Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taking a Tern at the Common

Escaped Ingham's grey drizzle at a lightly clouded Townsville Common today. Some shallows alive with birds. Plenty, at a distance, from the elevated hide. This young Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) one of few flying close to camera.

Later shot from water's edge - while waiting, in vain, for a Swamp Harrier to fly my way - one among hundreds of Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata).

Overall, only 55 bird species seen but stiff wind didn't help. Bonus: seven snakes, including a possible strike by a small Brown or Taipan on an even smaller Black Whipsnake.

One good turn etc ... so here's a Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) at Tyto, held over from few days ago.
Click pix to enlarge

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fishing for Great Egret, and facts

Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) in mid-swallow today at Tyto after bird caught me napping. Stood around for some time and didn't look poised to strike. I looked away for a moment and missed the catch.

Series provides an excuse to toss in a moodier morning image from a few days back.

And here's a female Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) taking off today from grassland near info centre. Almost certainly one of pair of storks in wetlands the other day with one immature. Pair raised three young three years ago.

By no coincidence, the reduction is in keeping with my general sightings. Bird numbers, and species, mostly lower than previous five years in Tyto. Insectivores notably down. Why? My guess (stress on guess): Jan-Feb 2009 floods, shire spraying and  2010's dismal extended wet (still going) have thinned out or removed much vigorous under- and over-growth. Fewer insects. Fewer birds. August species count usually 115-118: this month 109.
Click pix to enlarge   

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pretty Pitta prompts pity parade

Finding birds is one thing, getting good images another. Few hours in Boardwater State Forest Park, west of Ingham, finally brought close views of Noisy Pitta (Pitta versicolor). But most obscured, or facing away - or flash recharge too slow. Trying again soon.

Flushed this immature Nankeen Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) to rain tree at some treatment ponds. Short pursuit to paperbarks ended with bird quitting the scene. Not likely to see bird in same spot again.

Unlike White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinerea), near Tyto hide yesterday. Birds regularly move out on to water lily leaves. Scleria, sedge and grasses often intrude but there's always tomorrow.

Plenty of Varied Trillers (Lalage leucomela) in Tyto. Not so often almost on the ground picking up nest material. Pity then bird proved sharper than lens.

To end, caught this Northern Fantail (Rhipidura rufiventris) with mouth full recently. Sadly, the prey stayed in the way. 
Click pix to enlarge      

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Grey-headed Robin wins tug-of-worm

Start of winning haul of worm by Grey-headed Robin (Heteromyias cinereifrons) yesterday on rainforest track near my recent Cassowary sighting. 

Long worm provided capture in tasty parts.

Plenty of Large-billed Scrubwrens (Sericornis magnirostra) in same area, but as always hard to get clear shots.

Sighting of the day though was uncommon Pied Monarch (Arses kaupi), sunning sprawled along high limb in midafternoon. Chased bird for 30 minutes before getting this terrible 'lucky' angle.

More common and also frustratingly hard to see, Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis). Much 'meowing' through the day.

Worth a mention, two female Victoria's Riflebirds (Ptiloris victoriae) very high under dark canopy. One seemed to be imitating male display. Breeding starts about now. Embarrassing, because I'd just told touring birder species wasn't showing up these days! Sorry, mate!
Click pix to enlarge

Monday, August 23, 2010

Birds on wire, and slyer higher flier

Species catching the eye lately along my favourite country road include Tree Martin (Petrochelidon nigricans): this bird one of about 100 flocking between unsealed road surface and barbed wire the other morning. 

No flocks for Tawny Grassbird (Megalurus timoriensis). Not usually seen on barbed wire: too busy in grass and low bushes sharing scolding calls with partner. Species always sounds disgruntled. 

And Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis) - sharing exactly the same habitat and conditions - usually sounds absolutely content. Interpreting bird sounds via human emotional responses is for the birds.

Finally, one for the birds in a strictly predatory sense, Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis). Smallest I've seen and presumably a male, bird seemed barely close to the 30cm of usual 30-35cm size range. But more than enough to scare most other birds in the area.
Click pix to enlarge 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Striped skink snake's snack

Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) puts death bite on Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus) near the Tyto lookout today. The 70cm snake didn't like my presence and slid into clump of sedge to swallow skink. Saw some of the action, but view much obscured. All over in about five minutes.    

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sweet times with honeyeaters

Killed bit of time early today while waiting for birding party (so much more peaceful than boarding party). So, flashed away at a few honeyeaters in the carpark callistemons. White-gaped Honeyeater (Lichenostomus unicolor) heads the list, with gape, as usual, more yellow than white.

Yellow Honeyeater (Lichenostomus flavus) busy as ever, and, as ever, challenging every effort to get the plumage colours right. Pictures seldom match the myriad tones of yellow.

White-throated Honeyeater (Melithreptus albogularis) in brief appearance. Species spends more time in suburbia than ever in the Tyto precinct proper.

Ever-present, Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta). Rare moment of quiet. This bird held over from an earlier outing.

And another tossed in from earlier shoot: Macleay's Honeyeater (Xanthotis macleayanus) chasing meatier morsels. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cassowary walks circle round me

Spent three hours looking mainly for Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) near Wallaman Falls today and then heard one behind me in the rainforest. 

Wee bit intimidating for a few seconds. Stand tall, stand still, they say. I did, for a few seconds. Then relaxed to enjoy next 15 minutes

About 1.6 metres tall, bird - probably female - stepped to within five metres and in time - and never more than 10 metres away - circled me. Stopped several times to preen. Not sure if soft noise during preening came from bill rasping through coarse plumage, chest wattles slapping together, or gentle vocalising.

Bird then eased off through the understorey of saplings, tripping vines and barbed wait-a-while leaving no great pictures but great memories.
(Click pix to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Honeyeater rifles cheesewood seed

Cooler months see Macleay's Honeyeater (Xanthotis macleayanus) return to Tyto. Riflebird-like in much of its foraging, species is said to be sedentary, but appears not to like summers in hot, dry woodlands.

Caught this bird today with red seed from cheesewood (because fruit resembles segmented round cheeses) tree. New Speedlite 580 to thank for both pictures.

Also for rather soft image of Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons), another species dropping in as temperatures 'plummet'.

And to close, very soft image of green ant crawling down head of Amethystine Python. Snake didn't move as I almost walked over it in a grove, so no surprise when it ignored the (tres)passing ant.
(Click pix to enlarge)       

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yellow Robin beats the greys

Grey-headed me chased Grey-headed Robins today only to find an Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) making the grade.

Some fill flash does the trick on a track in Broadwater State Forest Park, 45km NW of Ingham.

And here's a Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) trying the bee-eaters' diet in Broadwater.

Looking hopeful, but that's not the way to hunt bees.

Better to sit around quietly and pounce on anything tasty passing by.
 (Click pix to enlarge)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two ticks Grey-headed Robin: nix snakes

Ticked Grey-headed Robin (Heteromyias cinereifrons) as species of the morning yesterday in Broadwater State Forest Park, 45km west of Ingham.

Several birds sighted close up in the rare riverine rainforest remnant.

This bird already had a tick. Didn't see the parasite at the time in the jungle gloom.

Ticked off today to miss this 90cm Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) capturing and swallowing striped frog. The kill occurred three metres from me, but snake's head always hidden under flattened grass the frog unwisely ducked into.

Also ticked off at inability to get clear shot of this two-metre Water Python (Liasis mackloti) at its retreat, a broken culvert at a nearby sugar cane ditch.
(Click pix to enlarge)  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Robin best in rainforest chase

Two perfect mornings at start of week! So, off to Wallaman Falls under bright blue sky yesterday to chase little birds in the rainforest.

Pale-yellow Robin (Tregellasia capito) best of dodgy pictures. Species seen only partially, and high up in towering trees, included Golden Whistler, Large-billed Scrubwren, Topknot and Wompoo Pigeons, Spotted Catbird, and Yellow-breasted Boatbill.

Earlier in the day found this Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides) soaring away after being pestered by Willie Wagtail.

Headed to the beach today, hoping for raptors fishing. Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle seen at distance. Brown Goshawk grabbing at tidal debris close to picnic area trees!

But only this Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) flew within camera shot.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spectacled Monarch leads prickly chase

Much chasing through prickly mimosa and vine thickets led to this Spectacled Monarch (Symposiarchus trivirgatus) in Tyto.

Even more prickly adventures this weekend failed to capture images of two Cicadabirds and a male Lovely Fairy-wren. Worse yet, flushed a Grey Goshawk today and got no usable picture from seven or eight brief poses.

And attractive as this Red-backed Fairy-wren (Malurus melanocephalus) is it was splendid red-black male I sought in vain for 30 minutes this morning.

Better news on the monthly count: 117 species for July, up six on May and June.

Elsewhere, first (not-so-sharp) sighting of most reliable migrants: two Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) near my favourite country road. Where, it turns out, not one but two Australian Pratincoles are overwintering.

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