Meeting the “Lesser Fascinating Bird”: Beginning an Apprenticeship

I love Jacky Winter.  There.  I’ve said it. Now you know.

There is something about these little birds that just resonates with me.  They are not the most brilliantly dressed, they don’t seem to perform mighty deeds, and they have a fairly limited song routine.
They have a charming and endearing gentleness and unhurried approach, that just fascinates me.

Jacky hunts robin like by sitting quietly then pouncing on prey on the ground.
Jacky also hunts like a flycatcher, hovering over the ground while surveying for movement below (Boles). At one time in history, it used to be called the “Lesser Fascinating Bird”.  (Boles again) ” As used here, ‘fascinate’ meant ‘transfix and hold spellbound’. from the belief that the hovering action mesmerised the prey…

I’ve talked this over with several pairs of Jacky Winter, as to why they should be called ‘lesser’, but on each occasion, the little bird’s reaction has been to glaze over its little eyes and settle in to the perch without further concern.  So I figured they don’t care what they are called.

Buried in their scientific name is ‘fascinans’,  – fascinating.   Microeca translating as tiny house (Cayley)

Jacky also has a somewhat predictable habit of landing on a perch and then wagging its tail back and forth, (think Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail).  They also seem to perch down on the branch resting their tummy on the branch.

Jacky’s tail edge is white, and it makes quite a show as it lands and then flicks back and forth.

It’s most melodic tone is a somewhat plain “peter, peter, peter” And it has been reported to be among the very first to herald the dawn chorus. A second chitter is much more a scolding call, and Mr An Onymous loves to remind me of the day we were working with a pair and after 20 minutes or so, Jacky had reached its limit.  And I got a really severe lecture, and no further pictures for the day.

Truth be told. EE and I were on a mission.  We wanted to locate a pair of Scarlet Robins.  They are locals to the area and he has featured in the blog before, long suffering reader that you are, you might just remember the shots of him attacking the ‘bird in the car’  reflection at the carpark!
We’d not seen much of them this season, and at least one nest had not been successful, nor had we seen any evidence of new birds in the area.

As we searched, we came to a opening in the forest near the track, and two Jacky Winter were hard at work.  At first they were if nothing, disdainful, at having intruders. But it only took a minute of so to settle and A little bit of patient sitting and both birds were happy to provide various poses.

Then one of those great ‘rites of passage’ moments, and Jacky flew by me, circled about and landed about a metre away. The gracious little bird had accepted me.  And then I was able to learn of the ways of the Lesser Fascinating Bird.  It hunted on the roadway near my feet, looped up to catch insects and chatted away quietly to the second bird.

I know I talk a lot here about Jon Young’s approach, and sometimes it seems fanciful about the bird’s acceptance of my presence.

As we were working on a branch about 2m from the track, a dog was being walked down the track.  Instant alert from Jacky 1 and response from Jacky 2. And remember this happened with the bird on a branch about 3 m from my position.

“Hey, did you see the dog?”

Yes, are you alright?

Yep, I’m up here in the branches.

Is it coming off the track?
No, don’t think so.

It’s passing by now, are you safe?

Yep, I’ve that silly human photographer in front of me., I’ll be alright.


Dog’s going by.
That’s a relief.

Yep, Ok.

Jacky watched the dog go up the track about 50m or so before it dropped its head and continued on with hunting.

Fanciful.  Of course.  But, what ever happened, the Jacky was on high alert for the dog and completely comfortable with my presence.

Oh, and we eventually found the Scarlet pair. But.  That’s another story.


Contemplative Jacky
Contemplative Jacky
How to make any ordinary post look extraordinary. Put a Lesser Fascinating Bird on it.
How to make any ordinary post look extraordinary. Put a Lesser Fascinating Bird on it.
Jacky on a Wing-stretch. The sign of a very relaxed about my presence bird
Jacky on a Wing-stretch. The sign of a very relaxed about my presence bird
A model with a thousand poses.
A model with a thousand poses.
Jacky closeup. I'm sitting on the ground and it came up to my feet
Jacky closeup. I’m sitting on the ground and it came up to my feet
What a about a nice chat?
What a about a nice chat?
Jacky in colour
Jacky in colour
On Dog Alert. It watched the dog come by, and kept it in sight until it was well up the track.
On Dog Alert. It watched the dog come by, and kept it in sight until it was well up the track.
Minimalist Jacky
Minimalist Jacky





8 thoughts on “Meeting the “Lesser Fascinating Bird”: Beginning an Apprenticeship

  1. Have been following your blogs for quite a while now David, and really enjoying them – keep up the great work as it fits seamlessly with your photo’s stories – a thousand words to go with the picture 🙂


    1. Extra happy that you dropped by, and enjoyed Jacky. Try to find some words that add that little extra sparkle and info to the shots. Wasn’t all that hard here as Jacky really did do most of the work. All I had to do was work out the most expressive of the images to tell the story.


  2. G’day David. I’ve enjoyed your Jacky Winter story immensely. I do love them too, those lesser fascinating birds, so your little story of the little bird (beautifully illustrated as usual) is just what I needed at the end of the ordinary Monday. Thanks!


  3. Loved the story, especially the part where they checked back and forth that all was okay as the dog went past. Wonderful to be accepted as part of the scenery! It says a lot for your patience and skill. Thanks as ever for sharing your experiences and lovely photographs.


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