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.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Masked Lapwings beat road to ruin

They looked to be on the road to ruin, but Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) eggs plonked down on Orient Road (earlier post) survived all the passing traffic and the last of the four was on the way out of the shell today. Would have stayed for the emergence but heavy cloud and rain was nearly on us so left parents to stay on top of the two still in the 'nest'.

Just up the road, spotted Latham's Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) and just missed catching it in focus on takeoff. Another snipe also flushed nearby. Surprising, since I've spotted few snipe along the road this season and most of the birds have in the last few days apparently moved on, starting the long flight back to the Northern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Peregrine rips into prey, Sea-eagle misses out


Lucky to spot young Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) ripping at fleshy catch high in tree at Tyto this morning. Bird, probably female, stayed on open branch even as I pushed through waist-high grasses to obtain clear shot. More nervous of being exposed to any threat from above than below, the Peregrine flew off to devour its meal under greater cover among trees in the middle of the main lagoon.

Earlier in the morning, White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) failed to catch its breakfast after two or three passes over a smaller lagoon. Twice it missed its target near the surface of the lagoon. Twice it perched in paperbarks and stared (maybe glared) at the water. Twice it was followed by a pair of Magpie Larks determined to move the eagle on. And they won the day. Always seems odd that a large bird will surrender to being bullied by much smaller antagonists.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Challenges vary from Kingfishers to Lapwings



Slightly faster limp into Tyto today in vain search for Little Kingfisher. Seems March sighting may have been bird's first and last look for fish along creek. No big rain means no big flood into grasses means no fish breeding in grasses means no Little Kingfishers feeding on fish trapped in creeks. But did come upon Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii) midway through morning bath. Not an easy species to sneak up on even when they are everywhere. The wetlands rings to their shrills at present as they squabble over feeding territories.


No fighting among Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton). But even they were mostly hiding away this morning. This bird's from earlier in the week. Taken at just beyond minimum focus distance for the 600mm lens. Closeup is cropped only, no colour adjustment or sharpening.


Not too difficult getting close to threatening Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) along Orient Road the other day. Bird didn't want me near four eggs on ground. It should have thought about that before laying almost on the road. We'll see how they're getting on next week.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Limping back into action

Broken toe on mend so took trial walk into Tyto today. Slowly in, slowly out, and slow birding in between. So we must do with some holdovers, starting with White-browed Robin (Poecilodryas superciliosa) pausing during morning 'wash' among condensation-soaked leaves of Bleeding Heart.

Another Tyto robin standing out attractively.

And here's a female Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) with fruiting Leichhardt trees as backdrop. Fittingly, because group of five birds were feeding greedily on fallen fruit at the time in Tyto.

Also feeding, Australasian Darter (Anhinga novehollandiae) a few weeks back in Mungalla Station. Fish looks a bit too big? No problem. Flick of head, gulp, gulp, and fish was gone.

Horsfield's Bushlark (Mirafra javanica) on Orient Station fence seemed unsure of final destination for prey, carrying it along fenceline with several stopovers. Lost track of bird. Perhaps feeding a youngster somewhere. Image also contains evidence of being 'squared up' in processing. See it?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Scores of Latham's Snipe - score one for me

Flooded creek at Mungalla Station looks rather lifeless, but hiding in those dead grasses are Latham's Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) aplenty. How many? Counted 11 today, 15 previously. That's without even getting too close. My best guess? At least 30.

But they've not been lining up for pictures. Just luck that helped me catch sight of this one close enough to roadside to sneak up in the Troopy - and not have the bird fly as I stopped and poked camera and lens across the bonnet. One frame only not obscured by vegetation or blurred by the bird's movement.

And more good luck. No picture, but saw one Yellow Wagtail at another part of creek today. Could be newcomer on way to northern migration, More likely one of summer residents still around in spite of 1000mm rain this month.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shelduck drops in for waterlogged figs

Looking for Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) around Ingham would mostly be a waste of time. Finding one feeding happily on waterlogged figs fallen into cattle-trodden mud this week was a surprise.

The bird did not appear injured or exhausted yet allowed rare close approach before keeping wary distance by walking slowly off. Pity the overcast light muted the plumage colours.