Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yellow Spoonbill fronts up

Bigger of Australia's spoonbills, the Yellow-billed (Platalea flavipes) ranges over most of the country - and even gets to New Zealand - but seldom drops in to Tyto, where the Royals (Platalea regia) are relatively common in small numbers.

Another major difference, as in the bird pictured (only the second of 2008), is the plumage. Yellows just don't come in the spotless white of Royals and the even whiter white of Great and Intermediate Egrets. Nor do the Yellows glory in the startling yolky yellow breeding patches above the eyes of Royals. Seems a bit unfair, given the name, missing out on glorious yellow markings, doesn't it?

When foraging in the shallows, the birds sweep their heads rhythmically left-right-left-right, pausing in this metronomic pattern to swallow such prey as the sensitive bills have located and captured. I've never seen a spoonbill catch hold of a fish or, say, frog big enough to be seen clearly. This would explain why small parties of spoonbills often have an egret, usually the large Great, stalking along and accepted beside them. The spoonbills feel their prey, the egret sees its meals. No competition, no squabbles.

The latest Yellow arrival probably won't stay long. Even though often solitary, the birds obviously by their general absence throughout most of every year do not find Tyto's lagoon system as welcoming as do the Royals. On the plus side, the bird is not flighty, so long as the approacher moves slowly and doesn't seek to get inside the 'zone of confidence': which varies with all living things - in this case 20-25 metres.

So, if I can get close why isn't the picture better? Good question. I've just rechecked the focussing on the Panasonic FZ30. In short, it doesn't. Well, of course it does, but not super sharply. The Pana's days are numbered. If I'd known then what I now know etc etc...

But it has taken 62,000 images without any problems apart from the hand grip stretching (cut it away and glue-on two small velcro circles) and the 1.7x lens cover cap falling off (tiny drops of super glue dried hard on cover's six ribs).

Finally, the return of the slime!!! Couldn't resist picture of this colony of Fuligo septica (about 500mm x 250mm). And a last look at the sporangium of the earlier post, now slowly fading away.


Mosura said...

Nie post! Both spoonbills are only rare visitors down this way.

Tyto Tony said...

I'll talk to the Yellow and see if it fancies a flight south.

mick said...

Interesting post. I have not yet seen a Yellow Spoonbill although Royal's are fairly common. Once again, maybe I am not looking in the right place!

Gouldiae said...

G'day Tony,
The YSpoon seems to be in 'deep water'. I don't recall them working the water that deep around here. I guess there's no reason why they shouldn't go up to their bellies, is there?

Tyto Tony said...

Hi Mick: Should be Yellows down there somewhere. Used to see them in Boondall Wetlands when I was a Brizzer.

G'day Peter: Think bird had stepped around weeds and was moving to shallower probings (where more prey may live).

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