d hit me on the head. I said calmly that it was just a camera, not a zapper, but that I was going anyway. He continued windmilling his arms, and I still didn’t feel safe to turn my back to him. I said again that I was going. He was still being very aggressive. So I said, “I’m going to go now. Not because I’m doing anything wrong, but because you’re a horrible man.”

Well, that may not have been the wisest thing to say, but it did bring him up short long enough for me to turn and walk away fast. Then he became totally apoplectic, jumping up and down and shouting with fury. But I was safely away, though I do confess I kept turning around and checking he didn’t follow me for quite a while.

Anyway, here are the videos. In the first one, you’ll see a couple of female birds and hear the other birds all round them:

The second video shows a male Figbird making a slightly different call:

The third video shows a few birds in the rain. This is when the man ran across the park and threatened me (though there’s none of that in the video):

Common name: Figbird

Scientific name: Sphecotheres viridis

Approximate length: 28 cm

Date spotted: 31 August 2017 (Early spring)

Location: Pyrmont, Sydney: 33°52’06.5″S 151°11’52.2″E

Making ripples

Early morning at Manly Dam, near Sydney. I think the bird is a Eurasian Coot, but it’s too far away to be sure. One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever I publish a more philosophical type of post on this blog, there’s a coot in there somewhere.

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

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