Sunday, May 30, 2010

Caspian Terns

I saw a number of Caspian Terns when I was out at Inskip Point the other day. We often see a few of these terns roosting with other terns or shorebirds but this time I saw a juvenile begging from an adult. The adult was ignoring its constant cries but the juvenile just didn't give up. In breeding plumage the adults have a full black cap. Caspian Terns are the largest of the 6 species of terns that we commonly see here. Crested Terns are the next in size. This photo shows a Crested Tern standing just to the rear of the two Caspian Terns. (One of the Caspian Terns has a band on its leg.)For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shorebirds at Inskip Point

I went out to Inskip Point the other afternoon to see what birds were around. As I came to the end of the point I saw quite a large flock of terns and shorebirds on the sand. There was constant traffic going by out to the barges but the birds seemed quite happy to sit at the edge of the water. I went closer to get photos. I saw Crested Terns, Caspian Terns, and a couple of Common Terns. The other birds were Bar-tailed Godwits. Some were preening but most just looked sleepy!
Please Don't Disturb! The tide was coming in and as the little waves came in the birds furthest out pushed the others in a bit. Some even fluttered up and found a place closer in.
Move over and let me in! While photographing the rest of the flock I noticed a few smaller birds in among the others. They moved and I saw they were Curlew Sandpipers. I counted four.Then I moved slowly away so I did not disturb any birds and started walking across the point to where you can see down the channel to the open ocean. I was watching my feet as I stepped over the wheel tracks made by the vehicles driving out to the barges. Suddenly there was movement in front of me and I saw that there was a large flock of little birds down in among the wheel tracks and the dried seaweed and sticks.Every time a vehicle came by they flew and moved a little.I saw Red-capped Plovers, Red-necked Stints, and Double-banded Plovers but when I looked more closed at the photos when I got home I also found a few more Curlew Sandpipers with them. There is one Curlew Sandpiper in the photo above - on the left at the rear.
One Curlew Sandpiper on the left, Red-necked Stint in front, and Double-banded plovers behind. I did eventually get over the sand to where I could see out to the open ocean.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yesterday was a beautiful clear morning and even more enjoyable because we have had so many gray and overcast days recently - not like Queensland at all! It was still early when I got down to the bay and the fog was lying in long streamers over the far side of the bay. There were Eastern Curlew roosting on a little rocky spit but before I could get anywhere near them they flew off with their usual noisy cries.I walked around the southern end of the shorebird roost. The tide was low so there were no shorebirds roosting in there. I could hear numbers of birds up high in the trees. Then one flew down where I could see it and get some photos. It was a male Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris).This is a photo I took some time ago of a female Rufous Whistler.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Early Morning Light

I am lucky to have friends who share with me the beautiful places they find. (Thanks Sarah!) They had found a series of small streams and waterholes that looked especially beautiful in the early morning light so the other day I set off to have a look as well. It was only just after sunrise when we set off and everything was damp with a heavy dew. (click on images to enlarge them)We started off through an area of tall trees but very soon came to more typical wallum country. Wikipedia describes wallum as "an Australian ecosystem of coastal south-east Queensland, extending into north-eastern New South Wales. It is characterised by floristically-rich shrubland and heathland on deep, nutrient-poor acidic sandy soils and regular wildfire. Seasonal changes in the water-table due to rainfall may create swamps. The name is derived from the Kabi word for the Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula)."
I could hear birds calling from all the taller trees and shrubs but as the track mostly went through more open country I saw very few close enough to photograph. I could hear wrens in lots of places and eventually some Red-backed Fairy-Wrens came close enough to the track for me to get photos. The female came in close and posed very nicely. The male stayed back in behind the branches and flew off quickly. Later on a couple of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew high overhead giving their usual noisy cries.Because of all the rain we have recently had there was water lying everywhere. This made crossing even small streams quite interesting! In some places ankle deep water was extremely close to holes more than a meter deep and it was very easy to put a foot in the wrong place! In the early morning light even the smaller waterholes reflected back the blue sky and the bushes hanging over them.After about a kilometer and a half we reached a bigger stream with larger pools of water. The reflections here were definitely worth walking in to see.There were numbers of wildflowers in bloom already. I hope to go back in another couple of weeks to see what else is in flower as this is still very early in the flowering season. Even when we were walking out the dew was still heavy on the flowers. These two little beauties caught my attention. I have no idea of the name of the plant but the dew on each tiny flower made them look like little strings of glittering jewels. I have just been told that these are 'sundews' - a carnivorous plant - and they have sticky droplets on the end to catch insects! For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crested Tern EXTRA

Crested Tern EXTRA
(This is so interesting that I couldn't resist using some color to make it eye-catching)
When I posted the photos of the Crested Terns earlier in the week I knew that the birds in breeding plumage at this time of the year did not fit the pattern of what I have seen until now. Crested Terns breed down here approx. Dec-Feb - so what were these two birds doing in breeding plumage at the 'wrong' time of the year? I contacted Jill Dening and asked for her opinion. She contacted others and received back information about a trip made out to the Swain Reefs (out from Mackay) by people from DERM during July 2009. They observed and photographed colonies of Crested Terns nesting and with young at this time. The birds that I observed in breeding plumage out at Inskip Point the other day possibly came from a northern population which breeds at the opposite time of the year from the ones we usually see here in southern Queensland.
Just another small piece of information to add to our current knowledge.


I have a friend who lives not far from me with an interesting yard. Her yard backs onto a nature reserve and when she had the house built she retained as many of the trees and shrubs as possible. (This is the same lady who had the Tawny Frogmouths nesting in her yard.) She has allowed the small grasses and shrubs to grow up as well and only weeds out the non-native species. She contacted me the other day to say that she had discovered some orchids flowering in the back yard and would I like to take some photos. I always admire the beautiful orchids that Denis over at Nature of Robertson posts about. He has suggested to me that there must be similar orchids growing up here and I should try to find some.
Little did I know the hazards attached to photographing orchids growing so close to the ground and under other vegetation! I got down on hands and knees and shuffled through the undergrowth to get where I could photograph the flowers. I got caught on a low branch and my shirt will never look the same again! When I stood up I found that the litter on the ground had scratched my legs and there was blood dripping from a number of places! The final problem was that I could not get the camera settings right and had to go back the next morning to do it all over again! This time, however, I put on an old shirt and took a good big sack to put on the ground and save my legs from all the things that scratched the previous day.I sent off the photos to Denis for ID and he said it was a species he had posted about last January - the Bonnet or Tartan Orchid (Cryptostylis erecta). I did read that post and thought at the time that the flower was so distinctive that I would recognize it if ever I found it up here - but obviously you have to get your eye in for orchids! (Thanks for all the help Denis.) There were a number of these rather long leaves around the trunk of an old banksia tree. Denis says that each plant has only one leaf so there must be quite a number of plants growing close around the tree trunk. I looked for the purplish color underneath but found it showing only on the smaller younger (?) leaves.The flower stem had a number of buds at the end of the stalk but I could only see one flower open at a time.The flower is beautiful! I was surprised at the slight differences in color between the various flowers. I wonder if the color deepens the longer the flower is open. It seemed to me that the flowers which had just opened on the second day I was photographing were paler in color.P.S. I have a lot to learn about photographing orchids!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Crested Terns

Out at Inskip Point today there was a group of Crested Terns (Sterna bergii) in all stages of plumage. There were plenty of juveniles in mottled plumage, scruffy looking adults part way through a moult and even a couple of adults in almost full breeding plumage.
Juvenile on the left, adult on the right and a couple of Silver Gulls in front.
Two adults in almost full breeding plumage in the front.
A juvenile in flight.
Rainbow Beach is south of Inskip Point and I decided to go up to the Sand Blow which is only a short distance from the town. There are tall sand cliffs between Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point. These cliffs are constantly eroding and at this point they have created a 'sand blow' from the sea side well over onto the land on the west. The sand is constantly moving and encroaching further west.
Looking across the sand blow. People walking across give an idea of the size of the sand.
Looking east towards Double Island Point.
Looking west - part of the town of Rainbow Beach is in the foreground, Carlo Creek with boats at anchor is on the right in the middle of the photo and boats at anchor near Tin Can Bay in the background.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Carlo Island Roost Site

The weather and tides were good last week and I was able to kayak around to the roost site that the QWSG (Queensland Wader Studies Group) calls the Carlo Island Complex. I was joined by friends who are more knowledgeable than I am about the mangroves. They are part of a group that are monitoring mangroves in the area as part of an on-going study for the University of Queensland. They hadn't been into this area before and I hoped that they might be able to find some information about the rather strange growth habit of the mangroves where the Whimbrels roost.
We kayaked around in this area where the Whimbrels roost during the summer and saw no shorebirds at all. Then we went on further to the northern part of the bay and checked there for shorebirds as well. This small boat was lying on the sand among the mangroves. It was broken up and we wondered if it had drifted in here after some of the big storms and high winds we have had recently.
We saw very few shorebirds in this area either - just some Little Egrets and a couple of Pied Oystercatchers.
The birds disturbed when we got out of the kayaks and walked around on the shoreline to check for any more birds. When we kayaked back towards Carlo we found them roosting on another part of the shoreline. We had heard a Common Greenshank when we first kayaked into the area but had not then seen it. Now it was roosting with a group of 9 Little Egrets and the 2 Pied Oystercatchers we had seen earlier.
We saw no shorebirds apart from these few birds. During the summer this area is a roost site for large numbers of migratory shorebirds. Now I am wondering if the roost is not used by migratory shorebirds during the winter at all. (Some migratory birds stay all year - either the ones too young to migrate yet or old and unfit birds.) This roost is monitored very seldom because the access is so difficult unless you come in by kayak. There are too few people counting for the QWSG and the bay is a very large place. However, it was interesting to find another pair of Oystercatchers as these birds always use the same small portion of the shoreline on which to roost. I have watched pairs of Pied Oystercatchers in exactly the same places for the 7 years I have been living here. Apart from these resident birds we do get quite large groups that come in and stay for a few weeks then take off again. This photo was taken in January of 2009.
Kayaking back to the Carlo boat launch area there are good views across the bay to Tin Can Bay. Sitting down in the kayak gives a different perspective on the bay. You seem to be surrounded by an immense area of water and even the sky is a long way off!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Birds in the Park.

I went into Gympie last week to do some business that can't be done out here in Cooloola Cove. (Gympie is about 55kms from here and our closest city.) I took my camera and went to the park to see what birds might be there that I don't see at home here. There is a lake in the park with fountains that usually attract all sorts of water birds.Last time I went there I also saw numbers of Little Corellas (Cacatua sanguinea). They were still there up in the trees and also down on the grass. This is one bird that we don't see out here and I am rather glad because they are very noisy! My bird book describes them as being 'very vocal' with 'loud screeches' which are 'deafening where large flocks occur'.There were numbers of Dusky Moorhens (Gallinula tenbrosa) out on the lake. These birds have red legs - the color shows faintly under the water. They were also making a lot of noise and I managed to get a photo of one with its mouth open squawking at me. For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.