Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Garden Goshawk

At the moment Gill and I are house-sitting for some friends in Roleystone while they are away overseas. I’m well occupied each day as I’m frantically writing my Masters thesis, working long hours each day so I can (hopefully!) get it done before Christmas. Today I had a welcome guest in the garden.

I happened to glance out the front window and look up to the bird-bath which I had filled with fresh water earlier that morning. To my delight a Rufous Whistler, who had been calling merrily from a nearby Jarrah sapling, flew down for a drink. It was brief though - no sooner had he taken a sip than he fluttered away hastily... and the reason why landed next to the bath on the floor. A young Brown Goshawk!

This bird was probably an immature (2nd year) bird, distinguishable from the adult by having mottled brown plumage. The Brown Goshawk is often confused with the similar Collared Sparrowhawk - the above photo clearly shows the more prominent brow, and the thicker, stocky legs of the Goshawk. For an interesting comparison look at this photo of a Sparrowhawk:

You can see how much rounder the top of the head is, and how the Goshawk at the top has much more of a ‘glare’. The other distinguishing feature is the middle toe: in the Goshawk this is longer than the other 2 toes, but not by much; in the Sparrowhawk the middle toe is disproportionately longer than the other two.

This little appearance gave me a nice break from writing my thesis, and reminded me that even some of our most cryptic birds come into our gardens, right near our houses, if we happen to look at the right time.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Goanna Burrow

I was thrilled to discover recently that a beautiful Gould’s Goanna (Varanus gouldii) has made a burrow at the edge of the brick paving on our verandah. This local reptile is relatively common in bushland around the Perth hills but I’ve rarely seen them in modified gardens (like ours) which are not adjoining bush remnants. This animal is quite young, maybe a couple of years old, and still has very vivid markings across his back.

I suspect this goanna dispersed from his nest in nearby bush as a hatchling and found our place had lots of plant cover, so decided to stay. Now he’s grown to a reasonable size and we’ve noticed him because he’s made his home very close to ours! Not only is it exciting to see this beautiful animal, but we know he will help us in the garden by eating many pest species like insects and mice. Goanna diet also includes other small reptiles and birds’ eggs.

Young goannas such as this are very wary around their burrows, and will sit at the entrance looking for danger before emerging. The slightest movement nearby can make them dash back inside for protection! If you catch them away from a burrow, they will rush away at great speed, which is why they acquired the nickname ‘Racehorse Goanna’.

I managed to snap this first photo of our fella from inside our lounge room, which allows you to get quite close without him seeing. Later in the afternoon I saw him in the garden bed a few metres from his burrow, and snuck slowly through the rocks with my big lens to grab a nice close head shot.
How cool is it to be sharing your space with such a beautiful reptile!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Today I had the pleasure of giving an educational talk about Wedge-tailed Eagle ecology to a very bright group of Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) students at Clayton View Primary School in Koongamia. The small class was composed of students from a variety of schools in the eastern suburbs. They loved hearing about eagles and knowing that, not far away from the school, a pair of 'wedgies' were rearing a chick. We finished the day by heading outside to have a quick search for eagles, before it was time to head home. Working with and inspiring kids is a wonderfully rewarding experience and, as I'm discovering as an environmental scientist, an activity that is increasingly important for our environment.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

891 ABC Adelaide

My first ‘PR’ session after winning the Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year was an early morning natter to ABC Adelaide’s breakfast crew, Matthew Abraham and David Bevan. We were supposed to only have a few minutes, but this pair were so interested in eagles they ended up getting me talking for over fifteen!

My sincere thanks go to the guys for having me on and being so interested in eagles, and to the producer for allowing me to have a copy of the interview. If you’re interested in listening, click below to hear a recording of the interview.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Australian Birdfair

This weekend I’m in Leeton, New South Wales, to be a guest speaker at the 2010 Australian Birdfair. This fabulous event is organised by BOCA (Bird Observation and Conservation Australia) and I was thrilled when coordinator Mike Schultz phoned to invite me along!

On Friday I am conducting a workshop to build hides and talk about wildlife filmmaking with kids from some local primary schools. Then on Saturday the birdfair begins - lots of seminars about bird research, education programmes and other areas of interest for those liking our feathered Australians! I'm giving a talk about Wedge-tailed Eagles and filmmaking, to share some of the research I've done o the species in the past, and show some footage taken during this year for the film myself and Adam Hermans are working on, called A Wedged Tale.

The above photo of two feuding Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) was taken on a short birding walk with Stuart Rae near the Murrumbidgee River. I love the character of cockatoos - always up for a play-fight or a game. Much like many of the keen environmental people I'm lucky to know or be friends with!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Patience Pays Off

After more than 10 hours concealed in a wildlife hide, Adam and I struck wildlife photography gold today when we were lucky enough to film a family of Australian Shelducks (Tadorna tadornoides) emerging from their nest hollow. This marks the highlight of my year so far making A Wedged Tale and one of the highlights of my life!

During a misty morning in WA's south-west we were driving along a small dirt track when a male Shelduck caught my attention. He was walking around at the base of a Powderbark tree which had a large dead trunk and a couple of smaller regrown saplings. Ducks are normally found near water and I knew the only reason one would be in the middle of the forest was for nesting. Like several native Australian ducks, Shelducks often choose a large hollow inside a tree in which to lay their eggs. I stopped the car and climbed out to investigate, and sure enough the dead tree contained a nice hollow spout about 5 metres above the ground. Closer inspection not only revealed a nest inside the hollow, but a female duck sitting on her eggs! As I took a photograph of her, I heard faint cheeping sounds which told me she was in fact sitting on a brood of newly hatched ducklings. This meant only one thing: the ducklings were due to emerge and we had to film them!

Adam and I sprang into action and constructed 2 hides within 20 metres of the nest tree, one directly facing the hollow and another off to one side. This would give us two positions from which to shoot different camera angles.

A six hour wait ended in disappointment, however, when the day passed and nothing exciting happened. The male duck returned (we had disturbed him on arrival) and perched in a tree for a while (a sitting duck!), but there was no sign of the female. Feeling like we'd missed out, we returned to our camp with sore bums and imagining the ducklings coming out under the cover of darkness, conditions not suitable for filming.

We decided to return before sunrise the next morning and were very excited to find the male at the base of the nest tree, and the female still inside brooding. We had a second chance! Adam and I dived into our hides again and after a short wait the female began emerging and investigating the scene before here. We hoped the family would hold off their annual event until light conditions improved enough for our cameras to work properly, and for the low-lying mist of Day 2 to subside and stop fogging up our lenses at those critical moments. Thankfully, the sun penetrated the forest, the fog lifted and the timing couldn't have been better for the big moment.

Here's the clip to share with you this wonderful moment:

Down Come the Ducks from Simon Cherriman on Vimeo.