Birds, birds, birds, platypus!

To: "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: Birds, birds, birds, platypus!
From: "Bill Jolly" <>
Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2001 17:41:15 +1000
What a great couple of days here!  (Lockyer Valley, SE Qld).

The nights have been cold, but the days have been springlike. I know there's
lots of winter still to come, but we have just had a couple of beautifully
warm and very birdy days.

Lots of the smaller passerines are courting and Red-browed Finches are
nest-building. Yesterday I watched three full-plumaged adult male Red-backed
Fairy-wrens foraging around in the same bush with a handful of rust-brown
females and youngsters in attendance, while groups of Variegated Fairywrens
and Superb Fairywrens did the same thing - all three species in the same
patch of (rough) garden no more than 10 metres in length. As they foraged
and fed, each species could be seen to be travelling through the area in its
own loose group, but at different times males, females and immatures of all
three species were overlapping and intermingling with each other, though not
really interacting. Truly, a kaleidoscope of colour and activity!  I took a
stroll around the house later, and estimate I saw at least twenty individual
fairywrens of all three species in around five minutes or so. Notable was a
male Red-backed Fairywren carrying a red piece of petal to entice some
female. I often see them doing this, and it's always a red petal. Superb
Fairywrens do it too, and for them it seems always to be a yellow petal. A
pair of Speckled Warblers were quietly poking about on the fringe of all of
this - not getting involved.

This-afternoon, Trevor Ford and I sat on a bench by the creek for an hour or
so - no particular targets in mind. Just an opportunity to take it easy and
chat about birds, the ashes, whatever in a relaxed environment - with
binoculars on hand in case of emergency. Zebra Finches, Double-barred
Finches, fairywrens, cisticolas, Striated Pardalotes, reed-warbler,
whistlers, a lot of other busy birds. Then we noticed a splendid Azure
Kingfisher sitting on a stump in the water, just a few metres away. It
fished and relocated to another perch, alongside another Azure Kingfisher,
the two just centimetres apart. They took it in turn to fish, move on, sit
quietly, fish, move on and so on - sometimes criss-crossing, sometimes
settling next to each other, often landing just a few close metres from us.

This went on for the best part of an hour, interrupted only when a platypus
surfaced just upstream. I spent the next ten minutes ignoring the
kingfishers, taking photographs of the platypus, as it fed its way along the
shallow creek alternately under the water for a few seconds, then on the
surface for a short while, then rolling under again - all the time
travelling slowly upstream. This was around 1.45pm. The camera ran out of
film, and I returned to the bench where Trevor read his paper and we
chatted, with kingfishers fishing, platypus feeding, and then a Hobby
dropping into an adjacent tree with a lifeless bird in its talons, which it
began to pluck.

Time to go in for a late lunch, we both thought.

Bill Jolly

Lockyer Valley, Queensland.

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