Jenn Stephens' Plains Wanderer

5 June 2019

We don't have a photo of the week contest, but if we did, these would be there for sure.

Jenn Stephens posted these to the Victorian Birders Facebook page the other day. They're Plains-wanderers.

These are odd birds. They're not Quails or Button-quails, although they are similar. They run in preference to flying, even when startled. And you can see by the photos they're grassland dwellers.

Plains-wanderers used to be a lot more widespread than they are today. They used to be seen on the grasslands near Werribee. Their main problem is habitat reduction and degradation through farming, as well as predation by foxes. To see them these days, you have to go way further north, and most likely, this means going north of the Murray into the Riverina.

It's a bird that I'm very unlikely to ever see. They're critically endangered, with only around a thousand left, and the decline is continuing. Various groups are trying to prevent the bird's extinction. This includes a captive breeding program at Werribee Zoo. Recently, four chicks were hatched there, and this might provide some cause for optimism.

Jenn's particularly good at getting shots which are both diagnostic and beautiful. She used a DSLR with a 100-400mm zoom, and says she was shooting at ISO4000. Thankfully, at the resolution produced by Facebook, the noise produced by that high ISO isn't visible.

Jenn's photos capture the stealthy nature of the hunt nicely, with the low angle of view - clearly she was crawling through the grass. Getting such a series of photos must have been exciting indeed.

This photo is of a male - you can tell because it doesn't have that beautiful spotted patch on the nape.

As you can see, Jenn's got an absolute corker of a photo of the female's neck patch from the back.

But this last one is my favourite photo - a back-lit bird. It's not a terribly diagnostic photo of a Plains-wanderer, but boy, I could look at it for hours.

Up to your usual photographic standard, Jenn!