Blog Archives

Pardalotes nesting and dancing

Pardalotes are tiny, neat little birds that usually spend very little time in one spot. So when I was walking along a bush path this morning, I was surprised when a female pardalote kept flitting up to a branch near me and stopping to peer at me. She’d also twitch from side to side, as if dancing.

Then a male bird arrived and fluttered from branch to branch around me. Then another female.

They didn’t seem worried, just attentive.

It dawned on me that I might be near their nest. Pardalotes are unusual in that they nest in holes just above ground level, usually dug into in a bank of earth. So I looked down towards my feet. Sure enough, there was a series of entrances dug into the bank near my ankles.

The nesting tunnels are nicely shored up by a strong wooden pole provided by some obliging person. Just the ticket for a pardalote home!

I moved a few steps further down the path, then stopped to watch. Now that I was out of the way, the birds were happy to visit their homes again. I saw birds popping in and out of two of the tunnels. The short clip below shows one of the female birds balancing on the slope outside a nesting hole, then flying away:

The video below shows the female flying away from the tunnel entrance, then returning and going inside, then there’s some footage of the male bird on a nearby branch. This is the only shot I managed to get of the male:

Another shot of one of the females:

And another, from a different angle:

Here’s a general shot of the bushland around the birds. An open forest of eucalypts and banksia. What a lovely place to live, even in the midst of a Sydney winter:

Common name: Spotted Pardalote

Scientific name: Pardalotus punctatus

Approximate length: 10 cm

Date spotted: 1 July 2018 (Winter)

Location: Manly Dam National Park, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’26.9″S 151°15’00.3″E


Red Wattlebird nest may be in peril

My previous post introduced the nest that a pair of Red Wattlebirds have built in a tree fern in my garden. Things are looking a little perilous for the nest. The tree fern has put in a growth spurt, its new fronds lifting parts of the nest into an untidy jumble.

This is what the nest looked like yesterday. Notice the new, brown fern fronds unfurling in the midst of the grey matter that forms the birds’ nest:

Compare that with the photo I took a week earlier, on 22 December, as shown in my previous post:

The parents still seem attentive. I’ve seen them flit in and out of the nest. Here’s one of them grabbing nourishment yesterday, from the nearby Banksia that seems to be their principle source of nourishment while nesting. The ghastly noise in the background is the cicados, who are out in full force this summer:

Birds are quite handy with their beaks and feet. I hope they manage to push the nest and eggs into a safe place as the fern tree grows.

Common name: Red Wattlebird

Scientific name: Anthochaera carunculata

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 29 December 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, near Sydney, Australia

Red Wattlebird nesting in a tree fern

Red Wattlebirds are the second largest honeyeaters in Australia. They’re noisy, aggressive, and sleekly pretty. And now we have a couple nesting in our garden.

I’d noticed recently that a Red Wattlebird was more aggressive than usual. It started swooping at me when I was hanging up washing. At the best of times, hanging the washing is a precarious activity in my backyard. It involves a bit of rock climbing and a skilled balancing act. Add a fierce bird, and things get interesting.

A few days later, I noticed the bird land on a high branch, take a careful look around while trying to appear nonchalant, then duck quickly into the top cover of a tree fern. Interesting. So I got out my zoom lens to take a look.

The nest is in the right-most tree fern in this photo. I’ve put up my washing line on the left, for local colour:

(In case you’re wondering: the house up above belongs to the neighbours. Mine is below, not in the picture)

A closer view of the tree fern:

Even closer, you can see the nest with a bird’s tail pointing out to the right:

Occasionally the parents leave the nest unattended. I haven’t spotted any movement, so I think the eggs haven’t hatched yet:

The birds have picked up some of the Spanish Moss from our garden, and used it to decorate the nest. This is our supply, handily positioned just a few metres from the tree fern:

Sitting on a nest is demanding work. One of the parents emerged for a good stretch:

And a bit of grooming:

Then dived down to sip some nectar from a Banksia tree, which we’ve also positioned just a handy few metres from the fern tree. In this picture you can see the two red wattles below the beak that give the bird its name:

Here’s a picture of one of the local Red Wattlebirds on a nearby tree a few days earlier. It’s likely to be one of the nesting birds, though I don’t know for sure:

Common name: Red Wattlebird

Scientific name: Anthochaera carunculata

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 22 December 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, near Sydney, Australia

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

Bird nest with blue trimming

This tidy little bird nest was resting at about knee height on some spiky grass. I guess it must have fallen out of a tree, though it’s possible a bird built it there. I didn’t touch it, so I don’t know how well bound it was to the vegetation.

It’s interesting how the bird wove a piece of blue plastic ribbon into the nest.

Bird nest with blue plastic ribbon

I don’t know what type of bird made the nest. It was at Manly Dam, near Sydney, Australia.

Caterpillar nest high in a tree

Wandering through the bush looking at birds in my usual fashion, I saw this clump of something high in a tree. I zoomed in and took a photo. That’s when I discovered that the something is a web full of caterpillars! I’m deducing they’re caterpillars from the well-nibbled state of the nearby leaves.

Caterpillar nest

Date spotted: 24 September 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’45.9″S 151°14’59.4″E