Monday, January 26, 2015

High Tide at Mullens

I haven't been out on the kayak as much as I would like recently, and when I have gone out I have only had a short kayak out to the airport roost and then up the creek close by. Last Wednesday was a really high tide and there was almost no wind so I decided it was time to go out to Mullens again - which is twice the distance of where I have been kayaking recently. Of course the Mullens roost is also available simply by walking around the foreshore but when the tide is right in you can pretty much guarantee that the birds will be on the far side of the roost. At that distance you can see them and ID them if your binoculars are good but it is impossible for good photos. In the kayak you can let the wind and the tide drift you in close to the birds without disturbing them if you are careful.  It was a very pretty morning.

There was high cloud around which thickened quite quickly until the bright colors were dulled. (There are lots of birds just visible on the far side. Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Here where I live in SE Queensland, Australia the light is usually very bright - bright sunlight, bright skies, and lots of bright light off the water. So when the conditions are not like that I struggle to get photos with the colors I expect. The birds were still there - but with these lighting conditions even they were hard to see -  and not spectacular the way I want them.

There were lots of Bar-tailed Godwits but grey and brown birds against a brown background are not really interesting. Finally I drifted in close enough to see that some of the Godwits were getting their bright breeding colors. There are always some birds that get color before the others.

A little further around the roost there were Eastern Curlews standing close to Godwits. The size difference is quite striking when they are standing close like this.

Although Curlews don't get bright colors for breeding, the browns and blacks darken and their patterning is more distinctive. Curlews must be the flightiest of all the shorebirds that visit down here. It is nearly impossible to get close to them without some - at least - flying up. These ones gave a good view of the beautiful under-wing feather patterns.

Smaller birds were massed right at the top of the bay. When I got closer I could see mainly Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints.

There is only a narrow sand spit which separates this shallow roost site from the main bay and on a very high tide like this there is a very short distance from one side to the other. The tide comes in under the trees and right up to the bollards. The top of one bollard is just visible on the lower left of this photo.

Just a few meters away is the main bay and it was just beginning to get a chop on the water.

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Backyard Birding

Most of the time I revel in nice warm weather but when 'warm' becomes 'hot' I am not so enthusiastic. We have had more than a week of this extreme heat but yesterday it broke in typically spectacular fashion. This was the view out the front of my house as the thunderheads built up.

I know there was hail in the storms because the temperature rapidly became quite cool and pleasant. We were only on the edges of the storms this time and we only got light rain. I wish you could have heard and seen the birds as the light rain came through. I have some big trees in my backyard and flocks of birds danced in them, turned somersaults and flung themselves into the air again, and fights broke out for the most desirable roosts - all the time screaming at the top of their 'birdy' voices. Meanwhile the passing storm clouds created beautiful backdrops for their activities.

The only birds I have photographed are ones in my backyard - and most of them in the early morning before it got too hot.
These kookaburras were out before it was even light and announcing their presence with a group laugh. They are sitting on the neighbor's TV aerial.

These Welcome Swallows are usually seen swooping high in the air as they chase bugs in the early morning or late afternoon.

"Cockies" (Sulphur Crested Cockatoos) fly over every morning and night but this one came down into a palm tree and added to the patterns of light and shade in the early morning light.

There is quite a large group of sparrows (an introduced species in this country) that have taken up semi-permanent residence in the trees in the backyard. However, I already have a group of Brown Honeyeaters  that consider that their own place. It does not seem to me that they are happy with each other because they have frequently been sitting in branches close together and  giving loud cries of annoyance! It will be interesting to see if they learn to co-exist or if one lot chases they others out.
Brown Honeyeater

and House Sparrow

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pied Oystercatchers

Just south of Norman Point the bay curves around south again. In this curve of the bay I often see shorebirds and seabirds roosting. The other day there was quite a large group of Pied Oystercatchers roosting on the small strip of sand that was all that was left from the higher than average tide.

I have been told that Pied Oystercatchers breed south of here in greater numbers than we see around here. They then fly north and disperse.

I wondered if I could definitely ID any juvenile birds but this was the only one I was sure about. The legs are not quite so pink, the eye is more brown than red, and there is a darker patch on the lower part of the beak.

I have seen similar flocks of Pied Oystercatchers roosting here in other years and when I searched my photo archives I found this photo - taken in 2009 and also in January.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mid Summer on the Bay

This is typical mid-summer weather in our area.  The only changes are occasional showers and storms and then the sun comes out again and the rain evaporates and it all turns into a sauna! Of course the visitors love it all and there are extra people and boats everywhere.

Even the birds have trouble finding a quiet place to have a rest! These pelicans were using the lights on the top of the poles! The lights are overlooking the boat launch at Tin Can Bay. First I saw one bird - then two - and it was just too much effort for any of them to lift a head and look like a proper pelican!

For more scenery from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Special Sighting

Christmas week and I always seem to have more jobs left to do than there are days left! However, yesterday I turned my back on all those things and went out for a kayak on the bay. No matter how the rest of the week turns out this will put the shine on everything else!
It wasn't a perfect day by any means - too much wind! I went out to the Airport Roost. The views across the Bay are always beautiful. This is looking east

and this is looking along the sand spit north.The water is looking very brown because we have had enough rain to break our local drought and this has colored the waters of the Bay.

I found that I couldn't hold the camera still enough to get a focus on any birds in the choppy conditions so pulled up onto the sand to see if there were any birds that had stayed around. Crested Pigeons are fairly common around here but they don't often pose so perfectly up in the trees. They fly with a distinct whistle of their wings so even if you don't see them clearly you can tell that is what you have glimpsed.

After his I started looking around for the resident pair of Pied Oystercatchers. There has been a pair on this roost for as long as I have been here - at least 10 years. When I was out at the roost about three months ago I heard calls which made me think that they were trying to nest. I backed off immediately. However, I have seen Oystercatchers try to nest around the Bay numbers of times but only once have I seen them actually raise chicks.  I was excited to see that this pair had now become a trio! They had managed to raise one chick. It is fully fledged but still shows the pale greyish pink leg color and the brownish eye. I only managed one photo from a distance as the parents were still very protective of the chick. This sighting was enough to make the day perfect! (Juvenile on the left and one of the parents on the right.)

When I paddled back to the car park and loaded my kayak on the roof racks some other people had come down to also enjoy the water. They had two "craft" loaded on a trailer. One was a paddle board and the other was a rather chunky looking kayak. It was made by the Hobie company and was the latest in fishing kayaks. It certainly made kayaking look very comfortable and even luxurious and would be extremely stable for any fishing enterprise.

For more photos from around the world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pied Butcherbirds

My friends Sarah and Graham have a delightful yard full of big trees, stretches of grass, and areas of closely packed low shrubs and bushes. The birds love it! Sarah keeps me up-to-date with the birds that are regularly seen.  The other week she told me that there was a family of Red-winged Parrots with a couple of very young ones - and did I want to try for photos?  Of course! Their back yard has numbers of large eucalyptus trees with lots of holes suitable for nesting holes. She also said that there had been King Parrots and Pale-headed Rosellas around.
However, the only birds that came close while I was there was a family of Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis). If you look carefully in that last tree there is one of the birds perching on a branch up against the sky.
The first bird to come down close was a young one. It looked so small and cute down among the grass but it must have broken some unwritten adult rule because one of the adults came down and gave it a good pecking! The young one didn't know what to do except to crouch down submissively among the grass.  As soon as the adult moved off a bit the young one flew back in among the bushes and stayed there.

There was a second youngster which was a little bigger and kept out of the way on bare branches above us.

Here is the adult. Look at that hook on the beak. It makes a good weapon and one of my birding books says that a Butcherbird is more dangerous to small birds than a bigger Hawk.

Butcherbirds have a most melodious song - as well as other quite piercing sounds! They get very tame - especially if they are fed! This is a youtube video of a couple of birds singing to attract the attention of someone inside that feeds them. Towards the end of the video a magpie comes in and warbles briefly.

For more scenery from around the world visit Out World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tree Changes

This Leopard Tree (Caesalpinia rerrea) is in my back yard. It is not native to Australia but loves our hot dry conditions so grows fast and becomes very tall. I find it interesting because it has its own timetable for change. All during the winter it keeps its green leaves. Then in late spring it suddenly starts dropping leaves. They are small and light so get into everything! Here it is - leafless - on the 10th of November.

Without leaves it is easy to see birds among the branches. This is a White-cheeked Honeyeater showing well against the sky and a Brown Honeyeater hidden among the branches.

Here is the same tree only two days later and the leaves are beginning to show. Bigger birds are still easy to see. This is a Common Koel ( Eudynamis scolopacea) - a migrant from further north and a cuckoo. Koels are so noisy but not always easy to see. I have seen them quickly disappear among the leaves but had not until now seen that they climb around more like Lorikeets and Parrots than other perching birds.

Two days later again and the tree is now covered with new bronze colored leaves.

 Birds are still easy to see. This is a Figbird - a young male because it has the red around the eye but the front is still speckled with juvenile feathers.

Less than a week later the tree is now green and the leaves hide whatever birds make use of it. I can hear them - but not see them! 

For more scenery from around our world visit Our World Tuesday

and for more birds visit Wild Bird Wednesday.