Sunday, 30 September 2018

Cunning nest builders

High in my list of favourite nests are those of the Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera. I remember wanting to see one since schooldays when I first saw a photograph of a nest, then when I visited Australia I wasn't disappointed. They are extremely craftily built and difficult to see, but last week I heard these birds busy in a tree above me, and there was another.

Sittellas are cooperative breeders, where there is one breeding pair and up to several helpers. The breeding female incubates the eggs, and broods the chicks; the others help by providing food, defending the contents from predators and of course, as seen here, they aid in the building of the nest.

The nest is constructed with spiders web and strips or flecks of paper-thin bark.

Their nests are typically set in the upright fork of a dead bark-less branch.

The birds deftly layer the material to fit within the fork and mold the bark flakes to flow with the contours of the branch.

All that material has to be shaped just right to fit the incubating bird, so I think this is the breeding female turning about on the nest.

Some of the birds came in with rather large beak-fulls of nest material.

Sittellas always land on branches in an upright pose.

Although they seem to prefer to walk down the branch to the nest.

Yet another shuffle to get it all into shape, then repeat.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Spring at last 
common and not so common, all welcome

My blog has been quiet for quite a while recently, a reflection of not inactivity but the opposite - high activity. Since migrating back south to Canberra in July I have been doing something in the field most days, and desk-work most evenings. I find that when I am busy I have less time to write up the blog, so readers, please be patient if you do not see anything new for long periods.

In a very brief summary, I arrived back in Canberra to a long cold dry winter which has dragged on into a long slow, cold, dry spring. At last the weather has warmed, it still hasn't really rained, although blossom is out, butterflies and dragonflies are flying and the birds are nesting.

This Bearded Dragon was basking on top of a cut tree limb yesterday, although the sky was overcast and it looked rather slow, as if not very warmed up. I took these shots in late afternoon, when they would usually be active and quick to react to approach. Although these are long-lens shots and I didn't disturb it.

I am always captivated by how Bearded Dragons' scales fit around their faces, each one, from the spines on the neck, to the lips and those amazing eyelids. Beautiful.

Bearded Dragons are common in the Canberra woodlands and they are a sure sign of spring. Much less common, in fact very rare at local, national and international scales is the Canberra Spider Orchid Arachnorchis actensis. This plant is critically endangered as it is only known from the Australian Capital Territory and only from three sites there. The bush is still very dry with very few plants of any sort throwing up fresh shoots, yet a group of these orchids, only several cm tall, were stretching up from the stony forest floor yesterday. rare jewels indeed. But it is not their rarity that appeals to me, it is their form, like that of the dragon, each flower part is beautifully formed.

Welcome back Spring.