Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Focus on Retrospective

I want to concentrate my attention in this post on reasons for and methods of bird observations. I guess this introspection was prompted by a comment on my blog post last week! This comment mentioned a "computer tick" for a bird! I don't do "lists" (not even grocery lists!)  and neither do I do "ticks"!  So just what am I trying to accomplish by observing and photographing birds?
Here is the retrospective! When I moved up here I knew very little about shorebirds. I bought a kayak and started seeing groups of shorebirds roosting in various places. Simple curiosity made me want to identify what I was seeing. (And that is another long story!)  Then I learned that shorebirds (with a few exceptions!) are site specific and also that their numbers are decreasing every year. I wanted to find out if this was the same for the birds and the roost sites I was observing around here. So here is what happened.
This is where I first started kayaking and is taken from the Mullens picnic area looking out towards the roost site that we now call the Airport Roost.

This photo is looking back towards the picnic area  from the roost area.

And this photo is a small plane coming in to land on the nearby air strip and shows why we have named this roost site the Airport Roost.

The first shorebirds that I saw were Grey-tailed Tattlers and Terek Sandpipers in an old dead mangrove tree right next to the channel of the creek used by all the boats from the Mullens picnic area. This photo was taken in April of 2006 with my first digital camera - a 3 MP Kodak.

I found that these two kinds of shorebirds were usually at this roost site and I have not seen Terek Sandpipers anywhere else in all the area south of Inskip Point. So the rest of this post is a pictorial record of these two species on this site up to the present. (Of course there are other kinds of shorebirds also using this roost but I am writing a post not a book!)
This photo was taken of the birds in the same tree but with my next camera - a Canon S2 with a 12 times zoom and an extender as well. I could now see enough details to be sure of my ID. The photo was taken in November of 2006. Shorebirds had completed a migration to the north and a breeding season up there then another migration south.  (All these photos need to be clicked on to enlarge to make the details of the birds more visible. )

By March of 2007 - the end of that same summer - the tree right in the channel had fallen down and the birds were now making use of a tree at the end of the creek and just around into the bay.

During the next summer season (December 2007) I saw more of these birds than I had ever seen before and they were all standing on the sand in a large group which also included a number of Bar-tailed Godwits and even an Eastern Curlew.  (To get photos I tied the kayak behind some mangroves and shuffled along on my knees in the water using the trees to hide me from the birds until I got close enough to look through the branches and take my photos!)

Exactly a year later (December 2008) they were again roosting in one of the mangrove trees. (From this time on I have been using a Pentax K200 and a Pentax K5 with a zoom lens of 70-300. I have a longer zoom lens but it is just too heavy for me to manage on the kayak!)

I have no photos for the next couple of years. On memory I still saw some birds at the site but did not manage any photos before they flew off so have no idea of their numbers or if both kinds of birds were still there. The next photo was taken in November 2010 and the birds were roosting on mangrove roots on a not so high tide.

The next photo showing both kinds of birds is September 2011 and a few were roosting along the sand. I have a similar photo taken a little later in the season.

I have no photos showing both kinds of birds until just this month when I photographed Terek Sandpipers in the roost tree just after the Tattlers had flown off.  I know the Tattlers have been there all this time and I have taken a number of photos of them by themselves both right on this roost site and also a little further away where there are other mangrove trees where they sometimes roost.

All these photos show that this roost site has been used over a period of the last 8 years. The birds prefer to roost in the large Grey Mangrove trees with open branches where their view out is not restricted by small branches and leaves.  The count data I have recorded shows that numbers are now less than half of what we first counted. However, the population of the town has increased over the same period and there are more housing developments being planned. Possibly some signage right on this site might help and also some more specific publicity.

For more scenery from around our world visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

They are Still There!

I managed to get one good kayak last week without too much wind and without the clouds rolling in just when the tide would be right. I went out to the Airport Roost to check what birds were there. The sea looked beautiful and calm until I came out from behind the trees and rounded the point and then little waves started to lift the kayak and I wondered if I could take any good photos at all with that much movement in the kayak. A Gull-billed Tern flew low over the mangroves where the Grey-tailed Tattlers were roosting and up they flew and off to the other side of the bay. However, when I looked closer there were still some sitting in the trees so I let the wind and waves drift me in and sat still with the camera ready. When I looked closely at the photos I had taken I realized I had photos of Terek Sandpipers instead of Tattlers. These birds look very similar in color and size but the Tattler has a straight bill and the Terek has an up-curved bill. This is the only roost on the southern end of the bay where I have seen Terek Sandpipers but I haven't seen them for a couple of years so wasn't sure if they were still there or not. I am sure (now!) they must have been, but when they all fly off quickly I have not been fast enough to ID the two species in flight.

There was a Little Egret sitting up in a dead mangrove and looking very beautiful against the blue sky.

There must have been a lot of water washing over the sand when the tide was very high and the winds were pushing the waves in even further. Some of the mangrove trees that have stood on the beach for at least the last 10 years had the sand washed out from around their roots and have lost their leaves. It will be interesting to see if they manage to survive or if they wash right out in a few more months.

I decided to enjoy the rest of my kayak by paddling up the creek where the winds would not be blowing. I always enjoy the scenery and the quietness in this area.

There is one place up the creek where the swamp grasses grow down to the water and on higher tides even get covered with water. Shorebirds often come to this area when they have been disturbed on the other more open roosts. This morning there were a number of Pacific Golden Plovers. Some were beginning to show black blotches down the front which will eventually become the solid black of their full breeding colors.

As I turned to go down the creek towards the open sea the black clouds had again rolled over and turned my perfect blue morning into a very dark day again.

This is a photo of my car with the kayak loaded on top and standing right where the fisherman was standing in the very high tide photo that I showed on the blog last week.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more bird photos visit Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, February 10, 2014

Very High Tides 2

This post is to show the high tide from last week around the Tin Can Bay and Cooloola Cove areas. It was a grey and overcast day with even less sunshine than the previous day so there are no really spectacular photos, however, it is always interesting to see just how high the king tides come at this southern end of the bay
At Norman Point the water was well up over the rock wall and even splashing over the stones at the top. The only birds were Silver Gulls which seem to be out in all weathers.

This is a series of parking bays at the Point. The notice says that people should be aware that high tides and very wet weather can flood the area!

This photo is taken down at the Crab Creek end of the bay and is the easiest place to see just how high the king tide is for this year. Back in 2009 on the king tide the water came up and over the concrete path. That is the only time I have seen it as high and this year was certainly nowhere near that record.

Down at the Mullens Creek Picnic area the water was into the parking area.

Where the man is standing fishing with water up to his knees is where I usually park my car when I am going kayaking here. 
I am including photos of Terns which I saw on the previous day out at Inskip Point. I regularly see 6 different kinds of terns in this area and I photographed 4 of them that morning.
This photo shows the two largest terns seen around here - the very large Caspian Tern and the slightly smaller Crested Tern. The Caspian Tern has a large red/orange bill and the Crested Tern has a yellow bill. Both of these Terns stay in Australia all year although they move around during the breeding season. Crested Terns have recently been breeding. The bird on the left still has most of its breeding crest but the one of the right is beginning to get a slightly "scruffy" look!

Terns always seem to me to have long wings and this Crested Tern coming in to land in front of me seems to have extra long ones. The bird in the front with its wings half spread is a juvenile Crested Tern born only a few months ago.

In this group of terns there are Caspian and Crested Terns and right in the middle a Common Tern and a Little Tern (both of these particular birds are migratory species although there is a Little Tern that stays in Australia all year).

This photo shows the size difference between the Little Terns and a Crested Tern.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Very High Tides

I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks because the heat was bad and I retreated into the air conditioning. Then when I could have gone kayaking out on the bay the winds were too high to make it at all enjoyable. I go kayaking for enjoyment - NOT to get a very heavy work-out paddling against winds and swells!
The end of last week was the highest tide for the summer and even though the wind was still very strong I decided to get what photos I could from the land. I haven't been out to Inskip Point for some time because last time I was out there I found there was just not enough sand on the point for people and birds - and in a situation like that people always take precedence!
I arrived out at Inskip soon after 7am and found no people on the point at all and big waves washing over most of the sand. Also the sky was mostly overcast and I knew I wouldn't be getting any bright and beautiful photos! The barges to Fraser Island hadn't even arrived - they must have known they would have no vehicles to take over to the Island. The wind was very strong and the sea was quite rough. Without people or traffic around the birds were roosting wherever they could find a bit of higher sand. (All photos enlarge when clicked on and much more detail is then seen.)
The sand island that is usually crowded with birds was completely under water so the birds from there must have joined those on the point.

As the tide got even higher the birds began flying as a wave washed over, and then settling down again as the wave retreated. 

 Right out on the end of the point there were bigger birds - Pelicans, Cormorants, Eastern Curlews and Pied Oystercatchers - as well as the Bar-tailed Godwits which will stand wherever the water is not too high.
The birds gradually had to move away from the far end of the point and I could get some closer photos of Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots. Most of these birds showed some breeding colors on their plumage and a couple of the Godwits in this photo have the lovely bright red color right down their fronts. Before they leave on their northern migration all the colors will be brighter and more completely covering them.

Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers were roosting close to the end of the trees at the very start of the Point.

The sand here was still dry when I first arrived but as time went on the waves were washing over even this area.  These little birds also flew up and settled down again several times but eventually took off across the channel in the direction of Fraser Island. This photo gives good views of the in-flight plumage patterns.

I will show more photos of the very high tide around other areas of the bay in my next post.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday