Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Early Morning Birds

There was a heavy shower of rain just before I went for a walk along the shoreline the other morning. All the trees and bushes were still very wet and it seemed that the birds had used the rain as an excuse to delay their early morning preening. This Mangrove Honeyeater was intent on getting every feather into place.High up on a tree a male Mistletoebird also completed his morning preen.Out on the saltmarsh flat this Willy Wagtail was catching insects that were hovering over a puddle of water in an old vehicle track.The Scarlet Honeyeaters were already busy in the tops of the trees.The only shorebirds were small dots far out on the sand flats.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eastern Whipbird

The Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus) has one of the most distinctive calls of the Australian bush. You can hear its call here. It is quite common to hear the call but it's taken me half a life-time to actually see this elusive bird! I saw my first Whipbird yesterday and even managed a photo - slightly blurred I admit but even this one made my day extra special. Whipbirds prefer dense undergrowth and it's impossible to go into places like this without making all sorts of noise which immediately warns all birds to fly off quickly. The bird I saw was sitting somewhere up in a tree but as I approached it saw me and dropped down into the undergrowth. Then as I walked closer it flew up again into a near-by tree and I had one chance to shoot off some quick photos. Then it was off again into an ever denser patch of bush.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Double-banded Plovers

Out at Inskip point the other day I saw a small flock (50-60 birds) of Double-banded Plovers roosting on the sand at the end of the point. These little birds are the ones that come over from New Zealand to stay here for the winter. There were cars and people all over the area so I don't know why the birds chose to roost here. There were numbers of birds roosting out on the island but it looked as if there was room for this lot out there too. (Click to enlarge photos to see more details.)I was looking for birds on the sand but these ones were hard to see as they were facing away from me and all I saw at first were little brown bumps on the sand. Later I moved around to the other side and their white fronts were more clearly seen. Whenever a vehicle moved closer to them they scuttled away a few meters.My bird books say that these birds stay here up until September so I was surprised to see how much breeding plumage they were already showing. Different birds were showing a whole range of different plumage changes. I hope to see them again in a month or so to see how the have changed by then.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brahminy Kite

After gray days for most of last week and 50mm (2 inches) of rain it was really nice to wake to a clear sky this morning. Soon after sunrise I set off for a walk along the bay side. I only got as far as the parking lot when I saw this beautiful Brahminy Kite (Milvus indus) sitting high up in a tree. A pair of these birds has nested close by here for many years and I was looking at the nests that have been made in previous years. It appears that they have left all the old nests and there is a new one even higher in the trees. This time it will be impossible to see anything on the nest until it actually fledges and starts flying. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)The tide was well out over the sand flats so the only shorebirds I saw were too far away for more than record photos.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grey Mangrove

Last year a friend challenged me to learn the local mangroves. She said that if I could sort out all the shorebirds (which she apparently finds difficult!) then surely I could manage a few mangrove species. So since then I have been looking at all mangroves more carefully and taking photos to record changes I see.
The Grey Mangrove (Avicennia marina) is a tall tree (up to 20M) and more open than many of the other mangrove species. This tree is also called the White Mangrove. This is the kind of mangrove that Grey-tailed Tattlers like to roost in as they have a good view around for any danger that may approach. The tree is notable for the many small pencil shaped breathing roots (pneumataphores) which it sends up all around it and which also extend in lines from the larger underground roots. (The blue color of this photo was a 'trick' of the light caused by the reflection of a very blue sky.)This year there was a very heavy flowering. The flower is small and a yellowish color. It has a sweet perfume like a very ripe fruit. I had noticed this smell over a number of years as I paddled around one area of the bay but had not connected it to this mangrove flower until this year. There were so many flowers on these trees this year that it was impossible not to notice!After the flowers the trees set great numbers of fruit.As they fell from the trees the tides carried them into heaps on the beach.The fruit lay there until germination opened up the outer casing and where the conditions were right the fruit then embedded itself into the sand and mud. It finally sent down roots and pushed up a stem and opened further into developing leaves. Only a few fruit develop like this and conditions must be right for them to grow further. I have noticed ones that opened and rooted last year and they are still only a few inches high after 12 months. (I don't know why I still think of smaller measurements as inches! About 150-200mm in the other measurement!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Golden Gleams

Walking beside the bay in the early morning light changes the perception of distance and even shapes. For a few minutes as the sun first comes up even the colors are different. This morning it was a golden world. (Click to enlarge all images.) There was a White-faced Heron (Ardea novaehollandiae) on a little rocky outcrop. As it sprang into the air to fly away it too seemed to change color. The book says that the wing coverts are a pale gray color - something I had never even noticed before. I am not sure if it was just the morning light that made them appear almost white or if it was a variation in the color of this particular bird.A short time later the sun was up and all the colors returned to normal. A bright blue sky enhanced the colors of this Figbird that was feeding up in a paperbark tree.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Silver Gull

Silver Gulls are very common all round the coast - but sometimes photographing birds catches moments that look like fun! This young gull was having a bath at the edge of the water but it seemed a lot more energetic than the other birds around it.
First it splashed its wings.Then it dived right under a little wave.Finally a good shake all over threw off the drops of water.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.