Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Little Red WattleBird

Australian photographer extraordinaire Brett Dolsen shares with us the heartwarming experience of being chosen for adoption by a wild wattlebird. Wattlebirds (Anthochaera) are members of the Honeyeater family, and native to Australia.  You'll love the photographs that Brett shot, chronicling the entire story, still ongoing at this writing.  At the end of the wattlebird tale, we are treated to a small collection of Brett's magnificent photographs.


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me [at this moment there are only two stories still on tap--we need YOURS!]. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


The Little Red Wattlebird

It was just another another morning and living in such a great location as Lake Cathie on the east coast of Australia my usual morning ritual is to get up early and venture out onto the verandah to see what gifts the new day has presented.  It is usually decision making time based on clouds at dawn, surf conditions or bird life down on the lake all visible from my verandah. Of course if I don’t see anything that captures my attention I head for the coffee rather than my camera.

It was the first day in February of 2011 and as I ventured outside I noticed a Wattlebird in the Kentia Palms adjacent to my home.  Usually they are very flighty so like most photographers I headed back for my camera expecting him to be gone on my return.

Little Red Wattlebird's First Appearance

To my surprise, as I moved closer for a better point of view, the bird continued with his activities and relocated to a Dracena bush where I managed to take a few quick shots.

Suddenly without warning he flew straight toward me and landed on the handrail next to me within touching distance.

As bewildered as I was, I immediately entered into dialogue with this extremely sociable wild bird, welcoming him to our house and looking for answers as to what was happening here.



Following our introduction and my quick lesson in bird language, my wife Janet appeared, wondering who I was talking to.

It was now time for that ever-important first cup of coffee and bewildered discussions about our welcome visitor who had now joined us for breakfast at the outside dining cable. With Janet's quick thinking and knowledge of birds, she headed for the pantry cupboard and returned with some honey. Wattlebirds are honey eaters and he appeared to be delighted as his tongue rapidly worked Janet's fingers and consumed all traces of this golden treat.

First Cup

Honey for Breakfast

And a Drop of Tenderness

A short time later he suddenly took off and left us wondering whether he would return. I headed for my Readers Digest "Complete Guide to Australian Birds" and then to the internet searching for further information regarding the Red Wattlebird.

I discovered an article in which a bird of the same species had been orphaned and raised by humans. It seems that the orphaned bird became very fond of the people that nurtured him and a favourite treat was watermelon. Some time later a female was introduced and the bird became less interactive with humans and was finally released back into the wild. Apparently he returns about once a year and knocks on the window until watermelon is brought out. Then after feasting and most likely sharing with his family, he disappears into the wild again. Wattle birds are migratory and stay in an area as long as there is a constant food supply.

That first day he reappeared on several occasions and became very comfortable, often preening himself from a perch on the top of a dining room chair. It appeared that it wasn’t just food he was after but also company and perhaps a sense of safety.

The Author and his New Friend

Over the next couple of days there were regular visits and then on the evening of the third day just before nightfall he landed in a Bottle Brush tree outside our bedroom window where he settled in for the night. This night nesting became intermittent as tales were spreading around the neighbourhood of the same bird interreacting at other households.

The following morning at day break he was off and during the day could be seen flying with other birds in the trees across the road.  He was quite distingishable as he had a certain clumsiness that made him stand out from the other birds.

We would be sitting at the outside table when he would suddenly swoop in with a gust of air narrowly missing us as he landed on a chair or sometimes on the table in front of us.

The Red Wattle Showcased


A feed of bread, honey and water and sometimes watermelon was becoming popular not only with our new friend but also with a family of eight or so sparrows that had become aware of free meals being handed out at the Dolsen’s.


On about the fifth day our balcony came under siege by four magpies who had become curious as to what was on offer.They had obviously been watching from the trees across the road and after surrounding the perimeter, one was sent in to check out the food bowl. On close inspection he turned his nose up and as quick as they appeared they were gone. Magpies are somewhat sinister in appearance, not unlike crows, but more threatening.


Occasionally our little friend would turn up with others of his kind who would be too timid to stay but he was quite content with remaining behind as they continued off into the wild.

After about two weeks of constant visits it became noticeable that he was less interested in our food offerings and began hunting around the house for insects of different kinds. He would busily skip along the gutters changing feet from side to side as he searched for another treat. He began to land on the fly screens and search for moths hidden in the channels and this has now become a daily occurrence. After two months he is no longer looking for easy food but still comes and sits with me regularly and preens contentedly for around twenty minutes at a time.

Moth for Dinner!
It is impossible to say with certainty what has occurred with this little native bird but I have a strong feeling that he was most likely hand raised and cannot live without human companionship. He is not demanding but appears very safe and secure in our environment.

Safe and Secure
 At first one could say it was quite spiritual, but now it is more of a mutual relationship with no demands. As our balcony has become part of his personal wilderness I think the photos may tell the story better than I can.

Call of the Wild

Brett Dolsen Biographic Sketch

Growing up in Bankstown a western suburb of Sydney NSW Australia, Brett's ancestral roots date from the early 1600's to mid 1850's in North America. His great great grandfather arrived in Australia in 1851 from Chatham Ontario during the Australian Goldrush.  Brett began researching history around middle age and the more he learnt about his ancestors the more his views on the world began to change.

After 30 years in the landscape gardening business,  Brett was also influenced by the appearance of a Black Necked Stork, more commonly known as Jabiru, adjacent to his residence in Lake Cathie NSW. As a result Brett purchased a Canon D400 kit in the hope of capturing this rarely seen bird (early images below).  This relentless pursuit continued as the Jabiru reappeared almost daily for around four weeks and Brett soon realised the need to develop better photography techniques.

After four years Brett has decided to start his own photography business and very recently purchased new equipment."This will hopefully take me to another level and yes it is all about lenses. I love action captures of all types and this where I would like my business to go."
History will perhaps tell the rest of the story.


Brett's Bonus Shots

Body Board

Eucalyptus Forest


Paddling with Pals

Jabiru in Flight


Peter Hudson

Portrait of a Surfer

Relentless Pursuit


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.


   All photographs by Brett Dolsen


LauraEm said...

I really enjoyed Brett's story and photos. Amazing really. Reaching out to nature and it reaches back...and in this case nature made the first move making this ongoing encounter of freindship even more endearing!

-Laura E. Swan

Joe DiGilio said...

This is a delightful story Brett. Living on Lake Cathie must be wonderful. I'll bet you never run out of subjects. You wake up, walk out on the deck and there they are, waiting for you. Who has it better than you? As for your images, your stuff is superior for sure. I always thought so.

Sandy Powers said...

Brett, what an amazing story! My heart is so warm and fuzzy over your friendship with your little friend(s). My hubby and I look so forward every day to coming home and sitting on our deck watching our own little birds enjoy the food we put out for them -- so this story pulled a heart string for me BIG time :) THANK YOU! Oh... and the pictures are amazing!!!

Tyson said...

I have really enjoyed reading your experiences of your special friendship with this little bird. I found it heartwarming and being an animal lover I can only imagine the joy this bird must bring to you, the trust that it has in you and the bond it has developed with you and your family and all illustrated so beautifully with your gorgeous photos.

Dave Phalen said...

The friend that chooses you is the best of friends be they animals or humans. A marvelous story matches by your excellent photographs.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story of friends :) Loved it!

Anonymous said...

What a heartwarming story, Brett, and I agree so completely with Dave!
Your images tell the story so well, too!


Carolyn McIntosh said...

What an amazing story to share . . . the blending of mankind and nature in a harmonious fashion . .. Just amazing . . .. what a gift for both of you . . . for you to have the opportunity to so well document and capture the events . . . for the sanctuary you provided the bird . . . and for how it affected your soul.

Gorgeous photos . .

Vicki McIntosh said...

Really refreshing cool story and yr photos are so beautiful and we'll captured! Happy days with you n nature. Keep clicking!!