[Update] I originally posted this as Malurus elegans – The Red-winged fairywren. It still looks very much to me like the Red-winged fairywren but due to it’s location it’s almost certainly a Variegated fairywren.
In an effort to get some new material to post I camped myself out the back of the house with a camera for a while. I had a first try with Tom but sitting silently in the bush with a 3 year old was never going work! It turned out to be a productive trip in the end, if this bird is what I think it is I cant find any reference of it being present in the Sydney area.
After 15 minutes or so if sitting a pair of these tiny grey birds came into view, playing and chasing each other through the scrubby undergrowth. They really are small, not including the tail I would say less that 10cm from beak to bottom. Their call was a soft shrill, almost like the cross between a buzzing insect and a cherp.
After a bit more waiting a similar sized but much more brilliantly coloured individual appeared. He was always on the move, it was hard to get a good photo as he flew around in the trees and undergrowth, always avoiding exposed locations.
When I got back and had a chance to process and study the photos I identified the birds as female and male Red-winged fairywrens. Yet another bird I’ve not heard of, but most interestingly they are only meant to be found in the south west corner of Western Australia. After some more searching it seems there is a very similar looking species called the Variegated fairywren that is much more widespread across Australia. It consists of 4 subspecies, one of which, Malurus lamberti lamberti is reported in suburban bushland in Sydney.
The Variegated fairywren is found in forest undergrowth, they are constantly on le move and avoid open exposed positions. Like other fairywrens they are notable for their sexual dimorphism, with the male being very pretty and the female smart but a bit dull. They nest near the ground in a coarse dome of bark, leaves and grass usually concealed in dense vegetation.
Breeding is from September to January, I spotted these guys today ( December ) maybe I was watching a courtship.
Last Sunday the two boys and I walked down to the Cascades to meet Mat and some of his friends who were doing the 100km Oxfam walk. We did the salmon thing and headed against traffic from Bungaroo. We were on the Oxfam course between about midday and 2pm, the people we were passing were at the 75km or so mark and had been walking though the night without sleep, some people really showed it, most seemed pretty happy though.
Will did very well and walked the whole distance, Tom refused to walk and sat in the backpack until he got too uncomfortable then demanded to be carried!
We had lunch and a bit of a play at the cascades, Mat arrived at about 2:30pm, he was fine.
Just after leaving the Cascades I spotted this small bird with bright red coloring in the bush just off the fire trail. It was on a Mountain Devil plant flying from flower to flower drinking the nectar. It moved fast and it was difficult to get a good photo, it let me get within a few meters before flying away. Another one I’ll have to return for to try and get a clearer picture.
It turns out to be a male Myzomela sanguinolenta. It’s also known by a number of different common names, Birds in Backyards goes with Scarlet Honeyeater so that’s good enough for me.
The male Scarlet Honeyeater has a bright red head and body, it’s upper wings and tail are dark grey with lighter grey colouring underneath. The females are dull brown with dull white underparts. They are small birds, the adults being 10 – 11cm long.
Scarlet Honeyeaters are found from Cape York all the way down the east coast of Australia, but are less common south of Sydney where it’s a summer migrant. They’re also found in New Caledonia, Indonesia and surrounding islands.
Cockies are a very common bird around here, it can be easy to become a bit indifferent but when you step back and look they really are remarkable. They are are a large bird measuring 44 – 55cm in length, their whole body is snow white, except for the bright yellow “sulfur” crest on the tops of their head. They have a large powerful parrot beak that they use for crushing food and also as an extra grip when climbing. The sound they make can only be described as a loud piercing screech. Like many parrots they can learn to talk a few words.
We have a bird feeder hanging just outside the window out the back. The cockies have become quite aggressive with it, scaring the other smaller birds away and often fighting each other for a perch. When the seed has run out they sit in the feeder and tap on the window, if we don’t feed them they sometime start tearing away at the side of the house. They are not afraid, often when I fill the feeder with new seed they will hold their ground and grab the spoon in their beak before I get a chance to empty the seed into the tray. Their beaks look like they would do a lot of damage to a finger!