birding-aus Speckled Warblers, Willie Wagtails and other things

To: "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: birding-aus Speckled Warblers, Willie Wagtails and other things
From: "Bill Jolly" <>
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 10:43:20 +1000
After writing a posting the other day celebrating the return of White-backed
Swallows and platypus to our garden, we've just seen two Speckled Warblers
for the first time in nearly three months. This beautiful little bird
usually nests here, and has been a regular on our monthly lists for as long
as I can remember, but inexplicably disappeared from view last October until
just yesterday. 

This-morning was one of those magical times all birders are fortunate enough
to experience from time to time, when you just don't know which way to look
because birds are everywhere.  In the midst of all this, our Dutch visitors
who were on the verandah, practically running between vantage points
overlooking four bird baths each hosting different birds, were startled by
our whoops of enthusiasm over the reappearance of two Speckled Warblers!  To
the overseas visitor just another of the very small brown birds that are
hard to work out, but to us verily the return of the prodigal warbler!

Like all overseas visitors, the Dutch couple were thrilled, even
overwhelmed, by the sheer variety and colour of the birds we live with daily
here in Australia, and they were amazed to discover that they had seen more
than forty species from the verandah before breakfast was over. 

The record for a day here I think is held by George Diggles (whose
great-grandfather Sylvester is remembered in the naming of Diggles Finch -
the northern race of the Black-throated Finch).  George recently picked up
71 species in a day without going out of the gate. A really keen English
birder, who didn't seem to need sleep, once recorded 112 species in the day
- but he went down the road a couple of kilometres, so in accordance with
our own America's Cup rules we've disqualified him! 

I enjoyed Gloria Glass's response to the crouching Willie Wagtail poser. We
see the same practice often, and I watched a Willie Wagtail doing it just
this-morning. Like Gloria, I tend to think that it is usually observed when
the young have not long left the nest. Willie, or maybe Wilhemina, adopts
what could fairly be described as a knees bent Groucho Marx like stance, and
scurries along the ground with his or her belly feathers fluffed out, as if
on the nest. 

I wonder if it is just the female that does it. Why would this behaviour
have any greater function than the Willie's normally efficient method of
flushing and feeding from the grass? Is it maybe just a hangover from a
pattern that she has been imbued with for weeks while on the nest, and
hasn't quite broken? 

Bill Jolly
"Abberton", Helidon, Qld   

ph  07 46976111
fax 07 46976056

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