Thursday, October 2, 2008

Willie's not wheelie a wagtail

Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leaucophrys) obviously knows what the colonists chose to ignore: wagtails wag and fantails fan. They just don't do it as often as the other fantails. This bird today in Tyto shows the full tail while standing on a felled Tulip Tree much in favour as a launch platform for hungry kingfishers and bathing honeyeaters.

Another thing Willies don't do often is fly about clutching big green katydids. Fruitlessly chased after a bird yesterday carrying a huge catch in its bill. Surprisingly, the bird - between short flights away from me - speedily devoured the Leafy Katydid (Paracaedicia serrata).

Surprising, because Willies often take minutes to strip the wings off small dragon flies. To despatch a bulky insect of more than 40mm in short order would suggest the wings are considered edible, or they're easily detached. I didn't see anything discarded, but was struggling to keep up.

Thinking back (not always the most reliable source of information), I can't recall seeing big katydids taken by birds smaller than cuckoo-shrikes and orioles. Which, of course, means little to all the birds everywhere enjoying fat tasty katydids, and is no consolation to the katydids.

Talking of chasing birds, today brought a series of effortless floating flights from a Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) and clumsy stumbling after by me. The nightjar rose from a relatively open area of shaded guava scrub, uplifted to leaf litter, fallen logs, more litter, tree buttress, shaded litter, and on to open ground, before vanishing into more guava. Given the nightjar's (aka Axe Bird) evening calls of 'chop-chop' 'chop-chop' (often for hours) it's fitting the sightings came in an area being replanted after felling of weed trees. Good fun, and a poor picture.


Mosura said...

Nice shot of the Willie Wagtail. Who knows - maybe I'll see one down here one day. A few have been spotted over the decades.

mick said...

Great photo of Willie and an interesting post. Wish I could have seen you chasing after that Nightjar! Birds have a habit of making all humans look big and clumsy and noisy.

Tyto Tony said...

Hi Mosura: Give 'em a few years and they'll surely be there. Don't know why they're not in NZ.

Thanks Mick: I'm extra burdened by bum knee and yest by trailing light tripod (as monopod - think Jake the Peg!). Nightjars also make most birds look clumsy.

Snail said...

Good catch with the nightjar!

Our Willie Wagtails had a bumper year last year with all the flies. The flies were in plague proportions and the wagtails in almost equal numbers! Wait until they get to Tas, Mosure. They'll take over the place!

Steve Borichevsky said...

Whether willie wags or fans, he is a he has an impressive display. Thanks for the background data.

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