Tuesday, March 3, 2015

So Many Birds

After the extreme weather conditions out at Inskip (which I posted about last time) I was very anxious to get out there again as soon as possible. By Monday of last week the main roads were only just beginning to open from the floods and I assumed that there would be very few campers out at Inskip  - and that meant more room for birds out on the sand point. It didn't take any persuading for birding friends from Gympie to join me! The sand point used to be much longer and the barges to Fraser Island came in and picked up vehicles part way along - which left the last part for use by the birds. Here is a photo from my archives of what the sand point looked like on a high tide back then.

Then about half of the point was simply washed away and although there was still plenty of room for the barges to pick up vehicles there was very little room for birds to rest without disturbance. Again from my photo archives -

The barges were working on Monday morning but there were very few vehicles and we could see birds out on the end to one side of the barge. We slowly walked out along the sand and the closer we got the more birds we could see. At that stage there were no other people out there and no cars even waiting for the barge. Perfect! Here are the birds at the end of the point - Bar-tailed Godwits, Silver Gulls, Caspian Terns and Crested Terns.

The tide was still coming in and there was not much of the sand island left in the middle of the Strait. More and more birds had to move from there and they spread out along the tide line on the point and then moved to join the larger group right at the end.

The birds packed in more tightly! There were quite a number of Pied Oystercatchers with them.

Then the inevitable happened - a group of vehicles came along the point to wait for the barge! The people in the vehicles all jumped out and they were young foreign tourists. They were very polite and didn't try to get in front of where we were standing with our big cameras and lenses! They were all holding up smart phones and trying to photograph the birds with those! Then I guess it was also inevitable - they decided they needed "selfies"! It was all so exciting! They moved away from us a little bit - then danced happily closer - and the birds started to fly!

We were still left with quite a lot of birds to photograph but I estimate that two thirds of the flock flew off to find somewhere on Fraser Island to roost more quietly! It was interesting to see that the birds really didn't want to burn up the energy necessary to fly - and even put up with small waves washing around them.

The flock had some Godwits with most of their breeding plumage.

Looking carefully at the birds I could also see Great Knot with the start of their breeding plumage and one or two Curlew Sandpipers with the first faint wash of color.

There were good numbers of Terns roosting close together and beside the shorebirds. There were adult Crested Terns and juveniles with their distinctive "spotty" plumage. There were also quite a number of Little Terns and they were showing the yellow bills and black tip which they get before they fly up north to breed.

In this photo the juvenile Crested Tern is crouched down beside the adult and begging for food. (They are quite capable of feeding themselves by this stage but they still try to get the adults to help them!) There is a Little Tern behind these two. 

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday



Monday, February 23, 2015

Extremes

My last blog post was written about a kayak trip I took on the Monday of last week. Tuesday and Wednesday of the week the wind picked up. By Thursday the wind was even more extreme and it was raining. The weather forecasters were tracking a tropical cyclone as it came down the coast. (I think these are called typhoons or hurricanes in the northern hemisphere.) At that stage it was still predicted to be only about a category one and to cross the coast somewhere north of Rockhampton. Thursday was also predicted to be the largest king tide for the season. I really wanted to get out and take photos of the height the water reached - as I have done for a number of years past. However, with the wind gusting as high as it was I was not comfortable driving in exposed places. I am lucky to have friends with a big heavy 4 wheel drive that is not likely to be thrown around by a few wind gusts - and they offered to take me out with them. Many thanks to Sarah and Graham!
We drove out to the sea coast. The wind was very strong and the water was really stirred up and dangerous looking.

The water right out at Inskip Point was not as high as I have seen it in other years. I wonder if the cyclone north of us was making a difference to the height of the tide. No barges were working - of course! I later heard that rangers moved campers away from the area the next day. Tracks from earlier vehicles were fast filling up with the wash of the waves.

The sand island out in the middle of the bay was completely covered and all that showed was rough water breaking over the area.

Because there were no people and no vehicles on the point the birds were roosting there in numbers I have not seen for some time.  You will need to enlarge this photo (by clicking on it) to see that those black smudges out at the end are all birds!)

The birds were right out at the end of the point and were moving around as the waves came over and disturbed them. Pelicans were easy to see but the other shorebirds were not. I did not go anywhere near. It was hard enough for me to stay still and take photos so I can imagine the amount of energy the birds would have had to burn up to manage the wind gusts. I could see bright red on some of the Godwits that had already changed into breeding plumage.

By Friday - the next day - the cyclone had picked up to a category 5 - the strongest! It came in north of Rockhampton and then tracked very slowly south. When it finally got down here (Saturday) it had lost strength and was only classed as a heavy storm. There was still lots of rain with it and the main roads are only now (Monday) opening to traffic. I was lucky out here as we were on the edge of the storm and didn't get the rainfall that fell a little way inland. Friends in Gympie got about 3 times as much as I did. Further north from here it is a disaster. Some small towns have been almost obliterated! Power is out to thousands of homes and businesses and the radio news said that emergency power vehicles were stuck south of Gympie (last night) because of the flooded highway.

For more photos of our world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday



Monday, February 16, 2015

Perfect Kayaking

This morning was very close to perfect! The various weather sites predicted light winds but when I got on the water about 6:30 the winds were almost non-existent! It is not often that I see the bay as still as this!

Even out past the mangroves on the point there was still very little movement on the water.

Looking in to the sand spit where the shorebirds usually roost the birds were reflected in the water.

A number of Grey-tailed Tattlers and Terek Sandpipers flew off before I could get photos. The Pied Oystercatchers were there - but not the juvenile I saw a month or so ago. There were 8 Greenshanks along the sand spit. These birds are not easy to get close to but I sat very still on the kayak and just drifted in.

After this I kayaked back towards the car park...

...and then up the creek. I really enjoy kayaking on top of clouds reflected in the water.

From a distance I couldn't work out what the white thing was in the water under the mangroves. As I got closer I saw it was a float attached to a crab pot. I hope who-ever put it there actually got a crab when they came to take it out and didn't just find that someone else had helped themselves to whatever it contained!
A little further up the creek there is a low grassy bank but with the height of the tide this morning it was now underwater and I could float in there without moving again. There were a couple of Masked Lapwings and a single Greenshank making use of the shallow water.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday



Monday, February 9, 2015

City Waterbirds

Lake Alford Park is one of parks in Gympie. It is right beside the Bruce Highway on the south side of the city. The birds there are very much what one expects to see in a place with people all around - but not the birds that I commonly see out here on the coast. On a bright sunny day it looks quite beautiful.

When I was there last week the day was grey and cloudy. The water in the ponds looked a dirty brown color and where the trees and bushes shut out the light it was almost black I never even thought of taking a photo of the landscape - it didn't look at all appealing. I just took a quick walk around to see if there were any birds I wanted to photograph.
The trees on the islands in the center of the ponds were filled with white birds - mainly Egrets and Ibis - but none close enough to want to take photos. Then I saw this one - perched lower down and close enough for photos. It is an Intermediate Egret and one I don't often see out here.

There were the usual ducks and black swans - and lots of  Dusky Moorhens (Gallinula tenebrosa). The Dusky Moorhens all seemed to have young ones around them. I think all baby birds are "cute" but these ones are rather ugly along with it. The feathers all looked sparse and rather spiky and then there is that red patch on the top of the head!

The very tiny ones wanted to stay as close as possible to the parent.

The ones a little bit older wanted to explore on their own.

The older juveniles were a brown color and didn't have the bright red beaks that showed so clearly on the adults.
 Before I could even get back to the car it was raining again - not heavy but enough to stop my photography!

For more scenery from around the world visit Out World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, January 26, 2015

High Tide at Mullens

I haven't been out on the kayak as much as I would like recently, and when I have gone out I have only had a short kayak out to the airport roost and then up the creek close by. Last Wednesday was a really high tide and there was almost no wind so I decided it was time to go out to Mullens again - which is twice the distance of where I have been kayaking recently. Of course the Mullens roost is also available simply by walking around the foreshore but when the tide is right in you can pretty much guarantee that the birds will be on the far side of the roost. At that distance you can see them and ID them if your binoculars are good but it is impossible for good photos. In the kayak you can let the wind and the tide drift you in close to the birds without disturbing them if you are careful.  It was a very pretty morning.

There was high cloud around which thickened quite quickly until the bright colors were dulled. (There are lots of birds just visible on the far side. Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Here where I live in SE Queensland, Australia the light is usually very bright - bright sunlight, bright skies, and lots of bright light off the water. So when the conditions are not like that I struggle to get photos with the colors I expect. The birds were still there - but with these lighting conditions even they were hard to see -  and not spectacular the way I want them.

There were lots of Bar-tailed Godwits but grey and brown birds against a brown background are not really interesting. Finally I drifted in close enough to see that some of the Godwits were getting their bright breeding colors. There are always some birds that get color before the others.

A little further around the roost there were Eastern Curlews standing close to Godwits. The size difference is quite striking when they are standing close like this.

Although Curlews don't get bright colors for breeding, the browns and blacks darken and their patterning is more distinctive. Curlews must be the flightiest of all the shorebirds that visit down here. It is nearly impossible to get close to them without some - at least - flying up. These ones gave a good view of the beautiful under-wing feather patterns.

Smaller birds were massed right at the top of the bay. When I got closer I could see mainly Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints.

There is only a narrow sand spit which separates this shallow roost site from the main bay and on a very high tide like this there is a very short distance from one side to the other. The tide comes in under the trees and right up to the bollards. The top of one bollard is just visible on the lower left of this photo.

Just a few meters away is the main bay and it was just beginning to get a chop on the water.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Backyard Birding

Most of the time I revel in nice warm weather but when 'warm' becomes 'hot' I am not so enthusiastic. We have had more than a week of this extreme heat but yesterday it broke in typically spectacular fashion. This was the view out the front of my house as the thunderheads built up.

I know there was hail in the storms because the temperature rapidly became quite cool and pleasant. We were only on the edges of the storms this time and we only got light rain. I wish you could have heard and seen the birds as the light rain came through. I have some big trees in my backyard and flocks of birds danced in them, turned somersaults and flung themselves into the air again, and fights broke out for the most desirable roosts - all the time screaming at the top of their 'birdy' voices. Meanwhile the passing storm clouds created beautiful backdrops for their activities.

The only birds I have photographed are ones in my backyard - and most of them in the early morning before it got too hot.
These kookaburras were out before it was even light and announcing their presence with a group laugh. They are sitting on the neighbor's TV aerial.

These Welcome Swallows are usually seen swooping high in the air as they chase bugs in the early morning or late afternoon.

"Cockies" (Sulphur Crested Cockatoos) fly over every morning and night but this one came down into a palm tree and added to the patterns of light and shade in the early morning light.

There is quite a large group of sparrows (an introduced species in this country) that have taken up semi-permanent residence in the trees in the backyard. However, I already have a group of Brown Honeyeaters  that consider that their own place. It does not seem to me that they are happy with each other because they have frequently been sitting in branches close together and  giving loud cries of annoyance! It will be interesting to see if they learn to co-exist or if one lot chases they others out.
Brown Honeyeater

and House Sparrow

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday