Royal Spoonbill ( Platalea regia )

 When I was a lad, and I reiterate, it wasn’t that long ago, this bird fascinated me. For those who haven’t seen one, it is has got just that, a bill in the shape of a spoon. With wide sweeping scythe like movements through shallow muddy wetlands it searches for yabbies and other invertebrates with its super sensitive bill. Like most birds though, unless you go to the right places to look, you’ll never see one. Our local wetland over on Eastlink called Rigby’s is normally a very reliable spot to see them, but sometimes they just aren’t there.

In flight they can easily be mistaken for Ibis, I certainly have to do a doubletake each time I see Ibis flying overhead. I know, I know, I say it every time, but they are a stunning looking bird. Take a look at Kim’s photo of one, what a photo. We are absolutely blessed to have these photos from Kim each month. Visit her website Lirra Lirra to view her stunning photography. She is recognised all over the world for her photography, not hard to see why when you look at photos like this.

We have two species of Spoonbill in Australia (both moderately common in Victoria), the Royal and the Yellow-billed Spoonbill, with both species intermingling in some situations. The Yellow-billed often has an amount of muddy discolouration on his plumage, in stark contrast to the Royal who is always immaculately clean with plumage as white as the driven snow.

I have just recently finished a job on a new bridge over Altona creek in Altona Meadows and, for some reason that I can’t explain, several species of wader would sometimes come very close to the bridge while feeding, seemingly oblivious to the men working right near them. I got as close to a Great Egret, Intermediate Egret and Black-winged Stilt that I would ever have dreamt possible, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I lifted my welding helmet to find five Royal Spoonbill feeding about 10 metres from me. You’d take that any day of the week you could get it. And yet the men working all around me were even more oblivious, they didn’t notice the birds at all. Huh, go figure. That is except for my mate Dave who claims a Toucan flew over while I was welding. And then an hour later reckons a Pteradactyl soared overhead but by the time he sung out to me it was gone. I have to put up with a lot on these job sites, honest I do. Especially from Dave.

I don’t want to open a can of worms or in any way offend people of faith who believe humans and perhaps all animals didn’t evolve but were created, but how, or maybe who, could have dreamed up this bird’s bill. I personally believe in evolution, and believe evolution in no way discounts the possibility of a higher being. But whoever or however this bird’s bill was designed, it’s pretty well out there, isn’t it?

And on the subject of bills, every single species of bird has a bill which is highly specialised for the efficient consumption of food to give them the energy to continue. Go on, say it, no kidding, of course that’s just elementary, but think about it. A bird of prey’s bill, ideal for tearing apart meat. A Cockatoo or Parrot’s bill for cracking hard seeds or tearing timber apart in search of grubs. Finches’ beaks for finding and picking up tiny seeds. The list goes on, you’ll all be bored to tears if I continue: you get it.

Field Trips

Our field trips have started up again if any newcomers out there are thinking of joining us. On a personal level, I just love meeting all the people who have come along on our field trips, it’s a fantastic experience to meet people with a similar interest in the natural world. The going out into the bush and seeing birds, mammals and plants also gets me fired up too, I just love it. So if anyone reading this has had their interest piqued, (I love using words like that too) come along. You may have knowledge on something to share with us, or want to learn from the group, we have a wealth of knowledge between us. Fresh eyes can also pick up the most unlikeliest of things which increases our appreciation of the wildlife we must  cherish; much more than we have .

Des Palmer