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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Silly Drongo?

Fork-tailed Drongo
Etosha National Park, Namibia

It may not be the only drongo in my suburb of Duffy, but it's the one that interests me the most at present! Drongos, despite most Autralians' perceptions, are actually a group of pretty spiffy medium-sized glossy-sheened long-tailed aerial show-offs, which do so in order to catch flying insects. Most of the world's 25 or so species (these things are dependent on your preferred taxonomy) are found in southern Asia and Africa, but one, the chatty, flashy Spangled Drongo, is found commonly in tropical and sub-tropical near-coastal Australia from the Top End to about Sydney. South of that it gets pretty scarce; inland it's scarcer still, so an appearance in Canberra is a rare treat for those of us who appreciate such things. There have probably been less than 10 individuals reported here, and this bird would be only the fourth or fifth in a decade (it can be hard to know if multiple sightings in a short time refer to one or more birds). In my 30+ years in Canberra it's only the second I've seen here. It's difficult to say what drives such unexpected appearances; we can be pretty confident that overall rising temperatures are pushing warmth-loving species further south, but what made this one decide to leave the relatively balmy coast and head up to Canberra, currently very frosty indeed? It's not saying, as it hangs around the same clump of planted acacias on the western edge of Duffy, on the border of Narrabundah Hill, dashing out to catch insects, sometimes taking a sojourn in the yards across the road. Its brown (not glowing red) eyes tell us that it's not a full adult; maybe its inexperience simply led to it getting disoriented, perhaps accompanying a band of migrating honeyeaters returning from their winter break up north.
Spangled Drongo, Duffy. August 2012.
Note bee in beak!

And before we leave this engaging chap to get on with things and presumably eventually go back to where it might find others of its ilk, I should point out that our derogatory use of the word drongo to suggest someone who's not intellectually the full quid is not taken directly from any attribute of the bird (despite what you might read on Wikipedia!). In the 1920s the owners of an Australian racehorse named it Drongo, presumably in the hope that it might prove as dashing as the bird; it didn't quite, though it managed a few gallant second places. In time the word has come to mean someone pretty hopeless, rather than a trier who just fell short, as was the original connotation.


Anonymous said...

Ian, only 3 posts and what great photos you have posted already! I love the Spangled Drongo image the best (but that's probably because I love Acacias!).

Ian Fraser said...

Hello Madoqua, thank you for your kind words. I am already astonished at how this spreads! May I ask (just for my own curiosity) how you found out about it so quickly? A quick look at your blog convinces me that I'll be back there - if nothing else I can't resist anything on Africa! I'll be talking about that in the future, as well as Acacias...

David Cook said...

Hi Ian, congrats on the new Blog, a must-read for us! Should keep you even busier than you are already! This new SD reminds me of the aberrant one we had out here in Wamboin years ago, one of the few recorded in COG's AOI - pre-digital camera so no photograph, but was accepted by Rarities anyway! Cheers, D.

Anonymous said...

Ian, your blogsite URL was sent to me by someone who knows I am interested in all things ecological! I believe you have an interest in orchids too, looking forward to seeing your posts on those!