Monday, November 19, 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper in flight shows Sharp differences

Uncommon and often unnoticed, Pectoral Sandpiper launches into view at Payet Tower pool today. Obvious differences from commoner Sharp-taileds - when seen up close - streaky breast with sharp upsloping cutoffs, light colouring at base of bill, yellow-green legs (if light is right) mean almost nothing from 50 metres away.

But crawl in through the tall grass and inch (millimetre really, but that's not yet a verb) forward, and talk nicely to the bird, and bingo! all doubts about identity disappear. This bird seems content with companionship of 8-9 Sharpies, but here today, gone tomorrow may well apply.

Just up the road to the neighbouring wetland extension at Melaleuca viewing area in Townsville Town Common Conservation Park, Eastern Yellow Wagtails made it a week of sightings, though just two and not the regular three were on show today. Jump and flight images from yesterday.

Surprise newcomer this morning at Melaleuca, Pacific Golden Plover. Probably a juvenile with somewhat worn feathers, thus lacking any hint of gold spangling on its back. Two images, dark one from early morn, lighter other much later. What will tomorrow bring?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wetland gumboot gumshoeing turns up Wagtails

Wetland wading paid off with surprise find of three Eastern Yellow Wagtails this week.

Donned gumboots to get closer to large shorebird (turned out to be Black-tailed Godwit)
and squelched upon unseen and startled wagtails.

Less often met in Townsville Common Conservation Park than around my old stomping ground, Ingham, the species wings down from Russia and northern Japan to escape northern freeze, fattens up for a few months and returns north to breed.

Quick glimpse yesterday of yellow adult led to associated find of two immature birds (probably family) today.  The trio's relative rarity will draw local birders. But Eastern Yellows are common enough across the top of Australia and well down into New South Wales.

And here's the bird that brought the gumboots out, Black-tailed Godwit.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Chewing over corvid cleverness

Clever birds, corvids (crows and ravens). Toolmaking. Zip opening. Number counting. Canny Cane Toad chewing. Egg munching. Golf ball eating . . . Well, not so clever with the golf balls. And maybe some vaunted skills are more lab products than typical wild behaviour. Above, Australian Raven tearing at eye and shoulder, near poison gland, of toad - probably dead when found - today at Townsville Common Conservation Park. Terrible image, but taken from about 50 metres away.

Bird, without any sign of distaste then turned toad over and drove beak several times into underside trying to tear into flesh. Unfortunately it then flew off with toad so outcome unknown. But it seems clear raven never got the memo about avoiding toad toxins. And nor had its immature offspring, watching proceedings from beside parent. One case proves little, but I've argued previously that any sensible bird would seek to eat toads or frogs from the underside, because of the soft underbelly. No genius required.

Which brings us to golf balls. Stolen by hundreds every year from the 27 golf holes the Town Common almost encircles. Stolen and abandoned after failing to crack open like eggs. Year after year corvids steal hundreds of golf balls. Not an egg among them. How clever are they really? Better to be lucky than clever. Bumble along and stumble upon Bush Stone-curlew and eggs (above).

Curlew chases Australian Raven trio off. But they return. Two pick up eggs and fly off. What usually happens, I've since been told by witnesses to corvids raiding henhouses, birds fly off with egg, land, poke hole in top of egg, and eat contents without spilling a drop. I couldn't find any trace of eggshell along 40-metre flight path of adult raven carrying one of the curlew eggs. Bird (above) landed, egg was gone. Swallowed into thin air, or perhaps simply swallowed. Be a clever trick. But, then, they're clever birds. aren't they?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Cheeky Chestnut Mannikin - cheeky lens makers' old chestnuts

My, what a big head you've got, cheeky Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. Well it would be, wouldn't it, capturing it with new Tamron 150-600mm (so-claimed) lens at 600mm from about 2.222m. The mock precision hides universal truth. Figures lie. And makers lie. My Tamron is roughly 140-560. My old 100-400 Canon is 95-380. But Tamron lighter and smaller than my Canon 600, easing the load on long walks or awkward scrambling through the bush. The tradeoff? Image quality: super versus not bad. To be expected. Canon $14,000 (coming mk111 $20,000), Tamron $2000. You get what you pay for. Anyway, on with Tamron show. All images from past few days in Townsville Common Conservation Park.

Old mate, male Barking Owl, on watch in favourite tree.

Touch more colour, Yellow Honeyeater on flowering batwing coral tree.

Female Koel finally showing most of herself during long stay in wee patch of macarangas.

Golden-headed Cisticola happy to sing away unworried by prickly exotic weeds.

Nearby, Glossy Ibis drops in and lights up the drying scene.

Male Tawny Frogmouth does daily incubation duty and dead-branch deception.

And Frilled-neck Lizard, seconds before seen mating with smaller female takes to tree and considers getaway options.

As an old pal used to say, Tony (Tami) you'll do me as a rough mate.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Satin Flycatcher quests lead to questions of quality

Satin Flycatcher rarity (previous post) Wednesday. No-show Thursday. Three kms up road Friday. Good picture (above).

Four kms back down road Saturday. Terrible picture. No-show Sunday. Ah, the joys of birding.

So much searching and walking, walking, walking. Leave hefty 600mm lens in Troopy. Revert to tired old 100-400. Image quality plummets. Pallid Cuckoo not only pallid but lacks feather detail.

Pheasant Coucal (one of many males out these mornings but getting little reward in hunt for females) not wholly up to scratch.

And yet. And yet with care and little trick or two things needn't look too bad. So, Brown-backed Honeyeater, busy weaving material stolen from Leaden Flycatcher nest, looks better with extra touch of sharpening to eye.

More care processing colour of Jabiru and fish pays off.

But for the real deal and detail, 600mm pointing from Payet Tower up at Osprey reveals so much more, with less sharpening required, though this image needed some colour adjustments.

Lesson: quality counts - and muscles matter!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Takes a Sheila to show Aussie birders Satin rarity

Oooh, look! What's that shiny black and white bird? It's so smooth and black on back and head. Could it be a rarely seen Satin Flycatcher in the Common today. Yes, it could. And it took a visitor from Wiltshire way, Sheila Ashley, to see it first. Proving that one good turn deserves another, she and husband Paul were being shown around by Len and Chris Ezzy. I tagged along. Lucky all of us.

Not so much luck involved in seeing a few other species commonly seen lately. Rose-crowned Fruitdove seems content to stay forever close to favourite feed trees near Freshwater hide.

Which is close to where immature Australian Raven was today tucking into fish, without parents or sibling trying to cadge a bite.

Not so many Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at Pandanus viewing area today, but caught some showing off in recent times.

Male Barking Owl certainly not one to show off, but every now and then he glowers for the camera.

More glow than glower from Nankeen Night Heron, missing today from Melaleuca hideout but almost whitewashed me nearby just the other day.

Much noisier and more easily spotted, adult Dollarbird one of four calling and shifting position often this morning near Payet Tower.

But no sign today of immature Spectacled Monarch, above with, I think, Crane Fly.

Crimson Finches seldom fail to turn up, nor did they today.

And one of highlights for Sheila and Paul, apart from the Satin of course, male Great Bowerbird busy, busy, busy about his bower. Happy too, crest-risen, as opposed to crestfallen.

What a pity we're too far northeast for Satin Bowerbird and Satin Flycatcher in one day. That'd just be greedy though, eh?

Pectoral Sandpiper in flight shows Sharp differences

Uncommon and often unnoticed, Pectoral Sandpiper launches into view at Payet Tower pool today. Obvious differences from commoner Sharp-tai...