MAGPIE-LARK (Grallina cyanoleuca)

I nearly missed the shot altogether.

From outdoors a faint sound of fluttering wings was heard and I saw a medium-large black and white bird through the window.

I have felt like I was in a bird hide in recent days (since I re-arranged some of the furniture).

I just have to remember to leave the block-out blinds up, not down, during the afternoon for bird viewing (on a hot day).

The trouble was I had left the camera body with the telephoto lens on the sideboard.

I slowly stood up and moved (even slower) towards the camera, trying hard not to scare the bird.  It had finished its drink from the birdbath and was now standing on the balcony fence railing.

I knew I would only have seconds to lift the camera, take the lens cap off, turn it on, raise it to my eye/glasses and press the shutter button.

Certainly, there would be no time to see if the lens glass was clean of dust or what the camera settings might have been (from the last bird shot).

I zoomed in as close as I could, then snap without actually looking through the viewfinder properly.  I suspect I wobbled a bit and didn’t hold the camera completely still either.

I instantly realised I had captured a new visitor to my apartment balcony but was too close to the bird so I quickly zoomed out a bit.

Snap! I had managed to get a 2nd (and final) shot.

I recognised it immediately as one of the common Magpie Larks that frequent this parkland and nature reserve setting.

 Often in noisy pairs or family parties, associating with other flocking birds.  It’s voice is varied, but commonly duetting ‘tee-hee’ with response ‘pee-on-wee’ accompanied by wing raising. Alarm call a piercing repeated ‘pee’.

…….says my Australian Bird Guide book

The Magpie Lark must have seen my movement indoors as it promptly flew off into the nearby trees.

Note to self:  I really must clean the exterior of the windows.  Then, the avian visitors would only see a reflection of themselves in the glass, not my movement indoors.

Mmmmmm……I think this is about the 8th bird species that have visited my balcony in the last 6 years since I moved to the western suburbs of Melbourne.

When I downloaded the photos I could see straight away that they definitely weren’t my best bird images, but hey, I did manage to fire off 2 shots so my efforts weren’t wasted.  I was reminded of this quote I’d recently read.

The reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have come.

In 2010, when I bought myself a little point & shoot Canon Camera, I would take 500-600 photos in a single afternoon always aiming for the perfect shot.

I knew I could do it if I just practised hard enough.  I knew one day I would get the perfect shot sometime in the future.

Now, between COVID lockdowns, worsening chronic pain and major surgeries, I just make lots of images and remember that all photographers, amateur (like me) or professional, have good days and bad days.

Now I just make the shot and am thankful for all the wonderful birdlife I see out the window or on short walks to the local pond/wetlands.

Life is too short to spend rehearsing

Treat every day as a final performance

Live in the moment.

Live Mindfully (I try to, but don’t always succeed).

And make the shot.

Good or bad shot? Does it really matter when you’re doing what you love?  If I was a paid professional, maybe.  But if you’re an amateur, or professional doing personal photography, just aim and press that shutter button. You can always delete it in this age of digital photography.  Or you can keep it as a memory of that Moment in Time when you saw a new visitor on your apartment balcony.

Here are a few more shots of Magpie Larks that I found that were actually filed in a folder.


16 thoughts on “MAGPIE-LARK (Grallina cyanoleuca)

    1. Very apt description too, Eliza.

      Hope it returns so I can get a better shot. Birds on my Balcony species are growing in number as the seasons go by.

      Saw 2 Spotted Turtle-doves playing in the water a few days earlier, but I was too slow getting the camera. I think it’s the same 2 doves I’ve seen previously, but I’ve never seen them drinking or splashing around in the water before.

      Cool today, but it has been very hot in the past week.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What dramatic and handsome birds. You certainly were lucky to get these shots. I have a yellow-rumped warbler that’s been visiting a Hawaiian schefflera right outside my window, but the slightest movement — even turning to look at it — can set it flying. It’s my sense that smaller birds tend to be flittier. Is that your experience?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that small birds tend to be flittier, but on the other hand, lots and lots of practice helps to capture the smaller birds within the frame.

      Sometimes I get lucky with photographing small birds and sometimes not.

      The Magpie Larks and Spotted Turtle-doves usually stand still for a longer length of time. And of course, the herons or egrets are even easier to photograph.

      I really should go back to leaving my bird camera/lens on my desk beside where I sit so I don’t have to walk 5-6 feet across the room when I see a bird on my balcony. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just as much fun to sit and watch their antics in the bird bath. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Tracy.
      Actually, I’ve seen a couple of other bird species, but their visits to the birdbath are a once-only I think. The Magpie Larks are so common near the river and on the grass in the low-lying field, that I’m thinking I might see this species on my balcony again one day.


  2. We had a magpie lark at our last house that liked to look at its reflection in the window. All day it was there, tapping and staring and it did this for May months. Unfortunately it caused damage to the wooden frame. We tried all sorts of things to deter it, such as plastic snakes, but it wasn’t fooled. Then, suddenly it stopped and wasn’t seen again. What a relief!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cleaning my floor-to-ceiling lounge window exteriors has its good points and bad points, Jane. More than one bird has died or knocked itself out flying into my sparkling clean floor-to-ceiling lounge windows. I feel really sad (and guilty). On the other hand, when the windows get filthy, I can’t photograph the birds on my balcony. The camera autofocuses on the dirty rain spots.

      Interesting that your Magpie Lark looked at its reflection. Birds are far more intelligent than we give them credit for.

      I can’t help but be amused watching a mother bird feeding its chick even when the chick has grown to the same size as its adult parent.


  3. This is the first experience I’ve had with a Magpie Lark ~ we have a lot of magpies where I grew up, and I’ve always been impressed by their beauty. Your philosophy on photography is also just as enlightening: “Does it really matter when you’re doing what you love?” This too, has become my motto, where getting the shot is almost secondary to enjoying the scene, plus, I think the older we get, the less patience we have :-)! Wishing you a wonderful summer down under.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Randall.
      I find bird photography – even on my apartment balcony – challenging, but it is lots of fun too.
      Hope you have a great summer too. I wasn’t sure if you are travelling or at home base these days?


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