Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Muddy paws and day moths just part of frilly season

Birds! Birds! Birds! Is that all you think of? Well, yes. Mostly. But sometimes something else jumps out of grass, brush or tree and grabs the attention. So, Frilled Lizard in middle of slashed track back of Tyto Wetlands yesterday.

Top image: first grab with 300mm lens, from Troopy; above with 600mm from same point: big difference in depth of field.

And see what happens upon leaving Troopy to get ground-level shots. Off runs Frilly and it's goodbye to the ground.

Sticking to the ground, Agile Wallaby in Tyto digs into cooling mud as recent day moves from high 20s to mid-30s. Plenty more mud and hot days ahead.

Just the thing for North Queensland Day Moths, it seems. See none for months, then the noon-day air is alive with them. Above, somewhat overflashed.

Frustratingly flighty, the moths also seemingly love to come to rest in the most difficult spot for the chasing photographer: upsidedown on the underside of palm fronds is a favourite. Had to wriggle on back across undergrowth for above (underlit) image,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Not much bonding in the marsh

Cannot convince any Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) in Tyto to stand still and allow me close.

Usually a pair or two on the main lagoon every morning. They seldom feed close together, so reflections must stand in for togetherness.

Much earlier in the year a Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) did allow really close approach.

But the images have sat for months in 'latest' folder. Stick-in-the-mud became stuck-in-the-folder.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Grass Owls in clover over platoons in ratoons

Rat plague! screamed heading and story in Ingham's Herbert Valley Express at the weekend. So female Eastern Grass-Owl (Tyto longimembris) arcing away after flying out of swamp ricegrass in Tyto Wetlands today should be living in clover, after gobbling squeaking platoons of cane rats amid the ratoons.

Not so sure about there being more rats than usual as the cane harvest nears an end. But it's surely a great time of year to be exclusively a rat eater. What happens to the rat? Well, it goes down, is digested and repacked bones and hair for coughing up as a pellet (above left): one pellet, one rat, as spread out above.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shining Bronze-cuckoos taking shine to Tyto

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Chalcites lucidus) making more regular appearances in Tyto in last year or two. Though probably still outnumbered by more tree-loving Littles and Gould's, the Shinings some mornings show out as often as Horsfield's Bronzes in competing for prey among  weedy habitat.

So, saving best for last, I got lucky in chasing bird around reveg area the other morning to capture it on a clean background and with low angle of sunlight doing full justice to the bronze tones.  Image also benefits from two major elements: seeming interaction between bird and camera; and cropping to the 'rule of thirds'  (in this case, to place the bird's eye one-third in and one-third down in the picture).

And following up on previous post, another eel about to go down the hatch. Even as I broke into fast walk to get closer Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) flipped neck up and slurped the eel down in a flash. If I were an egret I'd be an eel lover too. No nasty spines and the perfect shape for swallowing fast.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Whistling Kite makes catch of the day

Surprise catch of the day in Tyto late this morning with Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) launching from above me ...

... going straight to centre of shin-deep main lagoon to strike and grab eel ...

... and heading off with writhing prey ...

... still spraying droplets of water as the kite turned back towards trees - with glimpse of lookout shelter in background.

It all seems so easy, but most Whistling and Black Kites do not exhibit any skill at taking live fish or eels, even after seeing others of their species make catches.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Baza, Collared Sparrowhawk too fast for me

Trying to catch Pacific Baza (Aviceda subcristata) up close with its wings spread but it took off skywards too fast for me. The old reflexes almost caught up, achieving the sort of arty shot I used to occasionally try for - and never did half so well as this accidental effort.

Another raptor, another failed flight hope. Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus) simply sat tight in Tyto - until I lowered weighty lens. Gone in a flash, of course. Always much discussion of differences between Sparrowhawk and Brown Goshawk. Bird above shows typical Sparrowhawk lengthy middle toe (left foot, between leaves) and less beetled brow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some cuckoos suited down to the ground

Seems the current dryness suits Brush Cuckoos (Cacomantis variolosus) down to the ground.

Early mornings in Tyto and elsewhere have been full of their shrill, sometimes frenzied calls. But it's gone a bit quieter lately with more attention to feeding than breeding.

Much quieter always is the Little Bronze-Cuckoo (Chalcites minutillus). This female is the real deal and nothing like the super-bronze Goulds, lumped with it - for now anyway.

Also quieter, but plaintively so, is the Pallid Cuckoo (Cacomantis pallidus). Immature bird thought safety lay on the ground. Ran through the grass before realising error. Good thing chaser was clumsy old boy and not swift cat or dog. Not all situations suit cuckoos down to the ground.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Slowcoach python won't break fast on camera(man)

Sat down on dry lagoon bed and waited for slowcoach Amethystine Python (Morelia amethistina)  to wander across for little get-together at Tyto recently. Also had time to pace out length: almost right on four metres. Youtube video of the action here

Also been enjoying quality time with Goulds monitors (Varanus gouldii) at Mungalla lately. Hard to get better pose than this one-metre fellow on earthworks overlooking Palm Creek's eastern fork into the (now dry) hymenachne wetlands,

And here's a slightly smaller monitor in one of several mango tree hidey-holes at old homestead site.

Would you believe this Praying mantis (Archimantis latistyla) lined up so prettily for me at the Tyto hide over the weekend? Not likely. Had to clamber about the hide to catch reluctant wildlife star and insist upon several takes before we got it right. Some creatures have too little respect for the creative arts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

List! How to set realistic bird list targets

Few more birders than usual should be stalking Tyto and other hotspots around Ingham over the coming weekend with shire-organised twitching days and nights.

So, how many birds should visitors expect if shire boasts of 240-plus species in Tyto Wetlands and many more in the wider district?

Give up? Don't care? Haven't a clue?

Here's a clue. Go to atlassing site such as ebirdEremaea, select hotspots, open, say, Tyto Wetlands, select last seen to gain chronological list. Now scroll down list, going back in time. Back three months, six months,a year, three years. At any point in time you get a count of species.

Taking a three-year back limit - because ebird listing really took off about then - you'll get 216 species for Tyto. For the top Australian hotspots: Townsville Town Common, 271 listed, 242 in past 3yrs; Werribee Treatment Ponds 263, 227; Cairns Foreshore 259, 194.

Big differences between totals and three years. But even three years is a long time. And many sites show very strong seasonality among species. So last  three months may be closer to reality. For Tyto that would mean about 160 species. The common and Werribee fall behind, to about 135 each, and Cairns drops to 100. Tyto loses fewer birds because it has water year-round (unlike Townsville) and is not so coastal and seasonal as Cairns and Werribee.

I expect for a full mornng to list between 70 and 80 species in Tyto. Add about 30 over a week and another 30 over a month. So, if lucky, 130-140 of the target 160. Which is a long way off the 246 on the printed Tyto list, but it's a realistic figure.

Go to it, visitors. But set sensible targets wherever you bird.

All pictures from recent Tyto outings: Pelican, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Yellow Oriole, Little Friarbird

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Terza rima for my Beatrice, Anna V

Yellow Oriole takes to the blue beyond ...

... and Anna V,  my Beatrice, Italy and  Port Douglas,
has gone too, probably to somewhere in South America

At Paluma Falls on a divine day
Along the way a comely vision came
Name of Anna V but Beatrice,

The dream darling of Dante, she became.
Guide in Aligheri's allegory,
Beauty and sweet reason shine in her name.

If only my weak art led to such glory
As matched the desire to praise
To the skies - with God as my jury

Without lust or lies - the warmest gaze,
Open mind and eyes, the touching play
Of trusting hand and gentle winning ways.

Her name is Anna V but Beatrice
Is she to me, her wannabe Dante.

Terza rima Tony