Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chestnuts go for green slime, others want meat and fish

Taking a spell from slurping up green slime, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (Lonchura castaneothorax) casts an eye down for more of its favoured food in Tyto. Other mannikins and finches locally don't show similar tastes.



No green vege stuff for Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea). Meat, that's what real water birds want. Plenty of lively small prey on and below the pesty water hyacinth at Mungalla Station today.

In trees above the Jacana's waterhole, Little Black Cormorants (Halacrocorax sulcirostris) jostle for position as they wait for me to quit the scene and let them get back to chasing fish. Talk about the Black Death!

And for fish, here's the blue and white death: Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusilla) at Tyto this week. Not a reliable visitor so far this year, and a bit blurred about the belly because of pesky blady grass.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dingos in the gun but help Night Parrots' shot at life

Seldom find any Dingo up close in open country standing still for a picture. But the animal above showed no concern about me out of the Troopy and walking towards it on Orient Station this week. Bit odd, because all dogs are in the sights of cattle breeders everywhere. Calves (and sheep, elsewhere) are killed by dogs, Dingos and wild mixed breeds. So most Dingos throughout Australia are in danger of death by shooting or baiting.

There is another side to the Dingo however. Fuss in birding circles lately centres on competing claims about Night Parrot ('world's rarest bird') research. Rival conservation groups have unhappily got knickers in a twist over wildlife protective fencing and claims of parrot deaths thereupon.

In the course of hoo-ha, good news. Extensive surveys within thousands of square kilometres of mooted parrot habitat showed Dingos all over, few cats and no foxes. The Dingos fed on wallabies and the like. Foxes obey an invisible ill-defined line which they don't cross. Cats suffer no such limits. But Dingos like eating cats, and foxes. And don't seem to trouble the spinifex dwelling parrots. Win-win-win.

Pity pro-Dingo arguments are not everywhere so compelling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Python passes on climb but eyes the sky

Three-metre Amethystine Python thinks about tackling a 15-metre ascent at Jourama Falls. The first 0.6-metre would have been the easy part. It decided otherwise soon after. A pity, because it's fascinating watching the technique climbing snakes use to go up vertical trunks. They form a series of right angles. Up, across, up, across back, up, across. Nature's geometry - and muscles - at work.

Less often seen and far removed from right-angled climbing is the convex mirror of the large eyes. Above, trees and sky reflected in closeup. As usual, the snake paid almost no attention to me pushing a lens close to its head. Little ever appears to disturb an Amethystine.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sunbird shows off blue glory

Sunny morning and sudden drop in overnight temperature made for a fitting Tyto appearance today by Mr Cool, male Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) in all his blue gorget glory. Also fitting, his perching on pandanus, as an old nest dangles from a nearby pandanus.

Also out in force - particularly vocal - today, White-browed Robins (Poecilodryas superciliosa). Another four spotted during the morning.

Other recent Tyto sightings include notably blue Varied Triller (Lalage leucomela). The species usually looks black and white. But early morn light would seem to have provided a glimpse of the male as seen by another bird. Most birds see in a much wider range of colour than us. Notice that the effect is not merely an unwanted blue cast over the image.

Nothing blue about Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus), again in bright morning light. Low- angled light has brought out the eye colour, which tends to be lost and quickly dulls as the sun climbs.

Young Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus) will soon lose attractive brown tones and turn duller grey.

White-gaped Honeyeater (Lichenostomus unicolor) reveals strong grey eye colour and the gape that inspired its name, though it often looks more creamy yellow than white.

And a touch of violence from a recent morning. Typical brief flurry from Comb-crested Jacanas (Irediparra gallinacea) competing for territory on the main lagoon. Waterboarding comes to mind as descriptive of the technique. Jump upon and submerge the foe. Oddly, the bout doesn't always go to the one most wetted. I suspect one bird loses interest and simply moves on. Pity people couldn't do likewise!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Woof-woof, woof-woof, woof-woof, woof-woof, woof-woof

Woof-woof, woof-woof.   Woof-woof, woof-woof.   Woof-woof woof-woof.

Last night's single-minded, single-voiced visitor, Barking Owl (Ninox connivens)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Flashback to those walls of flying ducks

Flashback to the '50s today at Tyto Wetlands with Cotton Pygmy-goose (Nettapus coromandelianus) trio flashing across the main lagoon like a middle class home lounge decor feature.

Do think though nature does the decorating better than the plaster kitsch plants.

But a bird doesn't have to flash over some picturesque stretch of water to enhance the natural beauty of a scene. Who's a pretty Plumed Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) then?

Less pretty as a picture, but pretty true to nature is the alarm of Pied Heron (Egretta picata) as it realises vehicle along Orient Station has come to a stop on road beside its fishing sspot. Adding insult to you-know-what, the driver and his mate then leapt out and began wholesale capture of heron's fish with big circular baitnet.

Same spot, but with lens swivelled 90 degrees and here's a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) showing typically less concern about people close by. Pretty, but not really possessing that '50s look.

An afterthought: whatever happened to all those pink flamingos embedded in lawns?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Barking Owl not so barking mad

Barking Owl? Or barking mad? Looks like both, but evil squint is deceptive. Bird was unconcerned by my presence. Nor was it reacting to low-set flash. Owls appear sometimes to shut their eyes almost as we might yawn when things are all a bit quiet. A highlight among recent sightings in Tyto this week..

What else is around? Just one of 10 to 20 Forest Kingfishers on show these mornings.

More  Reed Warblers about in scleria with returns from south. Few, however, up in pandanus.

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater takes a break from preening in creekline tangle.

Little Bronze-cuckoo about as pale as the species gets.

And a young Crimson Finch feeding on seeds of grasses growing through footbridge.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Just the books for those big on birds

Not a lot of people know that the last giant in Game of Thrones is an avid birdwatcher. Fittingly, he carries in his shirt pocket the one-volume rethinking of the 17-vol Handbook of the Birds of the World. He doesn't find its 599 quarto pages and consequent considerable weight any strain at all. He did grumble a bit at the $175 outlay, but giant books and giant's books come at giant prices. And he was specially pleased to see lots of cracking pictures from a clutch of talented Aussie photographers.  'I really liked the Eastern Grass Owl in flight,' he rumbled.

For less gigantic folk, and for birders who enjoy being challenged to think about what they're doing, there's Lloyd Neilsen's Birds of the wet tropics of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef and where to find them (nobody could accuse Lloyd of inadequate labelling). Idiosyncratic isn't always a compliment, but I call it thus and mean it as such. Layout, info, theories, it's a guide to birds, birding and bird places that's different from all others. And the differences are to treasure, whether you agree with Lloyd or not. Fact-filled 397 pages for $45. Well worth thinking about!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Plumhead sighting bitter-sweet treat

Always great to list a new species for regular surveyed site. Not so good having to offer terrible image in support. Never mind, here's today's good news-bad news bird at Mungalla Station: Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta). Lone male popped up on fence for a second, hopped down to feed for a few seconds, then zipped off south without acknowledging me. Them's the breaks!

As compensation for such a dire picture, here's a Zitting Cisticola taken a while back within about 100 metres of today's Plumhead.


And two shots of a Tawny Grassbird from close to the same spot about the same time. Might be many years before another Plumhead presents itself, let alone offers such closeups.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Watch out, you'll catch a fly (or something)

Haven't heard any gaper these days warned about danger of 'catching a fly' but it's surely fitting for Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis) at Mungalla Station. Always plenty of the blighters hanging around the cattle.

Not so many in the higher altitude at the head of Wallaman Falls, where this Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) spent quite some time opening wide and letting rip.


A bird only too happy to have any flies and other flyers about the place, Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) takes off at Tyto in pursuit of aerial prey. Chance are it would not not be a bee, in spite of the name. The birds show preference for many other insects before chasing tiny native bees (all stingless) or more formidable European honeybees.