Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-faced Heron ~ by Ian Montgomery
This is the real bird of the week; the recent Collared Sparrowhawk was just a correction to an earlier one. Exotic herons, such as the Great-billed (Northern Australia) and the Boat-billed (Costa Rica) have featured as bird of the week, but, typically, I’ve neglected some of the common ones, so here is the best known Australian heron, the White-faced, to make amends. It’s not as if I have to go far to photograph them: the first photo was taken almost ten years ago on Bluewater Creek near the bottom of my garden.
Nor is it because they aren’t photogenic. I love watching them carefully stalking their prey with extraordinary concentration and poise, like the one in the second photo taken 15 years ago in the early days of digital photography – ‘digiscoping’ with a tripod, Leica spotting scope and Coopix camera held against the eyepiece of the scope.
Digiscoping didn’t lend itself well to action shots, but this bird came the party. Six seconds later I took a second photo, and at that very instant it struck, producing this lovely sheet of water. Digital cameras in those days had appreciable shutter lag, so you had to rely on the bird doing things serendipitously in synchronisation with the camera rather than relying on your own fast reflexes, unless your were psychic and could anticipate what the bird was about to do.
Nor are White-faced Herons hard to find in Australasia. They are occur throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania, except in the driest deserts, New Zealand and its Sub-antarctic islands, Christmas, Lord Howe and Norfolk islands, where the fourth photo of a bird in flight was taken, southern New Guinea and various islands east of the Wallace Line. It is extending range and became established in Tonga in 1988 and Fiji in 1997 and has turned up even in SE China.
The fifth photo, also in flight shows a bird apparently chasing its bat-like shadow along the beach at the entrance to Botany Bay in Sydney. This bird has very little white on the face and is probably a juvenile bird or in transition to adult plumage as juvenile have white only on the neck and not the face.
I think herons and egrets took wonderful in flight holding their necks in a dogs-leg angle. It makes them look delightfully primitive and remind me of the fantastic birds in flight painted by George Braque like the one below of a Bird Passing through a Cloud: this one even has a white face. When I took up bird watching at school in the early 1960s I also became fascinated by Braque’s birds – very fashionable then as he painted the one below in 1957. I did pottery at the time and painted imitations of his birds onto various rather shapeless objects.
See? Common birds can be very interesting. However, the lure of exotic birds remain. Joy, my sharp-eyed and -eared birding Pal in Melbourne, and I have just booked a trip to New Caledonia for the end of June. Why? New Caledonia is home to the almost mythical Kagu, a very special, flightless, almost heron-sized bird and it would be great to be able to bring it to you as bird of the week.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
The stork, all kinds of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:19 AMP)
Again, we have a Bird of the Bible from the “do not eat” list. Like Ian, Herons are common here, but yet they are a joy to watch (and not eat). Of course, we do not have this beautiful and neat White-faced ones. What is common to Ian, is a treat for us to see. Thanks, Ian.
Herons, Bitterns – Ardeidae Family
White-faced Heron – Wikipedia
White-faced Heron – Birds In Backyards