The things we do to get ‘the shot’
The white-winged fairy wren has always been a ‘bird of interest’, but although quite common across Australia’s arid centre, they can be devilish difficult to photograph well.
At around 12 cm, they are one of the smallest fairy-wrens. The male in his cobalt blue-and-white breeding plumage is a sight to behold, but they don’t stay still for long.
Getting quality shots of this wren was a priority for my most recent visit (September) to the AWC’s Bowra wildlife sanctuary near Cunnamulla. And although it is fair to say, ‘mission accomplished’, the objective wasn’t achieved without a degree of pain and personal embarrassment.
Piles of fence wire
Having seen the white-winged fairy-wrens on all previous visits, I knew roughly where they would be – in overgrown piles of fence wire and broken posts near the main gate to the property.
Experience had also taught me that, once located, it was best to adopt a low profile and wait for the birds to rise up from their tangled lair to start foraging over the surrounding sun-baked, seemingly seedless ground.
My trusty travelling birding mate Norton (Norty) Gill spotted a mature male almost immediately – perched high on his castle of wire and making it clear to his clan of females and immatures below that intruders were about.
A lower profile
Time to sit and wait. Wise old Norty had brought his little camp stool, but I preferred a lower profile and put a hand down to ease myself and the Canon 600mm quietly to the ground. Yikes! (or words to that effect). The palm of my right hand and my backside were instantly pierced by bindi thorns.
The seed burs of the bindi (Soliva sessilis) are so sharp and strong that they can puncture a bike tyre, so quick-dry bush pants were no protection for my nether region.
But as long as I didn’t make any sudden movements, the bindis in the bum were tolerable. However, to operate the camera, immediate surgery on the hand was required. Suffice to say the burs were extracted – sort of. Tweezers would have been handy.
Procession of females
As we settled down, a procession of females, male eclipses, juveniles and the resident breeding male soon emerged and began hopping and making short, dashing flights around us. The show lasted about 15 minutes and some of the photographic results accompany this piece.
And then there was the backside full of bindis to address. As a local farmer’s ute raced down the nearby road, there we were: a couple of old guys in the middle of a southern Queensland paddock, one bent double while the other delivered him a major slapping about the buttocks. Should have made for a good conversation at the local pub that afternoon.
©Natural Images 2019