Saturday, July 23, 2016

On the green stuff and in the pink

Not your usual visitor to grassy dunes, Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) chomped away on choice bits of mown strip of Coral Sea foreshore at Forrest Beach east of Ingham yesterday.

Hinchinbrook Health Care outpost just across the way, but bird clearly so in the pink as to need no care. Indeed, not a care in the world.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Search for broad-bill leads to broad blue behind

Came upon this male Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) the other day while chasing up claim of Broad-billed Flycatcher - very uncommon this far southeast - in the area of old Mungalla Station homestead. Perhaps got quick look at Broad-billed. More views needed to be sure.

Expect more views of the Kookaburra too. Because he's probably expecting. Wee way down the track and in fork of solid eucalypt an aerial termite nest is now a nesting chamber.

No sign of a female. Rear view suggests passage of food to his mate. Not specially flattering, but he emerged and flew off in a blur of useless images. We'll watch progress as search goes on for the flycatcher.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Little good big but good Little comes of long lensing

Walked into Tyto yesterday jauntily carrying light 300mm lens and looking forever upward, seeking uncommon raptor seen lately at tantalising distance - and found only Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusilla) almost beneath my feet. Wrong lens for wrong bird. Today, slogged in with 600mm lens and hefty tripod and got reverse result - no LK and high overhead Square-tailed Kite. on  which the 600 too slow to focus given need to hand-hold.

Not all lost. Did get seven extra species to go with yesterday's 70. And no walk in Tyto is ever anything less than balm for senses and soul. And it's all an excuse to run series of Little Kingfisher shots from corner of Palm Creek at Mungalla Station.

And boring stuff too. Above shots are with 600 on tripod about 20 metres from bird. Can't get closer because of intervening creek (and possible crocs).

But adding a 1.4x converters turns 600 into 840mm lens. And that makes quite a difference, does it not? Feather detail counts.

And another thing: Notice the well camouflaged camera. Stand still long enough and birds will often accept the intrusion as more natural than someone all camo'd up. Talking to them in normal voice can help. Do not whisper!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Focus on fishing takes tern for the better

Continuing the fishy theme of late, did better with Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) fishing in pool at eastern outlet of Palm Creek in Mungalla Station today.

Gave up trying to swing 600mm lens on gimbal and dug out 300mm lens and went back to handheld efforts. Huge increase in auto focus speed and much easier to find bird in viewfinder.

For all that, only one sequence scored bird with fish in focus (more or less).

Morning also offered a lesson for those thinking of messing about in wetlands in crocodile country. Above, scene across pool. Something not quite right with shape of mud in shadow.

Gumboots on, walk around eastern end of pool and take closer look.

Hello, telltale patterns of quick turn in mud. No sign of exit from water and mud.

And here's the victim. Well, the remains, of turtle seeming about to lay eggs (one mid-left under water).

Saltwater crocodiles don't need much water. And they certainly don't need much invitation to attack the unwary. The message? Look sharp!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Egrets land to down 'flying' fish

Just two egrets on the main lagoon most of yesterday morning. Fishing's not been great for them lately but they scored big catches within few minutes, and eventually scoffed same, unlike grebe of previous post. First up, Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia) flies away from persistent photographer.

Barely had it got fish down before Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) dropped in alongside it - opposite main lookout - and after much juggling swallowed the catch.

Sure these two birds are not the same? I hear your question. It shows how deceptive they can be when not standing around with necks extended. In the field it's hard to see differences in gape length below eye and bill ratio. So, take my word for it.

No such problems with Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), flying overhead later. No surprise to see it without large fish. The species tends to pick up smaller stuff mostly at water's edge.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Vagrant Huskies swim into focus on main lagoon

Bit of a diversion today in Tyto with pair of tame but uncollared huskies detouring from somewhere to somewhere else by way of the main lagoon.

They swam close by me where I'd been trying to talk Cotton Pygmy-geese into doing more or less what the dogs did. Much shaking of water and they went off down the track toward the wetlands' entrance.

Dogs caused a few birds to quit the immediate scene, but only one Little Black Cormorant obliged by flying overhead close to me.

Other action nearby included Australasian Grebe grabbing more than it could swallow. Snatched the fish in weedy shallows and - unlike behaviour of some other species - carried it out to deeper, clear water, probed at catch a few times and either lost fish or realised size really does matter.

Touch of local colour last evening showed neighbourhood Peacock at his best. Just three weeks ago he looked drab and scraggly-tailed. Tail almost back to full glory and drab no longer applies.
And an Intermediate Egret flight shot from earlier in the week. Concentration on Tyto this week brought on in part by trying to ensure most accurate possible list and count of birds in the wetlands, as promised near start of June. No true rarities popped up. Species count ranged between low 50s and mid 60s. Final species count for month: 125.

Bigger count tomorrow. Quick slosh in political quagmires. Malcolm's DD matches mate David Cameron's disastrous Brexit misread. Senate turmoil all on again!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Testing times: too much flash and too little toe

Wow! Now there's a colourful dove for you. Not quite what you expect to see on the ground at the Jourama Fall camping area. But that's what one gets with too much flash.

Here's what an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) really looks like. But perhaps the first image is closer to what another dove might see.

And what is the dove looking for. Fallen seeds. Sorry, can't identify the tree species.

And now, faithful followers, sitting up straight? 'Tis lesson time. What is the above bird? Is it a Collared Sparrowhark? Or a Brown Goshawk? ... Hands up those who said Sparrowhawk. You've been had. Tiny change to bird's eye designed to trick you.

Here's the real deal, with beetling brow returned to lowered position.

And here's the real clincher for anyone in the field. That powerful leg with no super length middle toe marks bird as Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) for sure. Wasn't that fun? Slightly more seriously, few birds pose more challenging ID posers than the two species, in part in the north because there's a close overlap in the species' sizes up here. Not such a riddle down south.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Forest Kingfisher in contorted takeoff

Not a strange new species for Tyto, rather a Forest Kingfisher caught in contorted shape on takeoff after I just missed the ugly, angular spread-wing display they use - I think - to gain size and express dominance.

Seconds before takeoff, the shapelier side of the bird.

Another showing rather different look in Tyto this morning, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike with striking opalescence. Bit too much flash, I'm afraid. Oddly, I've not noticed the effect when studying or  photographing the species in full sun.

On to yesterday's mixed bag. No live sightings of Eastern Grass-owls lately because their Tyto habitat is flooded, but male bird above lay dead beside a road through cane fields.

Even less often seen Small-eyed Snake roadkill victim further along same road. Not a snake to mess with when alive.

One for fun to finish. White-lipped Green Tree-frog at Palm Tree Caravan Park on palm branch with natural 'cooking basket'. Weaver Birds do pretty fair job in Africa, be great for tourism to have Weaver Frogs in Ingham. But this one's all the work of grey nomad chef passing through.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hello, Mr Magpie-lark, good of you to drop in

Male Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) dropped in on me as I sought shots of kingfishers diving into Palm Creek today.

One camera and lens not enough of course. So with 600mm on tripod between me and Peewee (aka Mudlark) just had height needed to shoot bird with 300mm lens carried on shoulder. That's why there's so little post showing.

Also bit more noise in shots these days. The aim is to offer images with minimum of processing, apart from cropping and minor contrast changes.

Pity that another image from Mungalla Station creek site is also male. But I am debating with myself about referring to my birds as folks rather than guys. And I would be oh so grateful if the nudge-nudgers refrained from dumb gags about 'bird' watchers.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Seek a Little and ye shall rest Azured

Seek and ye shall find. Doesn't often work perfectly for me. But today ventured to bottom southwest corner of Mungalla Station, planted myself beside known kingfisher habitat only lately accessible as surface water disappears, and got lucky twice over in two hours.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus) harder to find this year because late Wet season failed to provide the conditions small fish want (they swim into flooded grasslands). Not this year. So the true fishing kingfisher, Little and Azure appear to be much dispersed and missing from some normally reliable sites.

This morning, Sacred Kingfishers stood out for first hour, hawking for insects above water weeds.

Then, Azure turned up, well away downstream to the west. No luck, thought I. With which, bird (only one sighted at this point) flew toward me and plonked down on falled branch low over water. Ten metres closer would have been perfect, but can't complain at result.

Then Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusilla) whizzed upstream and vanished. Don't be greedy, said I to self. Lo, bird sped back and took up the prime perch. Drawback? Species so small, really needed it more than 10m closer.

And got Little Bronze-Cuckoo ...

...and Brown-backed Honeyeater as interesting extras. Extra bonus: the many mozzies were mostly well behaved.