THE ELUSIVE WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

One of the most magical times of day around my area is between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Especially in winter when the sun reflects off the clouds like a spotlight.  My side of the river starts to fall into a deep mysterious shade quite early, due to the overlooking cliff-top or hill (depending on where you’re standing).

I plan my walks over to the nearby Pipemakers Park so that I walk home via the pond just as the sun starts to drop low in the winter sky.

Part of Pipemaker’s Park garden ruins back in Autumn which reflects the time of afternoon I visit the area.

It looks more like this in winter and quite stark and more sombre.

It can be hard to see anything much happening at the pond as the brilliant sunlight shines directly into your eyes and the scrubby undergrowth is too thick to walk around to the sides, or back of the pond.  I usually stand in the shade of a large tree and surreptitiously, very slowly, peep around the tree trunk to attempt a photo.  I usually take a photo with my right hand with my left hand shading my brow & eyes, so I can see.

A variety of birds take turns diving into the shiny, murky-looking water surface (throwing a shower of sparkling droplets into the air) and then fly back up to the tall water reeds (or a nearby tree), shaking their feathers very fast to discard the excess water weight.  They make this flight over and over continuously.

The splash they make as they hit the water looks like dozens of diamonds being thrown into the air.  It’s hard to describe this magical scene without some photos, but I’ve only managed to take 2-3 images showing the light, never the fast-flying small birds………until last Monday.

I stood enchanted for about 20 minutes watching what looked like a White-plumed Honeyeater.

I’ve just re-viewed Monday afternoon’s images and I think the photo below might be good enough for you to see it.  It’s a small plain honeyeater with underparts a pale olive-green.  The face is a bit more yellowish and it’s underparts a pale yellowish grey-buff, but the black-bordered long white neck-plume clinches the identification.   You can’t see the white-neck plume in this image very well, so you’ll just have to believe me when I have 100% identified this elusive bird, that I saw this particular day.

(note: they’re a common bird in the area, I just can’t manage to photograph them up in high trees).

If you look carefully in the centre of the frame you can just barely see the bird as it’s the same colour as most of the surrounding leaves.

I’ve cropped the image a wee bit in the next shot.

In the centre of the frame below you can see it backlit. It was moving fast so the bird is a wee bit blurred.

And this poorer shot below shows the bird flicking the droplets of water off.  Again, blurred, (or soft in focus), due to the speed of movement.  I can’t really raise the ISO over 800 on my cameras without getting too much ‘noise’ or grainyness in the image in this type of situation and it’s hard to catch the bird within the frame as it flies up and down from the water so quickly.

I could watch these tiny birds for hours, but the light disappears quickly (and suddenly) like a light globe being turned off behind the high western cliff-top, so not a place to be stuck in without a torch I guess.  I try to leave before this happens.  In Summer, the daylight hours are longer of course.

Capturing these small birds such as the White-plumed Honeyeater, the Red Wattlebird and Reed Warblers in flight, or hitting the water surface, is my current challenge and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge in bird photography (as much as in my working life).

Of course photographing the White-faced Heron in this pond is much easier as it often stands still.

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11 Comments on “THE ELUSIVE WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

    • I like to give myself goals & challenges now that new photography subjects are rarer in this western suburb and inability to do really long walks these days. I’ve always got to be aware of the fading light near that pond though. It’s nowhere near a street, or public park, light. I’m paranoid about tripping or falling leaving a severe back or new ankle injury. Remember that fall in the cemetery when I split my forehead from hairline to eyebrow and broke my new Sony camera just 2 weeks out of hospital after back surgery in 2015 🙂

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      • Yes. I hope you will be very careful!Is it possible that there is someone else in your building with whom you could team up for some of those photo shoots?

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    • I met a lady who is in the volunteer garden restoration group who is a photographer (apparently), but haven’t had a chance to get to know her yet. I love this neighbourhood, but at my age and with fragile health, one has to be sensible outdoors……. (or indoors for that matter). I respect my physical limitations and health restrictions these days.

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    • I agree Cindy. I’ll keep an eye out for a pic in the trees (when I might get a shot with the sun behind me, instead of in front).

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    • You’re welcome Tanja.
      I enjoy sharing my walks and what I see outdoors in nature (although I don’t do as much walking or photography as I used to 2-3 years ago).

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