11 May, 2012

Tinker, tailor...

With the weather turning cooler and wetter last week, I didn't get to the river to search out any fodder for my blog, however this week, things have turned pleasant again weatherwise so I have been out and about. On Tuesday I dragged out the bike and rode the trail down to Buckley Falls and back via Breakwater. It was a pleasant ride and I counted 35 different species of birds, most of them relatively common. Interesting, but not exactly thrilling blog material.
On Thursday, in search of something a little different, I headed to the aqueduct. I haven't been to that part of the river for a few months - mostly because of the long grass during summer. As we saw recently, I have no difficulty finding snakes on clear, frequently used paths in autumn, so I didn't fancy chancing my luck on seldom-used, overgrown goat tracks in the middle of summer!
Even on this occasion I was suitably cautious.
Firstly I wandered down the rutted track which is the end of Boundary Road all the way to the river. I could hear Spotted Marsh Frogs in all directions, but as usual had no luck er...spotting one. Somewhat surprisingly as the weather was mild and there was only a gentle breeze, there were very few birds around. Usually this area is a hive of activity and I often see birds here which I don't see on other parts of the river.
Of course there were the usual New Holland Honey Eaters, Superb Fairy-wrens, a Mudlark and a couple of Magpies, but nothing less common - with one exception. The Golden-headed Cisticola. They were everywhere. This is the only part of the river on which I have found them, but I can be pretty much guaranteed that I will either see or hear them on any occasion I am in the area.

Golden-headed Cisticola
These little guys are amongst my favourite birds to photograph. The way they grab the reeds they hide amongst can make for some rather comical shots. They are somewhat cautious and won't let me get too close, however when they perceive I am at a safe distance, the males happily hop about amongst the foliage, all the while keeping a close eye on me.
Golden-headed Cisticola
They are also quite vocal and their call is rather distinctive, it's most noticeable characteristic being a high-pitched, drawn out squeak. To my ear it sounds much like the noise I remember a frog making as it was being eviscerated by the cat when I was a kid.
Golden-headed Cisticola
A little research tells me that these guys are also known as Tailorbirds for their habit of stitching leaves to the outside of their nest. Like Willie Wagtails, they use fine grasses and cobwebs in the construction along with other soft material which is used to line the nest.
Golden-headed Cisticola, rear view
They eat insects and seeds from amongst the bushes in which they hide and are non-migratory, staying put year-round which explains why they are always there when I am. They seem to have a preference for the shrubs and reeds which grow along the edge of the track to the river, rather than those nearer the aqueduct.
I did wander over in that direction and managed to get a few blurry photos of a raptor which circled overhead and perched briefly on one of the concrete piers. It took off again before I could get close enough for a decent shot and then reappeared circling above for several minutes, but at no time close enough to get a better photo. As best I can tell, it was probably a Brown Falcon, but I couldn't be sure.

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