Over the past few weeks along the river area at Werribee River Park, (The Office), we’ve been waiting for the Willie Wagtails to get into their nesting season.
Normally quick off the rank for a bout of nesting, the Wagtails around The Office seem to have been particularly slow in making the first move.
Not that I blame them, as about 8 pairs we worked with last year, built a nest early, and were washed out with rain. They rebuilt, only to have a second storm cell come though about a fortnight later and once again wash them off the branches. After a couple of weeks they started again, and as luck would have it, a third storm ripped through and again devastated their efforts. By the fourth clutch, we were well into summer and most seemed to raise this round. At one stage there were over 30 young juveniles all flitting about together as mum and dad worked on a fifth clutch.
This year, they seem to have taken the approach: Wait till the storm season is behind us.
And about two weeks back, we were thrilled to hear the nesting call of as many as 8-10 pairs as they worked away building in various locations from highly concealed among the leaves, to desperate, out in the open. Nothing is going to get us.
Just a few days back a major weather event washed most of them off and they have had to regroup and start again.
One enterprising pair, had managed to get as far as having young hatched and were feeding. But, the rain was so insistent, that when I went to look, the nest was gone. The young, I thought, would have no hope as they were just beginning to put on real feathers, and had no hope of flight or even being able to move about independently among the branches.
But, Wagtail persistence and the fight for life is not to be miscalculated by the human species.
To my delight, I found two of the clutch perched on a small stick just off the ground. Somehow or other, the adults had managed to get the young from the destroyed nest and up on to the small stick, on a “Y” branch they were snuggled down just as if they had a protective nest. Not yet able to fly, but they certainly didn’t look to worse for wear.
I checked again the following days and found they were now able to move among the branches, but not yet fly as the little wings were still just tiny sticks with featherettes on the them.
A couple of days later, and it took me a few minutes to locate them as they had moved on to another set of small shrubs across the park, and now they were quite the aeronauts. Flight comes easily to a Wagtail I reckon. Even though they were only on the wing a day or two, the twisting and turning of the adult, and the wagging of a yet to develop tail were all in evidence.
A good finish to the week.
On Mum and Dad.
6 thoughts on “A Little Wag Tale”
You really have to admire their grit and determination not to be beaten by mere weather. Great story of survival and of course lovely photographs. Thanks for sharing.
You have to admire their tenacity. We worked with several pairs a couple of seasons back, and they just lucked each time. One pair fledged at least 12 young for the season.
The early starters run the risk of the weather turning against them, but sometimes time is on their side.
Great tale, as is expected and they are gutsy little bitds in more ways than one, beautifully illustrated by your photos and story.
Thanks for dropping by to read and enjoy. They have the best attitude. Just get on with it.
What a beautifully told and illustrated story David, of Willie and wife , and the determination and endurant qualities which serve to encourage us to press on to achieve our goals and not let disappointment get in the way. Love you pics and captions, beautifully done, good enough to write a children’s book.
G,day AB. I used to say a few seasons back, “Everything I know about life I learned from two little black and white birds, — Willie Wagtails”.
They were the first pair I ever seriously followed. Open nest, close to a track and carpark, low down, many predators (ravens and magpies, because of the frequency of the human use of the park), yet. In spite of all that, they just kept going. I think they lost about 3 clutches, before finally flying 4 young right in the middle of a heat wave just before New Years Day. I’d just gotten my new super duper long lens (a Tamron 200-500mm) and went out to try it out, and lo. I was able to get them as they came of the nest. Somehow or other they managed to survive a run of 40degree plus days.
She went on to lay and fledge two more clutches that season.
I think she was just skin and bone by the end of the season. 🙂
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