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   🙂

GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

After such a woeful outpouring a couple of posts ago, I’ve had a most thrilling sighting this afternoon.

At first I thought it was a baby Willy Wagtail I saw out of the corner of my eye (whilst typing at my desk).   I opened the sliding balcony door and stepped out into the wild gusty wind and went over to the balcony fence.

There was a tiny flash of black darting continually around the Japanese Maple (located between my balcony and the footpath).

I went back indoors and grabbed the long 150-500mm ‘birding’ lens and quickly flipped the 9 focus points to 1 and went back outdoors to try to get that between the Maple foliage.   Not thick foliage at this stage of Spring, but thick enough for me to quickly go through something like 50 shots in an attempt to get the tiny bird in focus.

Here are a few attempts…..

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I was totally mystified by the white wing-like patches behind the white ‘eyebrow’ feathers (which would have made it a Willy Wagtail chick flashing its tail backwards and forwards faster than the eye or camera could follow).

I got my Australian Bird Guide Book out and after downloading the images onto the 27″ screen I realized I had captured some images of a new Bird I’d never seen before – a Grey Fantail.

What a thrill!

Fantails are common birds all over Australia, but I’d never seen one before.

My excitement started to die down and all those long months of photographing the fast-moving Superb Fairy-wrens on my balcony started to pay off.

I finally got some better shots……

The white chin feathers clinched it!  Besides, Northern Fantails are restricted to the far north of Australia, so it wasn’t one of that species.   If you think I’ve got the ID wrong, please let me know in the comments section.

This was about 1.45pm or so.   I was so engrossed in my efforts I nearly forgot I had a doctor’s appointment at the local clinic.

Anyway, 2 hours later, when I returned home, the bird was still frantically flying around the Maple tree, then to the hedge next to the footpath, to the young Eucalyptus sapling and then back to the Maple.

Before I left home it had crashed into the glass balcony fence several times.

It’s 6.00pm at the moment and it’s still madly (and somewhat erratically) moving from branch to branch and tree to tree.

I wonder if it’s looking for its Mother or nest?

I wonder if crashing into the balcony glass fence a few times has hurt it somehow?

I’d never be able to catch it.

If it’s still in the tree tomorrow……. crazily flying around, I’ll be on the phone trying to find the appropriate wildlife association or the local Park Ranger to come and try to catch it and take it to a vet or something.  It is probably a bit premature to phone now this late in the day.

I’ve never seen a bird flying so fast and behaving in such a crazy fashion.

Except when a Rainbow Lorikeet, who flew into my lounge window, crash-landed and fell down dead in my plant pot.   Its body was still warm when I picked it up and surveyed the broken body.   I have to admit a tear came to my eye at that moment.