Minus two degrees

Minus two degrees doesn’t belong anywhere outside of a fridge but there it was, glaring from the dashboard of my car as we headed out to feed the Helmeted Honeyeaters.


Ice - Kim WormaldIce from the Helmeted Honeyeaters’ water bowl


We tucked our trousers into our socks (to baffle the leeches), put on our pathetically inadequate jackets, pulled on our woolly fingerless gloves and set off with heho food across the frost-crunchy leaf litter. We check the water bowls during each visit, in the height of summer when the temperatures can reach above 40 degrees Celsius (104f) the bowls are refilled daily to compensate for evaporation but this was the first time I’d peered into a bowl and seen a little sea of strange reflections.



Heho - Kim WormaldHelmeted Honeyeater


In some of the honeyeater shots their heads were decorated with frosty crystals. How do birds survive such extremes of temperature? They don’t pull on extra clothing, or go home and crank up the heater. The insulation quality of their feathers must be remarkable, as I guess we know if we’ve ever slept snuggly under a down quilt on a winter’s night. Do they hunker down to sleep covering their legs and feet, do they tuck their heads under their wings, do they huddle together? And how do they keep their 30g safe in gale force winds, and themselves cool when the temperature reaches 46 degrees Celsius?


Heho 2 - Kim WormaldHelmeted Honeyeater


One thing I’m sure of is that keeping warm means they use a lot of energy as the birds were frantic for food that cold morning … and so were we.

Happy birding and roll on spring, Kim


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14 comments to Minus two degrees

  • Hi Kym
    Can I use one of your Helmeted Honeyeater images in our local NFP community paper the Upper Beaconsfield Village Bell?
    I attended the public meeting in Beaconsfield in April re the possible re-introduction of the HH to the Cardinia Creek area and I am writing an article for the June issue of the Village Bell. I purchased some of your cards at the public meeting. Your photos are beautiful.
    See the Upper Beaconsfield Association web site at https://upperbeaconsfield.org.au/
    See also the Village Bell archive at https://upperbeaconsfield.org.au/village-bell. Issue no 4 February 1979 talks about sightings of the HH in the local area. The last HHs were wiped out in Ash Wednesday 1983.

    Helen Smith
    Editor Village Bell

    • lirralirra

      Hi Helen, yes of course you may. I’ll provide one from the cards if that’s your preference. I’m glad you like the HeHo cards 🙂

  • John Bond

    Kim, that last photo of the Heho was simply flawless, clarity and colour stunning. Feel it will be a glorious Spring locally. Two Grey Thrushes outsinging each other at the North Wandin Landcare plot today. (“cheerio, turkey!”).As musical harbingers of Spring they are hard to beat.

    • lirralirra

      I’m really pleased that you like the heho shot, thank you for letting me know. A glorious spring would be very welcome, I hope you’re right!

  • Simply stunning shots of the honeyeater and I’m with you – I am astounded how the birds, especially, survive the high ups and downs and crazy weather.

  • Stunningly beautiful work as usual Kim. Gorgeous birds these. Feathers are incredible for all sorts of reasons, never ceases to amaze me, the wonders of birds.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Phillip. They are gorgeous, it’s such a privilege to see them – preferably without ice! Your comment made me realise that we hear a lot about the amazing properties of spider webs but not so much about feathers.

  • rick franks

    Hi Kim, interesting commentary. We complain about 10 degrees up here. That last photo is really something special! You should have a big canvas print of it hanging from your wall. Well done as always.

    • lirralirra

      I complain about 10 degrees too! That’s great that you like the image, you’ve got me looking at my wall and wondering if it’s time to change things …

  • Wonderful shots of a beautiful bird. Interesting questions about how the birds keep warm in extreme conditions too.

    • lirralirra

      Thanks Dave. I saw a short film once of birds sheltering in high winds when all kinds of things were being blown around. The small birds in the film somehow managed to stay perched on branches, they are little miracles.

  • Thank you and every one else who does their bit to keep these vibrant bits of magic safe.
    Loved the ice sculpture too.
    Last week we had five days straight of minus six and below, which I love. Crisp, but usually clear and beautiful with it. Mind you, the birds that visit us at home were starving. I don’t know how many times I topped up their food – and didn’t begrudge any of it.

    • lirralirra

      There are some wonderful people out there EC, I do agree. -6 and below! Eek, my toes are freezing at the thought. That’s interesting about the birds being so hungry, it does seem to make sense.

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