Showing posts from March, 2009

Four for kingfisher lovers

Forest Kingfishers (Todiramphus macleayii) dominate the fenceline on the entry to Tyto these mornings. Not yet seeing 10-20 poised on posts, but 5-6 birds within 30 metres a common sight. Caterpillars from amid dewy grasses are the prime prey. Two problems: kingfishers are alert and shy, so don't like closeups; kingfishers persist in sitting on manmade structures. Sorry about that!

Balanced diet continued

White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike (Coracina papuensis) unknowingly continues my previous theme of a balanced diet with a caterpillar about to be part of breakfast at Tyto this week. Bird wasn't willing to stick around and let me move to better lighting.

Magpie-Lark (Grallina cycanoleuca) even less helpful. So quick on the swallow that its prey, a small grasshopper, was disappearing even as I lifted the camera.

White-browed Robin (Poecilodryas superciliosa) made no effort to co-operate with my would-be dietary theme. It's only contribution to balanced anything was to balance briefly on a shaded branch.

Tawny Grassbird (Megalurus timoriensis) also proved impossible to catch with anything resembling food in bill. Not so surprising since most of its food is caught and consumed within long grasses.

Oriole balances hairy diet

A balanced diet is the way to good health, we're told (though many choose to ignore such maxims and indulge in maximums). No need to sell the message to the Yellow Oriole (Oriolus flavocinctus).
Watched today as the bird below snagged a large hairy caterpillar, gave it the typical cuckoo-like thrash and bash treatment for at least two minutes and gulped the bruised mass down. It then moved on to fruit, more customary fare. The bird tried several ripening guavas before finding one already part-eaten and to its liking. 
Most birds avoid hairy caterpillars, leaving them to the cuckoos. Orioles are fruit eaters and though they seem to relish some insects I've not previously seen one tackle any hairy 'monsters'. Perhaps the cuckoos get there first most of the time.
Will get a chance to study Yellow Oriole eating habits more closely in coming weeks after seeing one in the early stages of nest building near the lookout today. Should mean plenty of resounding 'yonk yonk a-lonk…

Jacana walks on: eggs go under

Sunny feeding time for this Comb-crested Jacana with snippet of vegetation in bill at Tyto yesterday. Not often the birds will allow one to walk up on them. Took my time edging along the lagoon and easing into the mud and water as the bird pecked away hoping for morsels on and under the water lily leaves. More trial and error than perceived prey behind the technique, it seems.
Even more trial and error on the part of the Jacanas that plonked two eggs on a straggly leaf and bits of lotus roots in the middle of the lagoon the other day. Got that sinking feeling when I studied the 'nest' (from 40 metres away) on Friday and saw sitting bird awash. Sure enough, eggs gone and the birds ignoring the site yesterday. Probably a not uncommon miscalculation by birds living most of their lives on flimsy flotation.

Got a fleeting look at three young Magpie Geese yesterday before they were hustled off into swampy long grass. In a reversal of life in fairy tales, the goslings begin as cuddly a…

Masked Lapwing on guard

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) leaves no doubt about its intention to defend four eggs in a 'nest' (the merest of depressions amid short grassy weeds) beside a sugar mill road near Ingham. Spotted the breeding pair a few days ago and drove in yesterday with camera at ready.
A few moments of fuss from the bird and plenty of pictures from the car for me and we could return to doing what comes naturally. The bird sat back on the greasy-green eggs - which look as if thinly splattered with black by a Jackson Pollock wannabe. I drove off looking for anything out of the ordinary around the mill treatment ponds. Nothing!

The photographic catches at Tyto have continued to be thin, with low overall bird numbers and reduced species present. But a few birds yesterday and today fronted up for brief flights across my horizon. They all managed to looked sharper and more attractive in life than in camera. Goes without saying, of course. 

Female Black-necked Stork teased me into contemplating cr…

Little Bittern comes to bitter end

After much debate with self decided to post this image of male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) that impaled itself (probably in night flight) on a barbed wire fence close to Tyto Wetlands, Ingham, last week. A sad enough end for any creature, but more so when the bird is from a relatively rare species currently under survey throughout much of Australia.

Forest Kingfisher finally sits still

Finally found a Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii) showing a bit of patience and trust at Tyto this week. Just couldn't encourage the bird to sit on a thinner branch and get into full sunlight (click top pic to enlarge).

The kingfishers are still sharing much of the saturated habitat with a lesser number of Sacreds. Earlier predictions of the Sacreds' disappearance by now have failed to hold up, because the heavy showers keep coming. As the rainfall tapers off, so will the Sacreds.
Interestingly, two Little Kingfishers continue to come and go from the creek system. Their variable presence may be explained partly by changes in conditions at some shaded pool areas. Previously open stretches of water have become overgrown, thus reducing the birds' hunting zones. 
The almost total lack of any Azure Kingfishers sightings in recent weeks may also be explained by the lack of pool water in shadow much of the day. I suspect the birds are choosing to stick to nearby heavier rain…

Yellow and green with envy

Though denying ever being away with the fairies (Fairy Gerygones and Wrens are different cases!), I admit to chasing after dragonflies (click pic to enlarge), butterflies and pretty creatures whenever mood takes and chance offers. So, three results of pursuit - with variations on the theme of yellow and green:
First, the lumberingly named but aerially agile Austrogomphus prasinus. A male, the guidebook relates, as shown by the yellow, forked rear appendages. This dragonfly sped into view today and drifted from stem to stem of giant cane grass after drawing me away from butterflies (below) clustered on a cane road.
The Common Grass Yellows (Eurame hecabe) were gathered in several places along the sandy gravelled road sipping (licking?) salts after light rain overnight and this morning. Also popular with the 40mm wingspan butterflies was a flattened patch of horse dung. No other of the several butterfly species in the area showed interest in the gravel or the dung.

Finally, a small Lace Mo…

Bee-eater turns dragon slayer

Another dragonfly comes to a colourful end in Tyto today. Haven't observed great numbers of such large prey being taken by Rainbow Bee-eaters. Dragonflies are usually too quick and alert. But not this one.
Also surprising was the speed with which the bird swallowed the dragonfly. No thrashing against ground or branch to remove the wings, which Willie Wagtails and some other insectivores reject. No, rather like an egret with a fish, the bird speedily manouevred the dragonfly into a head-first position inside its bill. Three fast gulps and it was gone, wings and all.
Bit like the bee-eaters themselves. In past years there have often been flocks of 50-60 birds bursting from the paperbarks in a gorgeous explosion of hues. No sign of such numbers and spectacle in recent months. Most often these days three or four birds appear briefly and just as quickly vanish.
Pulling an even faster vanishing trick today were a pair of White-browed Crake chicks. Saw the two for a split second in front of…

Of a cockatoo and almond I sing

The Red-tailed Black Cockatoos have been raiding the Indian almonds again at the caravan park. Perch and shred them, nip them off, drop them and go to ground and shred them, makes little difference to the birds. But ground-munchers make it easier for me. Female above was happy to let me quite close in the morning sunlight earlier this week (click pic to enlarge). Still hoping for a decent in-flight picture!

Capturing things in flight comes naturally to Willie Wagtails. One of the pair in more or less permanent possession of the hide and its surrounding paperbarks in Tyto snapped up a dragonfly yesterday morning. Looked in general guide to North Queensland fauna but couldn't ID it.

Today, while creeping about looking for Bush-Hens under trees beside an overgrown creek (and being distracted by the first Spectacled Monarch seen for many weeks) this dragonfly persistently flew into the shade and posed on a dead stem. It appears to be one of the same species that made up part of the Will…

Taipan swims into view

Just when I begin to think most of the snakes have been washed away, this Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) comes swimming briskly from the Scleria and hauls ashore close by the footbridge to the Tyto hide.

I stepped across to its likely route up through the grass and got near, but the species is ever alert. Couldn't get unobscured shot of the raised head. Moved a little too much, and snake slipped quickly away into knee-high weeds.

Taipans are often active hunters by day. Not so often encountered in the water. This was the first I've seen coming from the flooded razor grass. Not sure that this one-metre snake could cope with a fullgrown water rat, so one of its targets could be this White-browed Crake (Ixobrychus minutus) photographed later in front of the hide. Crake eggs or chicks probably in very short supply after the whole system went under twice in the floods.
An observation on snakes and reported sizes. Most snakes appear to grow with each retelling of sightings. Discarded s…