Monday, November 30, 2009


The bush track out to the end of Inskip Point usually has some interesting birds - provided you are quiet and a bit lucky!
I was slowly and quietly following a Peaceful Dove when I went around a corner and saw a small brown bird busily scratching in the leaf litter. At my first glimpse I "hoped" for a Button-quail - but this was just too big. I started taking photos and was able to get quite close. It was not at all shy and as I got closer I realized that it was a very young Brush-turkey. There are lots of Brush-turkeys all through the bush out there and I have several times seen young ones running around like little long-legged chickens but this one was smaller than any I have seen before. My birding book describes the chick as having silky chestnut and brown down.(I posted a photo of an adult Brush-turkey crashing around up in a tree here.)
For the benefit of overseas readers - The male Brush-turkey builds a big mound (often 4 meters in diameter and up to 1 1/2 meters high) out of whatever vegetation is available and this is used as an incubator for the eggs. The female lays eggs in the mound and then walks off and leaves the rest of the job to the male. He watches over the mound and adjusts the temperature of the mound by adding or taking away vegetation from over the eggs. When the chicks hatch they immediately wander off and are independent from then on.
For more photos of birds visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

STOP PRESS: We have just had 16mm of rain! This is more than we have had for nearly 3 months. It's been so dry even some of the trees in my yard were beginning to droop. I hope this is the start of better weather!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bath Time

I frequently see Pied Oystercatchers around the bay but the other morning I was close to one as it took its morning wash and brush up! It was a very thorough wash - no skimping anywhere. Some parts were done more than once! I was on the kayak and just drifted in close and the bird took no notice of me at all.
Face and head right underwater to start with.
Splash one side first - thoroughly - and then give that side a good comb with the foot.
Now the other side - and use the other foot for that side.
Preen down the front
Preen the back
A good flap with the wings as it stepped out of the water
A final shake of the tail
The mate was standing only a few feet away - "Very nice dear! You look quite smart!"
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ruddy Turnstones

I saw my first Ruddy Turnstone in early September of this year but now have seen them again every time I have been out to Inskip. I am not sure if they are always out there (and I have just not been aware of them!) or if it is just at this time of the year when birds are still migrating south. Yesterday at low tide there was a group of them standing at the edge of the water on the far side of the sand island. I took photos of them, then the tide started coming in and as the waves came higher they flew off and landed again a few meters further along the shoreline.
As I started in towards the shore over the sandbanks I saw another one trying to eat a crab. It was so intent on pecking at the crab and shaking it that I was able to get quite close before it even became aware of me.
Update on last week's post about the young Red-capped Plover: It has survived the week and I saw it with its parents again yesterday morning. They are still on the main beach and as the tide was in there was nowhere for them to run away except further along the beach. I detoured off into the bush so I could get past them without disturbing them too much and then took this photo with trees partly blocking my view.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another perfect morning.

Remember the ad that Qld tourism ran a few years back "Beautiful one day - Perfect the next!" Well that was this morning - just perfect!
I kayaked out from the Mullens picnic area just a few hundred meters south around the mangroves on the southern edge of the creek. There has always been a roost there of Terek Sandpipers and Grey-tailed Tattlers but so far this year I hadn't seen any birds. I needed to get out on a very early high tide before any boats went out that way and frightened off the birds. The tide this morning was high somewhere between 6 and 7 am. At this time everything is still and clear. I was delighted to find about 60 birds there - so I had been right - they had apparently been frightened off other mornings. Unfortunately I could not get any close photos of the birds but these scenic photos will show how beautiful it was.
Looking south along the edge of the bay. I have just learnt how to edit the exif data and add in GPS data. If you are interested I have left the data on this photo and you can look at those coordinates and then look them up on Google Earth. (Sorry to all who tried this - I didn't realize that blogger stripped this data off when I uploaded the photos. Must try and find a way around it- but it may take a while!!)
The birds were all on the little patch of sand just beyond the mangroves.
Looking north from the same place.
Looking back west to the car park which is only a few hundred meters away.
At high tide Mullens Creek fills up with a good amount of water and some of the locals have taken advantage of it to tie up their boats. At low tide the boat is sitting out on the sand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saltmarsh plants flowering

When I was walking out at the Mullens bird roost the other day I noticed that one of the saltmarsh plants was flowering. There are only four main plants out across the flats and this little one stands out because it is the only one that grows as a little bush. It is only 200-300mm in height but because the other plants sprawl out as a mat across the ground this little one is easy to see. I think it is one of the halosarcia species but as my book on saltmarsh species says these plants are distinguished also by "the flower morphology that is often difficult to determine in the field"! (I would be delighted to hear from anyone who could give me some further information on this plant.) Many of the plants were still showing signs of stress because of the recent weather and were red colored. Some, however, were showing new green growth. The flowers are tiny creamish/white elongated 'drops' on the segments of the plants.
I initially noticed the flowers because I heard and then saw bees on the plants. The segments of the plants which had flowers on them were too small for even bees to hang on in any usual fashion so the bees literally wrapped themselves around the 'leaves' to get at the flowers. All the bees that I saw had good amounts of pollen hanging on their back legs - and all of a similar color. I don't know if they had collected this pollen from other sources or if it also came from the saltmarsh flowers.
While watching the bees on the plants I also noticed other movement and then found this little butterfly. I am grateful to Neil and Kel for their wide knowledge of such things and they identified it for me as a Samphire Blue (Theclinesthes sulpitius sulpitius). The larva of this butterfly feeds only on saltmarsh plants. I am told that there is another butterfly very similar to this one that also lives in saltmarsh areas so must keep a good watch for it out there.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Red-capped Plovers

Red-capped Plovers are one of the smallest waders that we see around here. They are an Australian wader and are here all year round. They make a shallow depression in the sand just above high tide mark for their nest. Because they are so small they are very hard to see out on the sand. Often I hear their piping cry before I see them. A photo as close as this is always great.
This morning I heard their calls well before I could see movement out on the sand banks. They were quite a way off and it hardly seemed worthwhile to bother with a photo. However, I am so glad I did because what I saw in my very distant photos was a family - male, female, and very tiny juvenile! This is only the third time that I have seen a juvenile - and the only photos I have taken of one. The little one looked like a little colored ball of fluff on tiny long legs. The parent birds made sure I did not come too close and I didn't even try to get any closer! The parents either followed the little one or called it to follow them - which it did sometimes! They snatched the occasional bit of food off the sand but the baby was constantly feeding. It pecked bits off the sand and also ventured into the shallow puddles of water to probe for food there. The photos I took are not great but they record a really great bird sighting!
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Inskip Point Attempted Count

It was another beautiful day yesterday and I decided to kayak out to the sand island at Inskip Point and try again to get a count of the shorebirds out there. This time no fishermen came by in their noisy boats. Most of the birds were all strung out along the tide line. (Part of the flock)
I took a series of photos of these so that if the worst happened I could do a partial count on the photos. I also looked over the rest of the island and started counting the Terns, Gulls, Cormorants, Pelicans and Eastern Curlews which were off by themselves. I was just about to start on the main flock when the flock of 50 plus pelicans suddenly flew up and low over the roosting shorebirds. They must have sounded like jumbo jets taking off over the much smaller birds. The inevitable happened - EVERYTHING took off!
The pelicans had spotted fish in the water just on the other side of the main roosting flock. They came down in the water and splashed, and flew, and jumped and practically walked on the water to get to the fish. No polite manners here! Every bird for itself!
The Cormorants joined in and dived under to get their share.
Finally the Silver Gulls joined the rush and picked off any small fish which had tried to escape by coming into the shallows.
It was an interesting bit of bird interaction - but NOT a count!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shorebirds at Mullens

It was an absolutely perfect morning with quite a high tide so I decided to kayak around to the Mullens shorebirds roost. The birds were standing at the edge of the water in several places around the bay but none of them settled for long. I could not get close to any of them although I could not see what was making them fly off. When I first got there they were spread out at the northern end of the site which is not the place they usually prefer. Then they flew off to the southern end and then came back again later. None of these photos show any detail on the birds but rather show the kind of habitat they prefer in this area. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)
Part of the flock at the northern end of the bay.
Mainly Gull-billed Terns and Eastern Curlews in silhouette against the light.
Part of the flock of Gull-billed Terns - quite a large number since breeding inland earlier this year.
Pacific Golden Plover - very difficult to see among the saltmarsh plants. These and the other smaller waders just disappear among the plants when disturbed.
Flying Past.
Spread out on the south-west of the bay.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Juvenile Noisy Friarbirds

A couple of days ago I heard some new bird calls in my grevillea bushes. The calls were continuous and I rather suspected juvenile birds of some kind. When I went down with the camera I found two juvenile Noisy Friarbirds. I had to chuckle at the fluff on the heads which looked rather like strange hair cuts. Unlike the adults these two were not showing the prominent nob on their beaks.
One juvenile was getting on with the job of living and searching the flowers for food. The other juvenile sat high on a branch and called continuously for parental attention - and got it too while I was watching!
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly site.