Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Early Morning

I went for a walk along the shoreline at Mullens yesterday. Looking north-east the clouds were beginning to break up and the water reflected the blue in the sky.

Looking further east and south the only colors were grey and the mirrored silver of the water. There were birds strung out along the water-line and pecking in the puddles left by the receding tide.

This kind of lighting makes it very hard to ID shorebirds. Of course the larger birds are easy. A Whimbrel stands at the edge of the water and a couple of Godwits fly off.

An Eastern Curlew roosts on sand.

A Godwit wades through the water and pecks into the sand in search of food. The smaller bird is more difficult to ID.

The smaller birds further out at the edge of the water are impossible to be certain about and the ones standing on the sand and small rocks almost fade out of sight.

For more scenes from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This and That!

This post shows a mixture of birds photographed over several weeks. I have had the flu and haven't been well enough to go and look for interesting birds.
This first bird is a Scaley-breasted Lorikeet. It is only the second time I have seen these birds in my yard and this one was a lucky chance! I heard Rainbow Lorikeets in my callistemon trees and when I went out with my camera I also saw a couple of Scaley-breasted Lorikeets. They are a little smaller than the Rainbow Lorikeets and a bit quieter - but just as hard to photograph among the leaves.

This bird is not such a good find. It is a Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis). These birds were brought in to Australia back in the 1860's. At first they spread through the cities but then started taking over country areas. The trouble is that they displace native birds and small mammals.  They compete for nesting hollows in trees and usually win! We have not had them here where I live until very recently and this bird was one of a pair that came into my back yard last week. I opened the door and took a couple of quick pictures but when I tried to get closer both birds quickly took off.

I photographed this third bird out at Inskip the other morning. (It was a beautiful morning but unfortunately I came home and had to go back to bed! I wish this flu would go quickly!) While I was watching, it dragged itself up on the sand and sat there apparently exhausted. It is a Shearwater but I am not sure beyond that exactly which kind it is.

There have been numbers of recent reports of Shearwaters found dead and dying on the beaches in NSW and southern Qld. The birding New Zealand forum also has been reporting dead and dying birds over there. I can only imagine how many birds are dead if they are reported from both Australia and New Zealand! It is not known yet if the birds are dying from an extreme weather event or if they are starving because the fish are not around. Many people are saying that the oceans are being over-fished and it may already be too late to reverse the trend. This article is written by a yachtsman and tells of what they found on a recent trip from Australia to Japan and then over to the USA. He titled his article "The Ocean Is Broken" and gives quite horrible details. It is not a good outlook for any of our oceans!

For more photos of birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shorebirds on the Bay

It's been a while since I have been out on the kayak counting and photographing shorebirds so it felt extra good to go out very early one morning a couple of weeks ago. There were banks of low cloud and fog to the east.

The sea was very still and the sun shone off the top of every little ripple and threw bars of light up onto the mangrove trees standing in the water. I wish there were a way to capture this with photos but I find it sufficiently challenging to take photos from a kayak - let alone staying steady enough to manage videos!
I turned south around the mangroves which line Mullens creek and saw there were numbers of birds standing on the sand. I saw three Common Greenshank, and three Terek Sandpipers but the rest were Grey-tailed Tattlers. Some of these were still showing the remnants of breeding plumage down the front.

Further to the south I watched a Little Egret chasing small fish through the shallow water and then realized that there was a long line of other birds stretching out along a sandbar. I counted more than 150 birds - mainly Eastern Curlews and Bar-tailed Godwits. (Click on all photos to enlarge them - this one I have left very long to show the numbers of birds.)

I took a number of photos of these birds - hoping that I could maybe do a better count and ID later. The most obvious birds were the Eastern Curlews - unmistakeable with the very long bill!

As I focused on different areas of the birds I realized that there was something else moving around behind the mangroves. It was a Black-necked Stork. (Look very carefully along that long line of birds!) These birds are tall - 112-115cm or well over 4 feet tall. I have not yet been able to get close enough for good photos - and this was the best that I managed this time!

As I tried to get closer the bird flew off - but flew towards me and went quite close overhead. It is quite a thrill to see something this big fly overhead! (Wingspan 200cm! - more than 6 feet!)

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Double Island Point

My recent holidays with my son who was visiting from Seattle included a trip down through the Great Sandy National Park to Double Island Point. This is only possible with a 4 wheel drive vehicle and I am very grateful to my friends Sarah and Graham for taking us. I posted about my first trip down that way with these friends back in May and June (here and here and here!) We went down this time by the same track and saw many of the same things but this time I will only write about Double Island Point. This time we took the Leisha Track to the north side of the Point. Leisha Track is a short cut between Teewah and Rainbow Beaches. We came out onto the beach where there is a large lagoon. This is the result of a wash-out by the sea some years ago and movement of the sand and water since then.
Looking east along the Point.

Looking north along Rainbow Beach. The colored sands in the cliffs are what gave Rainbow Beach its name.

These kite surfers were making good use of the wind and the calmer conditions on the lagoon.

Then it was back across the track to the south side of the point and the waves were perfect for a swim in the surf - which we all enjoyed!

After that the others took off up that very steep path to visit the lighthouse on the top of the Point. I had made the effort to get up there last time and decided this time that I would much rather stay at the bottom and enjoy the surf again. However, there was a bird! So I raced up to the car and got my camera and took photos instead!
This is an Eastern Reef Egret (Ardea sacra). They can be either white or slate grey. I have only once seen one inside the bay area as that is not their preferred habitat. This one had apparently become used to people as it was not at all worried about me slowly getting closer and pointing a camera at it! Eventually I saw it snatch something out of the water but I was not quick enough to get good photos of its catch.

Soon after the Egret had made its catch this Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) came swimming over to investigate. The Egret was not at all sure that it welcomed this intruder and it quickly moved out of reach. However, it soon appeared that the Cormorant simply wanted to stand and dry off so they both settled down quite close together.

Next week I'll be back to posting about the birds closer to home! You can't have holidays all the time!!
For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday
and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lady Elliot Island

While my son was out here on holiday we took a trip out to Lady Elliot Island. This island is a coral cay on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. It has an eco rating of 6 out of 7 - where 7 is no public access.
We first drove to Harvey Bay which is about an hour and a half from where I live. We then took a plane out to Lady Eliot Island - this was about a 40 minute trip. The first part of the plane trip was the only part that I really didn't like! There were strong and gusty winds and the little plane really jumped and skidded across the air until we reached a sufficient height to be out of reach of the winds which were so strong close to the ground. This is a photo of a similar plane on the landing strip at the island.

The next three photos were taken out the window of the plane and show the island from east to west. The landing strip goes right across the middle of the island.

Everything done on the island has as little impact as possible and is as sustainable as possible. This photo shows the very impressive array of solar electricity panels.

There are a number of activities organized for guests on the island. We decided we wanted to go on a reef trip in the glass bottom boat with the option of then snorkeling from the boat. The boat trip was fantastic - although rough! As soon as we started moving around the reef there were mantra rays and green turtles popping up all around us! We were told this does not happen often - so we were lucky! In the end I "chickened out" of snorkeling - but my son went in and thoroughly enjoyed himself. He said that close in to the reef it was just like swimming in an aquarium! This is a photo of the boat taken later in the day when it was tied up just off the reef. (Sorry there are no other photos taken from the boat but I would not risk my dslr with the wind and the kind of sea that was running by that time. I estimated the swells to be up to a meter and a half by the time we came in.)

 The wind was strong and strengthened all day. By the time we came in from the boat trip all snorkeling off the island was cancelled and as the tide was low in the middle of the day there was no snorkeling in the lagoon either.  There was a guided reef tour in the afternoon and later I watched the lagoon begin to fill with water.

For me, a large part of the excitement of the day were the numbers and varieties of birds that are on the island. Everything on the island is protected so the birds are not at all afraid and wander around almost under your feet at times. The first birds we saw as we got off the plane were Noddies. They were everywhere! Large numbers of them were nesting in trees and we watched birds bringing in further nesting material and presenting it to the bird sitting on the nest. Noddies are very difficult to ID but I have been told that these tree nesting birds are Black (or White-capped) Noddies (Anous minutus).  
These ones were sitting at the end of the runway and didn't even disturb when our plane turned very close to them as we flew out in the afternoon.
A tree full of nests!

There were also large numbers of Terns wandering around among the resort buildings - but when I went to photograph them in the afternoon most of them had disappeared! This is a Sooty Tern. (Sterna fuscata)

Other birds that were running around everywhere were the  Buff-banded Rails. (Rallus philippensis). Everyone was warned that the doors into the dining room must be kept closed at all time or else the Rails came in and hopped up on the tables and made a terrible mess! This one had been having a good preen and was moving around without sleeking its feathers down. This gave great views of the colors and patterns on its wings.

One of the staff told me that there were Red-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricauda) nesting beside one of the buildings. They were under some trees and immediately below the veranda of the building. There were a number of adults sitting on nests - one juvenile already getting some feathers - and one tiny ball of fluff tucked close in beside an adult.


For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.