Monday, October 29, 2012


Blogger says this is my 500th Post! I decided this was a good time to look back to when I first got interested in shorebirds and before I started this blog.  
I moved to this area in 2003 and had a house built and began planting a garden.  I joined a group that took regular walks into the surrounding bush and started learning about the local plants and flowers.  However, what I really wanted was to learn about the shorebirds that came here.  There were notices about shorebirds around the foreshore but when I asked for a local person who could help me learn about the birds I was told there was no-one!  The one person who was especially  knowledgeable about birds had moved away the previous year. 
I walked all the tracks through the bush that I could find and usually ended up somewhere around the bay.  At low tide I walked out across the sand flats and explored the edges of the bays this way.  I saw and photographed beautiful scenery - but not much else!  (My camera was a 3 megapixel Kodak with 4x optical zoom. The following photos were taken with that camera.)

I bought a kayak so I could explore the bay from on the water not just beside it.  At high tide I paddled into all the little inlets and creeks I found and eventually started seeing shorebirds.

 (This last photo frustrated me the most!  These birds sat in a tree right beside the boat channel going out into the bay.  They were grey and white and usually had their heads tucked under their wings.  They flew off as soon as a boat got close!) 
By this time I had been introduced to a couple who came down from Gympie once a month to count shorebirds around the Tin Can Bay foreshore and at the one roost accessible by land at the Cooloola Cove end of the bay.  Then I was lucky enough to be introduced to someone doing surveys on the Noosa river and was able to join her group as well.  The problem was that I was still seeing birds I could not ID.  I had no background in bird watching and so did not even have the language to describe what I was seeing! 
Then I read about multi-zoom cameras!  I bought a Canon S2 which had a 12x zoom and I added an extender which increased the zoom to 18x.  Finally I had a record of what I was seeing.  I took multiple photos of everything!  When a bird moved I had photos of what it looked like from all angles and how it looked as it moved.  My friend from the Noosa river surveys ID'd individual birds for me from my photos. I gmailed photos to her and then we used gtalk and she talked me through the ID and used the right words for the descriptions of the parts!  Then I tried to ID similar birds from other photos.  I also re-examined photos of flocks of birds and tried to find some that didn't quite fit the pattern.  (These photos were taken with the Canon S2)
 A large flock from the Crab Creek Roost site. Eastern Curlew at the back, Bar-tailed Godwits - majority of the flock, Pacific Golden Plover in the front.
 Mullens Roost site - Gull-billed Terns, Bar-tailed Godwits, and it took me a long time to find the Great Knot - which had not previously been identified at this site.
The birds in the tree were Grey-tailed Tattlers and Terek Sandpipers.
This was the first time I got close enough to really see Greenshank - and to photograph them as well. 

I built up my own photo reference library of shorebirds from around my area. I kayaked to roosts with only water access.  I came to really appreciate why the Great Sandy Strait is listed under the Ramsar convention as a wetlands of international importance.  I share my enjoyment of the birds and the local environment by writing articles for our local paper and this blog.

For interesting places from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Inskip in the Fog

 For birds from around the world visit Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday

A week or so ago I went out to Inskip Point very early in the morning hoping that I would find big numbers of shorebirds roosting on the point before too many people got out there.  The weather forecast was for fine weather but it was very foggy around my house.  However, Inskip is usually quite clear even when it is not so good here at the top of the bay.  There was heavy fog around as I drove out there and every now and again the fog turned into light misty rain.  Then I would come out to a clear patch again and it still seemed worth the trip out there.  When I got right out to Inskip there was more fog around than I have ever seen out there.  The lighting was quite amazing with sun shining through and lighting up areas then closing in again.  There were only a few birds on the point itself.

Out on the sand island there were more birds but still not as many as I would have expected at this time of the morning.

Everywhere I looked there were rainbows - even more ephemeral than usual as the mist shifted and closed in again.

(I changed the levels on the above photo in the photo program Gimp and the rainbow was much clearer but I lost the effect of the fog all around.)  

I went back around to Bullock Point which is across the bay from Inskip Point and found the birds there.  A sand bank stretches half way across the bay and when the tide is not very high the birds can rest there and continue feeding.  Unfortunately this sand bank is across a deep channel so it is not possible to get close to the birds unless you have a boat to get across there.

Those light rainbows kept shining and then disappearing around here also. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bird Battles!

Visit Wild Bird Wednesday for photos of more birds from around the world. 

Over the last few days my normally quiet yard has become a noisy battleground.
The smallest birds which visit my yard are Brown Honeyeaters and I can usually count on hearing them singing from one of the grevillea trees.  When their usual singing became angry squawks  I went out to investigate.  The grevilleas had been invaded by White-cheeked Honeyeaters! These birds are only slightly larger than the Brown Honeyeaters and it has been a major battle since they arrived.  They don't seem to actually make contact - it is enough to dive towards the other bird and then retreat to another more secluded branch and angrily scold each other.  It will be interesting to see if they learn to share - or if one or the other will have to retreat somewhere else.
These are not perfect 'birdy' portraits but at this stage it seems important to stay hidden in among the flowers and leaves!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kayaking in the Morning

This morning was almost perfect! It was warm, the tide was early, there was almost no wind!  The only question was whether all the aches and sprains that have been bothering me over the last few months were going to make kayaking too difficult.  They didn't! I had a great time - although I only planned a short paddle for this first morning.
I set off from the Mullens picnic ground and kayaked south around the mangroves that line the creek. This is looking nearly east into the sun and it is difficult to get more than a silhouette photo.

 The roost we call the "Airport Roost" is just around there.  Sometimes there are only a few birds there but this morning I counted over 160 birds.  I kept well out from the sandbank where they roost and then edged in behind a small mangrove bush.  The birds were still and I did a count.  However, I decided to get off the kayak to take some photos (the water was only about thigh deep).  The birds still didn't move but as soon as I opened the locks on the Pelican Case to take out my camera all the Godwits took off.  Any noise which is not part of the normal environment frightens them,  and I was just too close.  (N.B. for next time!  Open the case when I am well out on the bay and then be careful not to fall off when I get closer!)  There were about 100 Godwits in the flock that took off.  The birds that stayed were just a few Greenshanks, Grey-tailed Tattlers, Terek Sandpipers, and Pacific Golden Plovers, plus the 2 Pied Oystercatchers that are usually on this stretch of beach.

Paddling back around the point and along the deeper water of the creek it is always beautiful looking back towards the beach and the car park.

The creek winds back inland quite a way and I was planning on going up there a way to see what birds might be using that area.

Before I had a chance to go any further a small plane came in from the north and dropped down towards the small grass air strip which is just a little way behind the trees.  The noise was enough to scare up another 30 or so Whimbrels that must have been roosting in mangroves further up the creek.

Back on the beach there were a couple of fellows just taking off on Paddle Boards. It certainly was a nice still morning for it.
For more great photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buff-banded Rail.

Visit Wild Bird Wednesday for more birds from all around the world. 

Last week a friend phoned to tell me that she had two Buff-banded Rails running around in her yard - and what was even better! - they had three tiny babies with them!  Rails are usually quite shy so it is not usual to have them quite so contented in a back-yard - but then my friend's yard is not usual either!
She loves all the native plants in the National Park just over the road, and going for a walk with her over there is like meeting a lot of her well-known friends.  Since her yard has the same soil as just over the road she sees no reason why she shouldn't grow the same plants.  There are no lawns in her yard. Every bit of space is filled with plants - from the very tiny to the big straggly banksia trees.  It is perfect habitat for all the bush birds and animals - and so very different from the neat suburban yards which surround it!

My bird book says rails are usually found in tangled vegetation and long grass and these ones seemed very much at home in this habitat.  I saw both the adults and the babies with one or the other of them.

This is the only photo I managed of one of the adults with the three babies.  The babies were about the size of a day old chicken - but with much longer legs.

(It took me a second day, a brighter morning, and a change of camera lens to get the photos I really wanted!)
This young one was staying close to one of the adults while the other two hid in the bushes a few meters away with the other adult.  Everything the adult pecked at the little one had a go at also.  

The safest place was still under the adult's feathers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rainbow Bee-Eater

This post is for Wild Bird Wednesday.

I often see Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) when I am out at Inskip.  Usually they are high in the trees and darting down and hawking for insects.  The other day they were instead perching on fence posts at the parking lot just before the sand track starts out to the Point.

There must have been insects or some other food down in the grass because they kept darting down to the ground and then flying up to sit on the fence posts again.