Writing my posts involves sifting through a bunch of wildlife images looking for a common thread. There are generally more options than I can possibly use in any one post. Every so often, however, I have a week when I’ve hardy seen or photographed anything of note.
These quiet periods for wildlife encounters often occur late in the summer. Most wildlife takes it easy through the heat, and if you’re out walking in the middle of the day there is every chance of seeing little.
Over the last week places where I normally see heaps of wildlife appeared empty. Reviewing the handful of images I’d taken, I realised that I’d strung together several walks (and a dive) where all the wildlife action had been concentrated into just a few minutes. Mulling over the lean pickings I concluded that the only common thread was that each outing had offered at least a fleeting motivation to pick up the camera. So, here’s that handful of moments.
Merries Reef is one Sydney’s wildlife hotspots. The big attraction is the variety of migratory waders that feed and roost on the rock platform.
Arriving at Merries in mid afternoon I scanned the reef for waders I was sure would be huddled out of the sun and wind. I spotted them a hundred metres away. As I started towards the flock a 4WD pulled up and a large dog bounded out. The waders took to the air, circled the reef then flew off towards Botany Bay. Muttering the odd expletive I sat on a convenient rock to see if anything was going to return.
A small group of Crested Terns was bathing in a rock pool near my seat. I hadn’t taken much notice of them, as I my focus had been on the departed waders. The flock took off and I looked around expecting to see my friend the dog. It was still at the other end of the reef, and glancing up I saw that the flock was chasing a single tern. It was carrying a long thin fish in its bill, a Sea Garfish.
I suspect that the fish was too big to be swallowed while flying, but the other terns had no intention of letting the captor take its time. What followed was a short exhibition of the speed, aerial acrobatics and persistence of Crested Terns. Ownership of the garfish changed beak at least four times. Each time the chased tern dropped the fish another would grab it before it hit the ground.
New Holland Honeyeater
An early afternoon walk took us along the firetrail to Jibbon Point in Royal National Park. The coastal heathland is usually alive with birds, but the mid-thirties temperature seemed to have quietened the normal activity. Inspecting a flowering banksia, a flicker of motion caught my eye. A New Holland Honeyeater had landed on the banksia to snatch a small praying mantis.
The honeyeater gave the praying mantis a subduing whack then flew into the heath. Through a gap in the foliage I saw it land next to a chick. The chick, with a stub of tail and downy belly, flapped short wings and opened its mouth wide. The parent poked the praying mantis into the gaping mouth, the tip of the insect’s leg visible as it pulled away. The chick yawned after its afternoon feed, wiped its bill on the branch and waddled over to explore a tendril of vine.
Funnel Web Spider
I occasionally take a wander around the garden after dark with a macro lens on the camera. Spiders, some insects and frogs are much more active after dark. On this night the garden seemed empty, right up until I shone a light on the rock wall next to the house. Peering out of crevices in the wall were several Funnel Web Spiders.
Each spider had constructed a silken tube between the rocks. The tubes aren’t noticeable in daylight, but glow in torchlight at night. Each spider sat at the entrance to its web, feet spread wide to detect any passing prey.
The spectacle wasn’t something I particularly welcomed right next to the door to the laundry. It was a rare chance to see Funnel Webs in some degree of mutual comfort. The previous times I’ve seen Funnel Webs have been while digging in the garden, and an unhappy Funnel Web isn’t something that invites close inspection.
I walked into the bathroom to find a bright green Praying Mantis peering up from the bath. Ever opportunistic when it comes to a wildlife photo, I took it to the verandah and set it down on a pot plant. The Praying Mantis took a moment to clean its legs and antennae before flying off. I went back inside. A few minutes later I felt something crawling onto my neck. It was the Praying Mantis, which must have landed on my shirt and been carried inside again. I cupped it in my hand and took it back to the verandah and released it again.
Hours later in bed I woke to something scratching my face. It was the Praying Mantis. This time I opened the window and tossed it out, carefully checking the mesh to make sure that it was on the right side.
It was a week of fleeting wildlife highlights, but more than enough to maintain my interest engaged. In fact I could even cope with fewer encounters on the Funnel Web front.
Odds and sods