Birds of Paika.

During our stay at Paika Station we encountered many birds. A large colony of Welcome Swallows(Hirundo neoxena) were roosting beneath the various eaves of the station buildings, and were a constant companion wherever we roamed on the station, even sitting on the verandah with us for afternoon ‘wine-time’.

A new bird for us: the White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus). It is Australia’s largest and stoutest-billed woodswallow, widespread and common in North and North-Eastern Australia, it is a summer migrant to inland New South Wales, but is rare east of the ranges, hence we had never photographed them before.

Willy Wagtails and Sparrows were of course also there:

As soon as we arrived at Paika, and for nearly all the daylight hours of our stay, we heard an unfamiliar but lovely call. We tracked it down to this guy: the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida). He is easily distinguished from all other doves by his pale blue orbital skin.

And speaking of melodic calls, the introduced English Blackbird gave us plenty of song.

The Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris). The adult male below has the white bib and rufous underparts separated by the thick black band. We take the less rufous ones below to be juveniles as the adult female is also more rufous in her underparts (though less so than the male).

The White-plumed Honeyeater (Ptilotula pencillata) is common in inland riverine areas, less common on the Sydney coast. It mainly eats insects from foliage or from the ground, but will feed on nectar when available (as here).

Another new bird for Bramanda, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) was helpfully conspicuous. Looking a but like a small Wattlebird, his bright pink bill is diagnostic among the honeyeaters. He has a wide repertoire of calls.

Another Honeyeater that we had first encountered at Mungo National Park – the Singing Honeyeater (Gavicalis virescens) was also present at Paika.

The whole region is home to many Black-shouldered Kites (Elanus axillaris). As they are semi-nomadic it is often said that their presence indicates an abundance of prey – mostly rodents, but also lizards and insects.

Common across nearly all of Australia, the Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) was raising chicks in the arm of Lake Paika that was behind our accommodation.

A family of Black Swans (Cygnus atratus):

Sticking to a far-off corner of the lake, the Pink-eared Duck (Malacorynchus membranaceus) was difficult to photograph, even with the big lens. Luckily, his zebra-stripe plumage and almost cartoon-like bill makes him easily identifiable. (By the way, the name comes from the tiny pink patch behind the eye which is almost impossible to see… we are frequently amazed how many birds are named for the most inconspicuous part of them, when they have many more salient and unique identifying features!)

The common Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicullatus) proved as photogenic as they always do:

Also proving elusive, secretive and difficult to photograph was another new bird for us – the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus). The dagger-like bill and the back-tipped chestnut cheek-frills (also called “tippets”) are unique and unmistakable, even from the distances these guys were keeping. They are almost totally silent too – apparently only calling during mating displays).
The Grebes were one of the highlights of the trip. We fell in love with these guys pretty much instantly, and only regret not getting better shots.

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