Showing posts with label First Flights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Flights. Show all posts

14 January 2023

93: Babes in the Jacaranda

One of two fledgling Willy Wagtails that left the nest around Christmas Day. Two babes jumped along the branches of my favorite tree, a massive Jacaranda next to the house.

The 20-year-old tree is high and wide and shady. Whenever I feel sad I look up through the lacy leaves or stomp all over the carpet of purple tubes decorating the grass. 


Two vigilant Willie Wagtail parents chose a tree protected by a hundred branches. A network of delicate green leaves and flower tubes shaded the nest so the eggs didn't cook in a harsh Australian summer. The filtered light meant eagles and raptors couldn't spot it from above. Eggs are a monitor's favorite food; they climb trees as easily as we walk. With 2-metre-long adult lizards, a 12 cm bird or 5cm long chick doesn't stand a chance.

These fantails have done a super job of bringing 2 nestlings to the fledging stage. You can never underestimate the awesome strength of a mated pair. They would pretend to be hurt to drag my eyes away or fly over my head so close I could hear their wings, attacking like a squadron of fighter jets.

Wagtails go to supreme lengths to protect their young. This included dive-bombing every other bird within a 10-metre radius. Even if the bird is a resident peacock 200 times its size, or a human, like me.

Three months ago, I cleaned my hairbrush outside and saw a Wagtail picking up the strands, carrying them off to a nest. 

Two weeks later I woke in the night to the haunting sound of a Wagtail lullaby. A male parent sings to his eggs so they know the distinctive voice of their daddy after hatching. Then they will either come to him or freeze in place in response to his scritching, tch-tch-tch warnings.

I couldn't tell where the nest was until mid-December. Dragging the hose past the jacaranda on a watering jag, I stopped to look at the sunlight through the canopy. I was divebombed, looked up, and spotted a tiny bowl, neat and lopsided, made with my hair.

The little ones squawked for food for the next fortnight, while the parents worked in tandem to sit or bring them insects constantly. It was a while before I saw feathers above the rim. 

The Jacaranda was looking glorious after a year after almost a metre of rainfall, complete with intermittent floods in 2022. I liked to sit underneath in its shade, but it was too stressful on the helicopter parent Wagtails.

Eventually, there was a smudge of grey down above the lip of the nest. The babes were bigger.

And, of course, there was always the angry bird patrolling or jumping on the twins whenever I peeked beneath the Jac tree.

Mum and Dad WW created a no-go zone near the tree. Once, when I went out with the camera one wagtail flew in my face.

Parent Wagtails were kept busy from 5 am to 8 pm.

The food needs of the little ones was never-ending, but they grew.

And grew.

Until both could barely fit into the nest.

Despite all the stress, they thrived. Though, as with most birds, one got the lion's share of the food and was twice as big as the sibling and sat on top.

It was Christmas Eve when I ventured one last look underneath the Jacaranda to see how the chicks were doing. They were out of the nest, sitting high and pretty along the branches. They were frozen, probably petrified. The wind was blowing hard and I couldn't risk another photo. It might make the fledglings fall to their deaths. 

But, I have seen them a lot in the new year. At the birdbath, or scaring up insects. The parents still admonish me when I'm watering. Both chicks have lost their down and now have shiny black feather coats with snow-white underbellies. Oh, and small, white eyebrows that are already well-practiced at scowling. 

I'm privileged to have had this special nature gift at Christmas.

14 October 2020

84. The Swallow Sagas - Part 1

Welcome Swallows are the most prolific and resilient birds I know. A flock of them breed permanently at my farm house, getting through to the eaves. 

15 May 2020

71. Chick Number 2

The second Grey Shrike-thrush to hatch was the piggy in the middle. Not the largest, it emerged from the egg the day after the first. An expert at craning her neck over the top of the smallest chick, it was fed twice as much, doing whatever it could to ensure it would survive.

28 April 2020

69. Chick Number 1

When Greedy first flopped out of the nest, he immediately flew 20 metres out of the garage. Directly into daylight over our driveway, he seemed shocked, simultaneously running out of steam and having a crisis of confidence. 

19 October 2019

50. C'mon Rosie

I thought there was something wrong with the bird. With its eyes closed and tail bent underneath it could have been sick.  Parrot tails always extend straight out in line with the body; this one was different.