Friday, October 30, 2015

Some cuckoos suited down to the ground

Seems the current dryness suits Brush Cuckoos (Cacomantis variolosus) down to the ground.

Early mornings in Tyto and elsewhere have been full of their shrill, sometimes frenzied calls. But it's gone a bit quieter lately with more attention to feeding than breeding.

Much quieter always is the Little Bronze-Cuckoo (Chalcites minutillus). This female is the real deal and nothing like the super-bronze Goulds, lumped with it - for now anyway.

Also quieter, but plaintively so, is the Pallid Cuckoo (Cacomantis pallidus). Immature bird thought safety lay on the ground. Ran through the grass before realising error. Good thing chaser was clumsy old boy and not swift cat or dog. Not all situations suit cuckoos down to the ground.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Slowcoach python won't break fast on camera(man)


Sat down on dry lagoon bed and waited for slowcoach Amethystine Python (Morelia amethistina)  to wander across for little get-together at Tyto recently. Also had time to pace out length: almost right on four metres. Youtube video of the action here



Also been enjoying quality time with Goulds monitors (Varanus gouldii) at Mungalla lately. Hard to get better pose than this one-metre fellow on earthworks overlooking Palm Creek's eastern fork into the (now dry) hymenachne wetlands,

And here's a slightly smaller monitor in one of several mango tree hidey-holes at old homestead site.

Would you believe this Praying mantis (Archimantis latistyla) lined up so prettily for me at the Tyto hide over the weekend? Not likely. Had to clamber about the hide to catch reluctant wildlife star and insist upon several takes before we got it right. Some creatures have too little respect for the creative arts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

List! How to set realistic bird list targets

Few more birders than usual should be stalking Tyto and other hotspots around Ingham over the coming weekend with shire-organised twitching days and nights.

So, how many birds should visitors expect if shire boasts of 240-plus species in Tyto Wetlands and many more in the wider district?

Give up? Don't care? Haven't a clue?

Here's a clue. Go to atlassing site such as ebirdEremaea, select hotspots, open, say, Tyto Wetlands, select last seen to gain chronological list. Now scroll down list, going back in time. Back three months, six months,a year, three years. At any point in time you get a count of species.

Taking a three-year back limit - because ebird listing really took off about then - you'll get 216 species for Tyto. For the top Australian hotspots: Townsville Town Common, 271 listed, 242 in past 3yrs; Werribee Treatment Ponds 263, 227; Cairns Foreshore 259, 194.

Big differences between totals and three years. But even three years is a long time. And many sites show very strong seasonality among species. So last  three months may be closer to reality. For Tyto that would mean about 160 species. The common and Werribee fall behind, to about 135 each, and Cairns drops to 100. Tyto loses fewer birds because it has water year-round (unlike Townsville) and is not so coastal and seasonal as Cairns and Werribee.

I expect for a full mornng to list between 70 and 80 species in Tyto. Add about 30 over a week and another 30 over a month. So, if lucky, 130-140 of the target 160. Which is a long way off the 246 on the printed Tyto list, but it's a realistic figure.

Go to it, visitors. But set sensible targets wherever you bird.

All pictures from recent Tyto outings: Pelican, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Yellow Oriole, Little Friarbird

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Terza rima for my Beatrice, Anna V

Yellow Oriole takes to the blue beyond ...


... and Anna V,  my Beatrice, Italy and  Port Douglas,
has gone too, probably to somewhere in South America


At Paluma Falls on a divine day
Along the way a comely vision came
Name of Anna V but Beatrice,

The dream darling of Dante, she became.
Guide in Aligheri's allegory,
Beauty and sweet reason shine in her name.

If only my weak art led to such glory
As matched the desire to praise
To the skies - with God as my jury

Without lust or lies - the warmest gaze,
Open mind and eyes, the touching play
Of trusting hand and gentle winning ways.

Her name is Anna V but Beatrice
Is she to me, her wannabe Dante.

Terza rima Tony






Monday, October 12, 2015

My Red-bellied Black too late to claim fame

Learned the other day my various images of Red-bellied Black Snakes held significance beyond their dubious technical qualities. Seems the northern sub-race, race or species (taxonomy up in air) has not be formally introduced and described. Or something ... see here for much detail.

So, too late to claim any laurels, here's another look at a one-metre specimen found snoozing in the morning sun along Palm Creek on Mungalla Station the other day. Shy, as always, snake snuck off into thicker grass once I got out of its way.

Another friend of older vintage, 'my' Tyto Saltwater Crocodile, popping up on old sunning spot in main lagoon, many months after last sighting. And the really good news, the croc trap has gone down the road to needlessly chase another old favourite, a longtime resident in Cattle Creek.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Noisy Pitta plays role as silent partner

Friendship time at Jourama Falls today with Noisy Pitta (Pitta versicolor) showing remarkable lack of concern at my presence in its patch of drying rainforest. The bird was standing quietly at base of cluster fig tree as I walked along track linking the camping ground with short length of road to the falls parking area.

It paid no attention as I struggled to ground and wriggled this way and that to get a view unblocked by leaf litter and weeds. Then came an extended conversation as I circled the bird. It picked at fallen fruit, then went on to turn over leaves and litter in search of meatier fare. More than 10 minutes passed before the Pitta pattered off. At any next meeting the bird will almost certainly exhibit no such unconcern. Magical moments come on nature's terms, not ours.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Looking sharp before El Nino takes over

Looking sharp and nicely balanced, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) stands poised in the disappearing water at the western end of Tyto Wetlands.

Looks likely with deepening El Nino there'll be no rain for three months so long before Xmas the Sharpie won't be hanging around this part of the lagoon.

Nor will this Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) be able to stand around with wet feet in this side pool along the northern boundary of the wetlands.

And Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) on branch overlooking a deeper section of the main lagoon may also be facing a dry outlook by December. Interesting times ahead ...



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Heron sticks neck out to take prey

Sat down beside shallow pool in Tyto and won bit of trust from White-necked (Pacific) Heron (Ardea pacifica), which shows somewhat lopsided plumage on right wing (but looks fine in flight).

Bird walked towards me, feeding mostly on prey snatched from water before slowing and staring hard at insect in mud on bank.

Lightning stab and what may be young grasshopper is heron fodder. Bird then decided food is food and trust is trust but safety first is the golden rule. Slowly turned and foraged back the way it came. Typical behaviour from herons and egrets, which often commit to a particular target and allow an approach until they make their kill, after which they often unhurriedly fly off. Touch-feeders such as spoonbills don't have the sight of choice prey items tempting them to ignore intruders.