Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Season's Greetings

A post of bright things to suite the day!
This is yesterday morning's sky and although bright and beautiful it didn't bring any rain - which we desperately need!

These Rainbow Lorikeets greet me every morning.  You can't miss their beautiful bright colors - and neither can you miss their raucous greetings.

I'm off for a very early kayak on the bay then home for a typical lavish Xmas dinner with family and friends.  I wish everyone a great day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

High Tides

Because I live so close to the coast and because I am so interested in shorebirds I have become more knowledgeable about the changes in the tides.  Of course, tide heights and times are different every day and change every month.  However, the most spectacular tides are the king tides that happen around Christmas and New Year.  This is the time when the tides are the highest.  (Possibly I should say when we notice the highest tides, because there are similar high tides in June/July but they are in the middle of the night so most people don't notice them.)  Last Friday and Saturday were the highest tides for December.  The high tides in January will be a few inches higher still.  (I don't know how the tide cycles work in the northern hemisphere.  Are they opposite from what they are here and are your highest tides in June/July?  If some reader knows I will add their comments in here later!  I have heard from a couple of people on the west coast of north America that they are having similar high tides in their part of the world - thank you for commenting!  I must do some more study about these very high tides!  Another comment has just been made that says that the extremes of tides at the same time in the southern and northern hemisphere has to do with the tilt of the earth.  And according to wikipedia the king tides occur when the earth, moon, and sun are aligned. Thanks to everyone who commented and guided my further reading.
Last Friday I went out to Inskip Point to see what the high tide was like.  Inskip Point is a long narrow piece of land that runs almost east-west just across from Fraser Island.  It is part of the National Park and is a favorite spot for camping.  It is also the place where barges take 4 wheel drive vehicles over to Fraser Island.  The last part of the point is a sand spit - usually high and dry and at least 100 meters wide.  This is an image saved from Google Earth. (All pictures enlarge when clicked on.)   

However, when I got out there on Friday there wasn't much sand left out of the water.  The barge was still sitting out at the end of the point but no vehicles were going to be getting on it for some time!

I had arrived a little before high tide and as I waited the waves and water gradually got higher over what was left of the sand.

We had had very high winds for several days before this.  The winds had chopped up a lot of foam on the water and this was mainly to the south of the Point.  Gradually the water covered the Point from both sides.

Some tourists drove down the track in 4 wheel drive vehicles but they stopped at the edge of the trees when they saw that there was water covering the sand.  A couple of the drivers walked out along the sand spit  but then came back and waited for the tide to start going down.

There wasn't much left of the sand island either.  Only the biggest birds were still trying to roost out there.  The Pelicans had taken the highest parts.

Just past where the barge was waiting there was an even more narrow strip of sand and there were hundreds of shorebirds and terns packed in there.  As the tide got higher some of these had to fly off and try to find somewhere else to roost.

I didn't see where these little shorebirds flew in from.  They tried to settle on a small piece of dry sand but even this soon went underwater.

This notice is on the south side of the Point and on dry sand when the tide is out. The notice is about waist or chest high.

Even the campers in the camp sites had to move.  There are lots and lots of sites to camp in but these ones close to the water are usually very popular.  The Rangers would have moved everyone out before the water started to cover the area.

I am looking forward to those high tides in January and I hope that the winds will be calm so that I can kayak out to some of my favorite roost sites and photograph what they look like when they are full of water.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Windswept Morning

This morning I kayaked over to the Airport Roost.  The wind was quite strong - almost more than I am comfortable with!  Once the kayak is in the water I am OK but I am always worried that a stronger gust of wind will upset my balance as I am lifting the kayak up onto the roof racks.  Shorebirds don't like strong winds especially when they are on an open stretch of shoreline facing the bay so it was no surprise to see very few shorebirds out there.  I did not even try to kayak on the bay in front of the roost but instead kayaked through the mangroves in the little lagoon behind the sandspit then pulled the kayak out onto the sand and walked across to where the shorebirds usually roost.  I counted 15 Grey-tailed Tattlers as they flew out of one of the mangroves then wheeled around to find a quieter roost further up the creek. At first I did not see any other shorebirds.  The sand was windswept and foam had washed up along the edge of the water.

 Then I saw Pacific Golden Plovers sheltering down among some taller grass.

There were no more birds to look at but the different mangrove trees are also interesting.  This one appeared partly dead with colorful lichen growing on the branches.

This is the Myrtle Mangrove (Osbornia octodonta).  The crushed leaves smell similar to eucalyptus leaves.  This one had tiny flower buds but I did not see any flowers open yet.
The wind was still blowing and pushing little waves up along the sand. 

The clouds moving across the sky looked as if the winds lower down would soon be freshening again. 

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shorebird Variety

The other day I kayaked around to the Mullens roost area again.  It may seem as if it would be boring to visit the same places time and time again but shorebirds are never exactly where you expect to see them and there are never quite the same birds.  Every tide is different at a roost like this where the gradient is very shallow and even an inch or two difference in tide height makes quite a difference in where the water reaches.  It wasn't a very high tide so I couldn't get very close to the birds in the kayak.  However, it was a beautiful still morning and that makes photographing the birds so much easier.  I have had several comments recently from blog readers about photographing from a kayak - but when the water is this still it's just like sitting down in a nice easy chair!  In this photograph I had tied the kayak to the little mangrove and walked up on to the bank to get closer to the birds.  I also dropped all my extra gear onto the kayak where I had been sitting - so the kayak looks a bit messy!

As I was walking around on the eastern side of the roost a flock of little birds took off from the other side. They wheeled around in flight then went down and roosted very close to where they started from.  As they flew their wings showed very white but then as they flew directly at me only the heads and leading edges of their wings showed well. These birds were part of the flock of Lesser Sand Plovers that I often see here.  (Click on photos to enlarge and get a better view of the birds!)

I wasn't going to see too much more of them from where I was standing so I got in the kayak again and paddled over to the western side of the roost.  I could see most of the bigger shorebirds were over on that side.  Again, I tied the kayak and walked slowly towards the birds.  There were some low growing mangroves and I managed to get quite close to the birds by staying behind these mangroves.  There were good numbers of Gull-billed Terns and Bar-tailed Godwits.

In another part of the flock there were quite a few Great Knots roosting with the Godwits, and further over some Eastern Curlews.
The small birds - Lesser Sand Plovers -  that I had seen in flight before were now roosting among the salt marsh plants.

However, they were still not very settled and eventually moved so that most of them were standing in the shallow water.

There were also smaller numbers of Red-capped Plovers, and Red-necked Stints.  It was not until I got home and had a much closer look at my  photos that I realized there was  a bigger bird roosting with the Red-necked Stints - a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  We don't often see these birds at this roost.

By the time I decided it was time to start kayaking back to the car park, the breeze was beginning to get up and there were a few clouds gathering in the east.  As I kayaked out from the roost and into the bay I saw a long line of birds almost in silhouette across the bay.   It was a group of about 30 pelicans.

The worst part of any kayaking trip is getting the kayak up on the car and then getting home to wash the salt off the car, the kayak, and myself!

 For more bird photos from around the world visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beside the Bay

A walk along the foreshore at Tin Can Bay is quite different from a walk along the foreshore at Mullens and Cooloola Cove.  The bay is much deeper here so there are boats moored everywhere.  This photo was taken from Norman Point looking north-east.

Right at the point there is a sand spit exposed at low tides where the birds roost until too many people walk by.  The other morning there was one Eastern Curlew roosting there and making a silhouette against the brightness of the early morning sun.

Shorebirds roost just south of the point when there is too much disturbance or the tide is too high.  There were well over 100 Bar-tailed Godwits roosting there - sleeping, eating, and moving slightly as the tide got higher.

Tin Can Bay stretches from Norman Point in the north to Crab Creek in the south.  At high tide it is beautiful everywhere!  Looking north toward Norman Point there are more boats at anchor.

There are small boats tucked away in lots of places.

There are few places for shorebirds to roost on this southern end.  However, there are lots of plantings of native trees and shrubs that attract the bush birds.   Because it was still early there were lots of bush birds still preening and getting ready for the day.  They sat on branches, and every now and again flew off after food.  Although they are honeyeaters, many of them seemed to be catching insects.  There were plenty of these around - especially the small biting ones! - and I had forgotten to put on insect repellent!   Brown Honeyeaters, and Mangrove Honeyeaters were the most numerous.  This Brown Honeyeater was making a thorough job of the morning preen.

This Mangrove Honeyeater was down on the ground on the root of a Grey Mangrove tree.  

This Brush Wattlebird was dark against the light. 

This post is for Our World Tuesday and Wild Bird Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Birds at the Airport Roost

I always have a good look along the bay when I first kayak around the mangroves at the south end of Mullens creek but the dark birds I saw in the water along the end of the sandy beach were a little unexpected.  They were six black swans.  I hoped for closer photos but quickly found that two legs under the water were moving a lot faster than a kayak paddling on top of the water! The sixth bird was swimming quite a long way behind the others.

There is often at least one Little Egret roosting in this area but it was nice to see this one with breeding plumes on its head.

I let the breeze and the tide drift me into the beach so I could get closer to the birds that were standing on the sand spit.  When I got in closer the birds moved over the sand into the lagoon behind.  All I could see was heads!  When the kayak eventually drifted right on to the sand I found that I could get a good look by easing up onto the higher part at the back of the kayak.  There were three Common Greenshanks and  apparently they felt quite safe only seeing my head above the sand spit.  They could definitely see me but after a good look at me they went back to doing their usual bird activities of eating, scratching and sleeping.

 For more bird photos from around the world visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pacific Golden Plover

I am a little late with posting this week - but - I have had two really great mornings out on the water and that took precedence!  Yesterday I went by boat around to the Carlo Island North roost.  I haven't been around there for nearly a year and a half so it was great to find numbers of shorebirds right where I expected them to be.  I had intended to post a whole lot of beautiful pics from there - but alas!  My camera stopped working!  So I went and got my older camera out of its wrappings and charged up the batteries and was ready to go out this morning on a very high tide. 
Once again it was a perfect morning with no wind and the sea like glass.  I kayaked over to the Airport Roost.  This is one of the roosts that has never been counted regularly and I really want to understand which birds use it regularly and in what numbers.  This morning I saw Grey-tailed Tattlers, Terek Sandpipers, Whimbrels, Greenshanks, Pacific Golden Plovers, Pied Oystercatchers and one Little Egret.  Because it was such a high tide there was a good amount of water in the little mangrove lagoon in behind the bay.  Some of the birds were making use of this area as it is very sheltered and out of sight from boats on the bay. 
The Pacific Golden Plover were on the sand bank facing into this lagoon area. 

Then they moved over the sand bank and were facing out into the bay.  It is not easy to get close to these birds but if you are slow and quiet in approaching them they just move off a little. They only fly right off if they are really frightened.  This time they decided to roost close to a pair of Pied Oystercatchers. 

For more birds from around the world visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mullens at High Tide

There are very low gradients across all of the bay around here and a few feet of water makes a huge difference to the look of a place - and to my ability to kayak around!  These photos were taken last week on a high tide and a morning when there was no wind.  At low tide this area has no water.  All the salt marsh plants and the sand and mud are then visible.
Looking south west across the Mullens roost. 

The white spot in the center of the previous photo is a Little Egret that was chasing small fish through the shallow water.  

Shorebirds were still flying in from other lower places around the bay when I first got there.  There are always some Gull-billed Terns that use this roost along with the shorebirds. 

A few Gull-billed Terns were still showing a partial black cap which is their breeding plumage.  Bar-tailed Godwits are the largest shorebirds in this photo and there are also a few Great Knots. 

I thought all the Terns were Gull-billed Terns until I saw this big red bill showing behind the mangroves. This is a Caspian Tern which is the largest of all the terns.  Eastern Curlews are the largest shorebirds and easily ID'd with their very long down-curved bill.  Bar-tailed Godwits are closer to the front of the photo. 

Looking north-east as I left the roost area.  

I kayaked around to the Airport roost before I went to the Mullens roost. This made a kayak trip of about 6 kms - which was plenty long enough for the present!  I need to do some more trips like this one before I attempt the longer paddles to get to some of the more distant roosts!

For more interesting places from around the world visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.