Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cameo Performance..... Satin Flycatcher

On a recent overcast morning, I set off in the Meehan Range to look at the status of the waterhole. Last Summer, it dried out completely, and as conditions weren't particularly conducive for photography, it seemed a good opportunity to recce this spot, but I took the camera just in case! I always get that feeling of excitement as I approach the waterhole, mixed with apprehension. Will it or won't it have water in it, and as the approach is from below the small dam wall, it's not until the last moment that you know. Well, in the event, there was water, albeit obviously in need of replenishment soon.
This waterhole, is a magnet for birds, and this morning was no exception. The first bird I noticed was a female Satin Flycatcher, sallying forth over the water, before plopping down in it at a chosen spot and returning to a perch to preen. Shortly after that I was surrounded by Grey Fantails, many of them this year's youngsters, mostly hawking after the numerous small flying insects. I suspect that the presence of these insects also drew in the stars of the morning, Satin Flycatcher males. In general, the male flycatchers only occasionally visit, whereas the females are frequent visitors. I noted three males, and from previous experience here, expected a 'verbal' battle to commence. I was not disappointed, and this one lasted several minutes, during which they gave me the opportunity to take many shots, a few I've published here. It was quite a morning! Although I've witnessed these battles before, I hadn't noticed the extreme posture in which the calling bird elongates its body, as in the shots at left. I must say that they do get very worked up, so much so, that they often flew extremely close to me, I'm talking centimetres, as they pursue one another. It's unfortunate that you can't hear their rasping calls, which is very much part of the display. As many would know, one of the habits of these birds, is the vibrating of the tail whilst perched, and in many of my shots, the tail is a blur, due to the slow shutter speeds needed in the overcast conditions. I had a quiet chuckle at the lower shot, in which the bird is giving a passable impression of a woodpecker.
I had a great morning, and I hope you'll get some enjoyment from the images too. (I suggest clicking on the images to enlarge them, may help).


Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,
what a great display! .....and what 'show-offs' they are!

Duncan said...

Fabulous shots Alan, I'm green with envy.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work Alan.

BirdingTas said...

Thank you gentlemen, and please forgive my slowness to acknowledge your comments. As I'm sure you would have guessed, the Satin Flycatcher is one of my all time favourites, and I never pass up an opportunity to watch/photograph them. They are both attractive and full of character, afraid of little, and when 'pumped up', will chase almost anything. On this occasion I was favoured with a great display, and thankfully, the shots were better than I expected in the poor light (or perhaps because of it!). However, capturing the ever changing 'satin' look is a challenge, and one day, perhaps, I'll be totally happy with the results!