Through the Lens: Birds of Australia’s Northern Territory


I’m Marie Reed and I’m a wildlife photographer
and nature writer.  And I want to share with you some of my experiences on the photographic
trip I took to Australia’s Northern Territory. I heard about this place, Kakadu National
Park, from some friends and from seeing other people’s photographs, and I really wanted
to go there. We’d been told about various places that were
good for birds and bird photography.  And there was a wonderful place there that’s very,
very well known for bird life, which is called “Yellow Water”, which is a huge wetland complex
in the center of this very, very arid park. Full of birds.  So we knew that we would likely
see lots of birds gathered together interested in courting, and maybe some waterfowl and
herons, and all kinds of wonderful things. So, some of the birds we particularly wanted
to photograph in Kakadu, and particularly in this wonderful wetland, was a fabulous
creature called the Comb-crested jacana. And you can see what a strangely proportioned
bird this is – little tiny head, a little tiny body, and these incredibly long legs
and even longer toes; these widespread toes that enable it to walk
around on floating vegetation. The jacana was just bizarre and wonderful,
and very colorful.  One of my goals was to actually get them in motion, you know,
walking along over the water lily leaves in action. This is a Black-necked stork foraging for food and that’s what it’s doing here. It’s chasing in the shallow water after what
presumably is a fish or a crayfish or something that’s trying to scuttle out of its way. And it put on this great show for us running
up and down with its wings opens and making a lot of splashing and then stabbing into
the water with is bill and catching the prey. And here’s a flock of Magpie geese at sunrise.  They have a very strange shape. They’re called Magpie geese because of their black
and white, but they’re also called knob geese because of this strange knob on the top of
their head. And they really don’t look anything like what
we think of as a typical goose. This is one of the first birds I tried photographing.  It
was one of those situations where I was trying to figure out what on earth, how on earth
do I go about photographing any of these birds? How can I get close to any of them? And I noticed suddenly that there was this
forest kingfisher that came and sat on a perch, the same perch a couple of times in and row. And I thought, hmm, that’s a pattern of behavior,
I can use that predictability to now anticipate that bird will come back. And so to be able to photograph it I basically
hung out there for an hour or so, and low and behold it did come back again.
And its got a katydid in its bill at this point. And I was kind of surprised to see a songbird
attacking this kingfisher. I’m not quite sure why it would be – maybe
the kingfisher is a threat to the songbird’s nest. But this songbird’s called a Willy wagtail,
and it really does wag its tail, but instead of what we think of as a wagtail, where a
bird wags its tail up and down, this one wags its tail from side to side,
so it’s very strange to watch. So one of the other birds we were interested
in photographing is called the Rainbow bee-eater. And bee-eaters actually do eat bees as well
as other insects, and they catch them in midair up in the trees and then they’d swoop out
and chase around in midair and catch insects with a snap of their bill, take
them back to a perch and then they’d whack the insect on the perch and swallow it. But what was really delightful was as the
day began to dwindle and it began to be dusk, several of the bee-eaters came down on the
ground in the dust and they started dust bathing – shimming around in the dust to m ake the
dust fluff around in their feathers.  And that’s the way they clean their feathers. So, as always when you go into a new place
you never know what you’re going to get, you never know what the situation’s going to be, you never know what you’re going to come away
with. It was a wonderful experience and I’d love
to go back there. So I felt like I’d come away with a lot of
great photographs from Northern Territory, especially from Kakado National Park.

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