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5 Feb 2023

Swallow Shrikes

 Woodswallows are a group of Australian birds whose hunting  habits closely resemble those of shrikes - they perch up and launch themselves to catch flying insects or will pounce on prey items on the ground. They'll often eat their prey whilst still in flight. There are several species in Australia but the ones I've seen are the Dusky, White-breasted and White-browed Woodswallows. 

The commonest around where our daughter lives is Dusky Woodswallow and I was lucky enough on our visit to find several pairs feeding recently fledged young.



Above: Adult Dusky Woodswallow

Above & below: juvenile Dusky Woodswallow



30 Jan 2023

Owl Finches & Diamonds.

Australia has a number of 'finch' species and many of them are pretty spectacualr looking. One of the commoner ones I've seen in the past is the Red-browed Finch. We had a number of these coming to drink at the creek at the bottom of our daughters garden during our recent visit - especially on really hot days! 







Further afield, on my temporary adopted local patch, an area of bushland reserve designated I85, I found both Diamond Firetail and Double-barred Finch. Double-barred Finch are sometimes called Owl Finch due to their facial resemblance to the face of an owl. I didn't realise how scarce they were locally as I'd seen them a few years ago at our daughters first house about 30 km away. Whilst  in Australia I submitted all my records via eBird and gor an email fro mthe local breeding atlas co-ordiantor asking me to verify the sightings as it was out of the known range for the species. I was photographing Honeyeaters at the local dam when a Double-barred Finch flew in and landed on the fence in front of me.


I visited this area almost daily and always on foot as it was only 15 minutes walk from the house. On subsequent visits I saw a total of five Double-barred Finches including several juveniles. A nice breeding record and one that caused a minor local twitch with people travelling from nearby towns to see these birds and the Diamond Firetails.






The first Diamond Firetail I saw was in a a weed filled field feeding on seeds on the ground. 



A subsequent trip had one coming to drink at the dam and from there on I saw them almost daily  and again proved breeding locally with sightings of recently fledged young.







Juvenile Diamond Firetail

It was amazing to see these colourful little birds and I slowly began to pick them up on call. It was nice to contribute to the local breeding atlas and to enable local birders to see this species, some of whom had never seen them before. 


25 Jan 2023

Going off the Rails

With a freshwater creek at the bottom of the garden our daughters place in Australia attracts a few water birds. Last year I was lucky enough to see two fully fledged Buff-banded Rail chicks feeding out in the open  - see here.

After some particularly heavy rain one day I noticed an adult rail hanging around long enough to run back inside and get the camera. The reason for its reluctance to go far was revealed when it started softly calling and a small black fluffy chick joined it. Both birds disappeared under the fence separating the garden from the surrounding Crown Land and vanished into the long vegetation.




Realising it was coming to feed in the early mornings, before the garden got to busy, I staked it out and spent a happy hour watching this normally skulking denizen of creeks, dams and wetlands meander around the vegetable patch!











They're beautiful birds and remind me a bit of Water Rails in the UK in the way they become habituated to human disturbance and become quite confiding.







20 Jan 2023

Of Galahs and other parrots.

Australia is justifiably famous for its parrots. I'm lucky enough to visit here almost annually but its only since retirement I've managed to do more birding!  A lot of the commoner parrots and lorikeets are common garden visitors but they still make me smile when they turn up.

The commonest ones we see here are the Galahs. A gaudy confection of pink & grey that fly round making a racket or can be seen feeding in local paddocks. Sulphur -crested Cockatoo's are also regular as are 'Yellow' Rosellas which are a sub-species of Crimson Rosella.

Galah
Yellow Rosella

For comparison heres a photo of a crimson Crimson Rosella.  







Red-rumped, or Grass, Parrots are also fairly common but very flighty and generally had to photograph.

Red-rumped Parrot

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

By far the commonest are the Eastern Rosella's 

Eastern Rosella.

Theres a site not to far away where Turquoise parrots can sometimes be seen but so far I've not had any luck (I've only been once!) I also took a short drive to see some local Superb Parrots - an endangered species which this area seems to be a local hotspot for. I saw three but they were too far away to photograph. I've also seen two Little Lorikeets at the local dam and several Little Corella's flying into roost in the evenings. 

Little Lorikeet




Its amazing to see these generally large and brightly coloured native birds flying around and I'm hoping to add a few more species to my Australian list.








11 Jan 2023

Honeyeaters & local rarities.

Australia is home to many species of Honeyeater ranging from the positively gaudy to the drab 'little brown jobs'. I've found myself a temporary local patch within walking distance of our daughters reserve. Its a remnant of protected bushland designated Chiltern I85 Bushland Reserve and has a dam adjacent to the road leading to the local cemetry. If you've birded in Australia you'll know that dams are natural water run offs that are dammed to hold water when it rains. Along a small water course you'll find loads of dams and the water is used for irrigation and livestock. This one has the added benefit of being adjacent to the bushland and is a magnet for thirsty birds coming to drink.

I walk the site most days and submit all my records via eBird to the local breeding bird portal. I've already had three species 'flagged' as either being rare or out of range which shows the benefit of working a small local area. In particular the dam attracts loads of honeyeaters and so far I've recorded Brown-headed, Yellow-tufted, Black-chinned (locally rare), Fuscous and the ubiquitous White-plumed Honeyeaters.

Black-chinned Honeyeater

Black-chinned & White-plumed Honeyeaters

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Fuscous Honeyeater

Black-chinned & White-plumed Honeyeater

Above & below: Yellow-tufted Honeyeater


Brown-headed Honeyeater

As well as these smaller Honeyeaters the dam has attracted some of their larger relatives  - both of which are pretty ugly to be honest - Noisy & Little Friarbird.

Little Friarbird

Noisy Friarbird

Other species I've had 'flagged' include Satin Bowerbird as the area is apparently out side the usual range (although they're known to be 20km away) and Double-barred Finch which, again, I've seen where Amy & Jeremy used to live:

"The species you reported was flagged for review and is unusual for this date and/or location. Could you please edit your checklist to add field notes or a description of the bird in question and other information about how you identified this species? Essential things to cover include size, shape, color pattern, behavior, vocalizations (if heard), and habitat. Notes on how similar species were eliminated are especially important".

In all cases I've gone back and attached photos to my eBird submission.

Female type Satin Bowerbird

Double-barred Finch (sometimes called Owl Finch)

I've also been lucky enough to see several Diamond Firetails. These are really stunning little birds and extremely photogenic.





With the temperatures hitting a blood thickening 37 C here by midday most of my birding is finished by 11 am with perhaps an evening walk before it gets dark.