Thursday, 28 March 2013

Autumn Frogmouths

Tawny Frogmouths can be very difficult to see when roosting quietly up in the branches
We are well into autumn in Canberra now and the Tawny Frogmouths are even more tricky to find than in spring or summer. They can be anywhere in their home ranges, but this adult male and juvenile were still within a hundred metres of last year's nest. I couldn't find the adult female. I had expected the youngsters to have left their family groups by now, as this is often the time of year when resident birds establish or confirm their pair-bonds and territories. I thought I would find the birds in their favourite winter roost by now, the ones which are better exposed to morning sun and out of the cold south-west wind. This branch was in the sun, but higher up, about 15 m,  and more hidden than the winter roost.

The adult male, on the left, sits comfortably, partially fluffed up as he basks in the sun, while the young bird is a bit more secretive, taking on a partial branch-pose for camouflage. The adult bird has seen me many times before, so is probably less afraid of me.

The young bird is identified as such by her scruffy moustache and eyebrows, and her nasal bristles are not as finely developed as those of a bird in full adult plumage. She is definitely a  female as she has taken on a rusty colouring to her wing coverts. Males are more uniform grey.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Red Wattlebird

It is autumn now and the our local garden Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata is re-affirming his ownership of the nectar-bearing plants, especially the grevilleas. This will be his main food supply throughout autumn and winter and whenever he sees another bird in one of these bushes he chases them well away. This the largest mainland honeyeater measuring up to 360mm in length, and when in pursuit of smaller birds, with determination in their eye, they look very like a sparrowhawk. Their name derives from the pairs of red wattles which hang from their cheeks, and they also have a splendid lemon-yellow belly. As with all honeyeaters they have specially adapted brush-tipped tongues for lapping up nectar and they are important pollinators in Australia.

Being large and heavy does have some drawbacks though, and they do have to stretch to reach the farthest flowerheads. Like this one outside the office window.

Friday, 1 March 2013

'a refreshing and fascinating book' 

The British Trust for Ornithology have just published a review of my book Eagle Days in their monthly newsletter, BTO News. This seems a long time since its publication, but I have no problem with that as it is yet another very favourable review. Once again I am fascinated by the details which each reviewer has chosen to highlight. This reviewer, anonymous, picked up on the poetic aspect of both the text and photographs, using such phrases as:

`has a quality which brings colour and life to the broader landscape in which the eagles are to be found'

`well illustrated by Stuart's own photographs'

while they still picked up the core message:

`the need for such fieldwork to be undertaken'