Snapshots: A Most Valuable Commodity

It’s been dry. Last decent soaking rain was over 2 months back.
Its dry.

EE is getting on quite comfortably with her walking aid, now dubbed “Dolly the Trolley”. So she said, that we might take a trip down to the You Yangs, and have a walk on some of the tracks around the carpark. Sounded good, but its dry, very dry.  So I didn’t have much hope of finding many birds.

Suitably loaded with morning tea and a banana smoothie, and securing Dolly into the boot of the car, we set out.  And what a fine morning the weather had put on. No wind and an enjoyable warm sunshine.

We arrived at the carpark at Big Rock and Dolly immediately sprang into action. First sighting was a Nankeen Kestrel, then a Brown Goshawk, and two families of White-winged Choughs. And to my amazement, the Scarlet Robin pair that normally are in residence.  Off to a good start. Dolly is good about this, as EE can go to a spot, and instead of having to stand or sit awkwardly on a log or stone, Dolly is ready and willing. So a comfortably seated EE is a happy EE.

While she sat in the shade, I looked about a bit to see if any of the usual suspects were about. By the time I got back, EE was under a tree, near a piece of pvc pipe running out of the ground. And a red plastic cup! (?)

She had noted a couple of wrens inspecting the pipe, and concluded, rightly so, that it sometimes held water, and the birds were looking for a drink.  Enterprisingly, she located the ominous red cup, filled it from the handbasin at the toilet, poured it into the end of the pipe, so the water dripped out slowly into a tiny pool she had created among the rocks, and…

Add water—Instant Birds!

They must be able to smell it.
Or hear the tinkle tinkle of it dropping. But within a few minutes, she had quite a mixed flock on hand. Only problem that the water was only good for a couple of minutes. Which is when I arrived.  Now, we’ve seen the pipe dozens, if not hundreds of times, and never taken a lot of notice. But from the location, I figured it was the run-off from the handbasin at the toilet block.  Let’s see. Hold down the tap, let a couple of litres of water run down and go see.
Slowly a tiny trickle of water appeared, and then a stream.  And before you could say, “What a waste of Water!!!!”, we had flocks of Red-browed Finches, Spotted Pardalotes, New Holland Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, White-naped and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, a few familes of Superb Fairywrens, Brown Thornbills, Red Wattlebirds, and two bossy Magpies. Then to top it off both Scarlet Robins made a quick appearance.

So, we sat, occasionally egressing to push some more water down the pipeline, and drank a cuppa, enjoyed the fun, and felt pretty happy that they were able to enjoy such a precious commodity. When a few Crimson Rosellas came by to inspect, we thought we were made. But the Rosellas didn’t stay. Likewise a passing Grey Fantail, but being photographed was not on its todo list.

Satisfied with a morning’s work, and two memory cards bulging with images, it was time to leave. I gave the tap a run for an extra minute or so and didn’t feel the least stressed about ‘wasting’ water.  The birds were more than happy.

We loaded EE and Dolly back in the car and went for a well-earned coffee at Gary’s at the local servo.



The Red-browed Finches seemed to enjoy the water running over them.
The Finches seemed to have no trouble working out where the water was coming from
Silvereyes were happier to drink from the ground
A Striated Pardalote watching the bathing.
Interestingly the wrens seemed to be able to time the droplets and catch them in midair, just like insects I suppose. This one was taking advantage of the stream.
One of several White-naped Honeyeaters.
This is how you enjoy the water.

Brown Thornbill after a bath
New Holland Honeyeater using its long tongue to sip up the amazing nectar
Anytime you add water and New Hollands, you get the inevitable and rowdy discussion about whose turn is it next.
When the Magpies showed up, everybody else took off.
Spotted Pardalote Male
Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were very cautious about approaching with two cameras pointed at them
Oh, oh, please, just one more drop, one more drop.

EE’s Water Feature

One of the down sides of moving across town has been our loss of ready access to the Woodlands Historic Park.  In particular a stand of Sugar Gums that held all sorts of interesting birdlife.

It’s also probable that you recall that EE (Eagle-Eyed for the uninitiated), had established a Water Feature in the gums and would on a regular (daily) basis keep the small plastic container filled with fresh water over the hot summer months.  Not to attract the birds for photography, but simply to give them some relief.  “If only one bird ever drinks from it, it will be worth the effort,” quoth she.

As it turned, as you may recall, a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins became quite attached to EE and her water feature, and would follow her into the forest and then with much calling  would head for the water feature when she came along.   It was, at the very least a noble gesture on the part of the birds, and to tell the truth was quite spine tingling to hear two little birds get all excited and eagerly await her arrival.   (Now its not time to lecture on ‘dependant’ birds, as they were the ones who chose to live in the dry area in the first place. )  Besides, its pretty humbling to have two Eastern Yellow Robins sitting about a metre away watching the water being poured into a tiny dish.

We have been working a part of the Grey Box forest in the You Yangs almost for two years.   Early on in our visits, EE established another ice-cream container water feature besides a log.  But, we don’t have ready access, and it is only visited occasionally, and once in three weeks would be more the norm.  So it hasn’t been possible to build up any permanent relationship with the inhabitants.  And as EE readily acknowledges, “Its most likely the little Black Swamp Wallabies that take the water, as the container is often misplaced.”

Still  with more patience and determination, every visit sees a bottle of water left for the locals.  And we had really never seen the locals make the pilgrimage to the area.  Perhaps a passing Flycatcher would be the most likely suspect.

We went in today to look to see how the pair of Eastern Yellow Robins are going with their young fledgling.  And of course to topup the water.


What happened next is the source of great delight and much mirth.

At first we continued in the hunt for the Robins, and I found a pair of Weebills that were working through the tree tops.   Then. First one, then another, then another bird dropped by the log and checked out the water.

Within a few minutes a bold Grey Fantail had dropped into the water and began the splashing.  Which acted like a ‘Jungle Drum’.  The sound of water on whirring wings must have some sort of magnetic attraction.  The sound went, as they say on You-tube, “VIRAL”, and birds came from all around.  Including the two Eastern Yellow Robins, more thornbills than I could count and ‘my’ pair of Weebills.   Each waited in turn, (not much room in an ice-cream container). and after a few minutes there were wet feathers everywhere drying in the sunshine.

Then just as quickly “Jungle Drums” played another tune and they were gone!  Leaving two photographers with the widest grins, and filled memory cards.

I can see another trip down there very soon.


Eastern Yellow Robin waiting, you can just see the other one at the bottom of the frame in the water.
Eastern Yellow Robin waiting, you can just see the other one at the bottom of the frame in the water.
Patiently waiting its turn, the Weebill had to watch the spray flying from the activity below
Patiently waiting its turn, the Weebill had to watch the spray flying from the activity below
Eastern Yellow Robin, soaked, not stirred
Eastern Yellow Robin, soaked, not stirred
Bold enough now to make the plunge
Bold enough now to make the plunge
Weebill drying off with Grey Fantail being typically hyper-active
Weebill drying off with Grey Fantail being typically hyper-active
Brown Thornbill.
Brown Thornbill.


You’ll find some more pics by the Water Feature Manager over on EE’s Flickr site.
See here.

Friends in the Air on Flickr