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Friday, 14 June 2013

Red-capped Robins dancing, Southern Whiteface nesting and a loud Pallid Cuckoo - photos and video

I drove from Papunya to Haasts Bluff and back again yesterday for work, and stopped off at the Frederick Blakeley Memorial. The memorial is about half way between the two Communities at the base of some enormous rocky hills. It is the only place on the drive where you can get off the road with a small semi-circle driveway near the memorial. I stopped there during the day and then again on the way back, much later.

After the excitement of the Pied Honeyeaters at Papunya, I was now attuned to their calls and there were lots of them here as well. In fact, whenever I slowed the car with the windows down throughout the whole drive yesterday, I could hear their calls so there must be hundreds of them around this area at the moment.

I had seen some Red-capped Robins during the midday stop, but it was the late afternoon stop that was almost comical. I had gone across the road from the memorial with the camera and had taken some distant shots of a number of birds, but could hear the clicking sound of the Red-capped Robin back towards the road. It was unusual to my ears however as it was more like a Grey Shrike-thrush or a Pied Butcherbird hitting an insect on wood and it was constant. Finally I could stand it no more and headed back to the road and there were two male Red-capped Robins clicking constantly, doing a dance, which looked like a power struggle. I think it was possibly a younger Red-capped Robin trying to either fight for the female that was nearby, or fight for the nesting spot, or possibly it was being told it was no longer allowed to be in the family home, not really sure but it was entertaining to watch. In all the photos and the video, the bird on the left seems to be the one in charge. The middle of the road is probably not the best place to be standing/crouching/kneeling to take photos and video but luckily for me there was no traffic during the whole sequence!

Red-capped Robins


The female perched above the road, watching the two males squabble

In the video, the two Red-capped robins do a little shadow-boxing dance to start with and then the one on the left gets the upper hand in the second and forces the one on the right to fly off.

At around the same time the Robins were going toe (or should that be claw) to toe, a couple of Southern Whiteface hopped down on to the road behind me. One of them was either very fluffed up like a young one, or, as I suspect judging by the nesting material of the other, was a soon-to-be mum. The light wasn't fantastic by this stage but the photos still show the two birds fairly clearly.

Southern Whiteface

"Where's this house I'm supposed to build, you look ready to drop an egg!"

One species that has been rather vocal recently is the Pallid Cuckoo. During my midday stop, I heard a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo calling from one of the taller trees by the side of the road and took a couple of photos from a distance with the intention to get closer and take some more. I had been on the other side of the road, and paused briefly by the car to use the car as a steadying influence to take the next photo and was disappointed to see that Cuckoo had flown off. I kept moving towards the tree thinking it had possibly dropped down to some lower branches, and when I got to the tree I looked up and was surprised to see a much larger Cuckoo sitting on an exposed branch. I thought maybe I had mistaken the first one, but was glad when I checked the photos I hadn't. The Pallid Cuckoo that had flown in while I was walking across to the tree then began calling. I snapped off some photos and then took some video of the call.

Pallid Cuckoo

The female Red-capped Robin wasn't impressed the Cuckoo was in her neck of the woods

Video of the Pallid Cuckoo calling

The Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo

There were quite a few other birds around, one species I love to see and hear are the Crimson Chats. They didn't come close, but were in the same tree as the Pallid Cuckoo:

Crimson Chat

Below is a photo of the memorial plaque for Frederick Blakeley:


  1. such a bounty Richard; as much as I love those red-capped robins; I really like the crimson chat too

  2. Hi!
    Lovely bird serie i realy love red-capped robins.
    Have a nice weekend

  3. These photos are absolutely beautiful. The red-capped robin and the crimson chat in particular are gorgeous.