Saturday, April 21, 2012

Is that its tongue? (Part II)

Finally I can post some pictures taken in our backyard!

When we bought the place in 1993 we had to ask about this tree. It flowers best in our autumn and is known as a Queensland Firewheel Tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus). It is not native to the area and is more at home further north. I am pleased to say that it has (so far) survived our custodianship. At this time of year there is a battle between honeyeaters and lorikeets for feeding rights.

Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Look closely! I think that the long grey appendage is the famed lorikeet's tongue . I think these particular flowers give it a workout!

Firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cattle egrets, Bass Rail Trail

While not a designated birding event, the 70-300mm lens happened to conveniently fit in the bike's pannier rack while riding the Bass Rail Trail last Saturday!

A rest break was suggested when a group of Cattle egret was spotted!

Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis)
The scene is painted through the eyes of the Canon Ixus
At 70mm uncropped with the EOS - cattle & egrets just visible
At 300mm and cropped (above & below)
really could have done with the 150-500mm!

This bird has not always been present in Australia. From Pizzey:
"colonised Northern Territory (probably from Indonesia) in 1940s as part of a worldwide expansion"
I assume this relates to:
Clearing and the provision of water for stock in dry areas have favoured the expansion of the Cattle Egret's range. The birds are valued by farmers for keeping crop pest (i.e. insects) numbers down and reducing cattle tick infestations (from Birds in Backyards - cattle egret)
I was looking for support from Eremaea statistics to support my anecdotal feeling that Cattle egret sightings in Victoria might be increasing and becoming less seasonal.

No such support was forthcoming!

The locally famous Kilcunda beach rail trestle bridge - now restored for cycling and walking.

View from the bridge
It makes me wonder what a memorable train trip this would have been!
Typical Bass Rail Trail scene - looking east just outside Kilcunda

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The thing about car parks

In a recent post I was caught reflecting on birding and car parks!

A birder heading to a new destination opens their car door with much anticipation. Eyes scan the surrounds while ears soak in the sounds. What will reveal itself?

Sometimes a cacophony! The sounds are all around! Where to look? A buzz!

Sometimes, dead silence. Disappointment. Flatness.

I am thinking here of typical birding destinations where a country track delivers one into likely habitat. The "car park" may simply be a rarely visited clearing.

In response to mentioning the car park birding I recently enjoyed at Mouth of Powlett River, I was reminded that:
" parks are a very good choice to shoot birds, but that means people have been feeding them of left food of some kind...
With birds it might not be such a problem though, but where wild animals such as baboons in Africa are concerned, they become very dangerous and have to put be eventually put down... a pity!"
Thanks Noushka! We all know of such places where birds have become populous as a result of feeding at the car parks of tourist destinations or picnic areas. Noushka is right about such places and as birders, we tend not to frequent them!

I guess that my "great car park birding" sites are really places where simply opening the car door plunges one into a memorable birding experience - no actual car park required! Of course there are many factors contributing including season, time of day and weather.

I now feel an urge to make some lists (I am a birder after all)!

Pete's memorable "car park birding" sites:

  1. Ti-tree car park, Mouth of Powlett River Reserve, Vic
  2. Ben Bennett Bushland Park, Caloundra, Qld
  3. Kamarooka Forest, near Bendigo, Vic
  4. Oswin Roberts Sanctuary, Phillip Island, Vic
  5. Yellingbo Conservation Reserve, Vic

Pete's forgettable "car park birding" sites (big build up, dead silence):

  1. Mortimer Nature Walk, Bunyip State Park, Vic (the birding picked up, there was just not a sound at first)
  2. Chiltern Box-Ironbark National Park, Vic (ditto)
  3. Loch Ard Gorge, Vic (went for Rufous Bristlebird and dipped)

Car parks with bird populations affected by human feeding:

  1. Gloucester Tree, WA (Western rosella, Western ringneck)
  2. Wilsons Promontory, Vic (Crimson rosella)
  3. Sherbrooke Forest, Vic (King parrot, Crimson rosella)
  4. Anywhere there is a chip and a seagull
And of course some pictures:

Supposedly wild Western Ringneck (Barnardius zonarius) at the Gloucester Tree, WA. March 2007. Some bloke driving an electric scooter was selling seed for $2 per back (he didn't look official! I wonder if it is still happening?) 
Yes, the misguided parents of these kids bought a bag! Western rosella (Platycerus icterotis). Gloucester Tree, WA. March 2007
Australian King-parrot (Alisterus scapularis). Sherbrooke Forest car park
The picnic area at Sherbrooke Forest (on a quiet day!)
And now some excellent photos of signs at some of my favourite birding spots!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Whimbrels in flight ...... Afternoon delight!!??

Sung to the tune of that very lame song "Skyrockets in flight ..." and no I wasn't that excited. We are at Observation Point, Phillip Island on a beautiful autumn evening. We start with flying Whimbrels - a poor photo but I was pleased to have the record because at the time I assumed these were godwits circling. I was surprised on checking my images later.

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) Observation Point, 14 April 2012
Above & below - a whimbrel landing alongside fellow birds and some godwits
All shots from considerable distance - a good 40 metres. This one happens to be a little sharper.
The walk starts from the end of Bruce Rd, Silverleaves, heading along the north-facing beach for about 2km. It is common to get good views of Hooded and Red-capped plover as well as gulls, lapwings and terns on the way.

This Hooded plover has leg bands. As you can see the beach is subject to a fair amount of washed up rubbish. Dogs are prohibited as this section of the beach is part of the Rhyll Inlet Reserve (a Phillip Island Nature Park).

Swamp wallaby tracks (evidently put its front paws down briefly)
Red-capped plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)
The beach ends at a spit adjacent to the Rhyll Inlet mud flats. On this occasion the incoming tide is well on its way in and we perch above the high tide line among the small grassy sand dunes and just watch!

There were large numbers (about 50) of Pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris). Only a few of the group are seen here behind this Caspian tern in flight.
Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia) outnumbered the generally more common Crested tern
Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica) and Black swan
Eastern curlew (above & below)

Red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis) You'll have to take my word for it - a pleasant enough scene to be included in the series I thought!
Below are a few twilight views of Rhyll Inlet looking east back towards the spit.

Pacific gull silhouetted against the sun setting on Westernport Bay.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mouth of Powlett River

Many and varied honeyeaters seen at the Ti-tree car park allowing good views and photo opportunities. A nice surprise was a Crescent honeyeater, a Victorian first for me.

Leaving the coastal banksia and ti-tree habitat a short trudge over the dune reveals a magnificent surf beach. Returning via the Powlett River estuary enables views of estuarine, reeds and salt-marsh habitats.

Today the flowering coastal banksia around the Ti-tree and Echidna car parks provided the best birding.

I have placed this car park on my list of Great Birding Car Parks!

Red wattlebird (Anthocaera carunculata)
Red wattlebirds seemed to be outnumbering Little wattlebird 10 to 1.
Little wattlebird (Anthocaera chyrsoptera)
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) 
Crescent honeyeater (Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus). Not a great photo but I was surprised to find one.
Looking west towards Kilcunda
There were a dozen or so surfers at the time.
Mouth of Powlett (below).  I was expecting a sand barred entrance but the river does flow to the sea. It has even cut a channel through the rock platform.

Sooty oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus) 
Eastern grey kangaroo footprints (My guess - based on the 2 metre distance between prints and seeing some roos locally)