GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

Exciting news!

Yesterday when I was cleaning out my desk drawers, (a task one does in ‘lockdown’), I spotted a movement out of the corner of my eye.

I looked up and thought I saw a bird in the eucalyptus tree beside my balcony fence.   After collecting my DSLR and long 150-500mm lens out of its soft pouch on the floor, I slowly stood up and edged sideways towards the lounge balcony door.

Now,  normally this movement on my part would scare any birds away, but with the foliage being thick and not much light, I felt the only way to get a shot was open the balcony door and have no glass between the bird and myself.  I’d cleaned the exterior of my lounge windows only a week ago, but some rain, thick with yellow/orange dust, had re-soiled the windows mid-week.

FIRST SHOT OF THE GREY FANTAIL 5/9/20. I CLEARLY NEEDED TO GET CLOSER TO SHOOT OVER THE BALCONY FENCE RAIL.

The bird didn’t move much.   Take note of its soft downy breast feathers (below).   These and the size of the fantail suggested a very young bird, probably born in the last week or so.   It also looked rather fat so I might suggest it was well-fed by its mother?

A BETTER SHOT BUT WITH AN ISO of 800, CLEARLY A BIT OF NOISE or GRAINYNESS IN THE BACKGROUND FOLIAGE

It was very small and I wondered if the faint white on its face denoted a tiny Willy Wagtail chick initially.   Willy Wagtails have very distinct white ‘eyebrows’. I managed to get 2 shots before it flew away and when I downloaded them, I saw at once that it was a tiny Grey Fantail chick.

THE NEXT SHOT OF THE SECOND VISIT. I WAS HOPING FOR A FRONT-ON VIEW, BUT THE SPOT OF LIGHT REFLECTING IN ITS EYE (MAKING IT A FAIRLY GOOD BIRD SHOT) WAS MISSING.

It was so cute and similar in size to the Superb Fairy-wrens who move with such speed around my balcony area.

Next minute I saw more movement so once again repeated the exercise……got up off my desk chair and slowly moved to the doorway which I’d left open.

I actually repeated this 6 times as the tiny chick flew over to the other side of the road to the tall trees and back to my tree again.   It whipped around to the back of the tree and I watched for some time as it came back to the front-facing me.   Over and over, several times.

I HAD TO STEADY MY LEFT ARM AGAINST THE DOORWAY POST (to get handheld shots).   I missed quite a few when it moved.

It turned continuously as though it was showing off its new coat of feathers to its adoring public – aka ME!

THEN THE SUNLIGHT DISAPPEARED BELOW THE HORIZON AT THE TOP OF MY HILL AND THE TREE FOLIAGE, WHICH WAS ALREADY THICK AND DARK,  got PLUNGED INTO extreme DARK.

I switched the ISO to the highest speed on my Canon DSLR – 3200.   This high ISO creates a lot of noise, or graininess, in the background, but for a hand-held shot and a bird continuously on the move on that branch, it was the only way to get the bird in focus in such low light..

I walked indoors to get out the Sony a6000 ‘mirrowless’ with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) continuous shooting speed.   The Sony has a top ISO of 6400 which was the only way I was going to get more shots of the fantail in the dim light.   I only have one lens for this camera, but that would have to do.

With my eyesight, I can’t tell which of the following 2 shots is in focus, so I’ve given you both. With only the 55-210 kit lens for my Sony left now (the 18-200mm lens died in a fall 3 months after I bought the Sony in 2015).   I traded some lenses to buy the Sony, partly because of its light weight with my declining spinal condition, but also because, at that time it was the fastest fps (frames per second) on the market.

So the 2 shots below were handheld with my left elbow resting on the doorframe to try and steady the camera.  Hope you can see the bird right of centre.

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I’m hoping to see this tiny new chick a few more times in the afternoons.   I’m not sure why it flew back and forth betweeen the tall tree over the road and my eucalyptus tree so many times, but it kept me entertained for quite some time.

The first (and only) time I saw a Grey Fantail previously was in the Japanese Maple tree on the 19th September 2019.

That Fantail was fully grown (to my eyes) and continually flew up, down and all around the branches in the maple for 3 hours.

Here are a few of the 2019 shots.   You’ll notice the new Spring growth on the bare-limbed winter tree.

Yesterday’s tiny bird sighting really made my day.

A friend who lives on the top floor of this building rang me on Friday to say there were new ducklings on the large puddle of water near Frogs Hollow and also 2 black swans further down the river on the pond.

Dare I hope for another walk and some more photos in this glorious Spring sunshine?

You’ll have to keep following my nature blog to find out   🙂

24 thoughts on “GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

    1. Thanks Cindy. I was pleased to see this little chick. Such a sweet one. The days are getting to be very repetitious in lockdown so it’s extra nice to have something new to photograph.
      Out of about 40 shots, I was also happy to get several in good focus. I’m hoping the chick will return this afternoon too. But I can hear lots of Superb Fairy-wrens chirping away. Gorgeous spring weather outdoors and tomorrow’s going to be even better – almost hot at 23C.

      Had an enormous dark bird fly down my road this morning, but too quick to identify it. Perhaps it was one of the kestrals that my opposite neighbour has seen land on her own balcony fence.

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    1. So good to hear, Peggy. I’ll delete the inferior one in my photo library. Even zooming in, my astigmatism (double-vision), not fully corrected by my glasses, makes this type of situation hard to judge, especially with the ‘noisy’ high ISO. I’ll leave the 2 shots online though, so any newbie photographers might learn something from my querying the choice.

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  1. What an adorable bird. It’s nice to find “new” species, but even familiar species are “new” every time they appear: new in behavior, if nothing else. With spring coming on, I suspect there will be even more for you to see, and for us to enjoy.

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    1. Thanks Linda. Hopefully some more chicks will visit me.
      Last night our Premier said there’ll be 2 more weeks of Lockdown (on top of the 6 weeks ending 13th) and it’ll be a couple more months before shops will open (other than food and pharmacy etc I mean). Life wasn’t meant to be easy. Sigh!

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  2. Lovely pictures and thanks for sharing your “work process”!
    About the noise you mentioned, IMHO this is actually OK. If you really want to you could remove it with software, but most people won’t care anyway. 😉

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    1. Thanks Timo. I had a quick try at removing some of the ‘noise’ with the basic Apple Catalina in-house photo editing tools but no success. (I gave up trying to learn Lightroom and P/shop many years ago).
      Perhaps I notice the noise more than some folk as my screen is 27″. A small laptop probably wouldn’t show it up so much as my new iMac.

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      1. Quite often the onboard tools of LR and PS are not very intuitive to use IMHO. There are some neat plugins available for PS. With my full-frame camera I can shoot with up to ISO 3.200 w/out noticing noise in standard view on the screen, so I have not needed this for some time.
        As a workaround you can work with layers, masks and softening options in PS in order to do a targeted denoising without losing detail.

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    2. That sounds quite a high ISO for no noise to be seen. Perhaps my cameras are getting old now that I’ve been playing around with photography for 10 years as a hobby, although as they say……..its the photographer that makes the image, not the camera..
      I’m not a very technical sort of person and I don’t use much of the Sony a6000’s capabilities. I am pleased that I bought it though.
      Perhaps now health issues are getting in the way of doing much photography, not lack of desire to explore some more.

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      1. About the high ISO capability of my camera – this is due to the full-frame sensor which is considerably bigger than APS-C.
        Advantage: bigger pixels, much less noise, shallower depth of field to play with, better dynamic range.
        Disadvantage: the shallower DOF is not good for shooting macros and you don’t have a crop-factor anymore which acts like a tele, i.e. when you use a 200mm lens on your a6000 it actually behaves like a 300mm lens (crop factor 1.5). On a full frame body like the Sony a7, the same lens really behaves like a 200mm.
        So it really depends on what you want. 😉
        In your case I’d stick with the a6000 and try out a longer focal length if you want to get closer to the birds.

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    1. I wish I saw those fantails more often, but it seems like a once-a-year visit.

      Having said that, my eucalyptus tree is alive with bird sound today, but I think they might be House Sparrows. It’s raining so I can’t go out on my balcony to doublecheck.

      I’ve seen several birds collecting dry grass from my few potted plants. Sounds like nest building to me.

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