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Saturday, 13 February 2021

Random Memories of Australia - Part 6

      There are still interesting and colourful birds from Australia for a couple more reminiscences, and for which I have decent photographs, so here are a few  species to delight you. As always they are in no particular sequence and one bird holds no more (or no less) appeal for me than another. They are all wonderful!

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla)

     It might depend on whom you talked to whether Galahs would receive universal approval, due to their ability to do serious damage in a garden or orchard, but for me, unabashed, over-the-top bird lover that I am, every single encounter was unalloyed pleasure. 


     How could you not be thrilled at a chance to share your day with this beauty?
     Galah is widespread over much of Australia, sometimes occurring in quite large flocks.


     Like many frugivorous birds it has benefitted from the smorgasbord humans have laid before it, but by raiding fruit trees and consuming seeds and grain, it has not always endeared itself to us.
     Galahs in a group always appear to project a level of exuberance that smacks of the sheer delectation of life. I enjoyed the following observation by noted Australian ornithologist, Ian Rowley.

"Galahs give the impression of enjoying their lives to a much greater extent than most other animals. They appear to get real pleasure from the perfection of their flying, swerving in and out of the trees with a consummate skill quite superfluous to the mundane need of commuting. Swinging trapeze fashion from telephone lines, sliding down the guy wires of aerials and indulging in near-ecstatic display during the 'rain dance', are all unproductive but appear such fun."


     Who could resist the allure of this friendly, intelligent bird? Certainly you may count me among its most ardent admirers.

Musk Duck (Biziura lobata)

     It would be reasonable to conclude that most people, when contemplating waterfowl around the world, would conjure up images of beauty. From the familiar Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) to the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa); from the dazzling plumage of a Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) to the sleek elegance of a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), all would evoke grace and attractiveness. 
     And then there is the Musk Duck.....


     It could safely lay claim to being the most bizarre duck in the world. The male has a black lobe under the base of the lower mandible and stiff tail that often rests on the water. It is a stocky, powerfully built duck, and is not especially good-natured.
    The female is substantially smaller than the male and needs to be constantly aware of attack.

Musk Duck ♀

      Males are aggressive towards other species and do not hesitate to launch an assault on any bird that strays too close or seems to displease it in one fashion or another. 
     It is found in terrestrial wetlands and coastal waters, primarily in southeastern and southwestern Australia, including Tasmania


     In captivity it is hostile to humans and reacts wihtout provocation. On my first visit to Australia in 1998, Peter Fullager accompanied me to Tidbinbilla, where a male Musk Duck there was known as Ripper, having attacked a research biologist and ripped his jeans!
     Australia is renowned for the splendid and unique diversity of its wildlife; Musk Duck certainly makes the list!

Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)

     Australasian Grebe is a beautifully-marked little grebe, sooty grey overall with a black face and yellow eye and gape patch.

 
     It is widespread in Australia but found most commonly in the southeast.


     Like all grebes it is wedded to water, but exploits a variety of wetlands from small stock dams, river backwaters, and open spaces in swamps and marshes, to large open lakes.
     The male is slightly larger than the female.


     Prey, based on nine stomach analyses (1,226 identified prey) revealed Hemiptera (557), aquatic beetles (59) and their larvae (222), snails (76), and small fish (180).  
     Australasian Grebes appear to be unique in their regular consumption of snails.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

     This is the most common and widespread heron in Australia and we saw it frequently.


     Although usually found stalking prey in shallow water, it is an opportunistic hunter and does not eschew dry land where terrestrial invertebrates and small mammals may be captured. White-faced Herons are solitary feeders, and in wetlands where several individuals may be present, adequate spacing is maintained. 


     The white face is a distinguishing feature and imports a very handsome quality to the bird.
     In any wetland we frequented in the three states we visited we could rely on seeing White-faced Heron.


     And it was always a pleasure.

Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)

     In the last selection of Australian birds I featured Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) and we will now take a look at one of its sister species, Red Wattlebird.


      The red wattles from which it derives its name are clearly visible. The wattles become longer and more intense in colour as the bird ages.
      Red Wattlebird is bigger than Little Wattlebird and exploits similar habitats for food and nesting sites.


     Its yellow belly is prominent, both perched and in flight, and quickly differentiates it from the silvery-streaked underparts of Little Wattlebird.
     

     Red Wattlebird is acrobatic around sources of nectar and captures insects in mid air. It hops on the ground rather than walking.
     The diversity of Australian Honeyeaters is remarkable and wattlebirds are like no others.

Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)

     Crested Pigeon, a handsome species, is of relatively recent origin in southeastern Australia which is where we encountered it.


     Andrew Patrick, in his excellent Birds of Sydney reports as follows: 

"Two birds in a North Rocks garden in 1980 were thought very noteworthy at the time. Crested Pigeons are now one of the most common birds seen in parks, gardens and bushland all across Sydney". 

     In fact, it was one of the first birds we saw on the afternoon of our arrival in Sydney, at the Royal Botanic Garden, where the above picture was taken.
     For those of us in North America accustomed to urban pigeons and other comparatively drab birds, pigeons and doves found in Australia verge on psychedelic!


     We grew accustomed to Crested Pigeon, but never blasé about it. It was always a distinct pleasure to see this familiar bird.


     There are no less than fifteen Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) feeding on cracked corn in my snowy backyard right now. Oh to turn one of them into a Crested Pigeon!

     I hope that you continue to enjoy these posts on Australian birds. I think I still have enough passable pictures for a couple more. I am ecstatic to be re-living the experience in this way.      


74 comments:

  1. So many beautiful birds, I love them all, but the crested pigeon is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing these beauties, David, let's hope you can soon be out and about with Miriam and find more birds to deight us! Have a great weekend, hugs, Valerie

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  2. I've never seen a Crested Pigeon! He is great!
    It is true that the Australian Galahs are dying from the insecticide?! That's must be so weird!

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    1. Chemical threats in the form of pesticides, herbicides etc are a threat to many different organisms, Ella, in addition to birds.

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  3. Hello, David
    I would be thrilled to see all of these Australian Birds. The Galah is beautiful and I like the pretty Crested Pigeon. The Australian Grebe is cute and I like the White-faced Heron. Your total lifetime list of birds seen must be amazing. Great series of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

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    1. My life list is right around 3,400 species, Eileen.

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  4. Nice bird photos! Tidbinbilla was one of our stops on an afternoon outside Canberra with our academic hosts. It must be full of birds that have adapted aggressively to life with people -- a family of emus invaded our picnic site and tried to steal our sausages (not that unsuccessfully -- and it's quite a surprise to look an aggressive bird in the eyes). I'm not sure but I think one of the great forest fires devastated that preserve.

    be safe... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  5. Hi David.

    I enjoyed all these beautiful colored Birds and Ducks.
    It is nice to see these species in the pictures.
    Thanks for showing ..

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  6. You really have a gift for photography, You must be really anxious to get travelling once more! Thank you for bringing such beautiful photos to liven our day!

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  7. Each of these birds look fancy to me, seen from a Scandinavian point of view. But the Crested Pigeon stole my heart, she is really cute looking with that hair thing on her head!

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  8. Hari OM
    Thrilling as ever, David, to meet again some of the regulars of my background... d'ya know, though... I never did manage to see a musk duck and I think only ever twice in my thirty years there saw the grebe! YAM xx

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    1. If ever you return for a visit, let me know ahead of time where you will be, and I will try to line up someone to show you a Musk Duck.

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  9. Hola David. Como no vamos a disfrutar de tan preciosas aves, todas son hermosas. Las fotos y tu comentario excelentes. Muchas gracias. Un enorme abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

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  10. This has been such fun to read, and learn about birds which I'll never see in my life! They are beautiful, and the way coincidences come my way, the Galah was also posted by another blog (https://mydesktopdaily.blogspot.com). Isn't that a hoot? Or maybe a tweet...or chirp...

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  11. First, your last post included a splendid round up of our local birds. I never tire of looking at them. The image of the red barn in white landscape was a rather haunting one...red against white conjures many thoughts.
    Australia is truly blessed with the most interesting species. Their birds do not disappoint. Imagine that feisty musk duck! I had to look up hemiptera. Have a great day, you two!

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  12. Your photos are so beautiful I loved all of the birds. The Galah (rose breasted cockatoo) especially when we raised birds years ago we had a friend that had one for a pet-soooo intelligent and fun
    Happy weekend Kathy

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  13. Spectacular bird photos David. And quite a fancy pigeon!

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  14. Beautiful pictures ~ I laughed at the Mohawk on the pigeon ~ He looks like a rebellious teenager :)
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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  15. Hi David :) Thanks for sharing your photos again. All of those birds are lovely, especially that Crested Pigeon! Interesting about the Musk Duck, I love the his dark colours.

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  16. The notched pigeon is unmistakable.

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  17. I am glad to know we will be with you in Australia again.

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  18. I love birds with red patches, but never see any among my visitors.
    I do come upon aggressive birds,though. I manage to deal with them by demonstratively stopping the seeds scattering. I'm usually generous with seeds(quality and quantity) so this is effective punishment, and the birdies will somehow get rid of the aggressor among them.

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  19. Galahs are particularly photogenic.

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  20. I thoroughly enjoy this series - and while I see most of them often I am yet to see a musk duck. Mind you, our red wattlebirds are similarly aggressive. They challenge each other, bigger birds, cats, people...
    The white faced heron has social distancing perfected doesn't it?

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  21. The Crested Pigeon was very beautiful, David. I like doves. Your photos from Australia are great, and it's always nice to look back at older photos.

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  22. Maravillosas fotos! La cotorra rosada, el pato con carnosidad en la garganta y esa paloma con copete puntiagudo son alucinantes!

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  23. Thank you for sharing so many beautiful birds, a joy to see.

    I sincerely hope that we may soon be allowed to travel again ...

    Take care, and enjoy your weekend.

    All the best Jan

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  24. The birds and duck are stunning to see up close, I always enjoy seeing them. Thanks for sharing and have a great rest of the weekend.

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  25. David thank you for sharing with us these unique birds that you were able to photograph in Australia. As almost always happens on islands far from the continent, there are a lot of interesting endemisms.

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    1. Australia is probably at the pinnacle of endemism, Julio.

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  26. Encore de bien beaux oiseaux avec des couleurs somptueuses.
    Il est quand même bizarre ce canard et en plus il a mauvais caractère :D
    Bonne soirée

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  27. I have heard the name Musk Duck but can´t remember ever seen it. Fascinating bird :)
    Love your images of the little grebe and the Crested Pigeon. The pigeon seemed to be a common bird yet it was the one that I almost got no shot of at all. Finally I got a few shots before I has to go home. It was on my "must see" bird list. :)

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  28. Nice birds, the grebes are so cute.

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  29. Siempre son maravillosos tus recopilatorios, me encantan. Abrazos.

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  30. The heron, here, there, everywhere, is my most favorite bird.

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    1. I will have to be sure to post a few more throughout the year.

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  31. Your bird posts just make my day. You've sparked a memory about galahs. There was a "Rogue Flock" in the area of my golf club in outer Brisbane, they would swoop in and cause an unbelievable amount of damage. So when they were spotted heading in the direction of the golf club the call would go out to members to come quickly, armed with anything that might scare them off, although nothing that would harm them. That plan had limited success. When you see their crazy antics in action you understand how they come to feature so prominently in Aussie slang.

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    1. I was unaware that the term was used so pejoratively - and it seems misplaced to me. These birds are smart!

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  32. Good morining David,
    What a beautiful birds are living in Australia.
    Hope for you, you can go back one day to enjoy the beauty of this country again.
    Have a wonderful day.
    Marijke

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  33. The galahs are certainly cute and intelligent. We get their visits in the early morning pecking at the roots in the front garden.

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  34. It almost looks like birds decided to become odd when they came to Australia.

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  35. Just love our Galahs even though they can be destructive at times.
    All the birds are lovely that you have shown in this post.
    Always good to look back on the photo one has taken and share them for others to see.

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  36. The Galah is an extremely fine opener to this blog post, David. I believe that the word 'galah' is in relatively common usage in Australia as a derogatory term for a certain type of person. I can't see how the implied human characteristic equates with that of the bird, although it seems that the bird was named after the human trait!

    I never thought that I'd find myself being warned about the danger of the aggressive nature of a duck. Having said that, I'm not sure I'd instantly recognise such a strange-looking creature as a duck - are you sure??? ;-}

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  37. Hi David – loving these posts with the notes … I guess Galahs are wonderful to see – with their interesting life cycles. Also Ian Rowley’s descriptive paragraph gives us amusing mental images … Wonderful musk ducks – so interesting to read about. Also Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve … I hope it’s survived the fires …
    Then the grebe … learnt something about a ‘gape’ and later wattles from your notes on the Red Wattlebird – wonderful sulphur yellow underside. That heron is just beautiful and is definitely of a distinguished nature with its white face … and those crested pigeons – a very handsome species as you describe … Delightful post – thank you - Hilary

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    1. I will start working on another one today. It's great to have these archives, since we have not been able to venture too far of late due to lockdown. Conditions are being eased a little on Tuesday, so we'll see what happens next week.

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  38. Terrific David. If I were forced to pick a favorite I'd have to choose the pigeon ... why, I don't know. But the crest intrigues me.

    If you celebrate, happy Valentine's Day & thanks for joining us at I'd Rather B Birdin'.

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    1. It is not hard to get drawn in by that pigeon, Anni.

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  39. Galahs enjoying life must be a pleasure to watch and the colours are spectacular. The crested pigeon is a beauty. The musk duck looks puffed against the cold but that can’t be right. And the herons look similar to the Great Blues.

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  40. Otro precioso y gran reportaje amigo mío, y todo él es, como llevarnos de la mano y comentar ahora veréis... con esa extraordinaria narrativa de la que haces gala. Fabuloso y expectante a los dos capítulos que según cuentas faltan. No puedo decir me gusta un ave más que otra, porque, eso sería menospreciar de alguna manera la majestuosidad y belleza que poseen todas esas bellas criaturas que nos has mostrado.
    Un fuerte abrazo mi querido amigo, compadre y profesor David.

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  41. I liked the white-faced heron and the crested dove David. It is very clear how the birds of Australia differ from our northern birds.
    Hugs!

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  42. Very beautiful birds, although I'd rather not see the heron around my pond!

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  43. I can't get enough of your memories of Australia posts with all the wonderful birds.

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  44. They are all wonderful and photos of birds I will probably never get to see so I appreciate you sharing them. I appreciate you comment on my post from yesterday. I've deleted some of the pics and thanked you for letting me know I was probably showing a pitiful little sick bird. Enjoy your afternoon!

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  45. Crested pigeons are so pretty, but I love my mourning doves very much. Oh, to visit Australia...it was always on my wish list. I even had a pen pal there. You are so fortunate to have traveled to so many places. Such beautiful photos!

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  46. Great assortment of photos. Are the Grebes in Australia as elusive and fast as the ones on this continent? I was thrilled the first time I spotted and photographed a Grebe, but it kept diving underwater, and was hard to photograph. :-)

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    1. They do keep diving and are hard to photograph. You have to invest some time and be patient.

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  47. You have certainly been presenting quite a variety of the bird population in Australia, David. As many others, I have been enjoying not only the photos but the accompanying information.

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  48. P.S. If you like Mergansers, I have two posts that will pop out tomorrow (Monday) of male and female Hooded Mergansers. (I love the coloring of the males. And Mergansers seem impervious to the cold and ice.)

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  49. A lovely selection, the Heron, of course is a favourite!

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  50. The crested pigeon is beautiful! We visited the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary a lifetime ago and I think I might have seen a couple of these.

    Fabulous photos and accompanying information, Phil!

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  51. Love these posts but it makes me sad that I never had a good camera on our 3 visits quite a long time ago. There is little chance that another visit will ever happen now. If we can travel far it will be to the RSA. Keep well and stay safe, Diane

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  52. Birds of Australia always amaze me. I cannot believe such beauty flies free. Sue of Elephant's Child is always showing us snapshots of birds visiting around.

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  53. hello David
    dazzling colors and unusual birds for me as a non-bird specialist. The Australian series is great, I'm looking forward to the next ones.
    Greetings Frank

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  54. Ten lovely galahs are sitting in pairs, on the powerlines outside, as I read this post.

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  55. I'm rather fond of tht musk duck. He's not as flashy as so many of the birds here and your other posts have been, but he looks rather charming!

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  56. Hello David, again some amazing birds you show here. So different from what we see here in Europe and the colours are amazing. Your discription of behaviour and sounds they make is great to read.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  57. I enjoyed seeing your shots of our Australian birds David. The Galahs are everyday visitors in my garden along with the Rainbow Lorikeets, Corellas, Butcher birds, Mudlarks and even now and then the Crested Pigeon and Kookaburras. The song of the Mudlark is my favourite.The first time I saw a pair of Musk Ducks I couldn't believe the mating ritual, fascinating!My husband is the real birder in the family, he has the patience to sit for hours, I take a lucky snap now and then :)

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    1. I have to confess that Mudlark is new to me. It must be a colloquial name for another species. Even Google doesn't come with it though.

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