Friday, March 13, 2009

Stormy Weather - and Birds

Watching the waves and what the cyclone has done is interesting but much more important is finding out what has happened to the birds in the wild weather. I have not yet been able to get out to the roosts at Mullens or Crab Creek but yesterday at Inskip Point I had a chance to see the shorebirds that usually roost out there. The surprising thing was that the sand island out from the Point where they usually roost was totally under water.
Instead the birds were packed closely along the narrow strip of sand still exposed right at the Point.
Much of the sand was densely packed with birds. This photo shows part of the flock which in this area was mainly Godwits. I have left the photo very large to show how close the birds were standing.
The tide was going out so some – especially the smaller ones - had started moving down onto exposed sand to feed. While I was there a couple of four wheel drive vehicles drove a little way along the sand and people got out to fish. This disturbed the birds and many of them flew up – but then settled down again as there really wasn't anywhere else to go. There are Pelicans in this photo still standing on the sand so not all have gone inland to breed yet.
The photo below shows Caspian, Crested, and Little Terns; a Pied Oystercatcher, and Bar-tailed Godwits – some of which are going into breeding plumage – a lovely brick-red color.
Many of the Little Terns were also showing some breeding colors. In non-breeding plumage the feet and bill are both dark but in breeding colors the bill is yellow with a dark tip and the feet are also yellow. This one has not yet got all the black on its cap.
There were also large flocks of Red-capped Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers, Red-necked Stint and some Double-banded Plovers back here after breeding in New Zealand this summer. Some of the Red-necked Stint were also showing a little bit of breeding color in the plumage although not as much as later in the season.
Back at the car park this Mistletoebird was sitting up in one of the trees. I have never seen a Mistletoebird all fluffed up like this – and certainly they are not pictured like this in any of my bird books!


  1. Hi Mick

    Any sign of the oil slick in your area? I cannot believe the incompetence of the Shipping people - the company and the authorities, who let it sail out on Brisbane in such weather.
    Lets hope it does not spread as far as your area.

    It is a terrible thing to have happened.


  2. No news re the oil slick other than what I am reading on the media. Last I heard it was up as far as Coolum. I guess its going to depend on how much is floating around out there that hasn't been admitted to yet.

  3. Good to see so many birds after such bad weather Mick.

  4. Hi Early Birder - yes it was good to see those numbers. I am told that when severe weather happens the birds leave all exposed roosts and find other places to shelter - but I have no idea where they would go around here. Of course in an area this size it would be difficult to know where to look for them - that is if you could even get out yourself.

  5. How wonderful to be able to see birds in the numbers you have there Mick! And a Mistletoe bird - what a fascinating name and colourful bird it is.

    I hadn't realised that Bar-tailed Godwits changed their plumage like that - lovely!

  6. Hi Tricia, Its always thrilling to see large numbers of shorebirds. Hopefully I can get some more photos of breeding plumage - that is if the weather gets fine!

  7. Perhaps surges related to Hamish have brought submersion of sand islands and other changes?

  8. Hi Tony, yes that would be right I'm sure. It will be interesting to see how much sand has been stripped off. There used to be one little piece that had grass growing on it. Must get out at low water and have a walk around out there if that is still possible.

  9. I love that last photo! Fluffy and colorful. And I had to laugh, I read the posts in reverse order and ended up putting the storm comment in the wrong place...I think. Love visiting your world!

  10. Thanks for your comment Vickie - its certainly a very different world out here from what you write about.