Monday, April 28, 2014

Mullens in the Morning

Yesterday morning the weather was perfect - no wind, sunshine and blue skies. I decided to walk along the foreshore to the Mullens roost. When I first arrived down there the mist was still hanging over the hills on the far side of the bay. As I walked along I noticed that a yacht that had been anchored immediately off from the picnic area was slowly moving down the creek and then along the far side of the bay. This photo is taken a month ago from the picnic area while the boat was at anchor.

This photo is taken the other morning as it moved slowly down the far side of the bay.

The tide was fairly high inside the bay where the roost area is. As I walked out on the sand flats that were still exposed I wondered how well my dog would act. It has been several months since we walked down this way and even longer since we came down here looking for shorebirds. However, without any prompting from me she walked carefully behind me and stayed tucked in just behind my legs as long as I was taking photos. We were there for a little more than half an hour and she hardly moved during that time. She is the smartest dog I have ever had!
The water looks beautiful but despite that lovely blue color it is only a few inches deep and even in the middle is only about waist deep.This is habitat that the birds love!

Most of the shorebirds have already left for the northern hemisphere and their breeding grounds. When I first walked onto the roost I couldn't see any birds at all but then I saw some fluttering above a sand bank far over on the left. When I got closer I saw that most of the movement was being caused by little Red-capped Plovers. They always seem to be moving along the ground or fluttering just above it for a few wing beats. There were also a few Red-necked Stints among them. These are our smallest migratory shorebirds.

There were a few ripples in this water ...

...but in this picture the water is so still that even the eye of the bird on the left is perfectly clear in the reflection.

These Red-necked Stints are not showing any breeding plumage so must be young birds that will spend the winter here.

I always think these tiny birds are so cute - and even more so when they stand and have a good scratch for my camera!

In the early morning like this the light strikes up from even tiny ripples and creates lovely patterns of light and shade on whatever is above it. I spent quite a long time photographing plants and trees overhanging the water and hoping to catch some of these light reflections - but the only place I caught these reflections was on the front of this bird and reflected in the water below it. I think to catch these patterns of light and shade on the bushes I would need to use the video - and keep it very still as well!

For more scenery from around the would visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Very Special Landscape

On our very special flight over the bay and beach area Sarah and I asked our pilot Rod if he would make sure to fly over the Patterned Fens that are just south and west of Rainbow Beach. We had both heard and read about this special landscape and wanted to see it for ourselves. These Patterned Fens can only be seen properly from the air so this was a perfect opportunity.
Patterned Fens were first discovered on Fraser Island in 1996 when a group of scientists were flying along Fraser Island after a trip out to Lady Elliot Island. These scientists had been here for a Ramsar conference and included specialists in peat bogs and fens. As they flew along Fraser Island they recognized the patterns of potholes in the fens below them. Over the next couple of days these scientists examined these fens from the ground. Up until this time such landscapes had not been seen or described on Fraser Island. Some time later similar fens were found close to Rainbow Beach and also further south on the Cooloola Coast. These Fens are unique in that they are in the sub-tropics and almost at sea level. On the sea-ward side they merge with mangroves.
When we flew over the area there was not very much water to be seen in the potholes. We had been in drought for months and everything looked like it! However by the end of the month we received 260mm+ in a period of a week. (That is  between 10 and 11 inches.) The distinctive patterns were still able to be seen. From the air it looked a bit like an area of "crazy paving"!
(All photos enlarge when clicked on.)
This first photo shows where the fens are very dry.

This photo shows some water in the potholes.

This is the area of the bay with mangroves growing very close to the fens.

For more detailed information on the Fraser Island Fens there is a very good pdf here.

I have no bird photos to show to go with these Patterned Fens but instead decided to post some photos of Pied Oystercatchers. I tend to ignore them because they are here all year round - or else I am happy with just record shots to show they are still there. (For the technically minded these are Haematopus longirostris.) There has been a pair of Pied Oystercatchers on the airport roost site for as long as I have been here. Mostly I catch distant photos of them at the far end of the beach...

...but sometimes I get close enough for a good photo.

In this area the Pied Oystercatchers seem to keep the same territory. When I arrived here the first ones I saw were on a little rocky island on the way around to the Mullens roost. This pair was here for years but have now disappeared. I photographed them first with my little Kodak 3mp camera.

There was another pair that had a territory just up Mullens Creek in a grassy patch that went underwater on high tides. This pair has disappeared as well and no other pair has taken up this territory. I don't know if the habitat has become less suitable for these birds or if there are just too many people disturbing them now.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birds and Reflections

This has been a strange summer - far too much heat and far too much wind! I have not had nearly enough chances to get out on my kayak and photograph the birds. So when the weather report suggested two good days at the end of last week I decided to try for one of them. Sunrise is about 6am right now so a high tide at the same time seemed a bit of a gamble to me. The next day the tide would be nearly an hour later and plenty of daylight by that time for bird photos. It looked perfect when I got down to the bay. No wind and the bay was beautiful. (Nothing is ever quite perfect! I had forgotten to take down insect repellent - and decided I didn't have time to go home and get it! I went home covered with bites that were turning into red welts!!) It is magical to kayak over clouds reflected in the water. This is the view from the airport roost looking towards Poverty Point on the other side. Poverty Point is a popular camping spot for people with 4 wheel drive vehicles to get down there.

There were still lots of Grey-tailed Tattlers, a few Terek Sandpipers and a number of Pacific Golden Plovers. I was hoping for good photos of Pacific Golden Plovers in breeding plumage.  Before I got close to the roost the Tattlers had flown - some to the other side of the bay and some to the water in behind the sand spit. The Plovers walked over the sand spit and joined the Tattlers in the water. It should have been perfect but good lighting and still water made too many reflections for me to get the photos of the birds without a cluttered background.

This is the only photo of a Pacific Golden Plover without too much color and reflections behind it.

For more scenery visit Our World Tuesday 

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Patch (2)

This is the second part of the trip in the plane that I was lucky enough to take the other week. Many thanks again to Rod who made it possible.
(Remember all photos enlarge when clicked on.)
From Inskip Point we flew south along the Strait and then out to Rainbow Beach on the sea coast. Part of Rainbow Beach is quite high above the sea and has spectacular views.

Some of the best views are up on the sand blow where sand from the cliffs along the beach has blown up and is still moving inland.

Further south we came to Double Island Point. On the north side of the point there are shallow lagoons where the water color contrasts with the deeper water just off shore.

The light house at Double Island Point sits high on a rocky head-land. I hiked up to the light house last year with Sarah and Graham and told about it here. It was even more spectacular to see it from the air - and considerably less effort on my part too!

As we circled around the Point we could see the beach on the south side and the low land where 4 wheel drive vehicles drive over to the the northern side and the beach which goes back north towards Rainbow Beach.

The colored sand cliffs look amazing against the dark blue color of the sea. Behind the cliffs is part of the Great Sandy National Park.

We flew back as far as Rainbow Beach then crossed the land to come out over Carlo Creek and the caravan park and boat launch. This is also an area where there are always some boats at anchor. It is a good sheltered area for when the bay gets very rough.

On the southern end of Tin Can Bay town we flew past Crab Creek and I got good views down over the shorebird roost at that place. Shorebirds roost around the shallow sandy lagoon behind the mangroves that line the creek and the bay.
We flew on towards Cooloola Cove and the airport and as we flew in I had the best views I have ever had of what we call the Airport Roost. The birds roost on the strip of sand and also in the mangrove trees at the center bottom of the photo. There is also a glint of water in the lagoon behind the roost where mangrove trees are rapidly growing up and filling in the watery area. The hangar at the airport is the building visible towards the top right of the photo.

It is this roost that I have been getting more bird counts and photos of over the last 12 months or so. Until now it has been rather neglected on counting days - there is just too much to count for only 4 people!  I have seen over 30 Pacific Golden Plovers on this roost this season and right now they are going into their spectacular breeding plumage. None of them yet has a full black front and face and some of them have very little black at all.

For more scenery from around the world visit Out World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.