Right from the boat in a loop of the Kwatu River (one of the tributaries of the mighty Fly River), we discover an open-topped bowl of the Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) which is also written Willie-wagtail. I have to photograph the nest with the 3 nestlings. We see how an adult Willie Wagtail has brought a dragonfly to its brood. Early in the nestling period, the chicks are unable to eat such large prey, but they are now fairly well developed and almost ready to leave the nest.
The nests of Fantails of the family Rhipiduridae in general are smooth, bowl-shaped structures. Both sexes contribute to the nest- building process, which takes 8-15 days. The first stage involves twisting spider’s webs around the chosen branch or fork to create a platform. The second involves building up the outer walls with rootlets, bark strips and plant fibers. During the final stage the whole structure is plastered with spiders’ webs, which are gathered using the head or body and then wiped over the cup to bind the materials together. The nest of the Willie Wagtail is comparatively robust and therefore usually built on top of a broad branch or other level surface.
Because incubation begins with the last egg, hatching is synchronous in Fantails, and as a result it is usual for all members of a brood to fly within a period of a few hours. Observations of this species in the distribution area suggest that the young are fed for a further two weeks. Later they disperse from the natal territory within a month. Hatching success has been estimated at 53-88% but was noted that the proximity of nesting to human habitation has left nests open to destruction by children.
Unfortunately, the story does not go well. The next day we arrive again from our excursion to the loading point of the Kwatu Lodge. The water has fallen so far that the first sunken trees are accessible on foot again. The Willie Wagtail’s nest is gone. The children of the village hang so guiltily at the dock around, that the bare footsteps are only the confirmation of the evil doings. A pity, if that really had to be? Out of pure exuberance to get the 3 young out of the nest and destroy the nest too. That borders on vandalism. Poor Willie-wagtail still flies from time to time to the old nesting site.
To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to remote places like this one to capture images not only of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.