Short Stint at Long Reef.

On a day when we visited North Curl Curl Beach and Long Reef Headland, we saw a lot of birds, including three species we’d never snapped before.
At North Curl Curl, a Little Black Cormorant was being photogenic in the distance:

Willie Wagtails like to hang around the rocks and the pool at North Curl Curl:

This Australasian Darter was minding his own business when an Australian Raven took exception to his choice of perch:

The Ravens arrived in numbers, and ructions ensued:

The Darter decided it wasn’t worth the hassle:

The usual suspects like New Holland Honeyeaters, Little Wattlebirds, Superb Fairy Wrens, Indian Mynas and Crested Doves were all in evidence.

At Long Reef headland, we saw a Nankeen Kestrel hovering and diving on the wind:

Two Eastern Ospreys were also on the headland, keeping an eye out for fish:

Out on the rock platform, we saw the familiar sight of Sooty Oystercatchers, with those bills that always look to big for them to fly with:

Then Dave Noble, also at Long Reef that day, pointed out to us the Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes), the first time we had encountered this handsome migratory shorebird, that nests in Siberian riverbeds and travels to the southern hemisphere for the Northern winter. By all reports, they tend to leave Australian by early to mid-April to return North, so we were probably very lucky to see these in April.

This one foraged closer to the edge of the rock platform, where the chop made for some interesting water shots:

As the shadows began to lengthen, we spotted this string of birds flying low over the platform:

When they alighted we were able to get a few shots. At first we thought they were two parents and some chicks. But we soon realised the size difference was due to the fact they are two separate species that just enjoy each other’s company! This was our first encounter with both species.

The larger of these is the Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicintus), a migrant from South Island New Zealand who can be found all along the southern and eastern coasts of Australia from February to August. These are in their non-breeding plumage – when breeding they have a double band across the chest, one chestnut one black.

The smaller of these birds is the Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis). Like the Grey-tailed Tattler, they migrate from Siberia too. They are usually identified by being the smallest common bird amongst Australian wader flocks.


Sweet Pretty Creature.

When birders attempt to render bird calls into English to make them easier to recall, sometimes the results can be somewhat surreal. It’s been said that the Catbird’s call is “Heeeere I aaaaare!”. The call of the Little Wattlebird has been given as “Fetch the gun! Fetch the gun!”, and some say the Spotted Pardalote is chattering “Tough Titty”. By comparison, “Sweet Pretty Creature” for the Willie Wagtail’s dominant phrase seems perfectly fitting.

The Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) is Australia’s largest and most well-known fantail (the cutesy name means it is one of the first birds that children can reliably identify). It is also the most widespread, being found throughout the mainland. It is not found in Tasmania.

They are also conspicuous – feeding on the ground in wide open spaces (lawns, parks, paddocks, playing fields). They dart after insects in short, staccato bursts, always wagging their tail from side to side when they alight (to flush further insects, it is thought). Insects can also be taken in flight after short, acrobatic chases.

We think the Wagtail’s prominent, sharply-angled supercilium (eyebrow) always makes it appear a little belligerent:

Anecdotally, in the mythology of some indigenous peoples, the Willie Wagtail was thought to be an eavesdropper and a snitch – loitering at the edges of camps listening to conversations, and spreading the secrets it heard far and wide.

The nest of the Willie Wagtail is a small, neat cup of grasses and spider webs woven together, usually lined with whatever soft materials can be found. It has been reported that Willie Wagtails will even collect soft animal hair directly from the backs of animals if other soft material is in short supply. The nest can be re-used for a number of seasons, and we have read that a Willie Wagtail will sometimes deconstruct a nest and use the same materials to create a new one: knock-down and rebuild!.


Luncheoning Lakeside.

Bramanda is fortunate enough to work about 1.5km apart at North Parramatta. When we can coincide lunchtimes, we will occasionally nip over to Lake Parramatta. Here are some things we saw last visit – all without even getting up from the rock we were sitting on.

Lake Parramatta is a lake formed by damming Hunts Creek in 1856 as a water supply, but is now used only for recreation. It is surrounded by a 73 hectare Nature Reserve, and is home to many birds, lizards and snakes.

Not a bad haul for a quick lunch break!