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Showing posts from April, 2009

Umbrellas for Rainbow Lorikeets

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Umbrellas for Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) under the bluest of skies nearing sunset near Ingham? Well, Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) flowers and seeds anyway.

The long flowering spikes attract many other birds, honeyeaters, bowerbirds and figbirds. But no other birds seem to have quite so much fun as the Rainbows feeding their faces. It's a little odd that Scaley-breasted Lorikeets - so alike in many ways - do not show the same appetite.
There is another side to the Umbrella Tree. Planters of native gardens, more than ably assisted by birds and small animals, have helped introduce the trees into areas where they are not welcome. Thus (from the DPI):
'The umbrella tree is native to northern Queensland, north of the tropic of Capricorn. In its natural ecosystem it has maintained a balance with other native species, however, when it is grown in southern Queensland, this fast growing invader out-competes local native species. It is a prolific seeder, invading nati…

Cassowary just a big head

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Getting up close for photography is the ambition. But too much of a good thing becomes quickly obvious when a Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) marches into view. Heading up to Wallaman Falls today, I met Mr Big sauntering down the road. I idled to a stop, grabbed the camera, and cranked the car window down a bit (not fully open, since the birds can be menacing beggars - if idiots have previously fed them). Anyway, low light, dodgy, shaky head-only shots, then bird crunched off into the forest. A frustrating forerunner.

Next up, in a transmission tower clearing in the rainforest, quick grabs at a few locals. First, Yellow-breasted Boatbill (Machaerirhynchus flaviventer), flittering about in a wee island of small trees growing from a pile of old pine logs (self-sown and definitely unwanted). The reason for the bird's name is apparent below.

Also making itself busy on the piled logs, an Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus). Proved excellent at posing for a split second and th…

On the wing and showing some skin

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Bit of a fling for birds on the wing today. Australian White (Sacred) Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) led off to a promising start. Noticed several birds showing pink breeding bars at back of neck yesterday. None obliged today. Did capture bird coming into tree (below) and displaying bare scarlet skin underwing, another breeding signal. White Ibises often look dirty from a distance. The plumage can be gloriously pearly seen up close, but few people in suburbia want to see these roof-fouling dump scavengers up close.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans) the only one of four raptors caught on the wing. Till the shire dump next door to Tyto closed about three years ago, the kites competed with ibises and Torresian Crows for easy pickings. Now, kites and crows can be hard to find some days. Even harder to find, the other three raptors (all photographed, but from too far off): Nankeen Kestrel, Grey Goshawk, Whistling Kite. 

Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) easier to see today, with five unexpectedly w…

Bully for male Cicadabird

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Male Cicadabird (Coracina tenuirostris) popped suddenly into view today and tormented me for the next 30 minutes by sticking almost entirely to deeply shaded upper reaches of trees in a small grove near the first Tyto lagoon. My cause wasn't helped by a Spangled Drongo determined - as they so often are - to bully the newcomer.
Cicadabirds seldom show up here in pairs. Males are rarely seen, but one or two females can often be found in the cooler months. Some of the birds are breeding migrants in southeast Australia and winter in the north and up into Papua New-Guinea, others are sedentary across the Top End. In my experience only birds in the south sound anything like a cicada.

Catch of the day definitely goes to this Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus). Even from afar the fish dangling from the huge bill was impressive. But the head was gobbled down before I got close enough for the picture. Interesting butchery technique. The bird dropped the fish on the ground and sta…

Some Leaden light at last

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Finally, the leaden skies have gone and there's some sunshine and light to show off the Tyto birds, such as the Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula) quietly going about business today.
Sorry to have been rather quiet all week. Terrible weather and dodgy modem combined to kill  pictures and posting. 

Not so quiet and just one among many enjoying the end of rain almost every day and night this month, Red-backed Fairy-Wren (Malurus melanocephalus) just coming into male breeding colour.
Almost certainly final tally of species for April will not be close to predicted 120. But today's count of 46 slightly better than expected. Nothing of real note seen, though an immature Dollarbird was mildly surprising since most flew off north last month.

Change of venue for last picture. Eastern Dwarf Treefrogs have taken to sitting by day in, on and among Bird of Paradise flowers and leaves in the caravan park gardens. Need shorter lens to do justice to frog. Working on it!

Ulysses and the lilies

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Ulysses butterflies clearly don't realise what glorious sights they make when out on the swamp lilies. Mostly, they jitter about among the trees - where they are almost impossible to frame for photographs. But it's 'wow' on those rare days when one gets out on the water flowers. (A snag with the lily flowers is their featheriness, so fine, light and tiny they almost always look out of focus.)

Another touch of local colour among the lilies: White-browed Crake pauses near the water before going back to 'tuk tuk tucking' in amid the scleria. 
Lot of rain and sudden heavy showers in past few days. Adding to those woes, my modem turned pyscho and refused to recognise me! Sorted out after Telstra on-line techie took it over and gave it a swift kick up the password!

Got into Tyto for a dryish spell today. Forget the jokes, all the rain has meant the ducks have gone. Along with much else. Kingfishers aplenty, including an Azure teasing a sleek juvenile with a fish it seem…

Curlewy question: who's hiding here?

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Perilous life for a Bush Stone Curlew chick (click pic to enlarge). Parent birds don't go much for nest building. Almost any old bit of ground will do. Plonk! Plonk! Two eggs. Job done. 

With all their hissing and pretence at injury, the parents often draw attention to the presence of eggs or youngsters. Seeing two birds feigning injury in an area part-cleared for revegetation, I tiptoed about yesterday, attended most closely by the female (above).
Spotted junior 'hiding' motionless. Quick pictures, apologies for the disturbance to Ma and Pa, and tiptoe (could be another, unseen) away. About 140mm rain overnight. Check today. Junior and parents OK.

Here's hoping the youngster grows to fly over Tyto - like this!

Black Butcherbird too close

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Black Butcherbirds (Cracticus quoyi) don't spend much time in Tyto and those that do often are quieter than in more usual habitats such as denser rainforest or thick belts of mangroves. Came upon two foraging through guava thickets today. Never any chance of photographing them together, but one went out of its way to get in frame. It landed on leaf litter close to my feet. Almost impossibly close for my lens, in fact, and, worse, almost totally hidden by guava trunks. Adding farce to frustration, along came a long-necked turtle on the dry litter - and scared the bird back into the understorey! Amazing that the above picture is even slightly sharp about the eye, since it was handheld at 1/30th second.

Here's another head, taken under easier circumstances, but also showing a drawback of using long lenses in relatively low light conditions. The Willie Wagtail is one of the Tyto hide resident pair, featured mouth full of dragonfly in earlier posts. Attractive enough pose, but notic…

Dragonflies on the menu

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Quick look at three dragonflies, one of which didn't get away. First up, a common sight in Tyto, Graphic Flutterer (Rhyothemus graphiptera - so I'm told: not in TNQ guide: click pic to enlarge).

Less common, but called the Common Glider, Trapezostigma (Tramea) loewii.

Last, and lasting only as a brief course for an Australian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus australis), uncertain species but may be female Common Glider. Bad luck or fatal snooze for the dragonfly, because Reed-Warblers seldom leave cover to feed and I've never seen one take such prey in the air.

April Fool's Day, plus drongo

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Didn't get a pinch and a punch for the first of the month, but did catch a bird or two trying to make an April Fool drongo of me in Tyto today. Not, however, the Spangled Drongo above. It was on best behaviour, though not quite at the species' spangliest.
First up, a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo making a rare appearance and almost passing itself off as a Little Bronze. But the immature bird, quiet (as are all cuckoos at present) and rather plain, carried a telltale bright green sheen on its back (precisely: wing coverts). They are slightly larger than Littles, but I've found the species' shade of bright green is a surer identifier. Sorry, no picture.
Further along the track, much activity and several high-pitched calls as a minor wave of small birds, including Sunbirds, Dusky, Yellow, and Brown Honeyeaters, Varied Trillers, Rufous Whistlers, and Red-browed Finches came through - with a surprise higher in trees: first Mistletoebird for months, but sounding squeakily Sunbirdish. …