Red-necked Stint… a long-distance migrant that weighs less than a slice of toast

There are three different groups of birds that strike fear into the hearts of inexperienced (and the occasional experienced) birder out there: waders (shorebirds), terns and birds of prey. Shorebirds tend to be one of those groups that get birdwatchers both very excited and very frustrated! Very occasionally a shorebird gets lost on its southward migration, follows the coast of Asia instead of the coast of the Americas, and turns up on a wetland somewhere in Australia. It’s a bit like a Rolling Stones tour: they don’t turn up very often and when they do everyone wants to go and have a look. Waders can also be bloody frustrating to identify accurately because they’re generally a combination of grey, brown and white (non-breeding) and the differences between species can be subtle. I’ll write more about waders over the next week or so (including some good ways to tell the mass of brown, grey and white birds apart) but for now I’d like to start with the smallest and in my opinion cutest wader of them all (out of the waders that appear in Australia): the Red-necked Stint, and why I’ve referred to it as flying toast.

Red-necked Stints, Western Treatment Plant

Red-necked Stints, Western Treatment Plant

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An Orchid Pollinating Wasp: Lophocheilus anilitatus

I spent some time wandering around the heathlands at Fraser Street, at the back of Anglesea in Australia during late September. It was amazing to see the variety of orchids and other wildflowers, but for me the real excitement was from a small wasp about 3 or 4 centimetres long, perched on a grass stem and carrying what I initially thought was a caterpillar. I photographed away madly trying to get a good picture, but it wasn’t until I got home that I worked out what I was looking at.

tiphiidae wasp
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Pottery and parasitism in an urban garden

Over the years I’ve noticed intricate tube-shaped mud nests tucked under eaves, fence posts and in the corners of windows around the house and garden. I had some idea of the culprit, but my timing had never been right and by the time I’d noticed new mud tubes the culprit – a mud-daubing wasp – had been and gone.

Wasp with near-completed Nest


This time though I was lucky…

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Golden Whistlers

I spent some time recently at the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve, sitting in a bird hide overlooking a waterhole. It’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and it’s a great way to practice photographing animals that are a bit more alert to threats posed by humans. This was one of the first sunny, warm days in spring (the last week of August) and so many birds were taking the opportunity to come and get a drink and have a bath in a small dam.

Golden Whistler (Male)

Golden Whistler (male)

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There are flies out there big enough to take on spiders… and win: Meet the scorpion fly

I went for a wander around the Anglesea Heath with some people from the local Field Naturalists Club today. Most people were looking at orchids, and I was too – for a while. I got side-tracked though by the sheer variety of insects that were also present in the heathlands. There’s fodder there for a few blogs, but I was ridiculously excited to find today’s weird insect and so I thought I’d share it with you.

scorpion fly

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My grandfather’s bees

My grandfather kept bees right through my childhood, which produced delicious dark honey, excited the neighbours when they swarmed every now and then, and probably kept half the gardens in our area pollinated!

1-_MG_0497This post talks about bees and lorikeets and how sometimes it’s important to look at the big picture, not just a tiny part. Continue reading