On a whim, instead of going to the gym before work,
I went birding this morning to Malabar Headland. In low pasture at 7:50am
(behind the south-eastern end of the rifle range) with scattered low shrubs
of Bitou, Lanata, and Acacia sophorae, I observed a small yellow bird. It
seems to fit a female Orange Chat (I'd suggest even a female Yellow Chat, but
that's way too ridiculous for Sydney, and the eye seemed too dark anyway).
I first saw it perched in a low Bitou bush, where a
frontal view gave me the impression of a small bird with a pale yellow breast
and head, some whitish feathers on the flanks, a fine bill. This
immediately sent me into wondering what it was. It flew down to the ground
and I saw it's bright yellow rump and short black tail. I was able to get
within about 15m before it saw me and flew in a high arc, then landing in
another dead Bitou, on the edge of a track bordering heathland.
This time I approached within about 8m. When
viewed from behind, little yellow was evident, except for the rump, it being a
mottled greyish-brown across the back, with wing feathers darker and edged with
white. Even the head didn't appear as yellow from behind, and there was a
suggestion of a paler eyebrow, with a poorly defined mask through and
below the eye, but in most views this wasn't as noticeable as the overall
impression of yellow head when viewd from the side or front. The eye
appeared quite dark, which makes me think of Orange Chat.
Again it flew off to another dead
bush, and I approached within about 10m, but it then flew off high towards
the far corner of the rifle range. Since the red flags were up, and people
could be shooting, i didn't wnat to pursue it too far.
The bird behaved like a chat, in that when it was
on the ground it "bobbed" it's tail up and down several times, it hopped
around on the ground, it perched openly in low shrubs, and it flew off in high
arcs. Based on the darker eye, I'm more inclined to
think it's a female Orange Chat, but the colours across four field
guides in front of me seem to be a bit variable. The rump was the colour
of the rump on a Yellow Rumped Thornbill, which seems to not quite match a
female Orange Chat that well in some field guides. I've had good views of
a few male Orange Chats, but only poor views of 2 females, so I'm not in a
position to compare.
For those interested to go see the bird and who
know the area, it was in the waste pasture ground between the track adjacent to
the heath, adn the south-eastern end of the more southern of the two rifle range
areas, but please bare in mind that when the red flags are flying that
people may be shooting rifles.
Grid references for the site are 33deg 57min 42sec
S, 151deg 15min 37sec E to 33deg 57min 46secS 151deg 15min 35 sec S
(obtained from Google Earth).
Anyone wanting further details please email me or
call my mobile (0404293536). I'd appreciate others confirming this.
John T. Waterhouse
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental
University of New South Wales
Tel +61 2 9385 3274
Fax +61 2 9385