Saturday, October 31, 2009

Golden Plover gilds wader watch

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) only wader of rare note in or near Tyto through year to date. Not so hard to find up and down the coast, but this solo bird popped into view on Wednesday just beyond the wetlands' westernmost point, on regreening burnt grass alongside young sugar cane. (I was looking for quail.) Plover unfortunately took lead from two Masked Lapwings it was with and would not settle close enough for better pictures.
Then, 100mm of rain overnight and following day. No sign of bird since.

But two more common wader species have dropped in on newly flooded areas. Bit like buses. None for a while and then three turn up! (New Scientist explained why buses do this. Nothing to do with birds in threes.) Anyway, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) trio above could pass as triplets.

Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola) not so strikingly alike. Striking enough merely to have three of the often solitary birds so close together. One bird has been the regular daily ration for most of the month. Below, a closeup look at a Wood, taken at a nearby treatment pond.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

White-browed Robin win and loss

Three hours (spread over two days) of stalking juvenile White-browed Robin (Poecilodryas superciliosa) brought some reward today in Tyto. Junior's natural inclination to hide behind clusters of twigs or under umbrellas of shady foliage was only part of the problem.

The parents never took prey and headed straight back to the juvenile. Rather, they perched and pounced several times before taking a circumspect route back to the ever-shifting offspring.

They are also fast on the swallow. Caught quick shot of parent taking a caterpillar. Two shots later in the same high-speed burst, the bird was up and away with caterpillar gulped down.

Final musing: Most White-browed Robin nests contain two eggs, and in due course two fledglings. But after the birds quit the nest it's hard to find more than one juvenile, though both parents can be seen. Perhaps the parents don't return enough of their catches to sustain both young?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Striated Heron heads highlights

Did a quick tour of the beaches and other wetland spots today. A few more waders showing out, but Striated (Mangrove) Heron (Butorides striata) near Dungeness boat ramp the standout. Couldn't get through the mangroves for any low angle shots.

Not about to fling myself upon the sand and mud at Taylors Beach for a better look at this Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) struggling to swallow a much larger than usual catch. After more than 30 tries the fish went down.

Didn't quite get this Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris) in sharp focus, though the feet almost make the grade.

And Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) flashed by with wing nicely lit. Pity about the head.

Finally, I'll sneak in this Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), a holdout from earlier in the week at a private inland treatment pond area, but often seen at the beaches.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Slight kite skite, all right?

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) has taken to morning stints in small dead tree on Tyto's northern boundary. Not too worried by me, till within 20-25 metres. But haven't had any luck with prey capture, or even in-flight close-ups. May be bit greedy seeking more than this bird's beauty. . .

Less often ready to sit and pose, Black Kite (Milvus migrans) remained still for a few seconds early in week, before taking off to join mate.

This Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) has lately added Tyto to its rounds. Bit odd, since the species usually doesn't hang about for long till fish begin dying, which isn't happening at present.

And to complete the Tyto kite set, Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) surveys the wetlands scene from a Leichhardt tree.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Variation in the trillers

A few White-winged Trillers (Lalage sueurii) have turned up from down south lately. Female (above), male (below).
She's thinking food; he's frantic to attract females. Sound familiar?

Varied Trillers (Lalage leucomela) stick together and some always stick close to Tyto. So, Varieds are limited largely to coastal east and across the top but White-wingeds cover the continent. See my drift?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spotting more Spotless Crakes

Suddenly the Spotless Crakes (Porzana tabuensis) have become easier to find than White-browed Crakes, although probably outnumbered about 20 to one. It's perhaps because the water level has dropped markedly and provided reasonably solid footing around the margins of the scleria islands. The Spotless lacks the very long toes of the White-browed.

Totally unexpected drop-in yesterday in the channel close to the crakes' playground, a Red-backed Buttonquail (Turnix maculosus). Sorry about the rear view, but the bird splashed down, looked about as if bewildered to be sinking, and shot up and away. The species in past years turned up to feed in scruffy areas of mixed weeds. Drenched in weedicides and turned to grass, the areas now support wallabies - and ever more mowing! Don't know how long the buttonquail will stick around amid the monocultures of reeds and scleria.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Metallic Starling show(er)s the way

Metallic Starling (Aplornis metallica) wouldn't spring first to mind in a quick post featuring wildlife and water. Tenuous link. Starlings have switched rain trees in Ingham for their semi-communal nest building this breeding season. Many of the new nests are close to the sugar mill's waste water re-oxygenation sprayers. Result? Misting around the trees much of the time. But Metallics always look as if fresh from an oily shower, don't they?

Yellow Honeyeater (Lichenostomus flavus) emerges from self-created shower of spray in the last of Tyto's creek pools. (Even the main lagoon is evaporating fast after three months without more than two minor moments of rain.) Honeyeaters will persist in bathing in low-light areas!

Australian Water-rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) also usually sticks to darker spots. But this one surfaced sleekly yesterday during my long and fruitless wait for a crake to emerge from cover. Australia's biggest rodent is sometimes mistaken for a platypus (different bow wave) or even (by tourists) an otter (an understandable error).

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) shows off its long, long toes as it crosses a channel close to the rat's surprise appearance. I've never witnessed interaction between the rats and Jacanas, but can't imagine them as best friends. It takes more than a love of Wind in the Willows to change many minds about rats.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Egret catches up with Keelback

Bit of live action from Tyto today. Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia) tosses Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii) about and tries to catch it near the head for the big swallow. End came soon after the above picture. Big gulps followed by reflex neck spasms. Goodbye snake!

Earlier, 'that's-my-spot' conflict between Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus). Having made some sort of point, the aggressor headed off to another tree. As did the submissive loser.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) does a bit of stretching before taking off for a spell of low cruising over the grasslands. This bird allowed an unusually close approach, but harsh high sunlight counted against the camera.

Sticking to raptors, here's a Black Kite (Milvus migrans) circling above the lookout.

Finally, no picture, but an amusing incident. Came upon Common Tree Snake in middle of track today. Braked but before coming to halt, found snake speeding for cover - under my feet and the moving bicycle. Off balance, camera bouncing on shoulder, sunglasses flying, feet looking for ground unoccupied by snake, laughing and apologising as it zoomed into long grass. Another case of snakes 'attacking' people. Not!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Winner under my nose

Surprise sighting of Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusilla) by the Tyto hide provides opening for one of my best pictures (click pic to enlarge), posted early in September on BirdingOz and, he said modestly, winner then of Image of the Week. Didn't see any more of the Littles after taking the above till yesterday's sudden appearance, which came an hour into an extended stint watching fruitlessly for Little Bitterns. Somewhat chastening to go for more than a month thinking a species has departed for the season and then find a bird under one's nose!

Another to turn up more or less under the nose, this Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica). One or two find their way into the more thickly wooded areas every year, seldom staying for more than a few days. This bird for more than two weeks teased me with distant glimpses. The other morning, as I sat on a footbridge, it waddled behind my back down to a remnant pool in the creek. Slight noise gave it away. My turning brought bird into view, but led to quick departure.

Also given to turning up under the nose and to sudden departures, Latham's Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii). This bird, heading for cover yesterday, is probably the solitary one among three that settled in for a spell around the main lagoon soon after the first of the species arrived early in August. The species can sometimes be approached when feeding actively. More often, they zigzag away at speed. Or march off into reeds and grasses, though always taking care to keep an eye on the intruder.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Plucky duck merits portrait

Pacific Black Duck deserves quick portrait. Don't know how loss occurred, but bird lacks much of left wing. Paddles about by itself, often sharing space on the lagoon shore with Darters. Over the last month it's remained typically wary though gradually accepting limited morning chats with me. Happily there are no 'nature lovers' clutching bags of bread, so the bird continues to healthily fend for itself. Looks well enough, doesn't it?

Plenty of Wandering Whistling Ducks (and Plumed Whistling Ducks) on and beside the main lagoon these days. One pair of Wanderers paddled by with two ducklings straggling behind a few days ago. No sign since so the two may have fallen to predators.

Much less numerous and seldom in Tyto for long, Australian Pelican drops in to check out the fishing. Didn't hang about more than an hour before heading north with four others.

Australasian Grebe probably happy to see Pelicans depart. You never know what a bird with such an enormous maw - and a none to gentle nature - might fancy.

Quick note on September bird counts. Not many waders turned up, but overall the drying shallows and migratory season drew a few more species. Daily counts often topped 60. Rule of thumb then says 90 for week and 120 for the month. Didn't check weekly counts, but month was spot on 120, the highest of 2009.

Even the waders that did arrive have mostly gone again. Exceptions above are Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (left, usually with others of species) teaming itself with Wood Sandpiper (often solitary). Don't think Sharpie will stick around long.

Brown Goshawk drops in for brekkie banter

Gidday. Just flying up this track and thought I'd drop in and have a dekko for bit of brekkie. Scared? Why'd I be scared of you, sta...