Great birding moments #34: Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Two days ago I wrote about the birds we saw at the hippo enclosure when we visited the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo recently. One species I didn’t mention was the Superb Fairy-wren because I wanted it to have its own post. Today’s photos feature a male bird in full breeding plumage plus one shot of a female (see below).

There were several birds, both male and female, hopping around the viewing platform at the hippo enclosure. I tried hard to get a few photos but they were constantly on the move. This is typical of this species; it makes effective photography a real challenge.

As we returned to our car – the open range zoo is a “drive yourself” experience – a male Superb Fairy-wren was fluttering around the car next to ours. The photo above shows him on the roo bar at the front of the vehicle. He was very agitated and ignored me only a metre or so away from him. He then flew many times at his reflection in the car’s window (see photo below).

 

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren attacking its reflection in a car window

A number of Australian bird species display this aggressive behaviour. Thinking that their reflection is an enemy attempting to take over its territory, the male bird will attack its own image many dozens of times. Not only do they attack the reflection in the windows of a car, they can also be attracted to the outside mirrors, shiny hub-caps, shiny bumper-bars and any reflective surface. A few years ago our resident Willie Wagtail was attracted to the mirrors on our car. Day after day for periods up to a half hour it would attack the mirror, leaving a very unpleasant residue on each mirror in the process.

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Some of the species which display this behaviour include Australian Magpies, Willie Wagtails, Magpie Larks, finches, honeyeaters, and ravens and crows. A few years ago we had a Little Raven in our garden which was annoyed by its reflection in our bedroom window glass. Every morning around dawn it would come and peck loudly on the glass. Being suddenly woken in this fashion at such an early hour was not very pleasant, and we were pleased when it  moved on and no longer came knocking well before our normal time of rising.

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

This post is #34 of a series called Great Birding Moments. I think the title is self explanatory. Sadly, it is over six years since the last in this series, so I think I will have to rectify that in the coming months. You can access a list of the articles by clicking here.

Female Superb Fairy-wren

Feale Superb Fairy-wren

Birds of the hippo enclosure

Hippopotamus, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Hippopotamus, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

I think that the hippopotamus is a fascinating animal, but I will resist the temptation to write about it. After all, this site is about Australian birds, so… here we go.

The hippo enclosure a the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo in New South Wales is a huge one – much larger than enclosures you will see in most zoos. It gives the animals plenty of room to move and live in a more natural environment than would otherwise be the case in captivity. As a part of this provision, the hippos in this zoo have a large water feature to enjoy – it’s really a small lake and they must feel really at home.

Being a water feature, it naturally attracts water loving birds. Two which were hard to overlook were the Little Pied Cormorant and the Little Black Cormorant, both shown in photos below. I’m not sure how many fish they would find in the murky water of the hippo lake, but there they were.

Little Pied Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Pied Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Black Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Black Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

As we were watching the cormorants and the hippos I noticed a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo perched high in the branches of a nearby tree. I’m not sure if the cockatoo was checking out the availability of water from the hippo lake, or looking for a hollow to make a nest. Perhaps it was on guard, ready to warn the flock feeding on the ground of approaching danger.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

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Click to enlarge

Watch your back, duck

Australian Wood Duck, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Australian Wood Duck, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

I was amazed at the danger this Australian Wood Duck had placed itself into. It was quietly grazing on the grass in the African Wild Dog enclosure at the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, and with its back to the pack sunning themselves about 30 metres away. They are cunning hunters and quite capable of sneaking up on an unsuspecting, tasty meal like a duck. I guess that they are well fed and have no need to chase after wildfowl, or any other birds which stray into their enclosure.

This reminded me of a guided tour we had a some years ago through our local Monarto Zoo, just 10km from my home here in Murray Bridge. The tour bus was slowly moving through the cheetah enclosure when the guide announced that the cheetahs loved running at full speed and catching the local ravens or magpies before they could get airborne again.

I decided then that I would never try to outrun a cheetah!

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

 

Time for a sweet break

Yellow-throated Miner feeding on a banksia flower

Yellow-throated Miner feeding on a banksia flower

The various species of banksias are often well favoured by our native birds and especially our many honeyeater species. Banksias are often bushes or small trees with dense foliage, ideal for many of our smaller birds like finches, thornbills and the like because the leaves provide shelter from predators such as hawks and eagles. The dense leaf cover also provides ideal protection for nesting sites.

Banksias are also good producers of nectar in their many large flowers. The flower shown in the photo above is on the smaller side; many are much bigger. The Yellow-throated Miner, one of the many honeyeater species in Australia, obviously loves this one. The photo was taken in the grounds of the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales.

Welcome Swallows everywhere

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Welcome Swallow, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

In our extensive travels in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales in recent years I have often observed Welcome Swallows. They are a widespread and very common species throughout their range in eastern, southern and parts of western Australia. In recent  months I have often seen a dozen or more flying above our garden, indeed, more often than in many previous years.

Not often, however, have I had the opportunity to photograph them up close. They don’t sit still very often, preferring to keep flying and feeding on any flying insects there might be around. More than once I have hoped for a pair to set up home under our veranda where it would be easier to get photos. They had different ideas, of course.

It was with delight then, during our visit to the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo a few weeks ago, that one of many swallows flying around decided to settle for a few moments on the edge of the African Wild Dog enclosure. Just a few metres from me. Well within easy camera range. Too easy.

After a few minutes it flew off and another one came in to rest, this time a little lower on the fence. This one decided that the early morning sunshine on such a cold morning was just what it needed to be doing a little feather preening.

By the way, the fence formed the enclosure for the African Wild Dogs (see photo below).

Welcome Swallow, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Welcome Swallow, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

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Welcome Swallow, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

African Wild Dog, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo