Sunday, November 29, 2009

Little Bittern caught out in open

Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) makes a rare daylight foray along the edge of scleria in the northeast corner of the main Tyto lagoon early yesterday. Couldn't have asked the bird - a male of subdued colouring - to do more regarding position and poses.

But sadly I was 50 metres away across the water and unable to move much closer. In fact, even at such distance the bird would have darted back into cover in a flash at any sudden or great movement.

Talking of movement, the clumsiness of the bird's passage jumping and jerking across the base of the scleria was surprising. All my previous sightings suggested a life of stealthy, silent stalking, not clumsy and surely noisy leaping from foothold to foothold. My toehold on knowledge grows ever tinier!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buttonquail vanishes with a zip

Red-backed Buttonquail (Turnix maculosus) takes a rare few steps away from cover before realising error and zipping back into the long stuff at Tyto yesterday. Have flushed a few lately, but the birds show no preference for any particular area so sightings are a matter of luck.

Lucky to see a Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa). This maturing bird dropped in for a few days and just as randomly disappeared. Unlike the only other Dusky sighted in the wetlands the bird stayed well away from the edges of the main lagoon.

Sticking close to the edges of the new lagoons under the even newer walkway from the info centre to the near completed cafe/civic centre/lookout tower, the two Muscovy Ducks that turned up earlier in the week. New species for Tyto, but a potential challenge to native birds.

Also turning up from out of the blue, an Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus optatus). Spotted the bird flying from the west toward Rain Trees near the carpark two days ago. No sign since. Seldom seen in Tyto and last seen early in 2008.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muscovy Ducks make goose of me

How's this for making a goose of oneself? Posted above picture of female on BirdingOz under title 'ugly goose' because pair of the birds turned up yesterday, engaged in vigorous mating, and my ancient brain forgot there existed any such thing as a Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) and asked for species ID. Doh! Wouldn't want to see the birds establish themselves, yet the head does hold some colourfully grotesque fascination. Doesn't it?

Here's another head full more of character than beauty. This Australian Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) appears to have a Cheese Fruit (Morinda citrifolia) habit. The solitary bird patrols plantings along the northern boundary to Tyto in its search for 'ripe' (also known as Vomit Fruit) falls. Not to my taste, though I'm partial to Camembert and Brie.

Heading towards a pleasing finish, a pair of Wandering Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata) glide across a still morning's mirroring waters on the main Tyto lagoon. Though kitsch ducks on walls come in threes, in nature pairs are paramount.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cold-blooded encounters

Change from feathers to cold-blooded types after a couple of lucky encounters this week. First, Keelback (Freshwater Snake) (Tropidonophis mairii) moves through a sunlit patch of leaf litter on the lookout knoll. The keeled scales show clearly along the back. Most Tyto Keelbacks are this orangey-brown coloration, or dark-light mix of greys.

Second, Striped Rocketfrog (Litoria nasuta) finally stopped mad zigzag jumping through the reeds and settled down for closeup. Plenty of the frogs about, but fewer Keelbacks seen out among the reeds lately. The unseasonal rains may have made it harder for the snakes to track the frogs.

Third, though it lacks a common name, here's what I call the Common Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus: similar to C. spaldingi and rarer C. nullum). It's one of two large (110mm snout to vent) skinks in Tyto. The other, much trickier to photograph, is the plainer Eastern Water Skink (Eulamprus quoyii).

Last, and odd footnote on the theme: picked from my forearm today the first leech I've met in six years. Not in Tyto, but possibly from, of all things, a metal gate at another little wetlands. Strange.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Darter swallows up slippery catch

Australasian Darter (Anhinga novehollandiae) shows how to go about catching a fish after catching a fish at Tyto today. Not as easy as it looks.

But all's well that ends swallowed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cor, cormorants and blurry bittern

Interesting bits later, the one decent picture first. Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarba melanoleucos) in solo pose near a Tyto lagoon. Little Pieds stand alone, in contrast to Little Black Cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris). Any fish the solitary hunter Pied takes brings no threat of theft from a fishing companion.

But Little Blacks hunt in packs. The advantage appears to be a 'herding' of fish ahead of the swift swimming pack. The disadvantage is an instant challenge against any bird that takes a fish too large to be immediately swallowed. Side note: 50-60 Little Blacks in Tyto overnight the only large group of the species to spend much time in the wetlands in six years or more.

Worst for last. Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) disappears across scleria in Tyto today. Male, but you'll have to take my word for it. My only flight picture in six years. Saw male and female yesterday, without even bad picture. Tomorrow ...

Monday, November 16, 2009

One in eye for Shrike-Thrush and me

Little Shrike-Thrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha) on ground at Broadwater Forest Park, west of Ingham, today appears to be winking. Not so. After berating the bird for constantly closing eye as it did a spot of sheltered sunning I realised mistake: injury or ailment had led to permanent closure. Routine hazard for birds that spend much of their day poking heads into forest tangles, I suppose.

Sharp-eyed pair of Plumed Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) turn away from the Tyto lookout over the weekend. The large flocks have gone (probably up to the tableland) but a few birds are still hanging about with the more numerous Wandering Whistlers.

Also sticking around in limited numbers are Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (Calidris acuminata). This pair caught in middle of minor spat at a small wetlands just east of Ingham.

Finally, bad news at the Great Bowerbird bower. Flattened and pillaged. Possibly the work of another bird. More likely the doing of a Naked Ape. Restores my lack of faith in human nature!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Egret all shook up

Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia) shakes things up after a lengthy spell of patrolling reeds along the lagoon edge at Tyto today. Below, getting back into trim.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rainbow Bee-eater lights up morning

Don't often come upon Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) low on branches, so above shot on a bright morning as I was beginning a lagoon edge walk hoping for Little Bittern sightings was an unexpected bonus. Luckily the bird paused for a few seconds after coming from over my shoulder.

After recent post about Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) clutching African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) seed envelope and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) taste for the seeds today came upon lorikeets feeding from split and drying pods. For every seed eaten 10 or more are scattered on the breeze. Little wonder the exotic tree with gorgeous flowers is proving nigh impossible to eradicate.

Immature Great Bowerbird still noisily busy near Tyto carpark, but seems to have largely completed the bower. Now the chief work is sorting out which end of the north-south alignment should be decorated with the assorted white, blue, green and red items it has gathered. No sign of any other bowerbirds in the neighbourhood.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Big stork stalks closer

Immature Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) surprised me by stalking slightly towards me rather than away as I watched from the other side of a shallow pool in Tyto yesterday, but drew the line at about 30 metres. The birds usually respond to intruders by quietly altering course and easing off into the distance. If followed they fly off (below, from earlier in week - perhaps the same bird, though 2-3 immatures drop in at times).

Another big bird Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) circles above main lagoon. It's one of a pair temporarily in the wetlands after recent rains lifted the main lagoon by about 15cm. (Which has also brought in more Whiskered Terns).

And a Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata), one of many coming daily to the wetlands and returning to surrounding areas before sunset. (A popular night roost during the now-finished cane crush was atop the loaded bins of the cane trains).

Three morsels of food for thought

Food for thought in three Tyto encounters. Above, perhaps evidence of a successful underground strike - skink? frog? grasshopper? - by this Common Tree Snake (Dendralaphis punctulata). Spotted the snake half hidden within a wide crack during a recent evening outing. It re-emerged looking rather pleased with itself, almost to be described as licking its lips! Anthropomorphosis, anyone?

Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) comes up with a catch courtesy of an unknown predator that must have lost this fish after taking a severe bite from it. Though no more than knee deep and roughly 50 x 25 metres, the minor pool near Tyto's main lagoon could be carrying large eels, barramundi and turtles. Croc? A very long-odds maybe.

Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) clutches an African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) seed envelope. A pair of the birds spent several minutes picking up, carrying about and then discarding envelopes. Doubt if the birds are equipped to free the seed from the envelope. Haven't seen such interest previously. In fact, only Scaly-breasted Lorikeets (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) show a taste for the seeds. But they feed direct from split and drying pods, which hold hundreds of envelopes in three stacks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Questions on young bowerbird

Seems Great Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis) males start young. Here's an immature (note yellow gape) bird with an advanced structure near the Tyto carpark. Very active and noisy at his work today and yesterday, though yet to bring in much decoration.

Two initial thoughts occur: can such an obviously young bird attract females? will any mature male nearby attack the bird or bower? More to come, in time ...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One bad tern deserves another

More exercises in trying for decent flight shots. Both eyes open, one eye shut, 9-point auto focus, centre point focus, manual focus. The spirited Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybrida) seem willing, in zig-zaggy fashion, the camera technique is weak.

And off they went

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