Cheer-me-up birds

Firstly, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who ‘liked’, shared and commented on last week’s post Season of Shame and a special thank you everyone who signed the petition, contacted politicians or were inspired to become wildlife rescuers. If you couldn’t find the petition and would like to see the end of the Victorian Duck Shooting season please use this direct link: Petition to Ban Duck Shooting

On WIN TV 19 March, a Field and Game Australia representative stated ‘… across the state we expect 27,000 licensed hunters to be out’. With a bag-limit of 10 birds on  opening day and 5 birds thereafter (a decision made in response to low duck numbers and reduced habitat*) a staggering 10,935,000 native waterbirds can legally be killed in Victoria. Australasian Shoveler numbers are particularly low so a limit of 2 per bag was set for opening day, reducing to one per bag, which means that 2,133,000 Australian Shovelers can legally be killed. The decision to close Krause Swamp as a refuge for Brolga was deemed ‘farcical’** by Birdlife Australia  as the swamp is dry. Off target species killed so far, at three wetlands (hundreds are available to shooters), include a Black Swan, Eurasian Coots, Hoary-headed Grebes, vulnerable Musk Duck and endangered Blue-billed Duck and Freckled Duck – it is sickening.

I have always found solace in nature and this week I was grateful to the butterfly that flew into my car at Werribee and stayed with me while I  listened to the haunting calls of Black Swans. I  kept telling all the waterbirds to stay safe and not leave the treatment plant. I didn’t realise until later that afternoon, when I came face to face with a camouflaged coward, that shooting is permitted at the edge of the Ramsar site as long as shots are fired out to sea.

Before my peaceful visit was curtailed I was awed by a Black Kite. I crept towards it in my vehicle; about 50m from where it was perched I got out of my car and the kite flew directly towards me and circled me many times, just a few metres above my head. It was an awe-inspiring, totally beautiful experience. I was too absorbed in the moment to take photographs at first but finally pointed the camera towards it; it was so close that most images only caught a wing tip or tail.

 Black Kite - Kim WormaldBlack Kite

 

If I’d been more focussed on photography and less focussed on joy I would have managed a better image of this magnificent bird but I wouldn’t change the experience. The eye-contact as it circled was profoundly beautiful and it wouldn’t have been the same through the lens of my camera. I’m sure my girls aren’t right in thinking it was just checking whether I was small enough to eat.

Black Kites are 50-55cm with a wingspan of up to 1.5m. They are the only raptor with a forked tail but this is more obvious in adult birds when their tails aren’t fanned. I think its markings are striking.

 

Grey Fantail 2 - Kim WormaldGrey Fantail

 

The following day I was at Yellingbo with the Helemeted Honeyeaters when this little fantail decided to befriend me and enjoy the bugs I had stirred up. There was a gentle breeze blowing which fluffed up the feathers on its head and made it look quite comical.

 

Grey Fantail 4 - Kim Wormald
Grey Fantail

 

The series of Grey Fantail shots were taken within 20 seconds of each other; little birds move constantly and trying to keep the camera focussed on their miniscule eyes is always a challenge.

 

Grey Fantail 3 - Kim WormaldGrey Fantail

 

Look left, look right, look down …

 

Grey Fantail - Kim WormaldGrey Fantail

 

Grey Fantails take insects from the air, with their bills snapping gently as they catch their prey. The bristly whiskers around their bills, that can be seen in the images above, help direct the prey into their mouths and are also believed to help prevent the birds from being stung.

Wishing you many memorable moments with nature, happy birding, Kim

 

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* Premier of Victoria 14 January 2015 – media release

** ABC news 21 March 2015 – Threatened brolgas risk being caught in duck hunting crossfire

 

 

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