Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More West Wyalong photos

Several days ago I showed a few birds "up close and personal". They were photographed during a bird banding session near West Wyalong, with a senior, registered bander, Mark Clayton. The Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme is administered by the Federal Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The scheme operates on a "trap, band and release" protocol.

Two Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa) were caught on the last morning, just before we packed up. They were swimming on the dam, and as we approached the net near the dam, the birds flew away from us and straight into the net. They were quickly removed from the net and banded. Such a perfect strategy - you would think we had planned it! Although Black Ducks are well known from this site, it turns out that these were the first of this species to be banded at this site, where banding has been conducted since 1986. Something of a thrill.
Mark about to release the two Pacific Black Ducks together.
The wing panel on the Pacific Black Duck has a panel of feathers
which produce what is known as a "structural colour".
The colour is caused by optical interference owing to
reflection of light between very fine barbules in the feathers.
The colour is not caused by pigment.
In this case, the colour appears to vary
between green, blue or purple, depending upon
the angle of the sunlight and the position of the viewer.
My Blogging colleague "Snail" has written about this before.

And in another link, my Blogging colleague David Young has just published some very nice images of a Goanna he found near Bermagui.

This Goanna - a "Lace Monitor" (Varanus varius) had climbed up a Mugga Ironbark Tree (Eucalypt). It was very close to a net, and we were keen not to allow it to find any birds in the net, nor to get caught itself. Fortunately it departed the scene peacefully.David's blog shows the powerful claws on his Goanna. Mine has its claws partially hidden in the deeply furrowed bark of the Ironbark Tree.
Note the large amount of "spare skin" on the neck of this animal. Does this mean it was desperately in need of a good feed? Quite possibly - the country was very dry. The most obvious food supply around for them was Meat Ants nests, many of which had been dug into - either by these guys or possibly Echidnas.

This next bird is an Inland Thornbill, (Acanthiza apicalis) which is a close cousin of the Brown Thornbill. It is a tiny bird. It has the dark red eye, typical of this group of Thornbills. It has fine scalloped markings on the forehead, and a strongly coloured brownish rump.
This is the well-named White-browed Babbler.
(Pomatostomus superciliosus)
Here it is as seen from the rear view.
Note the white tips to the tail.
Babblers are noisy birds, which tend to hang around in family groups, they build large domed nests of sticks reminiscent of the "drays" which the little Ring-tailed Possums build. But these are inland, dry country birds.

Here is the bird I most wanted to see, in the hand, last weekend.
It is a typical bird of the inland, dry country scrub,
especially where Callitris ("Cypress Pines") are growing.
It is a spectacular male Red-capped Robin - (Petroica goodenovii).
From the rear, you can see the distinctive wide band of white in the wing (adjacent to the body) as well as the white horizontal flash, typical of most of the Petroica group of Robins.
Here is the female Red-capped Robin.
She is much paler than her partner, but I guess that
makes her better camouflaged when on the nest.Normally the female Red-capped Robin has a tinge of red on the forehead, but this individual did not. She was very keen to take off, and so we let her go as soon as possible.

Another Thornbill - this time the
Yellow-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa)
They are sometimes known (informally) as "Butter-bums"
as that is the colour you see as they fly away.
This bird shows the black forehead and white spots
which are typical of this species of Thornbill.

For a change of subject, I could not resist photographing this tiny caterpillar which was hanging from a tree above me, via a fine thread of silk. The caterpillar was swaying around my eyes, swinging back and forth on the breeze. It was quite small, about 2 cm long.
Here is a lovely small parrot, the Red-rumped Parrot,
(Psephotus haematonotus)
or "Grass Parrot" as I knew them when I was younger.

The image on the right shows the bird flying away,
which is when the red rump is seen best.
The green head and chest of the male bird
is a really bright emerald colour.
It has a bright lemon yellow belly.
Females are drab, and nearly invisible on the ground.
This is a bird of the treetops - sitting on its nest!
It is the Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera).
It is a lovely little bird which typically
works its way down tree branches - in opposite direction to
Tree Creepers, which go up trees.
Click to enlarge the image.
The nest is made of cobwebs and fine grey bark.
It is a beautifully constructed deep cup placed on a forked branch.
The bird has an orange eye ring which is visible in this image.
Its brown head is pointing away but the bird was looking back at me.
The heavy striations on the under-tail coverts are visible
poking over the right hand side of the nest.
When flying these birds have an orange stripe visible in the wing.


Mosura said...

Great post! Love the robin. How many (bird) species did you see out their?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura.
Glad you liked seeing some dry country birds. We banded only one other species, the Chestnut-rumped Thornbill. I did not photograph it as we were a little concerned for its welfare, in the heat. However, when I released it, it flew away strongly.
Sorry, also forgot Rufous Whistler.
Beyond that, there were other large Parrots, Choughs, and Apostle Birds, Ravens. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters as well.
In the neighbouring areas, we saw Blue Bonnet Parrots, Major Mitchell (Pink) Cockatoos
We were disappointed in the condition of the country, and the low number of birds. But the birds we saw were interesting to me, coming from wet forest country.
Very few raptors, though, which worries me, as the wheat harvest is in full swing.
Have the farmers poisoned our Kestrels and Brown Hawks, indirectly through controlling mice?

Tyto Tony said...

Good to see thornbills up close: I never could tell most of them apart - and that was when eyes worked well. Solved problem: none up here. :-)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Tony.
You said:
"and that was when eyes worked well. Solved problem: none up here. :-)"
No eyes, or no Thornbills?
You have Geryones and female Wrens though. They're pretty hard to tell apart, for me.

mick said...

What a great experience to see all those birds that close and to get good photos as well. The robin is magnificent! Hope I see one sometime.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
You can see why I was hanging out for one of the Red-caps to be caught. They are what I would call "ridiculously beautiful".
Glad you enjoyed it too.