Blog Archives

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

Crimson Rosella feeding on bottlebrush seeds

Usually when you spot a Crimson Rosella, there’s another one close by. This time, though, I could only see one. It was contentedly nibbling at the seeds on a bush – a bottlebrush, I think. [Update on 24 April: It’s not a bottlebrush, but Scrub She-oak, Allocasuarina distyla. Thanks to Carol Probets for the comment!]

The male and female Crimson Rosella look very similar, with the male being larger. I don’t know whether this one was male or female.

Crimson Rosella

These birds are so pretty, even though this one was moulting, so a little shabby in places.

Crimson Rosella

From the rear, the feathers are quite intricate in pattern:

Crimson Rosella

Common name: Crimson Rosella

Scientific name: Platycercus elegans elegans

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 12 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.4″S 151°15’11.8″E

Darter drying wings then taking off

At first sight I thought this bird was a cormorant, but it’s actually a darter, also known as a snake bird because of its long, snake-like neck. Darters are related to cormorants, and also to boobies and gannets. They swim fast under water, hunting and impaling fish with their formidable long, thin beak.

Like cormorants, they sit on shore with their wings spread to dry. After I’d been watching this one for a few minutes, it decided to take off and fly over the water. It’s interesting to see how low it flies, with the wing tips actually tapping the water as it goes.

This pose reminded me of the ballet, the Dying Swan:

Darter posing as Dying Swan

Here you can see the characteristic chestnut colouring at the base of the darter’s neck:

Darter posing as Dying Swan

Common name: Darter

Scientific name: Anhinga melanogaster

Approximate length: 90 cm; wing span: 1.2 m

Date spotted: 12 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’49.6″S 151°15’05.7″E

 

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