Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mistletoebird jumps to it, others not so lively

Female Mistletoebird jumps to it after collecting nest material from palm trunk at Tyto Wetlands.

Tried backtracking bird to nest today but flight across water sunk my sleuthing.

Northern Fantail sitting pretty after putting finishing touches to neat cup nest with little dangling tail.

Brown-backed Honeyeater spends almost a week building nest alongside the Tyto hide. Change of mind yesterday and bird seen pulling apart new nest and shifting materials to less open site 20m away.

Shifting no more, seldom seen Giant Centipede on Tyto track becomes food for the ants. Do not mess with the painful biters if alive.

Spikier, but friendlier, Bearded Dragon seldom bites, preferring to play dead if caught out in the open.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Focus on a winged Ood up to no good

Looking like a winged Ood up to no good, Masked Lapwing (Spur-winged Plover: Vanellus miles) targets me at Cattle Creek. They're mostly bluffers, and the spurs are not such high-speed threats but collision wouldn't be pleasant. Hard to keep them in focus so pays not to be thinking 'what if?'.

Short walk into wetland aimed to look for Latham's Snipe. They've gone from some other areas as the migrants continue on south after stopping locally to feed following their long flights from Northern Hemisphere. But I did find five birds between the highway and the rail bridge about 500m east. Be warned, the open pool is home to big Salty. Above picture is holdover from the early arrivals.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Meet a Mangrove Robin mum-to-be

Say hi to one of my Mangrove Gerygone (Gerygone levigaster) mums from the mud at the end of Orient Road. She's back on the job not so long after her last young one went whereever they vanish to. (Which means I have no idea why there are always three or four pairs amid their stretches of mangroves and no trace of yesterday's young in the wider area.)

Anyway, the gender giveaway is the divided breast plumage - from long sitting on the egg (in this case) or eggs (two sometimes, though often just one survivor) in the nest. Once the egg hatches, mum's old man will arrive with food. Perhaps a picture of them together will reveal little differences. We'll see.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Young Cassowary heads the week's roundup

Up to Wallaman Falls to hunt for Cassowary and almost fall over big juvenile upon jumping (aged knee joke) from Troopy near known haunt of resident male. Hurriedly grab camera, five frames, junior takes off and gone, swallowed up by forest. Fading juvenile stripes showed down front of bird, which didn't look big enough to be fending for itself. But long search in all directions turned up no trace of adult male (responsible for all hatching and rearing).

Down at Jourama Falls, Topknot Pigeons out and about in scores, though seldom dropping in anywhere near me. About 60 birds coming and going, stopping mostly on native olives (no threat to any farmed olive). Two of 60 was as good as it got for me.

Nearby, Dusky Honeyeater getting stuck into insectivorial side of its diet. Most honeyeaters are happily gymnastic in the hunt for leaf-laid food.

At Mungalla Station, Tawny Grassbirds made rare showings out of their frustratingly enclosing habitat. Closed in slowly on sodden bird during morning wash. Got no closer before it flew on to barbed wire (an ugly look). Then into hiding. But its mate came out and showed off in the open (ugly background but better than on barbed wire).

Among the mangroves at the end of Orient Road found bigger targets than expected, with two of about 30 Pelicans circling low above me after quitting one of last remaining big pools of king-tide saltwater, soon to evaporate away.

At Tyto, Jacana takes in extras along with dead glasswing plucked from the muddy edge of the main lagoon. Ants foraging on the insect carcase are about to disappear into the bird, except those falling back to the surface.

Closing this quick roundup of sites, Red-capped Plover stands its ground along the Lucinda sandspit. Not my target on the day, but all the migrants stayed well clear. Not to worry, the tides are more in my favour later this week. And, who knows, maybe more tidings of Master Cassowary!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Beach Thick-knees lead me a merry dance

They're up to something, these Beach Thick-knees (Stone-curlews) (Esacus magnirostris). Took stroll along Lucinda sandspit yesterday and met the pair behaving suspiciously.

They slunk out from behind my back, led me up the spit, circled back, split up, came together again, ran toward me, stopped, propped, ducked into the dune grasses, and popped up again out the shore side. A merry dance indeed.

Are they just playing games? is there an eggy hollow somewhere in the sand? Or some little feathery bundle or two? Off tomorrow to have another look, weather willing.

Elsewhere, major meeting of Caspian Terns offered flight shots ...

... and similar chances with Great Knots. The migrants are among us!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Young Pipit lets parent do all the work

Bit of a double oddity at Mungalla Station the other day. Watched Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae), parent and immature, as adult bird foraged and fed youngster.

The young bird sat silent as parent scoured nearby ground for insects. Even when food was plucked up from almost under its nose the passive and unprecocious youngster did not try to forage for itself. Odd. Perhaps this one young bird is a very slow learner. It's not as if grabbing insects from the dirt is a high skill. Or does it need help with prey ID?

Also odd, that in several years and hundreds of Pipit sightings this was my first undoubted view of parent-immature feeding. And I can't explain why I've never stumbled on a nest. Seems I might also be a slow learner.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Jaq-ing up companions along the creek

Here's my friend Jaq (gender-neutral), Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea). We enjoy long chats by the final Water Hyacinth pool where Palm Creek's eastern fork dribbles out over 100 hectares of hymenachne at Mungalla Station. Jaq shares the pool with a shy little Saltwater Crocodile and - recently- a sun-loving big Water Python. Plus about 20 other bird species. I talk to all, but Jaq's the one that sticks around.

Sunbathing on the banks of the creek a bit upstream most mornings these days is a biggish Saltie, not a chatty type but willing to listen across 40 metres of water. But shouting from 50m just isn't the same as jesting quietly with Jaq.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Horsfield's Bushlark makes the dust fly

Warm days and dusty cattle tracks draw Horsfield's Bushlark (Mirafra javanica) out to compete with Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae) for a share of pasture pickings.

Got close to the dust-bath action the other day at Mungalla Station.

Dust flies as bird wriggles in.

And feathers dance as breeze picks up.

Mustn't leave Pipit out of the picture. One on a post from awhile ago.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Whole lot of sniping going on

Since they first arrived about two weeks ago, migratory Latham's Snipe are popping up in numbers on wetlands near the coast east of Ingham.

Got a bit closer to some of 24 on roadside pool at the Orient Station today, so intent on feeding they didn't flinch as I walked up openly toward them.

Unfortunately fence marking boundary between public road and private land prevented me taking full advantage of birds' interest in feeding above all else.

Later, got bit offside with presumed property owner when chasing Red-backed Kingfisher in tree on unfenced portion of grazing land.

He invited me to leave. I did, with my best pictures of a species uncommon to the area.

No need quit the road for head shot of immature Black-necked Stork (Jabiru).

Nor for Yellow-billed Spoonbill, tucking in near the snipe.

Afterword: Trespassing birdwatchers risk upsetting helpful property owners. Orient Station, however, has long tried to deter all birders from using the 7km public road through the property with ambiguous Private Property signs beside the road. Over the years I've helped farm managers with info about sick stock, dog and croc sightings and rubbish pickup. I figure we're more or less square.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Australian Raven alights to lighten the gloom

Bit of biz in the big smoke today so headed off in the dark for spot of birding soon as automatic gate opened at Townsville Common. Lot of light cloud and light drizzle and dark unidentifiable birds in the early gloom. And things stayed dark - but in a good way.

Australian Raven dropped on to pandanus beside the Troopy and proceeded with fussy morning toilette. ((Bird didn't budge at my presence, or flinch from low-power flash. Because ... and this is point to note, I was there first. In other words, it chose to enter my space.)

Bush Stone-curlew little less unconcerned at having photographer approaching. But stopped for a bit before walking quietly into deeper cover, along with its mate (imagine second bird out of focus to right of picture as you look at it).