From the Field Notes Book: Little Wag Tales

The weather here was not kind to the first clutches of Willie Wagtails. Those birds that started early ran into extreme conditions and as the nest is mostly spider-web and at best minimally attached to the branch, rain and high wind inevitabley took their toll. Some Willies brave it and have nests on open branches, while others adopt a more sheltered approach. Some will work on just a branch, while others go to the extreme of working on a branch junction and get the support of several branches, and even a vertical one which does give them extra support as it seems easier to bind the spiderweb tightly.

But little Wagtails grow fast, (about 14 days from hatching to fledging) and they soon overwhelm the tiny nest.

One pair we’ve been monitoring of late, has built their nest under the branches of a old, small, Peppercorn Tree. However it is right alongside a very busy walking track, and a few steps from a picnic/rest/viewing area. Wasn’t hard to find them. And they seemed unconcerned about the human presence. We try not to get too close or get in the way, and they just go on with the important job of first sitting, and then feeding.

I do get complaints from time to time that we are obtrusive and break the ‘rules’ of not photographing nests and it only encourages others. So, just to set the record.
No photo is worth stressing a bird.

If we aren’t invited to be there. We don’t. Willies pretty quickly establish the boundary rules.

This pair, had chosen both the place and the time rather cleverly. She had nested through the last of the storms and the three young hatched just as the weather picked up, so they have had about two weeks of no rain and winds. Interestingly, on the day that these young flew, the weather turned nasty again. But they should survive in the thicker pines nearby.

Let’s see how they progressed.

We found this pair well inside a small old Peppercorn tree. Took a while to work out as one flys in, the other flys out and it would fool many a casual observer.

Little tiny mouths to feed. Not much more than 3 days old they have very long necks to get the best food. The Peppercorn fronds kept a safe fine veil over them
Just a few days old, but already the nest space is at a premium. Everyone just sits very still
Five days later and they are well on the way to filling the nest.
Tiny wings needs stretching and its means that your siblings have to put up with your need for space. The tiny wings are still in the sheaths as they begin to unfold
One of the most amusing things is the tiny tail. While they quickly learn the Wagtail ‘wag’, the little feathers seem a bit inadequate for the job.
Flight Day. When we passed by in the morning they were still huddling together, but the adults were much more conspicious and noisy than usual.
The adults sat on branches outside the bush and offered encouraging wingflap signs to the young. When all were out they escorted them, to safety, into some thick pine trees down the river bank.
One out and two to go.
The first flights were to a branch at the far side of the tree.
This one needed a bit of encouragement before it too stepped up and was gone.
A perfect landing for a first attempt
Something special about a little Wagtail that is out of the nest and has all the world before it.

6 thoughts on “From the Field Notes Book: Little Wag Tales

  1. A wonderful and amazing gallery of images, David!
    You were privileged to be allowed to see the development of the chicks!
    So good that they made it through!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Eleanor, there is not too much else around at the moment, and the Willies all seem to be at work trying to make up for lost time.
      This pair were low down so easier to work with. I think they chose the spot as a large umbrella pine was half way down the river bank, and it was going to provide a good safe spot for the young once they were on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful collection of Wagtails nesting David, they certainly are survivors with such resilience to last through the wild weather. Love the nest shots of the babies all packed in, and the lovely open wing shot. So much new life around at present, it is great to see that some birds are doing well this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Ashley, the season was a bit of a bad start for most Willies. Too much wind, and dreadful days of rain.
    But they got a break in the weather and they certainly didn’t waste any time getting started

    The nest was down low as the old tree is down the side of a river cliff so we were pretty much looking straight at them


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