The Heron, the Honeyeater and the Maggie

The bird life around the coast at Apollo Bay is much more varied than a quick glance might suggest. When you’ve spotted the silver gulls, the terns and the cormorants, you have only just begun.

I went for a wander in the later afternoon light today, and was walking along the dunes beside Wild Dog Creek where it finally enters the sea. There was only one bird in the area, and it was one I had never noticed before.  It was very quickly aware of my presence at a distance, and didn’t let me out of its sight. As I moved a bit closer it took off and landed some distance away beside Wild Dog Creek. It required much greater separation from me than most other birds I have encountered around the coast here.

This wading bird is a White Faced Heron.

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A bit of high stepping with a wary eye turned in my direction to make sure he was putting distance between us at the required rate. He wasn’t, and he took off shortly after this.
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The beauty of the heron in flight speaks for itself. All I will add is that its beady little black right eye seemed to remain fixed on me with a disapproving look for as long as I was taking photos of it flying.

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After a short flight he landed on this high point which had the flowing waters of Wild Dog Creek and a fair width of beach separating us. He turned and faced me, with a more confident air than when I first appeared. It was as though he could watch me on his terms from this vantage point.
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This photo and the one that follows need to be considered together. Above, the heron has engaged full long-neck mode.  The photo below shows full neck retraction. He almost looks like a different bird. He’s also done something in the image above with the shape of his head and those ruffled feathers around his neck which suggests he was attempting to channel his inner emu.  Possibly a defence mechanism, given the grumpy and pushy nature of the emu combined with its alarming size and strength, which would be much scarier to a predator than this small and fragile looking bird. .
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When standing on a rise, as shown in this image, the WFH has no need for neck extension for surveillance purposes.
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Intermediate neck extension position.
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Unusually, the local crew of terns, Pacific gulls and silver gulls were absent from the sand dunes around Point Bunbury, my next stop after the WFH departed from Wild Dog Creek for the evening.  I was about to leave the dune tops without the cover being removed from the camera lens, when I heard a short high whistle which had a delicacy to it that suggested a small bird. I stopped and looked in all the foliage on the dunes, and eventually spotted this beautiful little bird singing away. It’s a New Holland Honeyeater. I have never seen one before.
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A captivatingly beautiful little bird.
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Not all birds around Apollo Bay are new to me, or completely wild. Most of my friends know that I have long enjoyed befriending magpies. This is ‘Maggie’ (as all my special maggies are called), and I have known him for a couple of seasons. He is very confident when we meet he now has a few established routines. He will land outside the window in the house nearest to where I am sitting inside. Then when he sees me go to the fridge for his specially prepared chicken morsel, he beats me to the nearest available door and is waiting for me. Sometimes I go out another door to see what he does. The answer is, nothing. That is, until I call ‘Maggie’, upon which he flies around the house and finds me on the lawn or the verandah and lands at my feet or beside my arm on the verandah rail. When I first met him, he would cautiously take the morsel proffered, and quickly dart away with it. Now, a couple of seasons down the track, he takes the morsel, and calmly hangs around for a bit of interaction – mostly I talk to him, and he watches me intently. Note the shadows of his eyelashes. He’s a beautiful, intelligent bird.

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