Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mid-winter at Inskip

 This post is for World Bird Wednesday

Last week I went out to Inskip Point on a high tide very early in the morning.  I wanted to see what shorebirds were still here in mid-winter.  It was early enough that there were very few people around and it didn't look as if the birds had been disturbed.
There was a small group of Crested Terns, with a couple of Caspian Terns and a Gull-billed Tern.  Standing with them were a few Silver Gulls and a Pied Oystercatcher.  These are all birds that are commonly seen here at the Point.

It was not the highest tide in the cycle so shorebirds might well have been roosting on other exposed sand banks.  I only saw two Bar-tailed Godwits.  At this time of the year these are most likely juveniles that stay here for the winter instead of migrating to the northern hemisphere to breed.

The surprise of the morning was quite a large group of Grey-tailed Tattlers.  I estimated about 200 birds.  This is a much larger group than I have seen here at this time of the year.  They were roosting right at the end of the point but disturbed each time a car came out to get on the barge over to Fraser Island.  When they finally flew off they went out to the sand island in the middle of the strait.

There are always Red-capped Plovers somewhere out here.  (These are shorebirds that stay in Australia all year.)  I saw a small flock roosting in the dry sand in wheel tracks.   The early morning light made shadows out of the indentations in the sand and it was easy to see how these tiny birds are so hard to see until they move.

There were also a few birds running along the edge of the water and with the sun behind me it made much better photos.

I also saw a few Double-banded Plovers at the edge of the water.  These little shorebirds breed on the braided river channels in south New Zealand but come here to Australia to spend the winter.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ducks and Geese

This post is for World Bird Wednesday

I spend most of my time on and around the bay so don't see very much of the birds that are just a few kilometers inland.  I mentioned to friends in Gympie that I would like to get some more photos of ducks and any other waterbirds that were around - and the result was a couple of trips into Gympie just to photograph birds.  (Thanks Neil and Kel.)  The first day the weather was grey, overcast and drizzly so a second day with blue skies and sunshine was necessary.  We only went to ponds and farm dams close in to Gympie but I saw and photographed one new duck and got better photos of two other birds.
The ducks which I had not seen before were Hardheads (Aythya australis) and we saw these both days on the ponds right in Gympie.  These ducks are diving ducks and it's a a bit of a surprise to get all ready to take a  photo only to have the bird disappear under water.  The male has white eyes and the female dark eyes.

These next photos were taken on a farm dam also right in Gympie on the by-pass road out to Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach.

Magpie Geese (Anseranas semipalmata) are common in tropical wetlands but we do see them quite often down here in the SE of Queensland. The still water made great reflections.

I saw Plumed Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) when I took a trip out to western Queensland a couple of years ago but didn't get close enough for good photos.  These ones had become used to people around them and I got much better photos than I did then.  As their name suggests - not all ducks "quack"!  These ones "whistle"!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spangled Drongos

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of Spangled Drongos (Dicrurus bracteatus) in and around my yard.  These birds are so noisy that you certainly can't miss them but I found it difficult to get good photos of them.  The fish-tail and the red eye are distinctive and I certainly could get plenty of photos of them in silhouette against the light but I wanted to show the beautiful sheen on their wings and the spangles (blue-green iridescent spots) down their front.  I would slowly and quietly move towards a tree where I had just seen one fly then hear the harsh cackling sound of several sitting somewhere behind me.  That harsh cackle sounds to me like a "birdy" laugh - at my expense I am sure!  I am always listening for bird song around my house and when I hear a new song/sound I hurry outside to identify it.  Spangled Drongos are great mimics and I have been fooled a number of times recently.  The only give-away is that - even though they seem able to pitch their voices wherever they want them up and down the scale-  they always have the same vocal quality somewhere in their calls.  Yesterday I heard a new call and realized they were copying the alarm call of the Spur-winged Plovers (or Masked Lapwings!).  At least they haven't - Yet! - been copying the screech of the cockatoos!
This last photo shows some of the spangles down the front and also the 'crest' of feathers on the side of the head which they seem able to raise whenever they wish.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Snapper Creek

This post is for World Bird Wednesday

Snapper Creek is the port and marina for Tin Can Bay and the southern end of the Great Sandy Strait.  There is a small fishing fleet moored here and of course lots of individually owned boats of all sizes.

It is also at Snapper Creek - close to Barnacles Cafe - that a pod of wild Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins comes in regularly to interact with any people that want to enjoy them.  This interaction goes back many years to when a dolphin was injured and local fishermen fed it until it was able to return to the wild and feed itself.  The present dolphins are the third and fourth generation descendents of this first dolphin.  Read more details of this story here.  The present dolphins may or may not come in sometime between 7 and 8 or 9 in the morning - it depends on what else they are doing and what they want to do!  Visitors are allowed to feed them some fish - a carefully regulated amount!  As one of the volunteer helpers told me years ago it's about the equivalent of a morning tea snack only!  I went down to see the dolphins yesterday and again this morning because one of the females has a young one just over 2 months of age and she is bringing it in to get it used to the people and the feeding.  It is so cute!  The dolphin volunteer helpers are calling this bub "Squirt"! Yesterday mum and bub were there before 7am and the early morning colors of the water were beautiful.  (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

However, I was not satisfied with most of my photos so went back again this morning and four dolphins came in!  It is unusual to see this many in together.  The leader of the pod is a male that has been called Mystique.  He can be recognized by all the scars on his back gained from fighting other dolphins and also from some fights with Bull Sharks!

The dolphins don't just snatch a fish and go!  They splash and play close to the shore and the people.  I wonder if they can hear the delighted "oohs" and "aahs" and react to these by showing off a bit more?  It certainly looks like it!

The mum and baby were there again this morning and when the mum nudged in close to the shore the baby took the opportunity to rest its head on top of the mum's back.  When she sank underwater again the bub splashed and snorted and swam off with her.

Because all people interactions are so carefully controlled the birds are also very tame around the area.  I amused myself by getting close photos showing the eye color in a Pelican...   (Definitely enlarge the photos to see the eye color more clearly!)

... Little Black Cormorants...

...and a Silver Gull.