Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brown Honeyeaters Nest

Cold weather came suddenly this year and with the change in temperatures there was the usual outbreak of colds and flu. I have had a prolonged attack of flu and haven't even felt like walking around my yard to watch the birds that I could hear. Blog posts were something I didn't want to even think about :-(
Technically, May is counted as the last month of Autumn - but Autumn in the sub-tropics is certainly not the same as Autumn in other parts of the country or the world! Do away with any idea that birds nest in the spring-time. They are nesting right now!
My friend Helen phoned me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that there was a very tiny nest in a shrub right outside the window of her house. I was too sick to even want to go and look at that stage but when she phoned again the other day and told me that the parent birds - Brown Honeyeaters - were now feeding young ones I decided that it was time that I made the effort and started to get out of the house again. This morning I went and sat on her veranda and waited. The nest was in the shade and Helen said even later in the day it was still shaded.
Brown Honeyeaters are always noisy birds and they have a range of calls. I listened and sat still while they scolded and made warning cries from close by. Then they came a little closer and made their more melodious calls and finally came closer still and made their little contact calls. Patience paid off and they eventually came in to the nest and clung to the branch and fed the babies. The branch the nest is attached to is very small and the adult birds set it swinging wildly as they clung to it. Brown Honeyeaters are small - only 11-15cms long.
My bird book says that the Brown Honeyeater's nest is a deep cup of bark strips, grasses, plant down, wool, spiderwebs and cocoons. When I looked closely at the photos I had taken I could see the spiderwebs they had used at the top of the nest to help to attach it to the branch.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Photo of the nest cropped to show the spiderwebs at the top.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bar-shouldered Doves

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.

I usually see Bar-shouldered Doves (Geopelia humeralis) hunting around among the grass in the shade of trees or shrubs. These ones were among the grass on a sand hill fronting onto the beach and when I went closer they flew up into one of the trees. The sky was blue and it gave me an excellent photo opportunity.
Please Don't Disturb!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Red-backed Fairy-Wren

I had walked right along the forest track without seeing or hearing any birds except way up in the canopy of the trees. I stopped at the end of the track close to the car park - and still nothing. So I got in the car and started the engine - then decided to look at the photos in the camera that I had taken out on the sand bank. Finally, I put the camera down and looked around before I began to back out and drive off. There - sitting just a few meters from the car and quite unafraid of the engine noise, were two Red-backed Fairy-Wrens (Melurus melanocephalus). They were sitting on a small branch that poked out from among the bracken fern and preening. All I had to do was open the window and point the camera out and take some photos. I am not sure if they were females or males in eclipse plumage. The books say that they are very similar. I guess if I spent as much time looking at "bush" birds as I do at shorebirds I would eventually get better at some of the finer points of ID. If anyone reading this knows - then please let me know.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Caspian Terns

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.

Out at Inskip Point the other day there were numbers of Terns flying across the point and fishing in the channel between the mainland and Fraser Island. However, there were only two that came in and rested on the sand right on the Point. I was immediately attracted to them because one of them was making begging noises at the other. It seemed to me that it was rather late in the season to see or hear a juvenile Crested Tern, but when I looked they were Caspian Terns (Sterna caspia). Although I frequently see Caspian Terns their breeding cycle is much harder to understand as they breed at widely dispersed sites and at varying times of the year depending on the climate of the region. They then move to quite different areas to spend the rest of the year.
Here is the juvenile begging from the adult. The juvenile is still showing its typical "spotty" plumage.
The Caspian Tern is the largest of all the terns and occurs over most of the world. Beside smaller terns such as the Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) it looks massive. However, the wingspan is also large - 130-145cm.
Adult Caspian Tern Juvenile Caspian Tern

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Photographing at Inskip

When I go out to photograph the shorebirds I am usually less concerned with getting the perfect bird photo than with recording the numbers and species I see that morning. Some of my friends 'count' before all else and then keep meticulous lists. I get a better end result if I take lots of photos.
Photos of scenery or some thing that makes the day memorable are a good way for me to fix the rest of the details in memory. The other morning at Inskip Point as I looked north along the Strait between the mainland and Fraser Island there were a number of large vessels which I could not immediately identify. It appeared that they were anchored up that way and then after a while - when the tide came in a little more - they came south and appeared to be making for Tin Can Bay. I have seen similar vessels before - something to do with the army (which has a base close to the southern end of the Bay) I think.
There was a huge difference in the numbers of birds at Inskip from the last time I was out there. I saw no large waders at all. This might have been because the tide was not very high and they could have still been feeding on some of the exposed sand banks. There were approximately 150 small waders - very different from the large numbers I saw last time. (I will record this number and attach it to the photos for the morning.) They were making use of the dry sand and wheel tracks of all the vehicles. There were more Double-banded Plovers than anything else. There were also numbers of Red-capped Plovers. I have always seen these birds out there so I would have been very surprised if they were absent. Although I usually see the Red-capped Plovers roosting in amongst the other small shorebirds, this morning the Double-banded Plovers tended to be by themselves and the Red-capped Plovers separate from them.
Mainly Double-banded Plovers.
Mainly Red-capped Plovers
There were, however, places where the birds were standing together and it was possible to get good comparisons of size and plumage. Double-banded Plover on the left and Red-capped Plover on the right.
So - no great or perfect bird photos for this morning but a very useful photographic record for the area.
For great bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Disaster Looms for Shorebirds

The Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) has just published a most disturbing paper about land reclamation in the coastal area between China and North and South Korea. The paper is titled "Minutes to Midnight". The tidal flats in this area are essential staging areas for shorebirds on their migration from the arctic to Australia and back again. The introduction to this article on the AWSG site says that "while you are reading this article another hectare of shorebird habitat has disappeared in the Yellow Sea!"
It is not just birds that migrate to Australia and New Zealand that use this area. A study done in 2010 on Curlew Sandpipers in this area found leg flags from India, Thailand, Singapore, Sumatra, Taiwan, Shanghai and six sites in Australia.
Each year that I have been monitoring and counting shorebirds in the southern Great Sandy Strait I have seen fewer and fewer shorebirds returning to our area. The habitat here has changed very little in this time. The problem is there are fewer and fewer sites in the Yellow Sea area where the birds can feed on their migrations.
The scale of the problem is high-lighted by figures on individual species. Numbers of Great Knots have decreased by 50% in the last 25 years. Eastern Curlew numbers have declined by 20% in the last five years!
A posting by Adrian Boyle on the Birding-Aus site is even more depressing. He is presently in the area counting shorebirds. He mentions two other species - Red Knot and Curlew Sandpiper - at risk because of reclamation which is happening right now. Another site, just south of where he is, was where last year 24 of the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers were observed. This site is also now under development.
I despair! How many shorebirds will not make it this year because their feeding sites have been destroyed? Will I get to the place where I count only a few score of shorebirds where now I count thousands? Why must we destroy so much of our planet!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lake Alfred Park, Gympie

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.

I took these photos a couple of weeks ago in at the ponds in Gympie. I haven't been there for a few months and it was good to see birds back at the ponds after the ponds were so messed up from the floods in January of this year. (In parks like this in the middle of a town it is always easier to get close to the birds.) There are always lots of the more common water birds but it was interesting this time to see a number of juvenile Dusky Moorhens (Gallinula tenebrosa).
Here is a juvenile by itself
A juvenile with an adult on the right
An adult with very worn plumage
There was also a pair of Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) with two half grown juveniles.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Foreshore Walk

It was a beautiful morning this morning and with an early high tide I thought I might find some shorebirds somewhere along the foreshore in Tin Can Bay. I started at Norman Point where there was beautiful scenery but few birds. The sandbank right at the end was rapidly going underwater and I only saw a couple of Pied Oystercatchers and some Silver Gulls.
I then traveled down to Crab Creek at the other end of the foreshore walk but although there were plenty of birds in the bushes and trees I did not see any other shorebirds. The best of all the birds that I saw in the trees was this Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sancta) which was sitting on a branch out over the water.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.