Friday, January 30, 2009

My Garden

Would this be one of the "beasties" that has developed a taste for the youngest, and freshest of my garden herbs?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


There are many hundreds and even thousands of migratory Terns on the beaches here at present. The photos below are all of Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). They spend the summer here before flying back to the northern hemisphere where they breed. We get a brief look at some breeding plumage when they first arrive and just before they leave. At present they are in non-breeding plumage but their moult is well-advanced. Most have only one or two primary feathers in their wings to moult – although one of the pictures shows a bird with three primaries still to moult. The photos of birds with their wings spread flying – or about to – are great for moult ID but I think are beautiful just as photos. I like the length, shape, and color of the wings, especially when seen against a blue sky!
Thanks to Jill Dening for teaching me about these birds and introducing me to the complexity of the moult sequence.
For great bird photographs visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I went out to Inksip Point this afternoon to look at the birds – but instead saw many happy holiday-makers! The barges were busy taking 4 wheel drive vehicles to Fraser Island and back.
The camp sites were well filled although not packed tightly the way they are over Christmas. People were fishing and swimming and the shorebirds flew around avoiding vehicles, people and dogs.
Rainbow Beach looked as beautiful as ever – and even more people were there enjoying it all. Looking south to Double Island Point I could see cars lined along the beach down there.
Even the air space was busy with a number of kites lifting off from the cliffs and soaring out over the ocean.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Backyard Birds

Sometimes the nicest birds come right to my backyard. Yesterday I heard some interesting sounds from the big pine tree just over the fence. I found these two young Nankeen Kestrels demanding attention from their parents. One of the adults brought them some food and then did some fancy aerobatics overhead. The young birds were not all that steady on their perch and did a few shuffles and flutters before settling down to the important job of eating.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Interesting Day Out!

For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Yesterday I went out with the Gympie Field Naturalists club. I had hoped to see lots of little bush birds so I could get photos and help with IDs at the same time – but – the only bird we saw that I don't usually see around my yard was the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia humeralis)
So the rest of this post is NOT about birds but instead about all the other little flying things – both rather beautiful and distinctly menacing! Part of the fun of belonging to a club like this is the number of people who know an enormous amount about all things other than birds. So when I was wandering along looking wistfully up into the trees for the birds that weren't there - I was urged to look down and see everything else that was flying around! So I took the photos and others – especially Kelvin! - told me IDs. I had left my camera on all the wrong settings so I have done quite a bit of PP to make the photos better (and have taken off exif data which is now not relevant.)
Common Australian Crow Butterfly (Euploea core corrina)
Black and White Tiger Butterfly (Danaus affinis affinis)
Orange Palmdart Butterfly (Cephrenes augiades sperthias)
Fiery Skimmer (Dragonfly) (Orthetrum villosovittatum)
Robber fly species (Someone might know a more precise name for this.) This one looks distinctly menacing to me and apparently they catch other insects and suck their juices out.
P.S.Definitely back to birds next time!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Noosa River Birding - January

Yesterday I spent another perfect day out on the Noosa river helping with a survey of the birds on the sandbanks. The Noosa area was full of holiday makers! Noosa is still building and major construction is clearly visible from the river.
The best bird sighting for the day would have to be a third Beach Stone-curlew on one of the sand islands in the middle of the river. The most spectacular bird sight was definitely the thousands of terns. On the early very high tide they could only find a roost on the sandbank at the northern side of the river. Even there the waves were breaking over the sand and running over to the other side. On the low tide there were plenty of banks available and by 5 o'clock we counted over 4 thousand terns on one bank and they were flying in constantly. One member of the group counted 300 arriving in 5 minutes. Later in the evening even larger flocks came in around dark.
Migratory terns made up the largest numbers. There were numbers of Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), White-winged Black Terns (Chlidonias leucoptera), Little Terns (Sterna albifrons), Crested Terns (Sterna bergii), and a few Caspian Terns (Hydropogne caspia). It is always interesting to see different terns standing beside each other.
I have put in the names of the terns on the next two photos.
The terns in this photo were all just lifting off to fly and by chance I photographed this larger Crested Tern with the smaller Little Tern in front of its wings. Quite a size difference!

Red-necked Stint

For great bird photographs go to Bird Photography Weekly

The Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) is the smallest shorebird to make the long migration from the northern hemisphere to our area here. I usually see them busily hunting for food among the saltmarsh plants or sitting in small flocks at high tide. They usually let you approach quite closely without doing more than sleepily blink at you.

The last two days have had unusually high tides along most of the east coast area. I have never seen them so high here. (One tide expert said there have not been tides this high for the last 18 years!) Bay-side walks and car parks were underwater. We kayaked to two of the roosts we usually count and there was no land at all left for the birds. The water was right up among the trees and tall rushes and grasses. The birds were whirling in great flocks overhead – a spectacular sight! They would swoop down over their normal roost site then whirl up again and fly further along the bay. A few minutes later another flock would whirl overhead and the same thing would be repeated. It would have been two to three hours before they could find dry roosts around the bay again. At first we did not see any of the smaller shorebirds in these flocks and then saw several large flocks. When we kayaked to the area of the bay where they had flown we found a few tiny bits of sand just coming out of the water again and on each there were tiny birds packed closely. The photo below shows Red-necked Stints and a Red-capped Plover in one such flock. There was also a single Lesser Sand Plover with them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush Birds

These last few weeks my attempts at photographing birds have either been very exciting or hugely frustrating. I have a new camera! I finally bought a Pentax 200D with a couple of Sigma lenses. Unfortunately there were other 'big ticket' items that I had to also get at the same time, so the camera is not what I had in mind to begin with. However, I know from looking at the work of others that it will take good and even great photos – I just need to make it do so for me! Simply by using automatic settings I can now take photos of all those tiny birds that flitter so fast through the bushes! Fantastic! But how to make it take consistently good photos, especially in the bright light out on the water? Pure Frustration!! So please be patient with my attempts – and I would welcome suggestions where I am making mistakes which are obvious to all you much more knowledgeable photographers. Eventually I will try the great mystery of RAW – but not just yet!

Inskip Point – a couple of days ago – and I managed to photograph a couple of tiny birds that I have seen a number of times and never, NEVER photographed with more than a BLUR!

I know there are Variegated Wrens out there as I have seen them numbers of times. Their bright colors are particularly spectacular in the shade of the bushes that they seem to like. However, this is my first recognizable photo and unfortunately I spoilt it with an out-of-focus leaf in the right foreground.
I have also seen Varied Trillers before but again, this is my first photo!

Over the last two days I have had two new bird visitors in my backyard. I don't know if it has been just chance or if they have come in because of all the new gardens that are growing up around the new houses. I heard a noise right outside my kitchen window two days ago and saw two Double-barred Finches in the Banksia Rose bush I am training up a trellis. Unfortunately they were too fast and I was definitely too slow to get a photo!
Yesterday morning there were two White-throated Honeyeaters in the hibiscus. They appeared to be getting nectar from the flowers but I also got a photo of one with a tiny bug in its beak.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Memorable Moments of 2008

Duncan over at Ben Cruachan tagged me for a meme about “your ten most memorable nature moments of 2008”. It's taken me a while to get to this – sorry! - but here they are – not in order of importance but as they happened during the year. Since I did not start posting here until May last year not all these have been written up on my blog. (In an aside I want to say how much fun I am having with this blog because of the other nature bloggers who have been generous in sharing their knowledge and comments here.)
So here we go – my 10 most memorable nature moments of 2008:

1. Finding a pair of Beach Stone-curlews that had taken up residence on the sand island in the Noosa River that council had recently protected from access during the summer months.
2. Introducing some friends to the delights of watching shorebirds from a kayak – the results have been an enormous amount of shorebird and seabird information that has passed between us because of the greater access by kayaks. (“Nature Moments” are so much more fun when they are shared!)
3. Seeing 30,000 terns coming in to roost in the evening at Inskip Point. This was an amazing sight and we will be looking to follow it up when the terns again start migrating northwards.
4. Seeing and photographing Sanderlings and Grey Plovers for the first time – also at Inskip.
5. Seeing White-winged Black Terns in almost full breeding color for the first time.
From here on is where I started blogging – all posted this year.
6. Seeing and photographing Bush Stone Curlew at the local golf club.
7. Photographing Striated Pardalotes at Esk and discovering their nest hole in the retaining fence.
8. Seeing and photographing a family of Tawny Frogmouths
9. Finding Pied Oystercatchers with juveniles – the first time in five years that I have seen this on the bay around here.
10. Seeing and hearing Ground Parrots in the National Park.

So that's it from me and I think I now have to tag another two people! Denis at Nature of Robertson have you been tagged? I reckon you'd have some great moments! And how about Neil at Out and About in Cooloola .

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Willie Wagtail

For more bird photographs visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Reading other blogs often makes me take an extra look at some of the birds close around me. Tricia over at posted about a Pied Wagtail and I wondered if its movements were at all like the Willie Wagtails which are quite common around my house.
Willie Wagtails according to the birding book are "active, aggressive, and fearless". They are flycatchers and often come down onto the lawn and then dart around catching insects. They are seldom still and their tail is in constant movement. There were four of them around the yard yesterday and I wondered if it was a family group from over the road where I know they had a nest a little while ago. There are four photos of the same bird to show that tail.

Monday, January 5, 2009

No Birds

I went out to Inskip Point yesterday – but the birds were very hard to see. There was an extremely strong wind blowing and although I could hear plenty of birds most were sheltering from the wind and out of sight. Although there were not a lot of sand flats exposed I saw small numbers of the usual shorebirds. I also saw a Sanderling which flew off before I could get close enough to get more than a distant photo.
I also stopped at birding spots along the way. This lizard was in the middle of one of the side roads. Even when the car came close it did not move so I went around it – stopped – and took photos out the window. I would guess it was about 600mm or 2 feet in length and I think it is possibly a small goanna. I hope someone will correct this if it is wrong. Thanks to Denis for his suggestion that this lizard did not look like a goanna. I consulted a local expert this morning (Yes, I should have done this before posting!) and Denis was also right that this is a Frilled-neck Lizard. According to the books we consulted these have been found as far south as Brisbane. However, the habitat where I saw it is not where it is usually found - so very interesting indeed!
While looking for birds in the trees this beautiful butterfly came past. I looked at on-line photos of butterflies and I think it is an Orchard Swallowtail. At least I came home with a few interesting photos.