Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A grey day

Perfect weather has been so scarce recently that when I saw the weather forecast for light winds and an early high tide I decided to ignore the prediction for some cloudy periods. I wanted to get out to the Airport Roost and count the shorebirds there before they all left for the northern hemisphere. When I got down to the shoreline to put the kayak in the water the sky was very dark. The water, however, was very still and beautiful.

After kayaking out to the roost we counted 45 in a mixed flock of Grey-tailed Tattlers and Terek Sandpipers, 20 Whimbrels, and 3 Greenshanks which were showing a lot of breeding plumage. We also saw some local shorebirds - 2 Pied Oystercatchers, a Little Egret, and a Pied Cormorant. It was too dark to get good photos of any of these birds - but then the sun broke through for a short time and it looked a totally different place.

When I got back to the shoreline where I had parked my car this little Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) was catching insects among the leaves washed up by the tide.  I let the kayak drift in until the front came to rest on the sand and then just sat still. These birds are quite fearless! It watched me as carefully as I was watching it - and hopped closer until it was only a few inches from the front of the kayak. I love those eyebrows! The bird makes the eyebrows larger for a threat display - and its harsh chattering calls showed it did not like me so close to where it was looking for food.

For more photos from around the world visit Out World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trees in my yard

I want to have a moan and a whinge this morning because the big wet we had in January and February has caused more destruction in my yard than I had realized! As soon as the yard dried out I had a friend come in and chop up and cart away trees and bushes that had been blown down. However, this week I discovered that the big Grevillea tree has to go also. The side that I see is fine but the other side which reaches over the fence is broken and falling down. I planted this tree soon after I came here because I noticed that Grevilleas attracted more honey eating birds than anything else around here. Unfortunately, Grevilleas around here are not long lasting trees and shrubs - and I have neglected to plant young ones to carry on! If I get another tree of the same kind - immediately! - I wonder how long it will take to grow and flower and attract the birds again. So-o-o-o - this post is in praise of my late Grevillea tree and the birds it attracted! Here it is under a grey sky -

 and at sunrise under a red sky.

Rainbow Lorikeets especially liked this tree - and I especially liked photographing them.

Blue-faced Honeyeaters tried to keep this tree for their own special use. They are most aggressive birds!

Noisy Friarbirds were often among the branches.

Little Friarbirds were also frequently around but much less easy to photograph.

Then there were the birds that came and rested briefly in the tree. This Spangled Drongo was one such bird.

And this Galah was another.

Even the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos came down for a while.

My favorites were always the Rainbow Lorikeets!

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more bird photographs visit Wild Bird Wednesday tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ready to Migrate

Well, the very heavy rain has stopped! My yard has dried enough for me to get the lawn mower over it but there is still lots of water lying in low places along the roads. I can just imagine how wet some of the walking trails are! There are still short sharp rain showers every day which is enough to keep the water levels up. Of course heat plus water equals mosquitoes - and lots of them! It is still not good weather for kayaking as there have been strong winds every day and I am just not into extreme effort in kayaking! So to see shorebirds up close it was off out to Inskip again in the early morning.
Rainbow Beach is about half way to Inskip from where I live. This was the view from Rainbow Beach.  Looking south towards Double Island Point it was very hazy so I decided to bring the trees into sharp focus and leave the rest showing the haze.

Looking north towards Fraser Island the sea was very rough and the force of the recent weather showed in the high sand cliffs at the edge of the water and the piles of broken trees and branches that littered what beach was left.

I had checked the weather reports before I left home but out at Inskip Point the wind was far higher than I expected. I had trouble standing still and even though I was using a monopod for my camera a lot of photos were blurred from the wind gusts. There was lots of sea foam washing over the point and dropped there with every wave that washed and then receded. There were a variety of shorebirds but the Bar-tailed Godwits were especially interesting. They looked ready for migration and will be leaving over the next few days and weeks. They fly directly to the Yellow Sea area between China and Korea. Then they rest and eat for a month or 6 weeks and then do another long flight to Alaska where they breed. 
Both of the Godwits in the next photo are showing how fat they get before they start migrating. The male has the dark red plumage but the female is still showing very little color. (Males are slightly smaller than the females and their bill is slightly shorter.)

This female Godwit is showing more color - and very intent on preening each feather into place. Look at the contortions necessary to preen everywhere with that long bill!

On the north side of the Point there is a small lip of sand which drops down to the water. There were numbers of Godwits feeding in the softer sand as each wave came in and then retreated.The drifts of foam were all along the water's edge.

Most of the time they timed the waves perfectly and scurried out of reach of the bigger ones. Sometimes however it was necessary to use their wings to fly/hop out of reach.

Then it was back down to the water's edge to feed between waves.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mainly Knots

Great Knots - Calidris tenuirostris - that is!

This post is a continuation of last week. The Bureau of Meteorology was right! It has been impossible to get out with a camera for most days this week. We have not had the really huge rainfall totals of the previous week but on top of an already saturated earth it doesn't take too much for water to reach flood levels again. We had 164mm (6 1/2 inches) in the last week (measured in my back yard) and even this was enough to cut the road into Gympie again yesterday. 

Since I have written so much about Inskip Point at high tide over the last few weeks I should should also show what it is like at low tide. There are huge expanses of sandy flats which make perfect feeding places for shorebirds. (These photos are from my photo archives as I have not been out at Inskip at low tide for quite some time.) Migratory Terns also roost along the tide line after feeding out at sea.

Shorebirds spread out across the flats. There are also lots of small crabs - known locally as "soldier crabs" - and it can be challenging to spot the smaller shorebirds among so many other small moving objects.

The other morning after the first couple of vehicles went by some of the shorebirds spread out along the edge of the water. This made it much easier to see individual birds.

I focused on the parts of the flock where I could see smaller birds. The Bar-tailed Godwits  (Limosa lapponica baueri) were scattered among the flock and made a good comparison for size. There were lots of Great Knots and a few Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea).

The Curlew Sandpipers are the smallest of these three birds and were showing almost no breeding plumage. Their breeding colors are a beautiful brick red all down the front and up over the head.

Most of the Great Knots were showing lots of breeding plumage. This bird is in almost full breeding plumage. The back view of this same bird showed the rufous markings on the scapulars.

Eventually a vehicle drove by and most of the flock took to the air. I was lucky enough to catch one shot which clearly showed the under-wing markings.

For more photos from around the world visit Out World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday