Little Visits: When I Grow up I want to be a Black-shouldered Kite

Ha!  Kids today have such ambitions.

For the queasy of stomach, time to click away.

This is just about straight out of the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” archives.

It was a cold wet morning. However #kneetoo was keen to see how the little Kingfishers were progressing, and we only had a narrow space in the ‘very busy’ diary.

Knowing they had been on the wing for several days, our probability of anything other than a chance encounter were slim to say the least.

Nothing around the now abandoned nest site, nor by the old blackened stump training ground.

I managed a sighting of a small blue blur in the forest and headed over for a looksee.  And sure enough a young one perched among the branches of a black wattle.

Then with no warning, an adult turned up with quite a large bundle.  And at first it was difficult to make out.  Not a large skink or beetle.
Are they really legs, or is it a fish tail I could see?

Then she flipped it about in the air and it was a mouse! No way!

At first the young one didn’t seem all that interested, but after a few more flips and attempts to turn it round so the small end would go down first the adult presented it to the young one.

Now on an aside, your average field-mouse is around 20gm. Your average grown Sacred Kingfisher might come in a touch over 30gm.  So I’m guessing the little dude was at best, 25gm.
UPDATED: HANZAB give the bird a weight of 55g which would be a more reliable weight I think.  Still give the little dude 35gm and it’s going to be a 55gm tubby blue blob for awhile. 🙂

It took the mouse head first, not headfirst, even that suits. 🙂

And so began a 10-15 minute battle for the young one to eventually ingest the mouse.
On quite a number of occasions, it had to stop, and I guess catch its breath, or simply rearrange the internal spaces to make space.

A couple of times it began swaying back and forth on the branch, and I feared it was going to choke and fall off the branch. Not much in my skill set for resuscitating a downed Kingfisher.

And slowly—very slowly—the mouse began to disappear.

After it was all over, a tubby little kingfisher gave a few shakes of its body, to rearrange all the feathers and no doubt the internals, and then sat. More likely squatted.

A few minutes quietly sitting to let the digestion process begin, and a tubby blue blur sped off through the forest.

Where is Ripley when you need him?

Little Journeys: On the Road Again

Life I love is taking pictures with my friend.

Here we are a week or so out of a nearly 4 month lockdown. Depends of course where you start counting, but we were in one of the ‘naughty’ suburbs, so our privileges were removed a bit earlier than the rest of the city.

For EE and I, a run down to “The Office” was always going to be high on the must do first list.

So given a halfway decent burst of sunshine and we were off.

The one thing that we noted first was the amount of grass that covered normally bare areas.  A distinct lack of large kites, Black and Whistling, and how well some of the smaller scrub birds had done getting an early nesting in.

So in no particular order.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet
Purple-crowned Lorikeet pair.
Sad to report that the old branch has since parted from the tree trunk, exposing the nest, and they have moved on somewhere else. They have been loyal to this spot for at least the past four seasons.
Purple-crowned Lorikeet. Protecting its nest from marauders
Little Lorikeet. This one led me a merry chase through the leaves. I could hear it, but it just wasn’t easy to see.
Happiness is… A White-browed Scrubwren with tucker for its young.
Looks like the Dusky Woodswallows has swept in while we were in lockdown and already had a clutch of young on the wing
Most interesting find of the day. Juvenile Fantail Cuckoo waiting to be fed.
Fantail; Cuckoo and its hosts, White-browed Scrubwrens.
The adult Cuckoo must have been very clever as I always find these little birds among the most wary.
Higher up the track on the cliff line, a pair of Australian Hobby are re-nesting in a familiar spot. More to come on their progress I think.
The age old battle of David and Goliath. The immovable object v the irresistible force.
Both have much at stake with young to be fed.

 

Little Visits: Hard Work Pays Off

Now that we have the chance to get out and about, well at least for 25km, it might seem strange that I’d start off by posting some activity on the river where we’ve been doing our daily walk.

Two things have become apparent on our little journeys.
Firstly: How many Magpie Larks are at work on nests or have already flown young.
Secondly: The numbers of Willie Wagtails, all with nests quite close to one another, 50m or so is not unusual, and they have all begun about the same time, and most of them are now fledging, or soon will be, their first clutch. And surprisingly for Willies, none so far seem to have suffered predation by larger birds.  We have about 6 nests for sure, and several others that have yet to be discovered.

It was time to take a look at how things were going, and to our delight one pair had managed to get their three young on the wing, either that morning, or the day before, as the young were still ‘getting their wings’.

Another pair, with perhaps the best nest location, under an overhanging branch now overgrown with a creeper, also just got their two on the wing. They seemed content to hop from branch to branch among the creeper and the branches.

Enjoy

2010-27_Z50_3013
One of two that have been on the wing for about 5 days.
Time for a food top up.
An adult with their three young aeronauts.
Still with short tails and rich brown markings. The short tail doesn’t stop them from “Wagging”.
Time for a food topup
And down it goes.
tough shot. Two just fledged and still really only branch hopping.
Overlooking its important charges. This is one of the adults with the branching young.

Little Couch Visits: On the trail of growing Black-shouldered Kites

Added the “Couch” heading to my normal visits and journeys.  We are as it happens, at home on the couch, iPad in hand.

So come with me on a journey back in time. Shades of “Back to the Future —another couch-time activity.

We had been, in early Feb and March, working with a pair of Black-shouldered Kites at nest. The day the first lockdown took effect, the young had only just flown. And then we didn’t see them for over three weeks. By then they were well advanced.
It was a bit of a missed photographic opportunity as the nesting site lended itself both from great light and open areas, for some really clear shots of the birds as they began their life on the wing.

Time passed, and restrictions lifted and we went back to the usual haunt to see if they were still around.
No. Well gone.

A couple of weeks later we returned with Flame Robin arrivals in mind.
EE spotted way, way, way down the paddock—even for her— a flash of white in the sky and declared that the young kites were probably way down the fence-line in the distance.

Robins, or Kites?
We set out along the fence-line.
The mice population among the bracken must have been very good as all three quickly scored a meal while we were approaching.
They settled down in among some of the small trees to enjoy a feast.

Out of nowhere, Dad arrived on the scene and took station on one of the higher branches.  But rather than welcoming him, they harassed him for food.

However he wasn’t taking any orders. His Uberfood days were over.

The interesting thing that we noted was the colour change, each one was well into moulting the subtle grey and white and the ginger colours were being replaced.

I guess having some more time at home, I can work through the files and find some images, or sets that normally I’d just leave to mellow on the disk.  A  tweak here, a slider or two there, a brush on a mask there, and ‘hey presto’.

Enjoy

Remain.

The Doona Hermit.

They were down in a tree-line, and it took EE awhile to locate them
Perhaps pretending not to be there. It is starting to replace the juvenile feathers with the adult grey.
Easy to see how the grey adult feathers are moulting in
Dad dropped in to see how they were doing and immediately they all thought he should be hunting for them.
Fully able to look after themselves
Not a good idea to knock Dad off his perch
Feed me, feed me. That look on his face says that he is not hunting any more for them.
A Hunting We will Go
Hunting like the professional it has become

Little Visits: Charming Sittellas

Mentioned a trip a few weeks ago to the You Yangs.
One of the highlights of the morning was an encounter with a family group of Varied Sittella.

These charming little birds are not always so easy to find, and because of their hyper-active approach to feeding, are always on the move.  It might be I guess that they have to search through all the bits of loose bark on a branch looking for a tid-bit, and with so many birds all at work at the same time, its really the quickest down the branches.  Sittellas have an unique approach to feeding, starting at the top of the tree and then working their way down.  Treecreepers on the other hand, usually start lower down and work upwards.

What was interesting is that this family had several young, recently fledged with the party.  The young ones preferred to sit together and preen, while the adults did all the work.
They moved so quickly that we lost them for a short time, and while we went right, they apparently had gone left.
Big Rock is just what it says, a very big rock.  There is a track around the base, and its about 20 minute stroll.   The birds were working primarily in Black wattle that grows up along the base of rock. When the rains come, good water flows from the rock, but at other times, the area is particularly dry  so much of the wattle never grows to maturity.  Which suits the insects that the Sittellas feed. So it works all round.

Enjoy.

Typical pose, going down the branches
Every nook and cranny gets a good going over
No doubt a favourite game. Looping a branch
Some of the young ones that were happy to sit together and preen
Its always impressive to see the underwing colours on these birds

Gottcha!
Hard to see the rich colours on the wings while they are folded, but impressive in flight

Little Visits: You Yangs on Sunday

One of the first times EE and I have been out just looking about.
We had been hoping to find some Eastern Yellow Robins, and or some evidences of the Scarlet Robins at the You Yangs, and EE also wanted to visit her water feature near the Big Rock carpark.

In the end, the big surprise was a family of Sittella,  and their young recently fledged clan. I’m going to do a separate blog on that encounter.

In the meantime in spite of all the disaster that is around, and the challenges of the rest of summer ahead of us, it was good to see the birds had new life on the way.

Silvereye at the Water Feature
Young Australian Magpie engaged in some serious preening, while reminding the parents of its presence.
One of several juvenile Grey Shrike Thrush working in the area
A Yellow-faced Honeyeater waits, nervously and politely for its turn at the water.
Varied Sittella, circling the branch
Two young Varied Sittella preening and resting while the family feed nearby
A young Scarlet Robin, one of the first we’ve seen in many months. Presumably its a male beginning to moult in.
Spotty the Pardalote. This is the male that I showed feeding his young on my Flickr steam.
Well not every shot is a winner, but I rather liked the colour set of the Sittella wings