The sound of the Willie Wagtail is synonymous with the Australian bush, found in almost all habitats across the entire continent. For Indigenous Australians it has a special significance, both venerated and feared at the same time. Not surprisingly it features prominently in aboriginal folklore and language, known typically by local names that mirror its voice of ‘sweet agitation’.
While I’m sure the Dja Dja Wurrung people of central Victoria had a special name for the Willie Wagtail (help please!), the neighbouring Tjapwurrung call it tjerrap tjerrap, while the Wiradjuri further north know it as djirrijirri.
I was surprised to see this pair yesterday evening along the Loddon tending a nest. It is at least their second nesting effort for the season and the parents were not happy with my brief intrusion, displaying in typical fashion while I made my images and departed. Willie Wagtails almost always nest close to water, very sensible in this hot, dry landscape of ours.
Willie Wagtail, Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd January 2019
- Dialects of Western Kulin, Western Victoria Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung, Djadjawurrung, Barry J. Blake, La Trobe University
2011. Click here to read.
- Wesson, S. (2001) Aboriginal flora and fauna names of Victoria: As extracted from early surveyors’ reports. Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Melbourne. Click here to read.
As summer commences two of our migratory species tend to fall a little silent. The Sacred Kingfisher and Rainbow Bee-eater are both tunnel nesting species, the former using both earthen tunnels as well as tree hollows. At present the birds will be incubating and they tend to be less vocal than will be the case in a few weeks when feeding young.
In Rainbow Bee-eaters both sexes excavate the nesting tunnel – you can see some evidence of activity on the bill of the male below. In both the Sacred Kingfisher and the Rainbow Bee-eater both sexes incubate, although my observations suggest the female bee-eaters do the majority of sitting.
Rainbow Bee-eater (male), Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd December 2018
Sacred Kingfisher with prey
Australian Wood Duck (female)
The loud, screeching calls of flocks of corellas are a feature of the natural soundscape of the summer months around Newstead.
Increasingly it’s Little Corellas that are forming these flocks along with their larger relative, the Long-billed Corella. Little Corellas can be distinguished by their handsome crest and lack the extensive pink colouration around the face and neck.
Little Corellas, Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd December 2018
Earlier this week I found this White-plumed Honeyeater nest suspended in River red-gum above the Loddon River.
At least two small nestlings were being fed by the adults, as they ferried food from the neighbourhood at regular intervals.
In the space of a few minutes I observed what looked like either a dragonfly or damselfly delivered, one of the adults remove a fecal sac from the nest and a sudden alarm call uttered from the nest site as a raptor passed overhead. Little vignettes of nature in action!
White-plumed Honeyeater feeding nestlings, Loddon River @ Newstead, 26th November 2018
Close-up reveals either a dragonfly or damselfly being fed to the nestlings
Removing a fecal sac
A raptor overhead elicited an alarm call from the parent
I dipped out earlier in the week chasing Rainbow Bee-eaters along the Loddon. The birds were about, but keeping annoyingly out of camera range.
The consolation prize was excellent views of a curious Australian Reed-Warbler. This species, a summer breeding migrant, typically breeds in the reed-beds around Cairn Curran when the storage level is high. This year the red-beds are high and dry, forcing the birds to find breeding sites along the river.
Male Superb Fairy-wren, Loddon River @ Newstead, 26th November 2018
Australian Reed-Warbler … sans reeds
Willie Wagtails typically nest very close to water. Even in dry bushland settings, where water is scarce, you will usually find a small dam or waterhole somewhere close by their chosen nest site.
This family, the parents and three recently fledged youngsters, nested directly above the Loddon River. They made for a nice distraction as I enjoyed the approaching dusk.
Willie Wagtail, Loddon River @ Newstead, 17th November 2018
One of the fledglings
A watchful parent
Two of the three fledglings
An approaching human is usually enough to cause wild birds, especially larger species, to take flight.
When this doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, the reward can be marvellous. This White-faced Heron provided such a delight, peering down at me from its perch above the Loddon River. Meanwhile, nearby, a family of Willie Wagtails were tended by the parents and the calls of Rainbow Bee-eaters and Sacred Kingfishers echoed all around.
White-faced Heron, Loddon River @ Newstead, 20th November 2018