Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Common Birds

This post is in praise of the common birds in my backyard! I hope I never loose them.
Rainbow Lorikeets have always been very common in my yard. I planted grevilleas when I first came here and that brought the Lorikeets in. Then a few months ago I suddenly realized that I wasn't hearing the Lorikeets. The very dry spell last year had taken a toll of all the shrubs in the yard and the grevilleas had stopped flowering for a while. Hence - no Lorikeets - and I missed them! Now the grevilleas have started flowering again and the lorikeets are back.
The callistemons have also been flowering and Lorikeets have also been on them. P.S. Does anyone know why there is such a range of colors on the fronts of these birds? Is it to do with the age of the birds?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Double Trouble!

But I am not sure for whom? The Blue-faced Honeyeater (on the left of the photo) and the Magpie Lark (on the right) definitely considered the Kookaburras to be potential trouble and were harassing them by flying at them. Eventually the Kookaburras got tired of it all and flew off! In the absence of many large trees the birds often perch on the electricity wires. For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I wish I knew...

...more about the local birds. At present I have a number of unanswered questions about the Spangled Drongos I have been seeing around my place. These birds come here in the winter time and stay for a short while. Usually I see only one or two of them and they disappear again after only a short while. This year there have been a lot more of them and they have stayed for weeks. So why are there so many this year? Was it a specially good breeding season this last summer? Are all the new homes that have recently been built in town providing better habitat for them? Why are they staying so long or is this about habitat as well? The birding books don't/can't tell you things like this.
The photos are of two different birds. (I had written a few sentences here about the eye color differences but apparently this is not right - thanks Tony for correcting me.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beach Stone-Curlew

The other day while I was out at Inskip Point the resident pair of Beach Stone-Curlew (Esacus neglectus) walked out of the bush and out onto the sand. Although I go out to Inskip quite often it is some time since I have seen these birds. They are listed as 'vulnerable' in Queensland and 'threatened' in New South Wales. Since they are said to occur on undisturbed beaches it always amazes me that this pair stays at Inskip which is certainly neither quiet nor undisturbed. The Queensland Government web site says that they "...are threatened by loss of habitat and pollution due to residential and industrial development. Feral cats, dogs and pigs are also a threat due to predation of adults, chicks and eggs. Boats, off-road vehicles and beach-combing can also severely impact on the natural behaviour of beach stone-curlews." There is not a lot of habitat at Inskip for them, dogs are allowed at Inskip if kept on leashes, and there are certainly any number of vehicles driving all over the beach - yet this pair has lived there for a number of years and a couple of years ago even raised a young one.
The birds were some distance away when I first saw them walk out on the sand.I walked along the side of the beach and they let me approach quite closely without being disturbed. They are quite large birds (56cm). A little Willie Wagtail flew out onto the sand beside them and although I was not quick enough to get a full photo of it this clipped photo gives an idea of the size difference.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inskip Point

Yesterday morning was a perfect day out at Inskip Point. This photo was taken looking south towards Bullock Point where the barges anchor when not in use. There were numbers of people at the point fishing and walking around but there were only a few vehicles driving out to the barges to go over to Fraser Island. Because it was high tide there were large numbers of shorebirds roosting on the sand island out in the Strait. There was also quite a large flock of terns roosting right on the point and they kept being disturbed by people walking and driving close to them. I saw Crested Terns in the flock and one Caspian Tern. I walked over the sand to see if I could find the flock of Double-banded Plovers that I had seen there a few weeks ago. They were just as hard to see as last time and only became visible from a distance when they moved. The rest of the time they were sitting down in among the vehicle tracks.There were more birds in bright breeding plumage than last time, however, many of these still looked a little 'smudgy' around the edges. There were a few birds with hardly any signs of color and I think these are possibly juveniles. There were also a few with some color but without the distinctive bands which the adults develop.Scattered among the other birds I saw a few Red-necked Stints. They looked very tiny when compared with the Double-banded Plovers.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Yesterday morning's sunrise was beautiful but the clouds that made it so beautiful also threatened more rain. There was an early shower of rain soon after I took this photo so my walk on the shoreline was delayed until the sky cleared a little more. I missed the high tide but also missed the early morning walkers and the shorebirds had a chance to settle down to the important business of feeding.
A pair of Pied Oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) can usually be found on a little rocky outcrop that becomes an island at high tide. When I went looking for them I found an Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) and some Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) in the same place.The Eastern Curlew flew off quickly but the Pied Oystercatchers ignored me and I got close enough for good photos.A small group of Bar-tailed Godwits waded through the shallow water probing in the soft sand for food.I watched the clouds slowly getting darker and took off for home just before another shower of rain came through.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Best Birding Trip

A few days ago Duncan over at Ben Cruachan urged us all to join in the 'I and the Bird' blog carnival and write about our best birding trip - ever! Of course I read 'I and the Bird' but I don't always read the forward notices - so thanks Duncan for the reminder. (btw Duncan has written a really great post - so go over and read it.)
My best birding trip was just 37kms from home but I saw the most amazing bird spectacle that I have ever seen. At that time I wrote about it - but that was before I started this blog so I have never posted about it here.
I drove over to Inskip Point which (for the benefit of readers outside Australia) is the closest southern point on the mainland to Fraser Island in Queensland. This map is from Google Earth with the area marked on it. This was my report of that trip:
"One of nature's marvels" is how an experienced bird watcher described the scene.
It was Monday March 3 2008 and we had gone to Inskip Point to observe and count terns flying into the estuary at dusk to their roosting site. About two weeks before, we had counted just over 400 terns coming in. What a surprise awaited us!
There were clouds of terns flying in like a river in flood! If I had been by myself, I would have been overwhelmed by the numbers. However, I had experienced birders Jill Dening and Barb Dickson with me who have studied and counted terns for years. They watched, and counted and estimated at least 30,000 terns flying in to roost!
It was an amazing sight! Terns feed out at sea during the day but must come in to land at night to roost. Their preferred roosting sites are sand banks in an estuary mouth, and they fly in just before dark.Most of the terns were migratory terns that breed during the northern hemisphere summer and over-winter in Australia (it being the Australian summer). The three species of migratory terns that come here are the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) and White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus). The most numerous are the Common Terns. All three of these species are listed in bilateral conservation treaties. They are also protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Mixed in with these terns were also large numbers of Crested Terns (Sterna bergii) that are resident in Australia. Crested Terns are so noisy! They constantly call to each other and their call is a squawk!
These photos were all taken that evening. Click on a photo to enlarge it.Update: We counted again on March 11 2008 and there were only about 10,000 terns that evening. In the time since then we have never again found those huge numbers. We think that evening we must have seen large flocks all migrating north at the same time. There is still too little research being done, and too few observations and counts being collected to give answers with any certainty. Tern counts must be done in the late afternoon and into the evening until the light fails. Unfortunately it has not been possible to make regular tern counts at this site. It is still on my list of things I would like to organize in the future!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pied Butcherbirds

...Plus a few others!
I took all these photos while visiting friends this morning. Their garden is quite different from mine as all the big old trees were retained when the house was built. There are a number of Scribbly Gums with interesting looking holes in the trunk which birds use for nesting. This hole was being investigated by first a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo and then a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Unfortunately that was yesterday - when all the best stories happen! - so no photos.Last year a pair of Pied Butcherbirds raised a couple of young ones and they are all still around the yard. The juveniles are now nearly one year old but their plumage is still very different from the the adults'. The adult is all black and white but the juvenile is a mixture of gray and brown with the white.There were Kookaburras up in the trees but when I tried to get into a better position to photograph the blue specks down the back of the bird it kept moving around on the branch to keep facing me all the time.Rainbow Lorikeets were in one of the flowering trees. Their green color was a good match for the leaves. Like many parrots they frequently rip up what they are eating.Thanks Sarah and Graham for an enjoyable morning.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography weekly.