Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Testing times: too much flash and too little toe

Wow! Now there's a colourful dove for you. Not quite what you expect to see on the ground at the Jourama Fall camping area. But that's what one gets with too much flash.

Here's what an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) really looks like. But perhaps the first image is closer to what another dove might see.

And what is the dove looking for. Fallen seeds. Sorry, can't identify the tree species.

And now, faithful followers, sitting up straight? 'Tis lesson time. What is the above bird? Is it a Collared Sparrowhark? Or a Brown Goshawk? ... Hands up those who said Sparrowhawk. You've been had. Tiny change to bird's eye designed to trick you.

Here's the real deal, with beetling brow returned to lowered position.

And here's the real clincher for anyone in the field. That powerful leg with no super length middle toe marks bird as Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) for sure. Wasn't that fun? Slightly more seriously, few birds pose more challenging ID posers than the two species, in part in the north because there's a close overlap in the species' sizes up here. Not such a riddle down south.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Forest Kingfisher in contorted takeoff

Not a strange new species for Tyto, rather a Forest Kingfisher caught in contorted shape on takeoff after I just missed the ugly, angular spread-wing display they use - I think - to gain size and express dominance.

Seconds before takeoff, the shapelier side of the bird.

Another showing rather different look in Tyto this morning, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike with striking opalescence. Bit too much flash, I'm afraid. Oddly, I've not noticed the effect when studying or  photographing the species in full sun.

On to yesterday's mixed bag. No live sightings of Eastern Grass-owls lately because their Tyto habitat is flooded, but male bird above lay dead beside a road through cane fields.

Even less often seen Small-eyed Snake roadkill victim further along same road. Not a snake to mess with when alive.

One for fun to finish. White-lipped Green Tree-frog at Palm Tree Caravan Park on palm branch with natural 'cooking basket'. Weaver Birds do pretty fair job in Africa, be great for tourism to have Weaver Frogs in Ingham. But this one's all the work of grey nomad chef passing through.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hello, Mr Magpie-lark, good of you to drop in

Male Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) dropped in on me as I sought shots of kingfishers diving into Palm Creek today.

One camera and lens not enough of course. So with 600mm on tripod between me and Peewee (aka Mudlark) just had height needed to shoot bird with 300mm lens carried on shoulder. That's why there's so little post showing.

Also bit more noise in shots these days. The aim is to offer images with minimum of processing, apart from cropping and minor contrast changes.

Pity that another image from Mungalla Station creek site is also male. But I am debating with myself about referring to my birds as folks rather than guys. And I would be oh so grateful if the nudge-nudgers refrained from dumb gags about 'bird' watchers.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Seek a Little and ye shall rest Azured

Seek and ye shall find. Doesn't often work perfectly for me. But today ventured to bottom southwest corner of Mungalla Station, planted myself beside known kingfisher habitat only lately accessible as surface water disappears, and got lucky twice over in two hours.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus) harder to find this year because late Wet season failed to provide the conditions small fish want (they swim into flooded grasslands). Not this year. So the true fishing kingfisher, Little and Azure appear to be much dispersed and missing from some normally reliable sites.

This morning, Sacred Kingfishers stood out for first hour, hawking for insects above water weeds.

Then, Azure turned up, well away downstream to the west. No luck, thought I. With which, bird (only one sighted at this point) flew toward me and plonked down on falled branch low over water. Ten metres closer would have been perfect, but can't complain at result.

Then Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusilla) whizzed upstream and vanished. Don't be greedy, said I to self. Lo, bird sped back and took up the prime perch. Drawback? Species so small, really needed it more than 10m closer.

And got Little Bronze-Cuckoo ...

...and Brown-backed Honeyeater as interesting extras. Extra bonus: the many mozzies were mostly well behaved.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Time for some humour in bad taste

Hey, wanna come for a little swim with me? No cossie? No worries. I hate clothing anyway. Tastes terrible!
My dentist says these sparklers are a credit to me. You wouldn't how hard it is to get good floss these day.
Now you see me. Soon you won't. But, don't worry, I shan't be too far away. You never know, something tasty might come along.

Mungalla Station creek banks getting toothier these mornings as temps drop and resident salties warm to mostly cloudless days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Panoramas from paradise

Freezing cold (well, about 15C: you must allow for us thin-blooded types) start to Tyto mornings this week, but glorious days. Above, el cheapo (iPod) pano from lookout at main lagoon. Below, a few days earlier and quite a few degrees more:

First bird of note today, female Jabiru (Black-necked Stork) stalking edge of kidney lagoon near beginning of walking tracks to the main lagoon.

Much later in morn, in paperbark not far from where the Jabiru had been, Little-pied Cormorant shows the flexibility of its webbed feet. No trouble securely clutching branches, or converting to underwater speedster when in pursuit of fish.

And yet another from the same kidney lagoon late in morn, Great Egret yawns after swallowing small prey, revealing long thin tongue.

Giving tongue elsewhere in several places, White-gaped Honeyeater pauses for a second in relatively clear setting near bridge leading to lookout. White-gapeds and Yellow Honeyeaters provide much of the shriller sounds within Tyto.

No action on maps and signage, but most tracks freshly mown. And the days look set to stay glorious. Another week in paradise!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sacred dive heads day of splashy catches

Catching Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) on the dive one of several highlights at Mungalla Station over weekend.

Can't claim super reflexes for this one. Bird was one of three launching from atop Leichhardt tree and swooping on insects just above water level and on hymenachne growing along the edge of pool below.

And White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) happened along overhead in time for leisurely tracking. The major blessing is having the underwings well lit.

Catch of the day for Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) came with the bird's only deep dive. After mostly scooping smaller fish from the surface, the bird took a steeper line into the water. It wasn't where I'd been focussing. No time for viewfinder so spun lens on gimbal and jammed shutter button for high-speed burst (almost always have camera on the setting). My catch not quite so perfect as bird's. Splashy though.

No such luck in Tyto today. Managed to draw glare from Pacific Baza (Aviceda subcristata). It's a mark of the species' acceptance of people that this look came after much arm-waving and whistling.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Large-billed first sighting for large bill of challenges

Started June with touch of luck in getting Large-billed Gerygone (Gerygone magnirostris) up close near Tyto main lagoon lookout yesterday.

Pair of birds flitted about an old nest dangling beneath cluster fig tree. Checked here and there and then cleared off as suddenly as they appeared. Perhaps thinking of another nest nearby? Who knows.

So, almost 100 species seen in last week of May. 67 yesterday during slow walk over the main tracks. Time to make an effort before the southern birders get up here in force. Set them a challenging sort of target. Roughly 245 species on current list. Roughly, because several sightings must be more than 15 years old. And several of the latest claims are decidedly dodgy. And shire's division of 245 into total Australian birds of roughly (that word again) 900 and therefrom claiming Tyto as 'home' to 27.% of Oz birds is even dodgier. But there should be a relatively easy 100 species seeable in a week, and maybe 130 in a month. We'll see what we're able to see.

Above, continuing a new theme of challenges for the shire (as nothing else over several years has achieved desired changes - such as trustworthy map, clear signage, moderated sightings, flora and fauna surveys, and more, Complaint?  Hide fails to hide anything much. Better would be double slatting to preserve some airflow while giving some 'hide' to those entering it. But Tyto's still a splendid birding experience. Just ignore the joke map and signs and challenge yourselves.

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...