Along the Track: Growing your Wag Tail

Always a great fan of Crosbie Morrison’s radio program “Wild Life” of the 1950s and 60s.
Took me many years but I eventually found a copy of his book, “Along the Track”
So thought this year I might use it as a way of honouring the influence he had on so many listeners. Always fascinating as a little kid to hear what had been sent into him, packed in cotton wool in a matchbox.

Perhaps it was part of my desire to not only see things in the bush, but to really get to know them closely.

Such, is a family of Willie Wagtails.

Now that all the Black-shouldered Kites have left the area, and the Australian Hobbys have fledged and are already making all-day forays out over the paddocks, and the young of Brown Falcon, Cassia, of Cinnamon are now self-sufficient, it’s been a lot harder to find the ‘usual suspects’

I’ve noted before that Wagtails had a very bad start to the season. Been hard to find any that weren’t washed or blown out during the foul weather a few weeks back. When the only protection is clever placement of the nest and a finely woven spiderweb cup, it doesn’t take much to bring the project undone.

One pair had two lots of bad luck. (Perhaps three, as there is some debate about the possibility of an earlier nest we didn’t see).

The first nest was built in the open, and had no protection from the elements. A quick shake of the head and no time for moping about, they got straight back into a new nest. This one was pretty well protected under the leaves, but exposed to the edge of an open paddock and when the rains and winds came, like the three little pigs, the nest was pretty much blown upside down.

Quick off the mark, they returned to the scene of the first nest and relaid the foundation and built a new one. For those that follow Monty Python, it’s a bit like Willowshade in “The Holy Grail”

When I first came here, this was all swamp.
Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them.
It sank into the swamp.
So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp.
So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.
But the fourth one stayed up.
And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all this Isle.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

So Swamps aside, here are some of the highlights from the third and successful nesting


This is the industrious action on the second nest site. Regretably the rain and wind tore it from the branch before the young were hatched.
Refurbished first site. Most of the nest had gone, but you can see where they reinforced the foundation and then went on.
This time the weather was much more kind. She is sitting up a bit higher in the nest this time and the young must have hatched a couple of days previously.
The nest was well sited behind the trunk of the tree to avoid prevailing winds. (Do you think they know that stuff?)
No Secret Now The young keep a very low profile and hardly move around
Nothing to see here.
She sits on the young ones to keep them covered. As they grow, they tend to stick out from under her feathers.
Cozy, but now overgrowing the tiny cup
They get constant visits with food
I’ve always been fascinated about how they know which is the next mouth to be fed. It’s more than just the loudest or largest as each gets a fair share
We missed them flying, but this is a couple of hours out of the nest, and a bit bewildered by the big world around. But still, even with a tiny tail, able to Wag successfully
A couple of days later and this one is quite at home among the branches.
Two weeks on the wing, and with a well grown tail, ready now to take on the world. Go little Wagtail

8 thoughts on “Along the Track: Growing your Wag Tail

  1. A wonderful narrative of persistence. Did they know about the wind and how to protect the nest, did they learn by trial and error and will they remember for next time!
    A fine series of images illustrating the struggles and eventually their success.


  2. Great story and images, Dave. Like David N, I too wonder how weather savvy they are, but they seemed to learn about reinforcing the damaged nest, so that showed some thought about the construction, or should I say, reconstruction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rodger, there seems to be two types of nest making, one is out in the open, in all weather, the other seems to be much more secure under leaves and bushes. (or a garden shed if available). Both can be successful, both can lose the clutch.
      Came across one the other day under a cyprus pine. Would have been dry and cool no matter what the weather.

      The more we know, the less we understand

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eleanor, they really go do at it with total commitment. And having the chance to have a number of clutches does give them advantage.
      Currently just around here we’ve seen 10 nests, 3 young each, either just fledged or ready to go, and at least one of the pair is back sitting on a new clutch.
      Can’t fault their enthusiasm.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely success story for the Wagtails David. Perseverance and strategy are required for survival, and these birds are so persistent and conscientious, they will not be defeated. What a great spirit they show. In my first book I state: Be Brave like the Willy Wagtail. Love the nest photos, as small as the nests are, it is always intriguing how all the youngsters fit in there. I saw Woodswallow nest the other day and it was tiny, yet they all fitted in. The Jackie Winter takes the cake for me in size. Beautiful pics of the stronger designed nest, the nestlings and feeding, all amazing captures, but we loved your first frame of the adult with nesting material standing at the nest while their partner was on the nest. They show great teamwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ashley, bit slow getting back to you. The very first Wagtail nesting I followed to photograph, ended in tragedy. One day it was fine, the next day predated, probably Ravens. The Wagtails seemed to fly abouat aimlessly that morning.
      The following day, hard at it collecting web and beginning again. They flew four from that clutch.
      We have not seen any Woodswallows in the usual locations this year, so perhaps the weather has kept them further north.

      Liked by 1 person

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