Blog Archives

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

Musk Lorikeets feeding and chatting

A tree outside our house is in flower, and attracting many avian visitors. This is the first time I’ve seen a Musk Lorikeet. They’re pretty little birds, very fast moving and well camouflaged amongst the green leaves. They chatter to each other constantly, often making a pleasant trilling sound. For some reason, that sound makes me of a phone ringing in a sunlit roof-top apartment.

You can also hear water running down the hill, as it’s been raining a lot recently.

Common name: Musk Lorikeet

Scientific name: Glossopsitta concinna

Approximate length: 23 cm

Date spotted: 27-28 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

In this second video, an Australian Miner joins the lorikeet in the floral feast. The miners and lorikeets usually have a bit of a squawking match over feeding territory, but they managed to co-exist on the same branch for a short period.

The loud chirping you can hear is a Rainbow Lorikeet flying by. (There’s a picture of one further down in this post.)

Musk Lorikeets are mainly green, with a red mask around the eyes, a blue cap, and a yellow stripe along the wing:

Musk Lorikeet

They never seem to stop moving! This one stood still for a short time, but you can see it’s thinking of launching itself into the air any time:

Musk Lorikeet

Other visitors to the tree include Rainbow Lorikeets like this one:

rainbow lorikeet

They’re much more common around here than the Musk Lorikeets. Also Currawongs:

currawong

Blue puffballs: Male Variegated Fairy-wren and partner

Two Variegated Fairy-wrens dropped in for a flying visit. The most visible one, with electric blue feathers, is male. The female has softer colouring, with blue tail feathers. Their excited chirping drew me to the window in time to make a quick video.

Common name: Variegated Fairy-wren

Scientific name: Malurus lamberti

Approximate length: 13 cm

Date spotted: 13 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

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

 

Two chirpy Variegated Fairy-wrens

Followers of this blog will know that I’m building up a collection of pictures of fairy wrens, bit by hard-won bit! They’re tiny little birds that like to flit around the undergrowth, granting observers tantalising glimpses but not much more.

These two female Variegated Fairy-wrens were out in the open for a few seconds, which has to be some kind of record. They’re chirping sociably to each other as they hop along next to a bush path.

Common name: Variegated Fairy-wren

Scientific name: Malurus lamberti

Approximate length: 13 cm

Date spotted: 12 February 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’47.9″S 151°15’02.7″E

Willie Wagtail attacks Raven

Australian Ravens are big, fierce birds. Willie Wagtails are round little balls of fluff with a faintly ridiculous habit of waving their tails around. But don’t let appearances deceive you. Willie Wagtails are plucky, if reckless. This one took objection to the spot a raven had chosen for a perch, and pestered the larger bird until it flew away.

The characters:

  • Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys),  approximate length 20 cm
  • Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides), approximate length: 50 cm

Date spotted: 29 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’35.0″S 151°14’48.5″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