Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Nobbies

These few pictures from last weekend capture the breadth of bird-watching experiences available at the Nobbies, Phillip Island.

Firstly the headland's viewing platforms provide some good vantage points for observing birds in flight up at their level and at close range .... perhaps a little too close!

Immature Pacific gull (Larus pacificus)

Then if you have some decent optics you might be able to hazard an educated guess as to what some distant seabirds might be. People see albatross and the like I believe (obviously not in this photo).

Small dark seabirds 500m from shore (as always - click to enlarge). I really have no idea. The island is however Short-tailed shearwater territory at the right time of year. This photo at 3pm, 25 March 2012 (don't they only come close to shore at dusk?)
But while I had my eyes & camera focussed on passing gulls and distant specks normal people engage in the most popular form of bird-watcing at the Nobbies:

Fairy penguin spotting at The Nobbies, 25th March 2012
Little penguin (Eudyptula minor)
The remaining images are from previous years
The Nobbies looking east (C 2004)
There have been several massive breeding seasons of Silver gull in recent years and there has been Crested tern colonies as well.

Silver gull & chicks (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)
"Son, I'm watching you. Put that cigarette down!" (below) ...
Crested tern (Thalasseus bergii), The Nobbies, 3/1/2011

Crested tern colony, The Nobbies, 3/1/2011

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Swan Lake performance steals show!

We are not talking of ballet but of a visit to Phillip Island's Swan Lake last weekend. The wetland is situated in the southwestern corner of the island. And although I was very pleased to study this Black-fronted dotterel from the more southern of the two bird hides, it is not the star to which I refer!
This Black-fronted dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) was actively feeding at the lake's edge.
Below (right) we can just see it extracting a worm from the crusted mud.

I am more than a little impressed that the bright contrasting colours (black and white chest, bright red-bill and eye ring) do not stop the birds from being well camouflaged. They are quite hard to spot. Unnoticed until in flight, two others flew off while I was studying this closer bird.

The star performer?

Again, while I enjoyed watching this Eurasian coot feed in the shallows and then coming ashore to shows us its "toes with flattened lobes to assist swimming" (Pizzey) - it is not my Swan Lake star.

Eurasian coot (Fulica atra)

The site is a popular spot for Little black cormorant (outnumbering the Little pied cormorant on this occasion) and Musk duck seem reasonably constant at present (better pictures of Swan Lake birds including Musk duck at Ian Smissen's blog pages featuring a visit to Swan Lake).

The lake was far from full which surprised me given recent summer rains. Close viewing of birds was limited to the southern hide. I don't even know how this darter managed to wet its wings!

Swan Lake, Phillip Island, 25th March 2012
An iconic coastal call and an appearance not-quite-right for Pacific gull?
We have ourselves a Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus)
Swan Lake, 25 March 2012
The path leading from the car park has information boards at regular intervals. 
The Swan Lake star performance was enjoyed on the way back to the car park and viewed from the wooden boardwalk (which provides protection for shearwater burrows).

It enables me to place the words "ballet" and "echidna" in the one sentence!

The Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) which is found throughout Australia in wide-ranging habitat. There are also three species of Long-beaked echidna which live in Papua New Guinea

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pretty little things

At Oswin Roberts Sanctuary, Phillip Island on Sunday morning and it was pardalote city! Maybe I should bird before 11 more often because by 9am the place was alive with Striated & Spotted pardalote, Grey fantail, Brown thornbill, honeyeaters, Superb-fairy wren, Red-browed finch & the list goes on!

Spotted pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus)

Adult male

Striated pardalote (Pardalotus striatus). I eventually twigged (!) that this dead branch emanated from a hollow that I suspect would make an ideal nesting site (see below right).

Although not as becoming with the close-up views provided by its spotted counterpart, Striated pardolote amazed me with their prolific numbers and activity. On several occasions I saw groups of striated pardalote numbering 10 or more.
Grey fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)
I must have been stirring up some insects as this fellow looked to land on my lens ....twice!
(It didn't seem aggressive!)

Brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)
Black-faced cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae)
Finally there was also distant views and calls of Satin flycatcher (Myiagra cyanoleuca) and Fan-tailed cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tawny Frogmouth family

I've always wanted to post these Tawny frogmouth pictures. They were taken at the end of our street one wet morning in November 2008. It's been a slow birding week so here they are:

"OK kids, just make like a branch. Watch Dad!"
Tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), Blackburn, 22/11/2008
"What the...? What are you doing!? Kids - you can't take them anywhere"
"Maybe that guy didn't notice"
"Oh OK, I give up!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

McKenzie Flora Reserve, Alexandra

Scarlet robins, rufous whistlers and Buff-rumped thornbills (lifer!) were the highlights of an afternoon walk through this small reserve.

Scarlet robins, female and male (Petroica boodang)
McKenzie Flora Reserve, Alexandra, Vic, 18 March 2012
Scarlet robin (female / immature)
I was extremely disappointed withe these images of a White-throated tree-creeper (Cormobates leucophaea). I need to practice with small fast-moving birds in difficult light! But the images do demonstrate the amazing things these birds can do with their toes!

Grey shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) with a very brightly coloured lunch!
Rufous whistler, female / imm (Pachycephala rufiventris)
The uncooperative male is below left seen not far from this
Spotted pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus)

Crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) were plentiful
although there were relatively few birds with this full adult plumage.
A little History of the Reserve (lifted from the Southeast Australian Naturalists' Association website):
The reserve is part of the Run of Donald McKenzie, who was an early pioneer squatter in the district. The land was not made a reserve until the 1970s. Prior to this it was grazed by cattle. Since then a variety of eucalypts have regenerated, including most of the boxes and peppermints. The understorey now has a wide variety of wildflowers and native grasses. There are also some weeds and invasive grasses. The area was burnt in the 1969 fires which stimulated growth.
I am amazed how grazed paddocks can become bush in 40 years.

A few typical scenes. McKenzie Flora Reserve

Common brown butterfly (Heteronympha merope merope)
The place was alive with these butterflies (there must have been thousands)
This butterfly was actually back at the caravan park at Acheron.
I believe it is an Orchard Swallowtail (or Large Citrus) butterfly.
(Papilio aegeus aegeus)
Butterfly identification made possible via the Museum Victoria Butterfly web page!